18 Balls and 15 Ball-Playing Activities for Children with Special Needs

FC kids in ball pit

Children love toys, and children with special needs especially love toys that offer them a great sensory experience. When choosing toys for your children, be sure to consider the items in this list!

Sometimes when it comes to toys, less is more. That’s how we came up with the ball. It is the simplest toy there is.

So of course, buying a good ball is the easiest thing there is, right?

Wrong.

While yes, the concept of a ball is simple—a spherical object—the thing we have to remember is that toy manufacturers are great at reinventing simple ideas.

Balls can do so much more, and with the huge variety of them on the market, it is clear to see how children can “have a ball” with all of the balls!

18 Balls that have it all:

  1. Waboba
    These unique balls bounce on water for play on land and sea!
  2. Tucker Toys Phlat Ball
    A suction cup inside allows children to press the ball flat for games of Frisbee or hot potato.
  3. Hedstrom Specialty Sensory Shapes Ball
    This textured foam ball has different shaped inserts like squares, circles, etc. that fit into the ball like a puzzle.
  4. Tucker Toys E-Z Grip™ Ball
    The rubber webbing on the outside of the E-Z Grip Ball makes them easy to hold for hands big and small.
  5. Maya Group Orbeez
    These little squishy spheres provide a sensory treat when children dunk their hands into containers full of these tiny Orbeez.
  6. Bouncy Balls
    Toss ‘em down a hallway and watch ‘em go crazy. Bouncy balls can delight children with different colors, sizes, and the unpredictability of a bounce.
  7. Various Size Yoga Balls
    These inflatable balls come in a variety of sizes and colors.
  8. Balloons
    Inflatable and lightweight, balloons have been long time favorites for kids of all ages.
  9. Tennis Balls
    These brightly colored balls are easy to find, and their soft felt, and bounce make them ideal for many activities.
  10. Lacrosse Balls
    The rubber ball is weighted and can be used as a gentle message when rolled down muscles on arms and legs.
  11. Hedstrom Specialty Sensory Sportz Ball
    This soft and colorful cloth covered ball entices infants and beginner ballers!
  12. Y’all Ball
    These balls are bright, inflatable, and available in all sizes to ensure there is a ball that is just right for “all y’all.”
  13. Playability Rib-It Ball
    Hold on tight! The ribbed edge along this oversized ball makes it easy for kids to grasp and hold.
  14. Oball
    These baby friendly balls are unique, malleable and perfect to grab and teethe on.
  15. Koosh Balls
    Sensorily stimulating and tactilely friendly for kids to squeeze, toss and catch.
  16. Peanut Ball
    This variety of yoga ball looks like two yoga balls were squished together, forming a peanut shape.
  17. Tangle Nightball
    This ball lights up when thrown for a visually enlightening experience.
  18. Edushape Sensory Balls
    These rubber balls are colorful and textured with small spikes on the surface, sure to treat eyes as well as hands!

With balls that can do so much, there is also the question of what you are supposed to do with the ball outside of the traditional catch, roll, bounce and skip?

Here are 15 play ideas to rebound ball play:

  1. Massage
    Roll a ball down arms and legs to see how different textures feel against the skin.
  2. Bowling
    Stack up toys, pins, and other household items (safe for toppling over) and roll the ball to knock them down.
  3. Paint Ball
    No, not actual paint ball! Dunk balls into paint and throw them against a canvas. A game best for a day outdoors, because this one might require some cleanup!
  4. Popcorn
    Put several balls on top of a sheet (or parachute) laid out on the ground and pop it up!
  5. Soccer
    Not a full 11 on 11 game, but more like mini golf with your feet. Kicking the ball into the trash can, laundry basket, or toy cardboard box is a great balance and coordination exercise.
  6. Hide N Seek
    Hide the ball (especially the ones that light up) and seek them out.
  7. Keep Away
    A game for groups, one person is “it” and has the job to try and get the ball, while the other players try and keep it away.
  8. Dodgeball
    Make sure only soft balls are used for this, and make sure kids know the head is off limits.
  9. Stoopball
    This game has a scoring system loosely tied to baseball. The player who is “up” throws a bouncy or a tennis ball against a stoop, step, or curb (safe from cars) in an attempt to get the ball to fly the farthest. Points are earned for how far it goes, but if the other players catch it before hitting the ground, you are out.
  10. Roof Ball
    This popular camp game has many variations of rules. For an orderly game, have kids line up in a line. The first kid will throw a ball onto a sloped roof, and the second kid will be tasked with guessing where it will fall, and catch it. If they don’t catch it, they are out. Then that player throws. This repeats down the line until there is only one player left.
  11. Spud
    A game for many people involving a large and usually soft ball. Everyone circles up and receives a number. One player in the middle has the ball, bounces it up in the air and yells one of the numbers. That person must catch the ball while all others are running as far away as possible. When the player catches the ball and yells “Spud!”, everyone must freeze and the ball holder can try and peg (from shoulders down) someone that is frozen. If hit, the frozen person becomes the new player in the middle.
  12. 500
    This is a game where there is one person who throws the ball at a group of catchers. The thrower dictates the value for each throw, and the catchers are trying to be the first to reach 500 in every round, making them the next catcher.
  13. Crab Soccer
    This is a game of soccer with the players moving about the field while crab walking.
  14. Four Square
    Four kids stand in a chalked or taped off square, each one bouncing a ball between one another, trying to keep the ball from bouncing twice between hits, or from escaping the square.
  15. Bossy Ball
    This game can be customized any way you want. Write different actions and ways to play and tape them onto the ball. For example, do the chicken dance or hop on one foot. When the ball is caught, the player must do the action that is closest to their right hand.

As the above lists show, not only is the ball one of the more versatile play products, but the applications are endless.

Every game on the list arose because kids had a ball and an imagination, so see if you can come up with the next big ball game that will sweep the neighborhood!

Ahren Hoffman

Written on 2016/03/15 by:

Ahren Hoffman

Ahren Hoffman IS the manager of Industry Relations and Partnerships for the National Lekotek Center. Lekotek, is a not-for-profit and leading authority on toys and play for children with disabilities. Lekotek is dedicated to providing children of all abilities access to the benefits of play experiences. Visit www.ableplay.org for a complete listing of toys. You can also find them onFacebook