A classic toy by most standards, a ball is a common favorite of both children and adults. In fact, most every child has a ball among their toys. No longer are they limited in style to the red rubber balls that I used on the playground as a child. Now, balls can be made from all sorts of materials, from fleece to foam.
When choosing a ball for an infant, however, keep in mind how often it will be in her or his mouth.
I wanted to show you my two favorite balls for infants in the classroom and at home. Both balls are easy for little hands to grasp because of their shapes. Round with flat spots, these balls will not roll far when dropped.
These balls have long been a favorite of the babies I have cared for! The babies use these in their infancy and beyond. They are soft, cotton-filled orbs with easy to grab areas. Large yet lightweight, an infant can easily grasp this ball, which won’t roll too far when it is let go of.
I bought ours at The Joyful Child.
The Oball by Rhino Toys
The other must have ball is the Rhino Toys Oball Original. Tremendously popular with the infants, the original Oball is also easy to grasp due to its shape. Lightweight, flexible, and dishwasher safe (essential for sanitizing in the classroom), these balls roll a bit further than the patchwork ball, but still less so than regular balls.
Other Popular Choices:
Soft balls like the Colorfun Ball Primary by Gund are great for throwing, especially as your child’s aim develops and they throw at full force. They are safe for babies to taste and hold, but in my experience these balls are chosen by the children less often than the ones above, although every child is different.
The texture on the Original Gertie Ball is unique. Let’s see… How should I describe them? A little sticky or rubbery, perhaps? I can tell you that they are very light and have a smooth untextured surface. In the classroom, we would inflate these balls about 90-percent, leaving them easy for the infants to grasp and resistant to rolling away at the same time!
Sensory balls are interesting to babies because of their texture. They roll well and are a favorite of crawling children. After all, Piaget describes this stage between birth and two years as the sensorimotor stage. These sensory-type balls offer babies interesting tactile experiences. I have seen a set of four at Target, and Small World Toys has a couple of versions.
These lightweight balls are inexpensive and usually come in a pack, so if you lose one at the park, no big deal. The little holes are great for babies to stick their fingers in, though sometimes the edges of these cutouts can be a little rough. And then there is the fact that they are made of who-knows-what-kind of plastic. I’d only buy one nowadays if my daughters weren’t mouthing toys.
The Processes by Which Children Learn
Balls are the perfect toy for learning about cause and effect. Let go of the ball and it bounces or rolls away. Throw it and it flops to the ground or soars through the air, depending on the trajectory. Rolling a ball back and forth with a child gives him or her experience in perspective; that is, even though a ball looks larger as it rolls toward the infant, their experiences will help them understand that it is actually the same size regardless of how far away it is.