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Mother and Baby

11 Genius Ways A Ball Can Boost Your Baby’s Development

That ball that's been languishing in your back garden, may look a bit basic but there are loads of ways you can use it to boost your baby’s development, whatever his age. And we’re not just talking footballs – your old birthing ball can help, too. From kick-arounds to tummy time, get inspired with these activities.
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The reverse push-up

A great one for small babies – take a soft, material ball and give it to him while he lies on his back. ‘This helps him develop gross motor skills in his limbs as he keeps the ball in place or lifts it off his chest with his arms or feet,’ says Dr Rebecca Chicot, co-creator of The Essential Baby Care Guide.
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The sit and roll

When your baby’s able to sit up by himself, sit opposite him and roll a soft ball between his legs. It’s a great way to encourage his hand-eye coordination. ‘In time he’ll learn to anticipate the ball moving towards him, scoop it up and try to send it back to you,’ explains Rebecca.
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First Throws

This one takes a bit longer, so is something to help your toddler with from around 18 months. ‘By that stage he’ll probably be able to throw a ball from standing which is a great feat of balance, co-ordination and judgement,’ explains Rebecca.
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Drop Ball

Surprise, surprise, babies like to drop things. And encouraging that is actually great for his development. ‘By five months babies have a sense of gravity and that things fall, so from eight or nine months he’ll gleefully drop a ball every time it’s handed back to him,’ says Rebecca. He’ll love your reaction – get a big brother or sister involved so you’re not doing all the picking up, though.
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Catching

Again, this is one for older toddlers, around three years. ‘But, if your younger child is sitting down, he’ll love having a soft ball thrown into his lap,’ suggests Rebecca. ‘Or you can ask him to hold out his arms and gently throw a big sponge ball so it lands on his arms.’ This is a great way to help your toddler track a moving object through the air, anticipating speed and where it’ll land.
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The swing and kick

OK, so you probably won’t know if you’ve got a baby Bale just yet – your child’s ability to kick comes a bit later. ‘But little ones will still love to be held and gently swung to kick a ball back to another person,’ says Rebecca.
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Baby work out

See that gym ball you bought ages ago and have only used once? Or the birthing ball that's been in the shed since you gave birth? It’s perfect for your baby’s tummy time. ‘If he has some head control, lie him on top and roll him around holding him firmly,’ suggests Rebecca. ‘And older toddlers with good balance can rest on their tummies on a small exercise ball.’
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The light glide

Take a big, light inflatable ball or balloon and throw it around the room for your baby to look at and follow. ‘Balloons especially are great for little ones to track as they move slowly and tend to be big and colourful,’ says Rebecca.
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The rugby chase

He may be too young for the kicking part, but you can make a rugby ball part of a chasing game to get your toddler active. He simply holds it and you follow him around the garden. Guaranteed to have everyone laughing.
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Water Polo

Got a trip to the pool planned? Take a ball with you – or even just bring one into the bath. ‘This helps hand-eye coordination and, again, a ball moves slowly in the water so your baby can track it easily,’ says Rebecca.
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Making a racquet

Remember those Velcro pads you used to play catch with? Things like that and a mini racquet are more for pre-schoolers, but there’s no harm in letting your younger child play with them. ‘Just be careful not to wrench his arm if you’re holding the racquet with him,’ advises Rebecca. ‘He can’t yet anticipate and move that quickly.’
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