Family health

Have a ball

Your kids will love these fun and simple ball games

By Helaine Becker
Have a ball

It's been proven time and time again: Active parents have active kids. This doesn't mean you have to join a gym or take up weekly soccer; in fact, it's as easy as picking up a ball. Big, squishy balls, tiny bouncy balls, colourful balls, balls with holes — no matter what type you have, there's a great game to play. Here are some of the best.

Pop Bottle Bowling
Type of ball: playground ball
Players: small to medium-sized groups, ages 3+
Where: outdoors
You'll also need: 10 to 12 empty two-litre plastic pop bottles, magic marker

Choose an area about six metres long. Arrange the pop bottles at one end, and the bowlers at the other. Each player gets two chances to roll the ball and knock down the "pins." Score one point for each pin, or use markers to write point values on the pins.

For added challenge, rearrange the pins in straight lines, squares or circles.

Backyard Broom Golf
Type of ball: plastic practice golf ball or wiffle ball
Players: one or more, ages 4+
Where: backyard
You'll also need: one broom per player

Design a course. Beds around trees, flowerpots turned on their sides, even plastic pails make good holes.

Use the broom to hit the ball into each hole. Keep count of the number of strokes each player takes for each hole.

For older players, set "par" for each hole. This way, both younger and older siblings can enjoy the game at their own levels.
Crabby Soccer
Type of ball: soccer
Players: medium to large groups, ages 7+
Where: outdoors

Divide the players into two teams. Show the players how to walk like crabs — with hands and feet on the floor and bottoms down.

Play like ordinary soccer, using feet only to move the ball. The first team to score five goals is the winner.

Down, Down, Down Under
Type of ball: tennis
Players: two or more, ages 6+
Where: anywhere

Toss the ball back and forth. When a player drops the ball, everyone says, Down, down, down on one knee. The player who dropped the ball must get down on one knee, remaining in that position to catch.

If the same player drops the ball again, everyone says, Down, down, down on both knees. Each additional oops gets another penalty: Down, down, down on one elbow (the player leans forward and puts one elbow on the ground), Down, down, down on both elbows (both elbows and knees on the ground), and then, finally, Down, down, down on your chin. Players are out when they miss from the chin position. The last player remaining is the winner.
Beddie-Bye Volleyball
Type of ball required: beach or playground ball
Players: eight or more, ages 8+
Where: outdoors
You'll also need: two beach blankets or large towels

Decide the "court" boundaries. Divide the group into two teams. Assign each team to a blanket. Choose which team will "serve" first.

The team serving places the ball on their blanket. They hold the blanket at waist level, then jerk it upwards so the ball flies into the air. The other team then has to catch the ball with their blanket, and toss it right back to the other team.

A team scores a point if the other team drops the ball. The first team to 15 wins.

Type of ball: Koosh or other small soft ball
Players: one or more, ages 4+
Where: anywhere

See how long each player can balance the ball on the following body parts:

• top of head
• nose
• left shoulder
• right shoulder
• elbow
• thigh
• top of foot
• bottom of foot (bend over and hold one foot up behind you to do this)
• bum (put both hands and feet on the floor and stick your bum up in the air)

Assign points to each trick — higher points for harder tricks, of course.

This article was originally published on May 15, 2006

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