Children with disabilities need to be included in games and play. Ball games are a fun way for children to develop gross motor skills and improve their hand-eye coordination. Throwing, catching, passing and rolling a ball helps develop balance and improves the child's muscle control. Almost any traditional childhood game, such as basketball and keep-away, can be adapted for disabled children. Use your imagination and above all, have good time.
Tennis Ball Race
This game will help children with physical disabilities practice gross motor skills by holding and passing two balls. Help the children sit in a circle. Find two balls of equal size but different colors. A white tennis ball and a yellow tennis ball will work well. Give the white ball to one child and then ask her to pass it to her right. When the ball is passed to the second or third child in the circle, hand the same child a yellow ball. She then passes the yellow ball to her right. Instruct the children passing the yellow ball to pass it as quickly as possible. The idea is to pass the yellow ball faster so that it eventually catches up with the white ball. The child who ends up with both balls is "out" and the game starts again.
Musical ball is similar to musical chairs. Musical ball is a good way for children with limited mobility or wheelchairs to help develop the gross motor skills in the arms and hands. Visually impaired children can also play this game. Arrange the children in a circle. Give a large colorful ball, such as a beach ball, to one child. Cue a children's music CD on a portable CD player or cue music on a computer. Instruct the children to begin passing the ball around the circle when the music begins. Allow the music to play for 30 seconds or more and then stop the music. The child holding the ball when the music stops gets 1 point. The children begin passing the ball again when the music is restarted. Continue playing until one player reaches 5 points.
Keep away is a fun game for all children, even children who use a wheelchair. Children draw straws or flip a coin to determine who plays "it" while the other children divide into two groups. The child playing "it" is positioned between the two groups. Use a large, colorful beach ball or other light weight ball. The two teams toss the ball back and forth over the head of and try to keep the ball away from the child playing "it." Attach bells to the ball to help visually impaired children play this game. When the child playing "it" catches the ball the player who threw the ball becomes "it." If the child in the middle reaches a team member who is holding the ball before it is tossed to the other team, the child holding the ball become "it" and play continues.
Older kids and teens can enjoy a game of wheelchair basketball or HORSE. HORSE is played with two or more children. Arrange a mobile, adjustable basketball goal for outdoors or use a laundry basket indoors for younger children. Children line up and take turns throwing the ball at the basket. Each time a child scores a basket they get one letter of the word HORSE. The first child to finish the word wins the game. The game can continue until all children spell the word. Any word can be used in place of the word HORSE. For example, young children can play to spell short words, such as FUN or CAT.
Robin Reichert is an AFPA certified nutrition consultant, AFPA certified personal trainer and freelance writer, specializing in health and fitness. She has been involved in the health and fitness industry for over 10 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of San Francisco and a Master of Science in natural health.