When Can a Toddler Start to Throw a Ball?

6 min read

Written by Smita Srivastava

Smita Srivastava

Toddler with a ball

Throwing a ball is one of the activities that can improve both the gross and fine motor skills in toddlers. As gross motor skills develop earlier than fine motor skills, your toddler will first learn to grab and throw a ball with two hands before doing it with one hand. But first, they will start with rolling the ball and checking its movement. All these activities are signs that the toddler’s development is on track.

A soft, spongy, and colorful ball easily grabs the attention of toddlers and they get excited when it bounces. Thus balls are one of the favorite play items of your little one. It is important to let your toddler throw a ball as this playful activity has manifold benefits for them. So, when can a toddler throw a ball? If this is the question in your head then check this article.

In This Article

When Does a Toddler Throw a Ball?

Toddlers can start rolling a ball playfully between 13 to 16 months. Around 17 months they can abruptly throw a ball without a concern of aim or direction. They may use the strength of their entire body in the process and lose balance or fall as a result of it. It can take about 21 to 22 months for them to throw it underhand. And finally, for hitting a target or aiming at a goal, your toddler can take about 38 to 42 months.

Why is Throwing a Ball Important For a Toddler?

Playing with a ball, and throwing it has a lot of importance for your toddler’s sensorimotor development. Touching and throwing balls of different shapes and textures can help them understand how objects react to nature. Toddlers love to play with things that move and roll. They love to throw objects to check what happens next. A ball is thus a great play item for them as it can fulfill both of the requirements without getting damaged.

What Are the Benefits of Throwing a Ball For a Toddler?

There are many benefits of throwing a ball for a toddler

Throwing a ball has multiple benefits for a toddler. This playful activity can fit both indoors and outdoors. According to an article published in JSTOR, throwing balls with mom and dad or elder siblings or fellow toddlers will help develop a sense of bonding, coordination, and socialization in your toddler. Here are some benefits of throwing a ball-

  • Keeps the toddlers physically active
  • Improves hand-eye coordination
  • Develops balancing ability without support
  • Boosts muscle development of arms
  • Improves their sense of shape and size
  • Increases the strength of the hands and fingers
  • Develops spatial awareness
  • Makes them happy and helps instill a sense of confidence
  • Develops a strong parent-child or sibling relationship through playing

How Can You Help Your Toddler Practice Throwing a Ball?

Choose a ball which neither too big nor too small and which is soft and spongy

There are some steps you need to follow before introducing a ball to your toddler. You need to consider the material, texture, and durability of the ball. Here are some tips that you can follow while practicing throwing a ball with your toddler-

  • Choose a ball that is not too large or too small. Your toddler will fail to grab the ball if it is too big. And on the other hand, a report by American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) points out that balls below 3.17 centimeters in diameter can cause choking hazards in children
  • The material of the ball needs to be soft and spongy. Hardy material will be harsh for the tender hands of your little one
  • You can use tactile balls, musical balls, or rattle balls to easily attract the attention of your toddler
  • Choose a ball that is light in weight so that your toddler can easily hold it and throw it. You can even make balls at home by crumpling papers or rolling socks
  • Start with throwing the ball first toward an object such as a bucket or a teddy. Throwing balls directly towards toddlers can frighten them initially
  • Guide them in throwing. First show them how it’s done by throwing a ball yourself, and then let them try on their own
  • Roll a ball toward them and wait to see if they roll it back to you
  • Sit down and throw
  • Throw softly
  • Choose an open space for play
  • Clear out the area of any objects which might pose a risk to toddler’s safety before indulging in playing with the ball

Top 5 Activities to Help a Toddler Throw a Ball

Roll a ball toward your toddler and see if they roll it back to you

Your toddler will not learn to throw a ball in a day. You may have to show and tell them multiple times before they can begin to throw a ball by themselves. Patience is the key here. You can also follow these activities to help your toddler throw a ball

1. Rolling the Ball

Gently roll a colorful ball toward your toddler to see their reaction. Do it multiple times and soon they will learn to push and roll the ball.

2. Set a Target

At first, you can sit close to your toddler to make them throw the ball at you. But you need to set different goals or else your tiny tot will get bored with the same game. You can set colorful blocks or cones and instruct your little one to throw the ball aiming at them. You can use a bucket or a laundry bag for the same purpose.

3. Use Short and Simple Commands

After your toddler starts throwing the ball you can initiate them to throw it overhead, and then underhand. You can use short phrases while demonstrating to let them understand the process. You can use phrases such as- “put it over your head and throw” or “move it by your sides then throw”.

4. Gradually Increase the Difficulty Level

By increasing the difficulty level you can challenge your toddler to become an expert and gain new skills in throwing a ball.

5. Always Praise the Toddler

Do not get harsh on your toddler if you do not get an expected outcome. Praise your toddler whenever they show a little bit of improvement. According to a study published in the journal, Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD), praising words from parents will encourage toddlers and build their self-confidence.

What if Your Toddler is Not Throwing a Ball?

What to do if your toddler is not throwing a ball

Delay by a few months in your toddler throwing a ball, is absolutely fine. But if the toddler does not learn how to throw a ball before the school going age, then there can be serious underlying factors such as-

  • DCD or developmental coordination disorder or Dyspraxia
  • Autism spectrum disorder or ASD
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Highly sensitive or fearful temperaments against moving objects

Children with difficulties in learning new things even in a play-way method need special attention. Otherwise, in the school atmosphere, they get secluded from their peers as they realize they cannot do what their friends do.

This sense of repeated failure can harm their self-esteem and hinder their progress. Thus timely attention is important. If you feel your toddler is lacking in displaying any of the age-appropriate skills, then it’s best to talk to their pediatrician and allay your fears.

Throwing a ball is not just a play activity in toddlers. It is an indicator of your toddler’s timely growth and development. You need to help your toddler in achieving the milestones according to their age. But while doing that you need to be gentle and full of patience. And, also keep in mind that each toddler develops at their own pace and a little behind or forward is not a thing to fret about. Hope our tips will help you to make a future pro basketball champion!


1. Is Throwing a Ball a Important Milestone For Toddlers?

Yes, throwing a ball is an important milestone for toddlers. Throwing a ball is a vital developmental skill that we use directly or indirectly in everyday life.

2. How Far Can a Toddler Throw a Ball?

By the age of 2 years, a toddler can throw a ball up to 3 feet away. And by the age of 3 to 4 years, the throwing distance may increase up to 10 feet.

Smita Srivastava, Bachelors (BA) in Mass Media and Mass Communication from Delhi University
Masters (MA) in Mass Media and Mass Communication from Kurukshetra University

With a background in Mass media and journalism, Smita comes with rich and vast experience in content creation, curation, and editing. As a mom of a baby girl, she is an excellent candidate for writing and editing parenting and pregnancy content. The content she writes and edits is influenced by her own journey through pregnancy and motherhood. When not writing- She can be found curled up with a book. Or, bingeing on Netflix.Read more.

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