Today’s activity was the ping pong ball drop. At first look, even to me, it looks a little bit boring, but my kids always enjoy doing it! The thing about activities like this are that they are fresh and new… new materials and new concepts, plus it’s up to us make it more exciting with our questions and comments. This is a super easy activity that focuses on the ability to hold out their hand a drop a ball into something. We take it for granted, but the ability to drop a ball like this is something that comes with time for our young children. This can easily be incorporated into regular play and will probably only take about 5-10 minutes.
I started with a big jar and ping pong balls. He knew right away how to get the balls into the jar and then out again. So I added a more difficult concept with the smaller jar and smaller craft balls. It involved more fine muscle movements and made him think a little more about ways to get the balls back out since his hand wouldn’t fit in the jar anymore.
You can do the same. Start with a big jar or cup and ping pong balls, golf balls, styrofoam balls, whatever you have. Let your child play with it and experiment. For younger children you might stop there. For older children you might add in a smaller container and smaller balls and let them think about and explore those. All along be sure to ask questions and comment on what you see your child doing… “Do you think the big ball will fit into this new jar?” “How can you get the balls out of the jar?” “Oh, you just got the balls out by dumping them out. Is there another way to get them out?” These types of questions reinforce what your child is doing, but also helps them think “outside the box” to expand their knowledge.
Let’s look at what things are going on in this activity…
Fine motor: This will work on the ability to pick up ping pong balls, craft balls, golf balls, whatever you have around that will fit in a jar or cup that you have on hand. Younger children might prefer the ease of picking up something larger like a golf ball or ping pong ball, older children might like to do both but get the extra challenge of picking up something smaller like the craft balls that we used.
Problem solving: Problem solving comes in a couple of ways in this activity, how do I get the balls in, what will fit and not fit, and how do i get them out. It is important for us as we play along with our child to find the balance between helping them think things through and ask questions without doing the activity for them. We have to stay out of the way, let them fail a couple of times so that they can really learn what works and what doesn’t, without causing too much frustration. We are never looking for perfection in completing the task, rather experiences for your child and the ability to think and figure things out. Stay mindful of their age and developmental abilities with your questions and comments, be encouraging, and remember to have fun together!