Product Type: ELC Outdoor Toy
Newest Review: ... was for her and chewed it to death a couple of months ago. My god daughter for who they were initially brought for has loved them. She fir... more
Member Name: pmcds
ELC Foam Tennis Balls
Advantages: Soft, educational, fun and durable
Disadvantages: Bits can be bitten off
Our eldest son is heavily into his racket sports. At 9, he does tennis, badminton and table tennis. However, tennis is by far and away the leader of these three for him. His 19 month old brother is copying everything he does, and he's quick to pick up a racket and start swinging at some tennis balls, and he's also keen to pick tennis balls up and start lobbing them everywhere. He has a good arm already!
So we looked at ways of encouraging this without causing risk of damage or injury, and looked around for some soft play balls. These ones seemed ideal, and we've always rated Early Learning Centre products very highly. This was no exception, and at £2 it was hardly going to break the bank.
The balls come in a pack of three different coloured balls, very similar in size to tennis balls. They're squeezy balls and so are easy to grip for little ones who don't quite get gravity and how a soft hands approach can help catch and hold balls. The three balls are red, yellow and blue, and they're highly entertaining, as most things are at that age!
We can spend plenty of time sitting on the floor with our youngest and passing these back and forth, but ultimately his attention span and comprehension aren't as good as our eldest's, so we appreciate it's going to be little and often when it comes to planned constructive games. The best way to enjoy these is in free play, where we take everything else out of the travel cot we have set up in the front room and just leave him in there with the three balls. This often results in a huge amount of fun as he tries to throw the balls out without us being able to catch them. It's teaching him great hand eye coordination and if he does throw one which flies at a bit of a different angle or hits one of us somewhere other than our hands, it doesn't hurt.
This is certainly not a game we'd play with proper tennis balls, although you can get hold of balls for junior players such as mini reds which are a lot squidgier. They're just not as ideal as these little foam balls are. We've found his confidence with tennis ball sized balls is growing rapidly, and he also has a small plastic racket that he plays floor tennis with alongside these balls. Most tennis coaches will tell you it's good for them to practice hitting the ball along the floor as this encourages the groundstroke motion that they'll need to develop later on, so this is ideal for them.
The only downside really with these is that they are much easier to destroy than real tennis balls. The particular worry with this is that if a child bites a tennis ball nothing much will happen, but it's significantly easier to take off a chunk of one of these balls with a bite. As long as you encourage them to play with them and they don't get bored and start wondering if they taste nice then you shouldn't have any problems. Of course, this is easier said than done and we have a number of bites taken out of these balls.
They're better quality than a lot of foam balls. They're a more durable type of foam, as if the material used is better bound to itself. With other foam balls you can sometimes pinch them to pick a bit off, but with these that's not as easy. I've tried it just to test how sturdy they are, and was reassured that had we opted for cheaper more substandard balls then we'd have been looking at bits of them strewn all over the place and not a clue that they once formed a tennis ball.
The other thing this can do is help with colours. If they're engaged with playing with these tennis balls, then it's ideal to be able to try to get them to isolate the right one when you ask for it. This of course will take some doing as they learn the colours, and it hasn't really worked with our 19 month old, but these are likely to last long enough for him to grasp the concept of colours and this will be another game we can play with him.
So, these balls are highly recommended. Quality design from ELC as always, and much more durable than other foam balls. They provide great fun, are great for developing hand eye coordination, and can also help with learning colours. Just be aware that they can (and probably will) be bitten. Thumbs up.
Summary: Effective quality fun coloured foam tennis balls