This one indoor sensory activity has provided hours and hours of fun. It has helped my children learn shapes, colors and helped me invent great fine motor skills games.
What is this magical activity you ask?
Create your own ball pit at home! We’ll walk you through how to create it (SO simple) and the endless learning activities you can do with your baby, toddler, or young child using the balls.
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How to Create your Own Ball Pit
You can create your own ball pit in less than 3 minutes. To set up your ball pit, simply order some balls and add them to a pack n’ play, playpen, or small inflatable pool. We use all 3 of these variations and rotate.
It’s fun to watch your child’s imagination as they use their senses to explore the balls and pretend play.
To help them along, and to target different areas of growth and development, here are some of our favorite sensory activities using the ball pit balls.
Toddler Fine Motor Skills Games using Balls
Hide & Seek
One of the earliest games that every baby and toddler learns is peek-a-boo (which later evolves into hide and seek). Both of my sons learned at an early age that they could lay down in the balls and bury themselves.
When the balls were over their eyes and they couldn’t see me anymore, they thought they were hiding. It was fun to pretend I couldn’t see them!
This activity is a great precursor to fine motor skills games as fine motor skills require a number of independent skills to work together: brain, nervous system, hands, lips and eyes.
Toddlers become expert little sorters. I noticed that my son started throwing balls out of the ball pit that were different. This helped him identify that a ball was different based on look, feel, weight, color, and other attributes.
As children move and manipulate small objects they develop their hand muscles so sorting activities are amazing fine motor skills games for toddlers.
Ball pit balls can be perfect for such an activity. Give it a try!
You can lay a few different pieces of construction paper on the ground and ask your child to place the right color ball on the right color construction paper. This is an easy and fun way to practice colors.
Learning colours can be made fun through loads of different fine motor skills games by squeezing objects of different colours and naming them, throwing balls in a ball pit/towards a target/playing colour darts/, by grabbing objects of various colours with tweezers, cutting and shaping colourful play dough. The possibilities are endless!
For more fun activities, read fine motor development activities for kids and select from a list of 16 fun and easy games to play at home.
Bath Ball Pop
Add some of the ball pit balls to the bath! When the balls get slightly damp, you can squeeze them between your thumb and index finger and they will pop out of your hand.
This activity proved to be a great fine motor skills game and is almost guaranteed to get a giggle out of your little one!
Ball runs are a big deal in our house. You can make them out of many household items. Use a wrapping paper tube and cut it in half for a straight ball run, or you can also take a few paper towel rolls, cut them in half, and tape them to the wall using painter’s tape.
Making the ball run is a great early STEM activity and playing with it teaches cause and effect.
Ball Washing Station
Kids love water play. Set up a “ball washing station” using a little plastic storage bin, water, bubbles, and a cleaning brush.
You just turned something very basic into fun pretend play. This is a great sensory activity that lets them practice pouring and cleaning. Not to mention the fact that they practice fine muscle movement necessary for children’s development so it becomes a fine motor skills game as well!
The ball pit balls are lightweight yet big enough to catch with two of their little hands, which makes them great for this classic game.
You can start playing catch from a very young age which helps them develop motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Playing catch is not only great fine motor skills game, but it also allows children to cooperate which is another essential skill in life.
Free the Balls
You will need a muffin tin and painters tape for this creative activity. Put the balls in each spot in the muffin team and tape the ball into the spot using the painter’s tape.
Watch your little one problem-solve as they try to get the balls out by pulling off the tape. The bonus is that this activity is also a great fine motor skills game just like the ones above that develops fine muscles in the hand and fingers necessary for writing, drawing, self-help skills etc.
It’s no secret that toddlers and young children have big emotions. A large part of parenting is helping them learn how to process and manage these emotions. This is an important skill that they will use all their life.
We turned a few of the ball pit balls into “emotion balls” by drawing faces on them (sad, happy, surprised, tired, angry).
You can use these to talk about each emotion and you can even use them “in the moment” to help toddlers define how they are feeling.
Give them a pot (or plastic bowl) and a big plastic scooping spoon. Show them how to scoop their balls using the spoon into the pot and stir. This is a great fine motor skills game combined with pretend play.
This quote from Diane Ackerman says it best: “Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning.” Not only is it fun for kids to play, but it is also extremely important. Pediatricians recommend that toddlers get at least 60 minutes of active play per day.
Furthermore, we know the benefits of tactile sensory play on child development.
If you find it challenging to come up with creative play ideas during the hot summer months, on rainy days, or during the cold winter months, you are not alone!
We hope that these fine motor skills games provide lots of fun and valuable learning experiences in your home for years to come.
About the author:
This guest post was written by Michelle McCarthy of Fresh Flowers + Spilled Milk. She is an entrepreneur, digital marketer, and mom of 2. In 2019, Michelle, her sister, and her mom started a motherhood lifestyle blog and created an online printables store to help you “decorate + celebrate baby” with beautiful designs for nurseries, baby showers, and birthday parties.
Hi. I am Monica, an experienced ESL teacher and early years student, mother to a preschooler and passionate reader.