MoovKids Ball ActivityThrowing and catching are important manipulative skills that develop motor planning

Manipulative skills play an integral part in a child’s physical development and belong to the gross motor skills group. Manipulative skills are those in which a person learns to handle objects with accuracy, together with speed and control.

There are a wide variety of fun activities that can be done to support the development of manipulative skills in children.  These activities must begin at a young age so that the child can reap the benefits:

  • Develop basic motor skills
  • Build strong muscles and bones
  • Develop stamina and fitness
  • Improve balance, and coordination
  • Prepare the brain for academic learning
  • Improve social interactions
  • Develop of physical self-confidence 
  • Establish healthful weight and sleep patterns.

Role of Manipulative Skills in Physical Education

Manipulative skills are practiced in physical education to achieve expertise in a particular activity. Children learn and require patience and determination to attain basic manipulation skills, as well as learning accuracy and applicable force.

Along with practicing manipulative skills, children develop physical fitness and stamina. While practicing these skills they learn to understand their body well, and to gauge its limits.

10 benefits of practicing manipulative skills regularly

Through regular practice of manipulative skills children learn and gain proficiency in these foundation skills for that support many areas of physical and mental development.

1.  Hand-Eye Coordination: the ability to successfully propel an object forward using one or both hands

2.  Foot-Eye Coordination: the ability to successfully to propel an object forward using the foot

3.  Manual Dexterity: the developmnent of finger and hand strength through practice

4.  Reaction & Timing: understanding when is the right time to react

5.  Aiming Skills: learning how hard or how soft to throw an object in order for it to reach the target

6.  Directional Awareness: understanding directional movement, such as down, up, forward, backward and sideways

7.  Velocity: learning how fast or how slow one need to throw or kick an object to get the desired result

8.  Motor Planning: understanding the correct order of movements to achieve the end result

9.  Teamwork: development of social and communication skills as activities are successfully achieved together

10. Brain Development: manipulative skill practice builds neural connections that support academic development.

When teaching manipulative skills to young children you need to make sure the children practice while having a lot of fun. The main reason being is that manipulative skills require a lot of repetition and are often hard to learn, so repetition of these skills needs to be done in a fun and engaging way.  

Four groups of manipulative skills:
throwing, catching, kicking and striking

I believe it is important to  focus on children becoming competent in doing different kinds of  fun throwing, catching and kicking skills in the early years.

To practice striking using different kinds of bats is quite an advanced skill type. I prefer to introduce striking skills from age five onwards. However, the basics of striking can be introduced in the very early years in a fun way, for example, hitting a balloon or a beachball with a pool noodle.

Activity Suggestions

Below are some manipulative skills activity suggestions that I have found to be engaging, fun and easy to repeat. I have grouped these in the following way:

  • Propel Objects with the Body
  • Listen and React Challenges
  • Partner Activities
  • Dribbling
  • Circle Activities

Use the Body to Propel an Object

Equipment: This activity can be done with a ball, a soft cube, a soft toy, or any other soft and safe object.

Have the children suggest how the object can be manoeuvred across the floor using different body parts. For example, by using the head, feet, toes, elbows, etc.

Teaching Tip:
Have the child or children move in a straight line with their object from one marker to another marker approximately four to five meters away. Plastic cones are good for this purpose. They can manoeuvre their object forward one way and return moving or even carrying it a different way.

If there are many children, have them run back with the object back to save time and to ensure that all get a turn.

Benefits: Improves listening skills, body awareness, creativity, dexterity, motor planning, focus and concentration.

Listen and React Challenges

Equipment: A ball, or a hoop. The older the children, the smaller the ball can be.

Have the children stand in a line facing you. Stand a few meters away, mid-way along the line facing them and either roll or throw the hoop or ball into the air, propelling it in a forward  direction. At the same time shout out a child’s name. That child must react quickly and move forward to catch the object.

Teaching Tip:
Roll the ball or hoop for the younger and throw for the older children. To begin with say the name well in advance so that the activity is easily achieved. Then delay the name calling to add further challenge. The ball, if thrown, can be caught after one bounce or caught before it lands.

Listening skills, dynamic balance, timing, manual dexterity, hand-eye coordination and patience.

Manipulative SkillsPartner Throw & Catch teaches teamwork and an understanding of velocity.

Partner Activities

Equipment: Ball, beanbag, hoop.

Instructions: Two children stand facing each other with approximately 2 to 5 metres space between, depending on the age and ability level. A variety of manipulative skill activities can be done as listed below.

– can be rolled, thrown underhand or overhand to each other, or a bounce done in the middle. The older the child the smaller the ball can be.

– can be rolled, thrown with one arm or tossed as if propelling a pizza plate forward for the other to catch. This may need more distance between the partners.

– can be thrown and caught with two hands initially and then one, both the left and right sides can be used. Partners can also throw and catch in unison.

Teaching Tip:
Always start close and increase the distance as the children become more competent with throwing and catching. Once you are aware of the ability level of your children place children of similar level together to prevent frustration and to support the development of each child at a pace they can manage.

Team work, social skills, manual dexterity, spatial awareness, an understanding of velocity, perseverance, motor planning.

Dribbling a ball

Dribbling takes practice and improves directional awareness


Equipment: A ball 20 – 30 cm in size.

Dribbling can be done using the hand as is done in basketball, and with the foot as is done in football (soccer).

Hand dribbling:
Learning to bounce or dribble a ball is a skill that requires much practice. To begin with, encourage just one bounce and catch, then 2 bounces and catch, etc. This can be practiced walking forwards. When more competency is achieved, a ball can be dribbled in and out of cones.

Foot dribbling:
This is best practiced by manoeuvring a ball in and out of cones using small controlled movements with both feet effectively. This is learned through play and repetition. To support the learning have the children dribble to a given point or to a cone and then kick the ball back to the partner.

Teaching Tip:
Dribbling skills require patience and endurance and step-by-step learning. As a child becomes more competent speed and precision will develop.

Patience, perseverance, stamina, directional awareness, manual dexterity, focus and concentration, object control.

Circle Activities

Equipment: Beanbag or small ball.

Instructions: Arrange the children in a circle with approximately 40-50 cm space between them.

Activity 1
-Sitting with legs bent so forming a tunnel under the knees, the children can pass a beanbag or ball under then knees all the way along the circle. The beanbag can be also be passed under the knees of one child and over the knees of the next. Or the ball can be passed a full circle around one’s body, head or feet before it is passed to the next child who does the same.

Activity 2
– The children stand feet apart so all feet are touching one another, the ball or beanbag is then passed in and out of the legs as quickly as possible first one direction and then the other. For older children there can be a time challenge.

Activity 3
– One child holds a beanbag, says the name of another child and immediately throws it to that child. The child with the beanbag then calls another child’s name and throws the beanbag. Continue until all have had a turn.

Teaching Tip:
Use the beanbag for younger children and the ball for older. This way less time is spent chasing a ball if the throwing and catching skills are still developing.

Benefits: Team work, focus and concentration, manual dexterity, sequencing, directional awareness.


Being competent in doing a wide variety of manipulative skills equips children to successfully learn and achieve sports-specific skills in later years.

The physical self confidence gained from early exposure to these important skills results in eager participation in sports and hobbies in the future. If pursued regularly, these movements and exercises contribute to the overall health and well-being of the individual.
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