Ball Verbs

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Sometimes we forget to make time for the simplest play with our babies. To wit, here’s a fantastic game to fill the time with a thirteen month old (or thereabouts), using any and all balls you have around the house.

I set out a variety of baby sensory balls as well as a few larger sports balls. The soccer ball was an instant favorite!

Working with one verb at a time, we worked our way through all the different motions we could do with the balls. Rolling of course is always fun.

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But even more so, Veronika likes to make them bounce!

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Then we worked on throwing. This was a little more advanced, but I showed her how to toss sensory balls into a little bucket.

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You can also stand your little one up for “baby soccer”. As I brought her toe against the ball each time, I said, “Kick!”

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She can’t execute the motion on her own yet, but she’s getting there. Since I left out the assortment of balls all day, there was lots more rolling, dropping, and bouncing to be had.

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Bowl with Bottles

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“Bowling” is a fantastic first sport for babies. Even before coordination develops for kicking, babies love to roll balls… and knock things over! So bowling is a natural choice.

Save your empty plastic bottles for a few days (our pins were recycled sparkling water bottles), and set them up. You can go as high as ten bottles in a classic bowling formation, but Veronika and I started with 3.

I set out a few toy balls and showed her how to aim for the bottles. She loved the crash they made when they knocked over!

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Her favorite way to play was to take one bottle and use that to knock down another one.

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But this still required coordination and forethought, so I loved her variation!

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Hopefully she’ll work up to rolling the ball at the “pins” soon. We can even make it harder with a smaller ball as she gets older!

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Make Your Own Soccer Ball

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After reading about homemade soccer balls used by kids the world over, specifically in Zimbabwe thanks to a Highlights magazine article, Travis was inspired to make his own! We sort of winged it on this one, but our little ball turned out great.

We only needed three items: a plastic bag, old newspaper, and string.

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First I helped Travis wad up newspaper and stuff into one small (3 gallon) plastic bag.

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I knotted it when about half full and pulled the bag inside out around the knot for a double layer. This was our “core.” We then repeated with a second bag and more newspaper, securing with a second knot and fold over.

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Knead with your hands into a more round shape if your ball is looking a bit oval. Now tie string around the outside. Four strings held ours tight.

Time to go play!

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Travis loved playing pass and taking shots on a goal. We were both so pleased with how well it rolled and held up.

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Next time you find yourself without a ball, don’t be daunted: make one!

All Kinds of Balls

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Travis and I are about to launch into his Game Day-themed kit from Raddish Kids, featuring a trio of recipes perfect for this time of year. Whether your family loves Sunday football, World Series baseball, or simply watching a local game of youth soccer in the park, there’s no better season for sports and eats!

It seemed fitting, then, to start off with this fun lesson plan on all kinds of balls, and namely: why some bounce and some don’t.

First, we needed to brainstorm a list of balls. I gave Travis a definition of the term: coming up with ideas in a safe space where all ideas are welcome and together we made a quick list. I guided him towards actual sports after his first few ideas were more descriptive (squishy balls, hard balls).

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We went through and talked about which was the biggest (basketball!) smallest (ping pong!) and most colorful (tennis!). Now it was time to watch how some of these were made.

Raddish included links for everything from a soccer ball to a baseball. We added in an old favorite video: check out the bowling ball factory nine minutes in (come for the bowling ball, stay for the jaw-dropping domino demonstration). Travis adores “how-it’s-made” videos like this and was a rapt audience.

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Now it was time to experiment with balls! Relying on what we had around the house, we gathered them into a pile and added a long yardstick.

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Bounce each ball and measure which goes the highest. Our clear winner was a squash ball (36 inches!) while others were duds like the soccer ball and baseball (about 9 or 10 inches).

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This prompted us to talk about why some balls were bouncy, and others not meant to be. (You can guide kids to think about how soccer balls are kicked, baseballs hit, etc., rather than meant to bounce).

For older kids, get into the specifics of kinetic energy here. The lesson was a bit over Travis’s head, but he did like watching a ball bounce in slow motion. We also tried experimenting with which balls bounced best in a certain direction but since all our balls were round (we couldn’t find our football) they all easily went into a target.

