Learning to catch a ball is surprisingly beneficial for your little one! She learns to move, become more coordinated, and stay fit, all while having tons of fun! Let’s talk about the whys of catching, and how it develops.
Why Is Catching Important?
Learning to catch a ball targets a wide range of skills, including:
- Hand-eye coordination: Your toddler learns to move her hands and arms to where she tracks a ball with her eyes, helping her to coordinate these movements together.
- Bilateral coordination: Bilateral coordination means syncing both sides of the body to work together. As your toddler reaches and runs to catch a ball, she works on improving this skill. Her proprioceptive sense is also hard at work, as it tells her brain how to move her body parts.
- Developing a dominant hand: Your toddler may not show a preference for a dominant hand until around age four, but she’ll do the important work of developing one throughout toddlerhood. Over time, catching helps one hand become the “worker,” and the other hand become the “helper.”
- Spatial skills: Around 18 months, your toddler has a good understanding of spatial awareness, which includes knowing where her body is compared to other objects and people. Catching further hones this skill as she judges the ball’s distance and how to position her body to catch it.
- Problem-solving: When a ball comes toward your toddler, she has to think about how to move and position her body to catch it. Trial and error put her problem solving abilities to work!
- Fitness: Catching is a fundamental movement skill that is linked to lifelong fitness and health!
How Does Catching Develop?
Catching tends to take longer to develop than throwing, because it requires more coordination of the arms, legs, and eyes. Although throwing usually begins around the one-year mark, catching may not happen (without falling over) until closer to age three.
Most toddlers start “catching” a ball as you roll it on the floor (as opposed to tossing it in the air). This gets her arms and hands moving and helps her learn to visually track the ball.
Your toddler may be able to start learning to catch an airborne ball around age 18 months. She’ll probably feel a bit more steady catching a ball while sitting. You may notice her clumsily swatting her hands together to try to grab the ball, until she learns to use her hands and fingers to get a better grip.
Throughout months 24-36, your toddler’s catching skills will improve along with her other gross motor skills, like throwing, running, and turning, as she learns to remain balanced while making different movements. Around age 30 months, she may be able to hold out her arms and catch a ball you toss from a couple of feet away. By her 3rd birthday, she may be able to catch a ball tossed from four or five feet away.
Working on catching skills is a fun way to keep your toddler moving. Our BabySparks program has tons of catching activities, delivered at just the right stage in your little one’s development!