Toddler Time: Tips for teaching your toddler how to catch

As a pediatric physical therapist I am often charged with the task of teaching children how to catch.  For some, this is not that easy!  I have a few tips that have worked over the years that I would love to share!

  • For many children, you can start working on catching and throwing around 20-24 months. If your child is not ready at that age, feel free to work on it when they have the ability to stand on the stool and attend to you while you are a few feet away.
  • Have the child stand on a stool while you are working on catching.  The stool makes the child attend to the task better because they have to stay in one spot or they will fall off.  It simply heightens the child’s attention.
  • Start off catching items that have a lot of places to grab.  I like using beanie babies, a stuffed animal with weight to it or bean bags from your favorite bean bag game.  The weight provides more input for the child and the fabric allows more places for the child to grab on to for success.
  • Make sure the child presents his or her hands in front of them like a shelf to catch the object.  You may have to place their hands in this position the first few times.
  • In order to establish success, I often will start out throwing the item to the child and hold my opposite hand under their arms so that they are successful in catching the item.
  • After you have some success with fabric items, transition to balloons.  They move slow and are very engaging for little ones.
  • Once you have success with those items, transition to large round balls, as those are easier to catch than small balls.
  • In order to advance the skill, stand to the side of your child and have them rotate towards you while you throw the object.

As a reference.  Children should catch a large and small ball at first by trapping it to their chest.  The next step is catching a large ball with their hands and not trapping it. This is followed by catching a small ball with hands and not trapping it.  Often a child is not able to catch a small ball without trapping it until 4 or 5 years old.

Enjoy this activity!  I am always excited to tell Dad that this is something he can work on with his little one, and they are always excited to do it!

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