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Finally, we bounced them on a wood floor versus carpet, to observe any differences.

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Now for the best part: we made our own ball! Pour 1/2 cup water and 1 tablespoon borax into a clear cup and stir until the borax dissolves.

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In a second cup, combine 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 2 tablespoons glue, and a few drops of food coloring. Travis chose a red ball.

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Add the glue mixture to the borax mixture. Your ball will start to firm up immediately. I worked the ball with my hands, dipping back into the borax as needed, until we had a nice round ball. Note: it is safe to touch Borax, but do remind your kids no matter their age that it is inedible.

Travis gave our ball a bounce – it worked!

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For some final fun, we painted with balls. Roll small balls like golf or ping pong ones in cups of paint.

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Place on a sheet of construction paper in a box. You can close the box and shake it, but Travis preferred to move the ball around with a chopstick.

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We finished with a few fun ball reads including: Round Like a Ball by Lisa Campbell Ernst and Goodnight Football by Michael Dahl.

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It’s a Goal!

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For some fun sport today, Veronika and I played her first round of soccer!

Lie a box on its side and present your baby with a selection of balls. Veronika was excited when she saw a growing pile of mini soccer balls, baby sensory balls, and other favorite toys.

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rolled one toward the box, and as it rolled in I said a very excited, “It’s a goal!” Channel your inner futbol announcer for this!

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She picked up on the excitement immediately. Her expression demanded a repeat.

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Then I encouraged her to make the goal.

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Even if her ball was close but not quite in, I repeated the excited, “It’s a goal!”

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She looked so proud of herself.

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This led to lots of further ball play in her own way, tapping them together, holding several at once, or following them around the room.

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A great morning of sport, in sum.

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Backyard BBQ Games

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It’s the last week of summer, and we’re making the most of it by spending time outdoors with family and friends! The following five games are ones we’ve planned to play all summer, ever since making the delicious trio of recipes from Travis’s Backyard BBQ Raddish Kids crate. Whether you’re hosting an actual BBQ or just getting outside in the sunshine, here are a few fun games to try.

1. Egg Toss

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We made the game vegan with plastic eggs to toss as an alternative to hard-boiled eggs (try Egg & Spoon Race from International Playthings). Travis loved that the eggs could really crack open when we tossed them…

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And missed!

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2. Hot & Cold

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Hide an object (Note: the “hard-boiled eggs” from our egg toss were perfect) while one player closes his or her eyes. Players instruct the finder where the treasure is by noting if they are cold (far way) or boiling hot (close!).

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Travis enjoyed finding the item first, but then preferred to be the hider and guide me with his words.

3. Blind Taste Testing

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This is a fun one if your family has prepared a special summer meal together. I blindfolded Travis and had him sample some of our fresh-from-the-market veggies.

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He got them all right, even blindfolded! You can make this more challenging by far if you use sauces or spices for big kids, instead of the rather-obvious vegetables.

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4. Capture the “Foodie”

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This is just like Capture the Flag except you play with fruit pieces instead of flags! Good choices include items with peels, like oranges or bananas. See which team captures the other’s fruit first, and don’t get tagged and sent to jail (i.e. the steps) in the process

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Easily the favorite, Travis got a kick out of hiding his banana, and delighted when he could find the other team’s first.

Ideally you’ll need four players or more for this, but even two people can have fun and race to find the other person’s “foodie” first.

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5. Restaurant Relay Race

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For this silly game, we loaded a tray with plastic cups, forks, and fake picnic food. See who runs the fastest without dropping something along the way. Travis thought this was quite hilarious.

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Which of the BBQ games is your child’s favorite? Please share in the comments!

Mosquito Badminton

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Are you kids sick of swatting away mosquitoes this summer? Then this quirky take on backyard badminton is sure to have them giggling!

To make our “mosquito”, we first inflated a balloon. Any color would work, but Travis chose blue.

I twisted together a mosquito body out of black pipe cleaners. Certainly there is some imagination at work here, but it featured two antennae, a proboscis, and wiggly arms and legs.

