Baby Play: Giant Ball Play

After each of my baby storytimes, I include a Discovery Time free-play session that encourages parents to talk to one another and to interact with their children. I include a variety of fine motor, gross motor, and sensory activities that appeal to 0-2-year-olds.

As a child, did you ever longingly walk past those giant ball bins in the Walmart or Target play aisle? I did, and I imagine many little ones today do as well. While those giant balls are cheap, they are not fun to store or manage in a house filled with breakable items protected on high shelves from small hands. Since these balls are not ideal for many homes, they are perfect for baby play in the library, since we have the opportunity to provide adults and children with toys and activities they may not be able to experience at home.

These “giant” balls can be used for many purposes. If being rolled or tossed between an adult and child, they can help develop gross motor skills. These balls often have different textures, providing a sensory experience. The littlest babies enjoy being bounced on these balls, especially to the rhythm of music or the rhythm of words. In my crazy storytime dreams, every child is being bounced on one of these to our weekly bounce rhymes as we practice phonological awareness skills by focusing on the small parts of words. While I know that the storage required for that many balls is simply impossible at essentially any library (we often have 30-50 babies per storytime), this kind of activity can still be encouraged during after storytime play.

As little ones grow older, it is fascinating to watch them figure out new ways to use everyday play items as well. The toddler in the image above was working with dad to fill the muffin tray with ball pit balls. He asked for an orange ball–and she delivered.

Recommended Giant Ball Play Purchases

  • Giant Balls (toy aisle of any big-box store)
  • Storage Bag

Price: Typically $2-$5 a ball

Pro-Tip: See if your big-box store also sells storage bags for giant balls. I would like a mesh one that can be pulled closed, but I haven’t found that in my neighborhood, so we use extra large garbage bags from maintenance. They easily hold our four big balls, with the possibility of squeezing in one more.

Conversation Starters

Start conversations as babies play with this tool by asking questions like:

  • Can you bounce on top of a ball with an adult’s help?
  • How does the ball feel?
  • What happens when you push the ball?
  • What color is the ball?
  • Can you stack two balls on top of each other?

Stretch Vocabulary

When talking with little ones, use big words and small words. The more new words a child hears, the larger their vocabulary will be when they start to learn to read.

Consider using some of the following vocabulary words when using this activity:




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