Indoor Baseball

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Veronika played her first round of baseball today! Okay, perhaps not really, but here’s a version of the sport that works even for toddlers.

The inner tube from a roll of gift wrap makes the perfect, soft baseball bat for young children. I secured it at the ends and the middle with duct tape for durability, and then for the safest baseballs ever, I simply inflated a few balloons.

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Now all we needed were cushions as the bases, and we had the whole baseball diamond!

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Of course your toddler won’t understand the rules yet, but Veronika loved taking swings with the bat. Or just bopping the balloons along on the ground with it!

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You can also practice tossing the balloon in the air and keeping it up with the bat.

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She was an enthusiastic participant when I showed her how to run from base to base, too, even if she didn’t quite understand why. Don’t forget to shout “home run!” when you complete the circuit.

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In sum, this is a fun way to introduce the sport of baseball to your two-year-old, plus you’ll get out some energy in the process!

Balls, Balls, Balls

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Veronika attends a toddler gym class once a week, and her favorite part is always when they bring out a big bin of balls and a hoop and she practices her “slam dunks”. The only problem is that she’s sad every day that isn’t “slam dunk” day! So today, we brought the ball fun home.

I wanted to try working on several different ball skills with her, so first we sat with our legs together to form a little enclosure and rolled a bouncy ball back and forth.

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Then we upped the ante. Turn a laundry basket on its side and roll the ball into this “goal”. She initially wanted to bounce the ball in, but soon switched her focus to rolling.

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Next, we turned the basket upright. Now she could toss or bounce it in!

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Time for slam dunks! Place the basket on top of any slightly higher surface, like a coffee table or stool, and let your toddler reach up high.

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Slam dunk!

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For a final challenge, we angled a couch cushion down like a ramp (you could also use cardboard or a wooden plank for this step). First we rolled the ball down into a waiting basket.

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And then she rolled it up to the tip top of the ramp so we could roll it back down again. This took great concentration, as well as dexterity, on her part.

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In sum, there are so many ways to play with a simple ball at home. What’s your toddler’s favorite ball game? Please share in the comments!

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Winter Bowling

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Every season seems to have its own perfect variation on bowling, whether giant inflatable unicorns in the summer, haunted bowling in the fall, and now ice bowling in the winter!

For pins, fill water bottles about 3/4 of the way with water and let stand outside overnight to freeze (or place in your freezer if the temperature in your region doesn’t dip that low). Make sure to leave some room in the bottles for the ice to expand.

For balls, fill water balloons with water and freeze overnight. In the morning, slip off the rubber and you have perfect ice spheres to bowl with. The little balls of ice absolutely delighted both kids, so much so I worried they would just play with those and ignore the bowling completely!

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Eventually Travis loved taking tosses and rolls at our ice “pins” and seeing how many he could get with one shot.

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There’s an extra catch that makes this version of bowling harder; if you throw your ice ball too hard, it might shatter!

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Come to think of it, that fact probably added to Travis’s fun.

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Veronika didn’t seem to be a huge fan of the ice bowling, so I took her inside for a warmer and more toddler-friendly version. We emptied the ice from the bottles and simply rolled a nice big bouncy ball at empty ones.

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For a toddler, persistence is key! I showed her how to reset the pins and try again after each roll.

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We also lined up the bottles in different formations to make the game more interesting.

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And sometimes, she preferred just to sit and play with the bottle pins, which was all part of the fun!

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What’s your winter spin on bowling? Please share in the comments!

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Shark Ball Toss

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Here’s the perfect sport to bring along to your family’s next day at the beach. The homemade charm has a leg up on all the koosh ball competition!

To assemble, cut about 2 inches off the ends of two empty (1 L) soda or sparkling water water bottles. The edges were rough, so we sanded them until smooth with squares of sandpaper. Travis thought this was neat, wondering if the roughness of sandpaper can ever be completely worn away.

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Paint the bottles with two coats of blue acrylic paint; let dry overnight.

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In the morning, we drew shark features on craft foam, including jagged teeth, dorsal fins, and eyes.

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Because our wiggle eyes had long lashes and our foam was pink and purple, our sharks had a decidedly feminine appearance!

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Now simply head to the beach (or another outdoor location) and bring along a tennis ball. Toss back and forth, catching the ball in the shark “mouths”.

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A word of caution: This is hard! The players really should only be a few steps apart and it takes some practice to give the ball the right toss out of one shark’s mouth and into the other.

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So don’t worry if kids just end up rolling the tennis balls into the shark bottles. That was fun, too!

