When my eldest daughter turned one and I was organizing her first Birthday party, I headed to Kmart to buy a $12 inflatable ball pit. When the pit was blown up (it was like a mini paddling pool), and the accompanying balls were emptied into the pit, I knew I needed to get more balls. So again I headed to Kmart and bought a bag of balls. I think they cost more than buying the pit itself.
Anyway, my daughter’s party came around and the kids loved the ball pit, but I didn’t like the balls all over our backyard. A few of my friends raised their eyebrows as if to say what were you thinking?
I remember loving a ball pit as a child. The most memorable one was at IKEA. My parents would drop my brother and I off to the child minding play area which included a playground set into a ball pit. I loved it.
Knowing how much I loved it as a child, prompted me to create a similar experience for my girls. The balls can be seen as a nightmare to parents because they can be thrown and they can travel to all parts of the house if they’re not contained, but I still wanted to share 3 ways we play with the balls in our home and it may even give you inspiration to create some of these experiences for your little ones.
1. Make Your Own Ball Pit Using a Portacot
I can’t take claim to this excellent idea. When I was pregnant with my third child, I went to the Pregnancy Expo and Safety First had this portacot set up with balls. I loved it and thought what a great idea for a containable ball pit. It was much better than my inflatable purchase from Kmart.
Our ball pit now sits in my office and the girls will occasionally play in there while I respond to emails. It’s also good to quickly chuck the toddlers in there if you need them to be contained for a couple of minutes.
2. Ball fall
We discovered this activity by accident and this does involve interaction and supervision by a parent. We would get our girls to pile the balls into a washing basket. They would lie on their backs and my husband would pour the balls on top of them. They loved it and were always eager to pack the balls into the basket so daddy could pour the balls on them again. The balls are so light, there is no chance of the kids being hurt from them. It’s also important not to overfill the basket with balls. Once the balls fall, they will land on the girls, but will fall around the girls, so they won’t cover their faces. We usually countdown until the basket tips over which helps them with their counting.
3. Ice-Cream Sundae Imaginary Play
My one-year-old enjoys this activity the most, and that’s creating different ice-cream sundaes using the balls and any spare cups or recycling sundae containers. Adding straws and umbrellas allows my one-year-old to get creative with her creations.