However, I wasn’t sure what to write a blog about as I’ve already talked about hand eye coordination here and the power of the movement system in sensory integration here and how motor skills are developed here.
So instead I thought I’d have a rant about something that has been bothering me for some time…The ‘No Ball Games Brigade’. Who are they? Why are they against ball games? I’ll explain.
Having recently moved house, we found ourselves in a much smaller house with no garden.
It is a quiet cul de sac, so we imagined it would be ideal for the children to play outside safely. However, on the first week we moved in, we were told that this road didn’t allow ball games (later on we also found out scooters, roller boots, bicycles or skateboards are not allowed either).
So we moved up to an adjoining road, where a neighbour also promptly told us that ball games were not allowed on account of them being too noisy (bear in mind this is a 5 year old kicking a football to his Dad at 4pm). Undeterred we went up to the nearest park and there it was again… ‘No ball games’ sign and again in the next park we visited.
What is going on?
What are we afraid will happen if children play ball games in parks? Or even on the street?
I understand that there is a slight (very minor in my opinion) risk that the ball might smash a window or damage a flower bed and I also understand that you might need permission to use a park for your sports club practise (for insurance reasons) but a general ban on ball games seems excessive.
Ball games not only develop essential developmental skills (such as hand eye coordination, using the two sides of the body together known as bilateral integration and visual tracking skills) they are also a great way to bring kids together.
I have just studied the relationship between unstructured play and children’s mental and physical health and the social aspect to play appears to be the key factor in enhancing the beneficial effects of the play.
In other words, when children are playing with other children, they are more motivated to play for longer, challenge themselves more, use more language and develop more social skills. This results in less obesity, better attention and behaviour in school.
Ball games in particular are a way for children to ‘break the ice’ with other children so can great an inclusive activity for children of all ages and all abilities.
Although I wouldn’t consider myself ‘sporty’ I remember playing with balls in the street as a child. We played ‘Hit the Curb/ Curbie, (a game which involved bouncing the ball off the curb on the other side of the road which your opponent had to defend), ‘Two balls’ throwing and catching two tennis balls to the wall at the same time, Donkey, rounders, etc.. I’m sure your childhoods were the same.
So why are we so afraid of ball games now? I’m not sure. Perhaps it is to stop large groups of youths coming together, but isn’t it better they come together to play football than hang around with nothing to do?
Personally, I think a more sensible approach might be to agree a suitable time between communities when children can play outside (e.g. 4-6pm) and parents agree to supervise young children and clear up after them. And I certainly think ball games need to be a central part of outdoor play.
So, ‘No Ball Games Brigade’ , I would ask you to reflect on your crusade, as banning balls games, is effectively banning a crucial form of physical activity, and limiting social opportunities for children which has far more detrimental effects to society that a broken window or crushed flower bed.