Working on catching can be challenging for some kids (we will talk about throwing also, and some of the things I am about to say here will also apply). Besides having to have the strength, and coordination, and the reaction time, they also have to focus on the activity and visually attend to the ball. That is a lot of things to manage all at once!
So this is a version of the way we progress catching skills. We make sure we have a variety of balls while doing this, and almost repeat all the steps with the different balls. Here is our ball progression:
- Start with some a Gertie ball that has been deflated some (we like the nubbie one for some reason but you can use any)
- Then we move to a fully inflated Gertie ball
- Next we try an O-ball (this can depend on the child but the holes in it help with catching this smaller sized ball)
- Then we have some balls that are about O-ball size but are rubber balls and soft that we use
- Then we try a wiffle ball or other light/soft baseball
- Last is a tennis ball (I guess technically last could be an actual baseball but I’m not brave enough to throw them inside!)
For set up we put two spots down on the floor about 5 feet apart to start and eventually move further apart. We have the child stand on one and we stand on the other one. It helps to corral them back to the activity! And it gives them a visual for where to keep their feet. We eventually take it away but it’s great for starting! Actually to be honest, sometimes you might have to start standing right in front of the child and almost drop the ball in their hands.
Once everyone is in place we pick a number. I’ll be honest, it’s usually ten because its easy and gets that many reps, but we do mix it up occasionally! Also, depending on the child we will potentially only count the ones they catch before we get to move on to the next ball. We often have the balls laid out so that they know they get to go to the next one when they get to number ten! We’ve also mixed up our counting so that we count forward or backwards or by two’s or three’s. A lot of times the kids find it hysterical when we have to concentrate just to count!
Then we start with underhand. Usually giving cues so that they are visually focused on you and ready. Underhand is easier than overhand for kids to catch. When you do decide to switch to overhand it still looks like a toss rather than a throw. That way they have time to react to the ball coming to them.
Finally, if you have a child who is struggling with the hand skills and just needs some success with tracking and attending to the ball you can use the velcro ball sets so they start to get the idea of it.
Obviously these vary depending on the child but these are the basics! How do you practice catching?