Playground balls are a must-have piece of physical education equipment that provide endless possibilities for activities in the physical education learning environment. They are ideal for teaching hand-eye coordination and basic throwing, tossing, dribbling, and catching skills. Playground balls can also be used for fun games such as four square, wallball, kickball, and even basketball. Not only that, but they also make a perfect warm-up tool for students to sharpen their skills before engaging in more intricate tasks. They can also be used to engage students in cooperative learning and group games, allowing them to work together as a team.
Pic by Mrs. Martin @egepemrsmartin
Get ready to be inspired! In this blog post, I will highlight the advantages of using playground balls in your physical education classes and provide easy-to-follow tips for best use. On top of that, you'll get 25 amazing ideas on how to incorporate these awesome items into your lesson plans.
Why should I use playground balls in my PE class?
Playground balls are an essential part of physical education classes as they provide many benefits to students. They come in a variety of sizes and colors, making them great for activities that require different levels of coordination and skill. Furthermore, playground balls are highly durable yet lightweight (but heavier than a beach ball), which makes them ideal for children to use during class. Their affordability also ensures that you get a good return on investment when you purchase them!
Pic by Mrs. Martin @egepemrsmartin
Additionally, playground balls create an environment for cooperative learning and teamwork as students join together to play fun games. This encourages social bonding through playful activities while promoting important skills such as hand-eye coordination and tossing & catching techniques. Overall, playground balls are great tools for physical education classes due to their versatile nature and long lifespan! Unlike a beach ball, a rubber ball is not only great for bouncing back but also easy to catch and manipulate.
Does implementing playground ball activities in physical education help address standards?
Playground balls are an ideal way to help address physical education standards. They are perfect for activities that require students to practice basic movement skills such as throwing, kicking, and catching.
Implementing playground balls in PE allows for opportunities for engaging activities and games that align perfectly with SHAPE America's Standard 1 - which states: The physically literate individual demonstrates competency in a variety of motor skills and movement patterns.*
Any playground ball activity or game you choose to implement in your PE lessons can easily meet any national, state, or district standards.
Suggestions for using playground balls in a PE Class
1. Use them for warm-ups and cool-downs: Since playground balls are versatile and easy to access, you could have students roll or toss the ball back and forth as part of a warm-up activity. You could also have students do some gentle stretching with the ball as part of a cool-down activity.
2. Use them for fitness activities: Playground balls can also be used for fitness activities. Have students complete burpees and squats while tossing the ball back and forth with a partner. You could also have students do lunges while holding the ball in front of them. They make a nice soft ball to grip while exercising.
3. Use them for balance activities: While dribbling or tossing and catching, you could have students stand on one leg and try to keep their balance while they perform the task. They could also try to balance the ball on various body parts in a standing or sitting position.
4. Use them for coordination activities: Playground balls can also be used for all types of hand-eye coordination activities. For instance, have students throw the ball up in the air and catch it again while executing an activity such as clapping, twisting or tapping the ground.
5. Use them to teach manipulative skills: Manipulative skills can also be taught with playground balls. Allow students to hone their physical education skills, such as throwing and catching, rolling a ball, fielding, dribbling a soccer ball, and kicking at a target. With practice they can become proficient in each of these pursuits! Young kids learn best in skill-based station settings.
6. Use them in traditional games: One way to implement playground balls into your PE class is to incorporate them into traditional games. For example, you could play a 1/2 court game of basketball or indoor soccer using playground balls instead of traditional basketballs or soccer balls. They are lighter and more forgiving in many learning situations. Playground balls in a game of kickball is the optimal choice.
7. Use them to create new games: You can also use playground balls to create new games that are specifically designed for them. For example, you could create a game where students use a variety of targets or baskets and must toss or throw the ball into them in different ways. You could also have students use the playground balls to create obstacle courses or play simple problem-solving games.
8. Use them for team-building activities: Have groups of students work together by trying to pass a playground ball around in a circle without dropping it. You could also have them complete a relay race or obstacle course while dribbling or passing a ball around as they move. Use short lines and limit the amount of time kids stand and wait for their turn.
25 Practical Ideas for Incorporating Playground Balls in PE
If you're searching for ways to make your students' learning more stimulating and interactive, then these 25 playground ball-related activities are what you need! Transform the classroom into an enjoyable and engaging space with these quick and fun activities. Your students can work independently, in pairs, or as a team at any of the following stations to complete their assigned tasks. This will make your learning area an interesting and engaging space for them!
1- Tossing and Catching Skills
Toss and Catch- Toss and catch a ball in your own personal space. Toss with 2 hands and catch it with 2 hands or try catching using only 1 hand.
Bounce and Catch- Toss a ball in the air and let it bounce before you catch it. Toss with 2 hands and catch it with 2 hands or try catching using only 1 hand.
Toss-Clap-Catch- Toss a ball in the air, let it bounce once and then clap before you catch it. Try just 1 clap at first and then try performing multiple claps prior to catching the ball.
Toss-Turn-Catch- Toss a ball in the air, let it bounce once and then turn around one revolution before you catch it.
Rainbow Toss- Toss the playground ball across your body from 1 hand to the other. The ball should travel from one side to the other making a rainbow shape. Start with a tennis ball first to help get the rainbow motion.
