These instructions are only a sample of the many things you can do with simple balls. Balls have a bad name in part because they are known to break things in classrooms and homes. The key to successful training with balls is to be careful in selecting the ball for the activity and environment. It is, for example, quite possible to play a safe form of basketball in the home with a few modifications, rules, and a nice soft light ball. If you pick the right ball and use some common sense, these activities can be done virtually anywhere.
Try to plan a few gross motor activities together, this is a great way to keep motivation levels high and break up monotony. Plan for a set period of time daily for gross motor activities, or perhaps even a couple of times daily.
Many pre-designed ball games are available at specialty toy stores. Even a simple game of ‘jacks’ can be just the thing to help develop manual and bilateral control and coordination.
We advise against ball activities indoors when there is a need for quiet or when things can be broken. Set rules with young clients and remind them that they must respect the environment and not break things.
Try these (always bounce the ball at waist height unless instructed otherwise, although some clients may have to start with a slower bounce, that is, from a higher level – say shoulder high – then work to a lower level).:
Easy: Bounce the ball 5 – 10 times about waist high with the preferred hand. Ask the client about the process, that is, make them describe what they are doing – What are you doing? How do you do that? Can you make the ball go higher? How? How many times did you bounce the ball? Can you bounce the ball (number less than 10) times? Show me. >> The goal is to have the client become aware of what they are doing and focus. There is also some control training here.
Load it: Now, have the client bounce the ball with the non-preferred hand. Encourage them to try to master the same control as the preferred hand. This won’t happen, at least not for a long time, and they should know that this is just fine. They should, however, still do their best to try. Never scold a child for not doing well. If they are having great difficulty with even one bounce, have them simply drop it then catch it on the rebound, again, using the non-dominant hand. The can also try bouncing with two hands, but with the non-preferred hand touching the ball only/first. Again, have the client assess verbally what is happening.
Load it: Next, have the client bounce the ball between dominant and non-dominant hand. Let them practice it for a good while (5 minutes even), when they are good enough, place a target of tape or pick a spot on the floor or ground, in front of the client. Have them bounce the ball between the hands, rebounding off the target.
Load it: Alternate ball bounce, one hand at a time. Have the client bounce, say 6 times in one hand, then switch. You can mix it up as well: 4 times in one hand, 3 times in the other, then 5 times in one, and 4 in the other. Have them count it all out to you as they do it. Tell them how many bounces (7 or less) and for which hand.
Load it: Have the patient bounce the ball in alternating hands that is, left for a few bounces, then right for a few (or just their preferred hand if they cannot bounce with the non-dominant). Have them bounce the ball off of a progressively smaller circle/square/shape on the floor. Floor tiles are great for this. See if they can get it to a point where they can bounce a ball off of a very small spot indeed, like the size of a dime.
Load it: Clients often take a ‘passive’ approach to bouncing balls, exerting just enough effort in bouncing the ball to return it to a suitable height. Load the task by having them bounce the ball more forcibly off the ground. Find a well-inflated soccer or basket ball. Move to a safer place, where things will not be broken – perhaps an empty garage, the street, a parking lot, or just on the driveway or sidewalk. Repeat the exercises above, but have the client force the ball down with some determination, the goal being to exert enough force to return the ball to the outstretched hand faster and faster with each bounce. Keep speeding up the exercise, but be sure the client can still successfully complete the bounce without loosing control.