Updated: Nov 29, 2022
By Dustin Rhodes
Before we know it, that little bundle of joy we brought home from the hospital is now emptying out all of the pots and pans from under the stove. What happened? To put it simply, you now have a ‘Toddler’ on your hands. Not a baby anymore, but not quite an independent child. They are sometimes referred to as the ‘Adolescents’ of early childhood.
This is a time of transition for your little one. You will begin to see brief attempts of ‘independence.’ This can be recognized in moments of rebellion. Yes, your little angel’s favorite word one day will become “No!” How long that lasts varies on you and your child. Also, wandering off occurs, and this can be problematic depending on your location. So put down your smartphone and keep an eye on your little one!
To put it succinctly, Toddlers are the Christopher Columbus of childhood. They want to explore everywhere and handle or manipulate everything! They are insatiable information gatherers and experimenters. They learn by handling, climbing, pulling, and pushing various things. And what’s fascinating to me, they rarely play with other toddlers. I suppose other children are just not that interesting. Hmm.
The first and probably the most universal object that fascinates the little guys and gals is, yep, you guessed it. A ball. Any size, shape, or texture will do. Be careful with small ones because they still put just about everything into their mouths. The trials and errors of ball handling provide the child with an incredible amount of new information to catalog and store away for future use. Playing with a ball encourages both mental and physical adaptations, as well as motor skill adjustment and refinement. Some ball-handling activities that should be encouraged: Toss, kick, handle, balance, collect, and roll.
Get out a laundry basket and have them put balls in it and then take them out. Let them roll the ball down a slide or plank of wood. Put some empty plastic bottles on the ground and have your child roll a ball toward them. The goal here is to have ‘exploration’ skills with the ball. Do not expect Pele, or Beckham ball-handling abilities.
You can get creative with many ways of playing with a single toy. This concept also crosses over well with other fun toys like toy cars, stacking blocks, etc. Get creative and see how many ways you can make that one toy interesting.