Early Years – World of Play

Exercise ball activities

Exercise balls are a staple for any sensory play that involves movement. They are very versatile and can be deflated and taken with you wherever you go!

Exercise balls are a staple for any sensory play that involves movement. They are very versatile and can be deflated and taken with you wherever you go!

You can get exercise balls in a variety of sizes, they come as big (yoga balls) or as small (Pilates balls) as you need them and can grow with your child. They are very versatile when used for promoting movement and can also develop a variety of other skills too.

Activity ideas!

Neck strength

Sometimes children with a vision impairment will hang their heads, as they don’t have the same reason or motivations to look up and around as a fully sighted child does. You can use the exercise ball to help work these muscles and also create a fun game. Using a large ball, lie your child on top of it belly down and slowly roll the ball forward. Their natural reflex will be to lift their head. Incorporate the song ‘row row row your boat’ into the rolling backwards and forwards of the ball to make a fun movement game with physiological benefits.

Concept development

Use one small ball and one big ball together as a concept development activity to encourage choice making. Sit your child on and bounce them on both balls, one at a time. Be sure to use the language ‘big ball, small ball’ and keep reinforcing it. The more they get used to the language of the type of ball, the more they will understand that balls come in all shapes and sizes. They may develop a preference for which ball is more fun to bounce on and make a choice.

Across the floor and up the wall

Encourage your child to push the ball forwards towards the wall. When they reach the wall they’ll feel a small bump as the ball meets the resistance of the wall. Now comes the big challenge! See if they can start to roll the ball up the wall as high as they can reach and then back down again. This will force your child to really focus and be aware of the space around them. You could add an element of imaginary fun to the game – maybe the ball is a giant nut you need to deliver to the squirrel who lives at the top of a tree. Can they roll it all the way up to his house?

Song and music time

The ball lends itself perfectly to song time as so many song actions can be played out using it. Rock on it for ‘row your boat’, bounce on it for ‘five little monkeys’ or roll it for ‘the wheels on the bus’. You’ll find lots of song suggestions here >

Bounce the ball

The large ball is a really nice way to introduce bouncing and rolling to a child with low vision, there is so much more of it to find and feel and it makes a satisfying noise when bounced.

Body roll

Lie you baby or toddler on a comfortable surface on their back. Tell them you are going to roll the ball all the way up their body. Start with their toes and slowly work your way up their body, stopping before you reach their face. As you go, describe the activity to them, I’m going to roll your toes, now we’re going to roll your knees, your tummy etc. If you want to make it a bit more fun, pretend they are the dough and that you need to roll out your gingerbread man! Once they are used to the activity you can introduce sensations such as harder, softer, faster, slower. They’ll enjoy giving you instructions!

Practice weight shifting

With your child sitting on the ball facing you, place your hands either side of them and start tilting the ball from side to side so that they have to keep correcting their balance. Make it into a fun game with excited sounds or pretend you’re on a rocky rollercoaster! Once you’ve mastered side to side, you can add forwards and backwards, just be ready to catch them if they topple!

Kick about

With your child lying on their back and their knees bent up into the air and feet facing you, gently roll the ball towards them. When they feel the ball on their feet, they simply give it a big kick back to you and you give a big cheer!

Further inspiration

If you would like some more information about how to use an exercise ball as part of play, please follow the links below: 7 Easy Sensory Activities Using a Therapy Ball – Your Kid’s Table (yourkidstable.com) 8 Gross Motor Exercise Ball Activities for Kids | And Next Comes L – Hyperlexia Resources Exercise Ball Activities for Kids – The Inspired Treehouse

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