DIY Ball Run
We have wanted to create our own ball run and shoot since seeing a large mechanical version at our local children's museum. We may not have a 12 foot wall to dedicate to this type of play or the budget to purchase the materials like the one from the museum. We do, however, have lots of materials that work to make our own version for hours of fun right at home.
Importance of Explorative Play
Children learn about their environment through play and exploration. They discover how things work based on their interactions with the world around them. A ball run system allows children to be curious and show their natural inquisitive nature keeping their minds and bodies moving as they play.
Making a Ball Run
Materials We Used:
-Paint & Paint Brushes (optional)
-Short and Long cardboard tubes (wrapping paper rolls, toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls)
-Baskets (or something that will serve as a pompom collector)
Cut the tubes into desired lengths as well as cutting some in half to make half opened rolls that resemble slides.
*Optional: Paint each tube. This is optional as the tubes function perfectly fine and are just as fun if left in their original state.
Create the ball run maze. Find a wall that will serve as your station, use the tape to stick the tubes onto the wall. Test your angles, making sure that the pompom will easily roll downward. Be sure to alternate open tubes and closed tubes.
Place baskets or your chosen item to collect the pompoms at the bottom of each shoot exit.
More than Playing
Children learn through play. Children learn while playing independintly and while playing alongside their caregiver. As caregivers we play a vital role in providing our little ones with opportunities to further their learning potential as they play. Granted, independent free play is equally as important as guided play. A ball run can serve both purposes. Below are ways you can further their learning as they play with their new home-made toy.
Cooperative play, be it with adults or peers, allows children to further develop their communication skills. Play enables children to practice language skills such as turn taking or intonation of questions and statements. They are also expanding their growing vocabulary. Interaction plays an important role in supporting language development. Solitary play, when the child perhaps is not producing language, still allows for practice of concentration - a skill required for listening and focusing on what others are saying.
Social & Emotional Learning
Invite a friend to play or play among siblings. Taking turns is a key skill learned through play. Having them ask for a specific color pompom or identifying who's turn it is helps them practice sharing and turn taking. Finding different routes for the pompoms to travel together also serves as a form of sharing of ideas and information. Not to mention, older siblings showing younger ones how to play with their new toy allows them to share their new wisdom as well.
Are your children pre-writers? If so, playing with small objects such as pompoms help with their fine motor skills as they have to pinch each ball and place it at the beginning of the route. You can also add tools such as children's tweezers to help strenthing their grip and finger muscles.
You can make this game a puzzle for your little one to solve. Must they figure out a way to sort the pompoms by color after they go through the ball run? Must they match the color of tube with the pompom? Can they explain how the pompom went from point A to point B? Because they are naturally questioning as they explore, you can help them find something to solve as part of their play learning.