“ Brand: Early Learning Centre / Type: Playballs for ballpit / playpen „
When looking for toys to encourage Freddy to become more mobile, we saw that the Early Learning Centre were running a three for two offer on 'sports' toys. Included in this offer were their playballs, of which there were several types, including these sensory balls. Remembering that we had bought a paddling pool last year, we decided that setting that up as a ball pit would be the ideal way to reward his newly found ability of sitting up unaided.
Balls, balls everywhere
For the princely sum of £10 you get a zip-top bag filled to the brim with 75 plastic balls in a range of colours and shapes. While ordinary play balls are spherical, this red, yellow, green and blue balls come in a variety of textures that will help stimulate a small child's senses. Some of the balls have ridges while others are knobbly and yet more have many facets, meaning there's lots for the child to feel. Each of the balls is about 10cm in diameter and as they are hollow and made from very thin plastic they are very, very light. When I've previously bought play balls, they've had little holes in them, but these don't meaning that they can also be played with in water without worrying that they are going to get filled with stagnant goo.
The balls are all slightly squidgy and have quite a lot of give in them, however so far they've coped pretty well with Freddy's chewing on them. Something that I've noticed with other play balls, is that they do have a tendency to pop when trodden on, I must say that I haven't trodden on them so I can't really comment on how well these would cope in those circumstances. What I can comment on is that Freddy has lain on them and so far none of them have squashed. The balls are very easy to clean and can even be soaked in sterilising solution (not that I would ever bother). And when playtime is over the balls can all be stored in the sturdy carry bag, which is easy to zip and unzip and has built-in handles that make it easy to carry the balls out into the garden or even transport in the boot of a car.
Let's Play Ball
These balls were specifically bought to convert a paddling pool into a ball pit. The paddling pool in question is a quite deep activity pool measuring approximately 3ft in diameter. While one pack of 75 balls will just about cover the base of the pool, in hind-sight two packs would have been better, but that doesn't mean the Freddy doesn't have a lot of fun with these. The balls are a good size for Freddy to hold and explore. He loves to sit in the pool and just pick up the different balls and he's just starting to learn how to throw them (heaven help us). As he's only just learnt to sit unaided, it's a bit hit and miss as to how Freddy gets himself from sitting to laying and I've noticed that the balls do cushion his falls quite well and then Freddy loves to roll and kick in the balls.
We also take the balls in the bath, where they float nicely and bob back to the surface when pushed under water. The balls aren't the best for ball games such as rolling across the floor though, the different textures mean that the balls don't exactly roll straight. Although this does add an extra dimension to playing roll, it can be quite frustrating for the younger child who is only just learning to play. They are quite soft though, which makes them a little safer for playing catch indoors with, but which also means that they do tend to get blown by the wind when outside.
Learning While Having Fun, Fun, Fun
Although these balls are billed as being suitable for children over the age of nine months, I see no reason why they cannot be enjoyed by babies far younger than this. Basically the fact that they are classed as suitable for children under three, means that there are no small pieces that could choke a younger baby, it's just they may not be able to use the balls to their full potential. Even very young babies (4month+) can be laid in among these balls, grab them, explore them and make them move while kicking their legs. This will help these young babies improve their hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills.
As baby gets older he will be able to play with them in even more ways as they jump into the balls, throw them, roll them and kick them. Even much older children enjoy jumping into ball pits, right up to the recommended upper age limit of ten and above, although they will want a lot more than 75 balls and the balls will end up everywhere. These balls are also perfect for physically challenged and delayed children, even the least mobile of children can be laid in a pit full of balls and enjoy the sensory experience.
As well as being great to encourage your child's gross motor skills these balls can be used as props to help your child learn some other skills. As there are the four different colours, you can use them to help teach colour recognition, starting by describing which colour the child is holding and then as they get older you can ask them to bring a specific colour ball. The different textures can be used to help your child learn to describe what they can see and feel and introduce such adjectives as smooth, rough and bumpy. The balls can also be used to introduce counting by simply counting the balls as you put them away in the bag. Finally they can be used, along with other objects to introduce the concepts of floating and sinking.
These shaped play balls make a great addition to any ball pit or paddling pool. The unusual shapes add an extra dimension to play and they seem as durable (or more so) than any other play balls that I have owned. I would say though that one pack is unlikely to be enough, there's just about enough for ten month old Freddy, but I will be supplementing them with a standard pack of balls in the near future. I would definitely recommend these balls as not only do they increase the play value of a paddling pool (which can be used as a ball pit indoors during the winter) but they are also fun for almost any age group and ability. Freddy definitely loves spending time sitting surrounded by his balls and I'm sure he would recommend them to the Mummy or Daddy of any baby. So I'm giving these balls a healthy four stars out of five, with them losing that one star, simply because we are going to have to buy another pack as there aren't quite enough in a pack.