Ever ponder the therapeutic nature of the tennis ball?

Tennis fever has hit Melbourne this January, which is why we here at Fired Up People have dedicated an entire blog post on the therapeutic wonder that is…the tennis ball.

Read on to find out how this budget friendly small ball can have a big therapeutic impact for you or your child.

Tennis Ball Monster

Fine motor skills; hand strength, manual dexterity, in hand manipulation/ Imaginative play

Set Up: Have an adult carefully slice a one-inch opening across the tennis ball. Encourage your child to decorate the tennis ball to create a ‘tennis ball monster’ by using stick on eyes and other craft material (see image).

Method: Encourage your child to ‘feed the monster’ when he gets hungry, by squeezing open it’s mouth with one hand, while slotting in small items (such as buttons, coins, pegs, pom poms) into the mouth of the ball. Once finished and the monster is ‘full’ – encourage your child to squeeze the opening again to remove the items. Swap hands from dominant to non-dominant throughout the play for an extra challenge. To add an in hand manipulation element, roll a dice to see how many items the child must pick up at one time to feed the ball (e.g. if you roll a six, pick up six coins and slot these in one by one).

Tennis Ball Toss

Therapeutic Area of Work – Gross motor skills: hand-eye coordination, body awareness

Set Up: Tennis ball? Check. Play partner? Check. You are now ready for the tennis ball toss!

Method: Very simple yet effective, toss the ball under arm to one another (grade the distance according to the skill level of the child, you want it to be challenging but achievable). You can add to the challenge by aiming to get a certain amount of throws without the ball hitting the ground or by moving further away from one another. For more advanced skills, encourage catching with one hand only (the non-dominant hand for the real masters!) or tossing the ball from different positions (e.g. under leg, from behind with your back facing your partner).

Tennis Ball Crawl

Therapeutic Area of Work – Fine motor skill: in-hand manipulation, body awareness, finger strength

Method: Have the child hold the ball against their body with one hand (e.g. by their side). Using their one hand, have them move and manipulate the ball along their body (e.g. down their leg and back up again). See how far they can get the ball or how long it can crawl for before it hits the ground.

Tennis Ball Bunny Hops and Happy Feet

Therapeutic Area of Work – Gross motor skill: bilateral lower limb coordination, lower limb strength

Method: Place the tennis ball between the feet of the child and have them squeeze their feet together to secure it in place. Have them hold the ball in position between their feet and ‘hop’ like a bunny. For happy feet, instead of hopping have the child move one foot forward and then the other so the ‘waddle’ like a penguin.

Final Therapeutic Tip: Speak with your occupational therapist to discuss how to grade the above ball skills for your child. You may need to start with a larger, lighter ball and work your way towards the tennis ball for some activities.