Playing ball games with tamariki can help develop fine and gross motor skills, eye-hand coordination, and cooperation with others. It’s a low cost, fun activity that can help build strong pathways in the brain.

Why do it?

  • Ball play can involve fine (small muscle) and gross (large muscle) motor skills. Playing with balls is also good chance to strengthen skills used in many other activities, like:

    • eye-hand coordination
    • taking turns
    • cooperating and collaborating with others – children and adults.

    Playing games repeatedly builds strong pathways in the brain.

How to do it

Gather some balls in a range of sizes, shapes and textures.

  • You can make a simple and cheap ball from scrunched up newspaper wrapped with a bit of sticky tape or from a sock stuffed with tissues.
  • Beach balls can be safe for indoor ball play. They can’t do too much damage.

Before you start any ball game, agree on the rules. For example, certain balls might be for throwing and catching outside only.

Playing ball games with toddlers

  • Make sure the ball is small enough for a toddler’s hand, but too big for their mouth.
  • If your toddler is not yet walking, sit facing them with your legs apart and roll a ball back and forth between you. Your legs will guide the ball if it’s headed ‘out-of-bounds’.
  • Show a toddler how to throw the ball and chase after it. Give it to them to throw and race each other to it when it lands.
  • Lightweight inflated balls work well with toddlers but need to be firm enough to prevent toddlers from biting them.
  • A simple sock ball game is aiming them at the washing basket, empty toy box or a container. To make it more challenging, move it further away.

Playing ball games with 3 to 5 year olds

  • Children between 3 and 5 years old will be mastering catching a ball. Start by standing close together and then move further apart as their skill and confidence grows.
  • Try out a variety of ball skills activities such as rolling, throwing, kicking and batting.
  • Introduce a simple target such as a box to get the ball into or to knock over, or a chalk circle drawn on the path, an outside wall or a fence.
  • If you've got a group of tamariki to entertain, get them to form a circle. Pick a category of things such as colours or animals and get each child to shout out a name, for example, blue or cow, before they throw the ball to someone else in the circle.
  • Play newspaper hockey with a newspaper ball and a hockey stick made of rolled up newspaper. This can be a vigorous indoor game for wet days if there’s a suitable space, such as a hallway.
  • Use a newspaper ball and play a version of volleyball over a string.
  • Play family games of soccer and hockey outside.
  • Plan a half-time snack with your tamaiti.

Encourage tamariki to invent their own new ball games.

Using more te reo Māori

Te reo Māori English
Paoro iti Little ball
Paoro nui Big ball
Tikina tō pōro Bring your ball
Homai te pōro e te tau Give me the ball my darling
Takahuri te pōro Roll the ball
Do it again
Nōku te wā My turn
Nōu te wā Your turn
Kei hea te pōro? Where is the ball?
Kei raro i te tepu Under the table
Kei muri i te tūru Behind the chair
Whiua te pōro ki a Pāpā Throw the ball to Dad
Kino kē koe e te tau! You're awesome my darling!