National Play Catch Week

Playing catch is a great way for children to learn social skills, reciprocal play (taking turns), hand-eye coordination, and depth perception. It also works to help children coordinate opposite sides of the body and to develop timing and accurate movement of their body. In order to catch, a child must predict where a ball will be and coordinate their hands and arms to meet it at the right time and place. Playing catch is a game that can start as early as infancy and continue across the lifespan! 

Take a look at these milestones and helpful hints for helping your child learn to play catch!

Catching Milestones

  • By one year old: Babies can sit and corral a rolling ball without losing their balance and roll the ball back to a parent. 
  • Two years old: When a ball is tossed from a close distance, a child can attempt to catch a ball with arms in front, usually by bringing the arms toward the chest to trap the ball. 
  • Three years old: Children progress by catching the ball with the arms and hands straight out in front. 
  • Four years old: At four, children attempt to catch the ball with their hands, while keeping elbows bent and palms up. 
  • Five years old: A smaller ball, such as a tennis ball, may be caught 2 out of 3 attempts using hands only. 
  • Six years old: The child is now often able to bounce and catch a tennis ball on 2 of 3 attempts. 
  • Seven to eight years old: Children use more advanced combinations of skills such as running or jumping while catching a ball.

Throwing Milestones

  • One year old: Babies can fling a tennis ball but it may not go in its intended direction. 
  • Two years old: Children can overhand throw a tennis ball forwards a few feet. 
  • Three years old: Increased distance and improved form develop with overhand throwing. 
  • Four years old: Stepping forward with opposite foot is added to the overhand throwing motion. 
  • Five to six years old: The child’s trunk begins to rotate through the throwing motion. 
  • Seven years old: A mature throwing pattern is achieved with greater trunk rotation and improved transferring weight to the opposite foot to the throwing arm

Tips for Teaching Children to Play Catch

Infants – Ball Rolling: 

  • Catching a rolling ball is a great first step for your child to learn to catch! You can start this as soon as the child is able to sit independently. Encourage child to sit with legs open. Roll ball towards them allowing child the opportunity to corral ball with hands. Rolling offers opportunities to practice visual tracking, cause and effect, and hand eye coordination. Utilize a large therapy ball for bigger visual target and more input to hands and body! 
  • You can progress by using a smaller ball. Balls with added sensory components (visual, auditory, tactile) are great motivators as well. 

Toddlers – Hand-Eye Coordination Practice: 

  • Start catching practice with slow moving object like a balloon, allowing child ability to visually track and follow. As child gains comfort tracking the balloon and anticipating its movement, they have time needed to prepare body and upper extremities for catching and securing balloon to body. Once child masters this concept, you can pass balloon back and forth increasing the speed and challenging hand eye coordination further. 
  • To further challenge hand-eye coordination, once the balloon is mastered, begin to toss a ball to your child from 3 to 4 feet away. Soft, spongy balls are a great place to start, as small hands will be able to grasp these with ease. 

3-4 years old – Set a Target: 

  • As your child begins to throw, you may set a target, such as a basket or bucket to begin to work on their accuracy. Start close and progress the distance. Make it fun! Celebrate every made shot! 

5+ years old – Self-Toss and Catch 

  • Your child will soon be able to catch with one hand! To practice this skill, have your child toss a ball back and forth between the left and right hand, making sure the ball goes up in an arc and back down (not just moving side to side between hands). Encourage the child to watch it carefully with their eyes throughout the activity. Try a bean bag or something that does not bounce when learning to catch with one hand. Set a goal for catching 8 in a row, then increase that goal as they improve!

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your child’s milestones, contact us at 318-396-1969 and we’ll be happy to help!


West Monroe





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