2- Ball Handling Skills
Seated Spin- From a sitting position, use 1 or both hands and spin the ball in front of you. Try spinning it both a clockwise and counter clockwise direction.
Waist Circle- Roll or pass (hand to hand) the playground ball around your waist. Try going one direction and then reverse it and go the other direction.
Leg Circle- Roll or pass (hand to hand) the playground ball around your legs. Try going one direction and then reverse it and go the other direction.
Figure 8- Roll or pass (hand to hand) the playground ball in the shape of an 8 around 1 leg and then the other.
Finger Spin- Spin the playground ball on one finger or multiple fingers. Use one hand to spin it and the other to hold the ball up while it spins.
3- Dribbling Skills
Stationary Dribble- Dribble the ball in your own personal space. It's time to show off your basketball skills, but remember; you must use either your right hand or left hand for dribbling the ball - never both hands simultaneously.
High and Low Dribble- Dribble the ball in your own space by dribbling at varying heights. Dribble it leisurely, high up near your chest and quickly low to the ground for dynamic results.
Dribble Around Your Body- Dribble the ball around your body in one direction and then dribble it back around your body in the other direction.
Dribble Through Your Legs- Dribble the ball through your legs from the back to the front and then from the front to the back.
Dribble and Move- Practice dribbling the ball within and around your station area, using a technique known as slide-stepping - alternating between leading with your left leg and right leg for optimal control.
4- Partner Activities
Partner Roll- In your own personal space, roll a playground ball back and forth with a partner. Keep the ball under control and try varying the distance between you and your partner. One kid rolls the ball while the other fields it.
Partner Pass- Test your passing skills with a partner by tossing around a playground ball! See how well you can execute the chest pass or bounce pass using the ball.
Partner Wall Ball- Throw a ball off the wall with a partner. Your partner will react to the rebound and field or catch the ball.
Partner Challenge- Step up to the challenge and show off your best playground ball tricks. Take turns leading each other with fun, creative ideas. See who can come up with the most impressive moves!
Shoot Some Baskets- Find a partner and a basketball goal. Take some set shots, jump shots or layups into the goal. Rebound the ball and take turns shooting.
The playground ball activity visuals depicted above can be found at Cap'n Pete's Power PE site located here
5- Small Group Fun Games (indoor or outdoor ball games)
Knock Down, Pick Up- As students dribble within a given perimeter, they take turns knocking down and picking up cones. One team will dribble their playground balls and knock down the cones (with their hands) while their opponents dribble around and pick them up, creating a dynamic game of agility and teamwork. Teams should switch roles after every minute or so. You could also incorporate some ball tag modifications to this game.
Circle Star Catch- In small groups (preferably 5 people), students pass and catch a ball across a circle formation. Players cannot pass it to the person directly beside them or to the person that passed it to them. To make it even more of a fun game, have students use more than one playground ball while they play. All the balls move simultaneously.
Four Square- Students play standard games of 4 square using a playground ball. They attempt to strike a ball into another player's court. When a ball enters a player's square, they must hit it to another square. A player hits the ball with a their hands. A player is eliminated from the game when they fail to hit the ball back up in another square, or if it "skips" out of bounds. If the ball lands anywhere on outside lines, play must continue as rule dictates. If the ball lands on an inside line, whomever hit the ball must exit the court and wait in line to return. Players rotate from Square 4 to become servers at Square 1, thus beginning each rally. To ensure children are not waiting around too long, create more courts to reduce the lines and cut down on the time kids sit and wait.
Five Pass Keep Away- Two teams of students play a fast-paced game of “5 pass keep-away,” competing either 2 v 2 or 3 v 3 while attempting to achieve 5 "complete" passes with their teammates against an opposing team's defensive players. When a ball is dropped (or a player loses control of it), it automatically becomes the possession of the opposite team. Defensive contact is prohibited. Teams compete to collect points - a rewarding five successful passes will earn them one point! The object obviously is to score more points than the other team.
Catch Ball- Students try to make the playground ball bounce twice in their opponents' court. The game consists of 2 teams of 4 to 6 players. Players stand on either side of a middle line. If a player drops it and catches it after one bounce, or if the ball only bounces once before its caught, then play is still alive! Every time a team is able to get two successful bounces on their opposition's side of the court, they are rewarded with 1 point!
The advantages that playground balls provide to physical education classes are abundantly clear. Not only are they a great way to meet skill-based physical education standards, but these activities help foster cooperation and team building among students. They are an invaluable tool for any PE class. They can be used in a variety of ways to help students practice fundamental motor skills and improve coordination, balance, agility and much more! This article highlighted several activities that work for improving students' tossing, passing, catching, ball handling, and dribbling skills. It also provided examples of some fun and engaging partner and small group games students can participate in to practice the skills they are learning. With the right activities, playground balls can enhance physical education classes for all age groups!
Does your physical education curriculum incorporate playground balls? If so, what activities do you and your students find the most enjoyable when using them? We'd be thrilled to hear all about it in the comments section below!
*SHAPE America. (2013). National Standards for K-12 Physical Education. Reston, VA: Author.
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