Ball games: How social interaction enhances motor learning

From an early age young children take an interest in playing with balls: they like to toss and kick them and crawl or walk after them. As they get older children enjoy playing ball games with their peers and their parents. And the more they practice catching, throwing, kicking and hitting the more skilled they become. 

Ball games provide children repeated opportunities to practice the two important aspects of catching, throwing and kicking: these are visual information gathering and then using this information to plan the movements needed for a particular task.  

In other words ball games require:

  • good visual attention skills that allow the child to pick up the information needed to predict/plan the trajectory of the ball 
  • the ability to turn this visual information into a motor plan;,
  • the ability to combine movements of different parts of the body into a smooth coordinated action. 

Ball games are also wonderful opportunities for social interaction, coordinating your action with those of another person, and having fun. 

Roan 10 months playing catch and throw with Nana Pam 

This video of Roan (10 months) playng a game of catch and throw illustrates many of the social and motor abilities  seen in interactive ball play.

►  Roan watches my actions and readies her hands to catch the ball.

R 10m catch ball 1.jpg   R 10m catch ball 2.jpg

► Roan  adapts her hand location when she sees my actions indicating that the ball will role to her .left.  She is able to predict the path of the ball and move her hand so as to intercept it. 

R 10m catch ball to side 1.jpg   R 10m catch ball to side 2.jpg

► She watches the ball as it rolls out of reach and asks for help to get it back again - looks at the ball and then at me, points to the ball and uses a her "please"  hand sign (tapping the hands together several times).  

R 10m catch ball to side 3.jpg

► You will also notice that I slow down and exagerate my throwing actions and verball comment on what is happening. 


Roan 10 months: ball games 



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More information Development of Hand Function: 7-15 months