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Net Ball

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This super-soft ball is perfect for teaching a toddler to catch and throw. Because it’s literally as soft as cotton, there won’t be any bumps or bruises along the way!

I had a net bag full of onions from the market, and instantly knew I could use it instead of simply throwing it away. Snip the top of the bag open carefully so the rest stays intact.

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Fill with cotton balls until you’ve formed a round ball, then use a twist tie or elastic to seal it shut. I showed Veronika briefly how to kick with it. But as I mentioned, this ball was truly perfect for working on tossing back and forth with her.

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At 22 months, she can’t quite catch a ball yet, but I loved that we introduced the concept and now we know exactly which ball to practice with for future toss sessions.

Flying Saucers

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Travis is just learning to toss a Frisbee, so today we played this quick take on H-O-R-S-E. I suspended a hoop from a tree (which was actually a play tunnel folded up, but it worked in a pinch), and then handed Travis the Frisbee.

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Each player takes a turn tossing. If the disc goes through, the other player must make the shot from the same spot, else he or she earns a D. Continue play until somebody spells out D-I-S-C, and the other person wins!

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The spelling element meant this game was not just physical activity, but also a quick learning activity!

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Meanwhile Travis enjoyed honing his Frisbee skills. We’ll be playing this one again soon!

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Pool-Noodle Hockey

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We needed to get outside at “Camp Mom” this morning, and I knew just the silly summer sport for the kids. Pool noodles for hockey sticks and a giant blown-up beach ball for the puck made the perfect summer props to play an outdoor version of hockey.

Simply set up orange cones as the goal markers and then divide into teams. (In our case, it was Travis versus mommy and little sister).

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Then take turns whacking the beach ball down the field toward your opponent’s goal. First team to 10 points wins!

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Or you don’t even have to keep score. Kids will no doubt just have fun with the mechanics of chasing the beach ball around with the pool noodle, which is sure to elicit delight.

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Baby Soccer

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Veronika has shown an early interest in balls: bouncing them, catching them, kicking them, you name it! So today I decided we should play a classic round of baby soccer.

I set up orange cones as the goal posts then lifted her from under the arms and swung her legs toward a bouncy ball. “Goal!” I said with excitement.

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She squealed with delight! We continued to play, alternating kicks from up in my arms…

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…with chasing the ball around to kick it with her sturdy little legs.

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Each time she got the ball through the cones, I repeated “Goal!” earning more big smiles of excitement. She knew she’d done something right!

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Of course you can play this game outside, too. Simply set up a make-shift goal with sticks or rocks for markers. Your toddler will love chasing after the ball!

Glow Bottle Bowling

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Long summer nights are tailor-made for staying up late, and I love finding activities to heighten the excitement. So on the heels of a few other glow-in-the-dark sports, tonight it was time to go bowling!

During the day, we decorated empty plastic water bottles with colorful tape. You could also use paint markers, but Travis preferred just to use the tape. He loved making diagonal stripes on his!

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After dark, we activated glow sticks and dropped one in each bottle.

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Line up in bowling formation, then take aim with bean bags! You can use regular bean bags, or glowing ones leftover from a bean bag toss.

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Travis loved it so much he insisted on multiple rounds. We played several variations, like lining them up in different ways or sliding the bean bags along the floor instead of throwing them.

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I think we’ll need a new set of glow sticks so we can play again tomorrow night!

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If your kids are older and want a greater challenge, fill the bottles with water to make them harder targets.

Glowing Bean Bag Toss

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After playing a glow-in-the-dark Frisbee game recently, tonight it was time for glow-in-the-dark bean bags!

This kiddie-version of Cornhole can be played in daylight, too. First, I taped a cardboard box securely with duct tape along the top and bottom, and then used an X-acto knife to cut it in half along a diagonal.

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Cut a hole in the center of each. These will be your target boards. Travis was in charge of decorating them! We used colorful washi tape to make patterns and designs.

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Of course little sister wanted to help, too.

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The bean bags were a bit tricky to make. Cut snack-size zip-top bags into an octagon shape, and then use more decorative tape to cover them and seal the edges. Leave an opening at the top. Fill with dried beans, then add more washi tape along the top. Time to toss!

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We scored 1 point for any bags that landed on the board, 3 points if it went in the hole.

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We upped the ante and kept moving further back from the board with each round. Travis was a natural!

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Once it grew dark, it was time to make it all glow. We cracked glow sticks to activate them and taped them along the sides of the box targets.

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Then we added small glow sticks to a few more bean bags, adding them in with the beans before sealing shut.

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Travis wanted to play so many rounds that bedtime ended up being a little delayed! But that’s exactly what summer nights are for.

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