Buddy loves playing with balls even before he could walk independently. We first knew about it from the teachers in infant care, where there are lots of toy balls available for the babies. I got a fake soccer ball for him to play with inside the play pen at home. But because it is soft, with fluff inside instead of air, it can’t roll well. Still I thought he could throw it while crawling or cruising.
When Buddy started walking, I checked out those balls in the infant care center, and noticed they have studs on them which I had never seen before. I asked teacher Allison for the contacts of their suppliers, which the supervisor provided. It turns out that these are no cheap balls like the one I bought. A bag of 3 sensory balls (which is what they are called) of various sizes costs more than S$75! (I also enquired about the kiddy furniture which seems very comfy for the older infants, and we noticed Buddy sitting happily on the chair. I was told it is more than S$250! For that price it has better be damn comfy.)
Anyway my husband and I thought it’s pretty ridiculous to pay S$75 for the 3 balls. So we decided to get one from the departmental stores or Mothercare. To our surprise, the ball appears to be an illusive toy. We couldn’t find a single ball at Takeshimaya, Isetan, nor any of the Mothercare stores. We also tried looking for it at Toys R Us at Paragon mall and couldn’t find it either (perhaps because it’s not a big outlet unlike the one at Vivocity). There are lots of fancy gadgety toys which my husband thinks have higher margins for the merchants than the cheaper balls.
One day I was at a Daiso $2 store and saw a sensory ball lookalike which looks pretty fine to me. I had never played with the ones at infant care; perhaps they are more bouncy and provides better control. But at S$25 each (and I have to get a bag of 3 since individual ball is not available), I don’t think so. So of course I bought the one ar Daiso, and Buddy seemed happy with the S$2 ball, though I suspect he didn’t really know the difference at the tender age of 15 months old.
A month later, I was checking out the nearby neighborhood with Buddy, I saw toy balls available at a sundry store. I bought him 2 bouncy balls at S$2.90 each (one bright yellow floral print and the other green doggy print), and he got pretty excited even thought he had a little difficulty trying to hold them since they were rather big for him then. My husband showed him how to throw and bounce the balls, and he was fascinated.
Over the next couple of months there were more comments from the infant care teachers that Buddy was pretty good with balls for his age. He could kick, bounce, and spin the ball on the floor. I did notice then that when we took him to the indoor playgrounds, he would usually end up in the ball pits. He hardly played with the gadgety toys or cars, soldiers, the swing, despite my coaxing, and only took to the slide when I held him. He would take one of the small balls and spin it on the table.
Buddy’s ball skill was even known to the teachers in toddler class, before he went over this year. There are also many balls available to the toddlers, though some are flat (from my observation on the first day of class).
At home, Buddy received more balls. I got him another faux soccer ball, and last Christmas my brother gave him a netball as a gift. The netball is pretty bouncy but a little too big for him. During Chinese New Year, my father-in-law bought a bunch of balls for Buddy, including a bouncy ball, mini baseball, soccer ball and basketball (though these are not the real things). At that time, Buddy wasn’t playing much with them at home and I wondered if he had lost interest; my husband thought perhaps it was because he had been playing with balls in school.
It turns out that Buddy never lost his passion for the ball. When I took him to the outdoor playground and there was a ball left on the ground, Buddy would grab it. There were a couple of times when I had to make him return the ball, he would end up kicking and screaming. He might be practicing his ball skill in school because I can see he is getting better at it. Previously he just kicked the ball on the ground; but now he will throw it and kick it in mid- air. I think that’s pretty impressive for a 22 months old toddler. My husband believes it demonstrates that Buddy has pretty good eye, hand and leg coordination. He is also quite good with bouncing the ball. So we’re not sure if he’s going with soccer or basketball.
Now Buddy wouldn’t leave the house without a ball. Last weekend, as usual, he carried along a ball when we left the house, and wanted to bring it into the church, but my husband refused to let him do so. After mass, he was allowed to bring it along to the mall. At Giant supermarket, there was ample room at the toy department for him to play soccer. And he had lots of fun.
We had tried looking for toy balls for Buddy at Giant previously but couldn’t find any. This time there is a bin full of colorful balls. My husband found a mini soccer ball that he gave to Buddy, who loves it, and refused to put back despite me telling him he has lots of balls at home. I had to buy it and griped to my husband that it costs me $13! He pointed out that this is a real soccer ball albeit a mini one, unlike the fake ones at home, which even the favela kids would spit at. (Ok, so I’m cheap with balls.) So now this soccer ball is Buddy’s favorite and he wouldn’t leave the house without it. My husband told me that he is able to have much better control with this ball, which makes it more fun for him.