Movement of the Month: When Do Kids Learn How To Throw a Ball?

Movement of the Month: When Do Kids Learn How To Throw a Ball?

Many toddlers will attempt their first throw between 12 and 18 months and can typically throw a ball at least 3 feet in the air by age 2. Children may alternate hands when learning to throw and will usually start to use a dominate hand between the ages of 3 and 5. However, like all Fundamental Movement Skills, learning to throw is age related, not age dependent.

Why is learning to throw an important skill?
-Children who learn to throw and catch are more likely to engage in physical activity later in life.
-Learning to throw helps children develop social skills since many catching games involve teammates and turn taking. 
-As children throw objects up in the air, they learn about gravity and properties of objects. They also notice which objects bounce, float, or splat! 
What are some stages a child goes through when they are learning to throw?

Remember, every child develops at their own unique pace! Here are some common milestones you may see:

Ages 2-3: Children typically throw using only their arms, the legs are not yet involved. The elbow is typically bent and all power comes from their arm. 
Ages 3-5: Children typically develop a dominant hand. Until then, it is important to encourage the use of both hands while throwing to help strengthen and develop coordination on both sides of the body.
Ages 4-6: Children can typically throw towards a target. They begin to turn their body and shift their weight forward as they throw, but often step with the same foot as their throwing arm.
Ages 7-9: Children will typically step towards their target with the opposite foot as their throwing arm. This motion, along with developing more coordinated whole-body movements in general, allows them to throw with better accuracy and more power. 

Watch video to see the different milestones


How can I teach my child to throw?

Children learn how to throw through continued practice, exploration, and encouragement. Here are 3 fun activities for parents, caregivers, and educators to try with their little ones!

Tip: Provide positive reinforcement regardless of the outcome. For example, if your child doesn’t hit the target try saying, “Great throw!” or “Look how far it went!”

1. Sock Throws: A pair of rolled up socks is a great and safe way to encourage children to practice throwing... and to avoid the inevitable broken window. Find a space in the house where they can safely try to throw them over the couch, over the rug, or over a pile of their favorite stuffed animals. 

2. Puddle Rocks: Encourage your child to safely throw rocks into puddles. Children are often motivated when multiple senses are engaged and sometimes a big loud splash is a fantastic reward! 

3. Number Toss:  Find an empty hamper, hula hoop, or use tape on the floor to make a large target. Using bean bags, rolled up socks, or bunched up pieces of paper, show your child how to throw the 'balls' towards the target. Once all of the balls have landed, count how many are “on” the target and how many are “off” of the target. This is a great way for children to explore numbers and addition!

Note: This information is meant for educational purposes only. Always reach out to your pediatrician, physical or occupational therapist with specific questions and concerns about your child’s development.

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