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Cut eyes from cardstock or poster board and then tape the mosquito body and eyes to the balloon.

Use flip flops as the “racquets”! Travis thought it was hilarious to bop the mosquito around outside.

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We didn’t make it a true competition, but if you want to keep score, try this: If the balloon lands on the ground on your side, that’s a point for the other team or person. First side to reach 5 points wins!

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Backyard Bean Bags

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Travis and I made these adorable homemade bean bags this morning before his first day of camp; I wanted to send him off in high spirits after quality mom and son time!

To prepare the bean bags, spoon about 1/2 cup dried beans into small zip-top bags.

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Squeeze out the air and seal tightly.

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Insert each bag into the toe of a small sock (or an old, longer sock that you’ve cut just above the ankle). Twist the top of the sock into a knot to tie.

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These were so cute (Travis loved that they were circular instead of square like ones from the store) and have great heft. Already they were fun to play with, just tossing or juggling!

But now we needed to play with them! First we set up a classic Bean Bag Toss with buckets.

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It was mommy versus Travis for a few rounds to see who could get it in!

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Next up: Target Practice! I drew three different colored circles of different sizes and labeled them as worth 10, 20, and 30 points.

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Travis not only loved it, but made up a new rule. If you hit this blade of grass, you were instantly out.

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In the evening, we found a few more ways to play with the beanbags. First, a round of Stuck in the Mud. With this game, you run with a bean bag on your head. If it falls, you freeze in place until another person returns the bean bag to your head.

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This was a highlight of our day, getting the whole family out running around in the new yard! But keeping the bean bag on our heads proved very tough, so Travis changed the rules: you simply had to pelt another player with a bean bag to make him or her It.

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Luckily the bean bags are the perfect soft item for a game like this.

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Soon we were all silly and rolling around in the grass.

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Baby sister loved just watching!

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As a final game, we played Tower Toppling, a riff on a classic carnival game. We only had one rinsed and empty can to play with, but will be repeating this game with a whole tower for sure!

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For our game, the goal was to see who could knock over the can first.

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If you have a full tower, see who can knock down all the cans with the fewest throws to declare the winner.

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Any and all of these games would be fantastic with a crowd; consider them your next summer gathering, whether a barbecue, block party, or family get-together.

Update: After collecting a few bean cans, we could truly play topple the tower.

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Travis loved getting out his energy with a round of this before dinner!

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Sneak Through Laser Beams

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Travis returned home from school to discover that, in order to reach his lunch, he’d have to sneak through laser beams!

To set up the surprise, I set out stools and chairs and wound yarn in and out, up and down. For the best results, vary the height and width between your “lasers”.

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Travis practically dove at the setup when he walked in from school, barely sparing a moment to take off his shoes.

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On the first attempt, he got nipped slightly by one of the lower “lasers.” I challenged him to think of how he could go over it, since under hadn’t worked, but this would mean ducking his head from those above.

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Soon there was lots of slithering and maneuvering about. This one will have the kids delighted and sneak in some exercise: a win-win.

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Finish up by sharing this clip with your kids!

Button Toss

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This fun game (another winner from Highlights magazine) involves crafting on the front end and then becomes a sport with some math involved by the end!

To put it together, you’ll need 3 boxes, ideally of different sizes and heights. Paint each box a different color, for the best contrast.

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We also squirted on some puffy paint because, puffy paint.

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Note: If you don’t have paint, you can wrap them with wrapping paper instead. Glue the boxes together in any configuration and let dry.

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To play, I cut out paper circles and marked each with a different score for each box. The easiest was worth a 1, the second was a 2, and the hard one was a 5. (Note: Big kids can skip count by 5s, labeling the boxes 5, 10, and 15).

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In an empty egg carton, add paper circles numbered 1 through 12 (or 5 through 60, if skip-counting).

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Each player now needs 2 buttons – one to toss and one as a score piece.

Travis took his first toss – a lucky 5!

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I helped him count his button five spaces forward through our scoreboard.

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He loved the challenge of the game, and the challenge of counting his score each time.

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The first person to 12 (or 60) wins!

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