When Can a Toddler Start to Catch a Ball?

6 min read

Written by Ajanta Biswas

Ajanta Biswas

A toddler with a ball

When can a toddler start to catch a ball? When will my toddler play catching games with me? If you have a toddler at home then these types of questions popping up are quite normal. Toddlers cannot as easily learn how to catch a ball as they learn how to throw a ball. This is because catching is a way more complex job than throwing.

Catching a ball will require proper hand-eye coordination, spatial understanding, muscle strength, and bilateral coordination. But with fun games and activities you can initiate your toddler to achieve this milestone easily. Here is how you can do it.

In This Article

When Does a Toddler Catch a Ball?

It is around 3 years of age that a toddler starts to catch a ball

Your toddler may be able to ‘catch’ or stop a rolling ball on the floor around 12-14 months of age. This is the very first step they will take to introduce themselves to the world of numerous ball games. Throwing a ball comes first, and naturally to them. Catching, however, is a skill which will take a lot of time to develop.

While playing with the ball with your toddler, you will notice that gradually they start to ‘catch’ or stop the ball that you throw toward them. The attempts might be clumsy, but they do manage to stop the ball. This is easier for them to do in a sitting position. As they continue to throw and stop the ball this way, it will help them strengthen their grip and also gain balance slowly.

It is actually between the ages of 3-4 years, that your toddler will be able to catch a big ball while hugging it to the chest. They will be able to do that from a distance of 4-5 feet. And, it will take a couple of more years for them to catch a ball while it is in motion.

Why is Catching a Ball Important For a Toddler?

Catching a ball is an important milestone for your toddler. Though toddlers learn to throw a ball as soon as they reach 12 to 18 months, learning to catch a ball takes more time. This is because this task is a lot more difficult and requires a lot more coordination between hands, legs, and eyes.

By learning to catch a ball, your toddler’s hand-eye coordination will improve. It will also help to develop fine motor skills. Catching action targets the small muscles in the fingers and hands, thus making them more strong and preparing these muscles to do specific movements. Playing catch with a ball will also help them learn social skills and the importance of taking turns or reciprocal play. These will help them through their lifetime.

What Are the Benefits of Learning to Catch a Ball?

Catching a ball has multiple benefits for the toddler

There are multiple benefits that a game of catching a ball can have for your toddler. This activity helps to develop an array of developmental skills like-

1. Hone Spatial Skills

Catching a ball will help in further honing the spatial skills in your toddler. Spatial awareness helps us to understand our position in a space with respect to the other objects around us in that space. Toddlers start developing this skill at 18 months onwards. Catching a ball will further improve this skill by making them understand how to judge the ball’s distance and move their body in order to catch it.

2. Hand-Eye Coordination

Catching a ball is a perfect activity to improve hand-eye coordination. This is because while catching the ball, toddlers track the ball with their eyes, and move their hands in that direction to catch it. This coordination is important.

3. Bilateral Coordination

Bilateral coordination is the skill of synchronizing both sides of the body to complete a task together. While catching a ball both of their eyes, hands, and legs have to work in perfect coordination. Playing catch also works on the proprioceptive sense by sending signals to the brain on how to move the different body parts.

4. Problem-Solving Ability

Catching a ball can also develop problem-solving ability in toddlers which is a vital survival skill. In order to catch a ball they have to think and move around accordingly. This sense of thinking and taking action in order to ‘solve’ a problem (here it is only catching a ball), will help develop their problem solving ability.

5. Aids in Development of Dominant Hand

While playing catch, the toddler will make use of one hand more than the other. Over time, this will lead to one hand becoming the helper, and the other one becoming the worker.

6. Develop Sense of Timing

Catching a ball requires the toddler to gauge exactly when to reach out to catch the ball. Delay by even a second will lead them to miss the ball. Hence, playing the game of catching a ball will help them learn and develop this sense of timing.

7. Fitness

Catching a ball involves running, lifting arms, throwing, etc., and all these activities will make your toddler physically strong and fit.

Tips to Help Your Toddler Practice Catching a Ball

Toddler playing ball with siblings

Your toddler will not learn how to catch a ball in a day or two. It will take multiple unsuccessful attempts and continuous efforts from your end. Here are some tips that will help you practicing catching a ball with your toddler-

  • Practice catching a ball first while sitting. Roll the ball toward them and urge them to ‘catch’ it by holding the ball with both hands
  • When your toddler is comfortable with catching in sitting position, then only transition to standing and play
  • Use a light weight, big size, and soft material ball or a even a balloon to practice catching ball
  • Play in an area free of obstacles and potential hazards
  • Involve their older siblings, if they have any, in the activity to make it more fun
  • Use colorful balls or balloons to attract the toddler

Top Activities to Help Toddlers Catch a Ball

Initially use a large colorful ball to practice catching

Helping your toddler master the act of catching will require a lot of time and effort from your end. There are various activities that can help you to make your toddler catch a ball easily-

  • Take a large colorful ball and roll it to your toddler. A bigger visual target will help them to track and grab the ball easily
  • You can also try using balloons for teaching your toddler to catch a ball. Balloons are lightweight and thus float for a longer time in the air. This will give more time to your toddler to move and prepare to catch it
  • You can use balls, which are specifically made for kids and offer better grip. It will be easier for your toddler to catch it
  • You can also use scarves to teach your toddler how to catch. Throw the scarves in the air and ask them to catch it. Scarves are lightweight and will give them ample time to catch
  • There are velcro paddles available in the market that you can fix on the palm of your toddler. This will help a fabric ball to easily attach to the palms of toddlers when they try to catch it

What if Your Toddler is Not Able to Catch a Ball?

Do not panic if your toddler is not able to catch a ball. Do not force it on your child. If they are hitting other developmental milestones in time then everything is normal. They will learn this tricky activity with time. You will just have to create a fun and playful atmosphere, and keep patience.

Catching a ball is an essential developmental skill that you must help your toddler to learn. But do not forget to appreciate the toddlers even if they fail. Your little praises can work as magic to motivate your toddler. And your toddler will eventually get a pro at catching a ball.


1. Is Catching a Ball a Milestone For Toddlers?

Yes, catching a ball is a vital developmental milestone for toddlers. This milestone involves development of various other skills like hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness etc. in toddlers.

2. What Are the 3 Steps of Catching a Ball?

The 3 steps to catching a ball are- tracking the ball, then reaching or extending the arms toward the ball, and lastly, grabbing and bringing it close to the body.

Ajanta Biswas,MA (English)

Studying English literature has been highly instrumental in creating a love for English and World Literature for this writer. Ajanta has been writing for more than two years. She specializes in creating short and crisp blogs that can create awareness among women about healthy pregnancy and among parents about better parenting.Read more.

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