You're never too young to play basketball. The key to raising a happy little basketball player who wants to learn more is to let your child win most of the games you're playing. That way, she'll want to play more as she builds confidence in her ball handling. Be patient; once you pass along your love of the game, she'll pick up the skills and beat you in a game of one-on-one in no time at all.
Red Light, Green Light Dribbling
Learning to control the ball is an important part of the game. You may want to substitute a smaller, child-sized ball for the regulation ball since your child may find it hard to control a ball that's the same size as him. Start by playing Red Light, Green Light and play until your tot is familiar with the game. Add dribbling to the mix. When you call out "green light," he should dribble the ball toward your back. When you call "red light," he should stop running (or toddling) and dribble in place. This game will help him learn ball control.
Most preschoolers love to run around so tag is a game that quickly becomes a family favorite. Before starting a game of Dribble Tag, practice dribbling with your child. Let her know that she can't run holding the ball (traveling) but has to keep bouncing it with her hand. At this age, don't worry about double-dribbling. Just handling the ball without losing it will be a success. The person who is "it" has to dribble the ball while trying to catch the other players. You can also have all the other players dribbling as well, although youngsters may appreciate the break from dribbling while running around. Use a small area, like part of the driveway or a playroom. Playing Dribble Tag will help your preschooler learn ball control. Eventually.
Although your tot is small and you're a giant in comparison, the two of you can still have fun practicing blocking skills. The Circle Block game is an easy way to show her how to block another player. Put the ball on the ground in the middle of a circle. You can use tape to mark a large circle on the ground. Next, have her stand in the circle facing you. Your job is to try and touch the ball; her job is to block you. Teach her how to improve her balance by bending her legs at the knee. You can also work on having her bend her elbows and keep her arms out. When her technique is solid, make a show of trying to get around but being blocked by those outstretched arms. Switch places so she can try and get around you.
Basketball Bowling or Control Toss
Another way to teach your child about ball control is to have him try to knock over bowling pins with the ball. Line the pins up on the floor. Ask your child to bounce the ball toward the pins to knock over as many as he can. This will give him a feel for how the ball bounces and how much force he needs to move the ball. Another way to develop control is to bounce his ball against another ball. This game is fun for a play date. Since this game is easier with a larger ball, give each child a basketball. Have them stand four or five feet apart (closer if you need to) and ask them to throw the balls. See if they can make the balls hit each other. This game will improve ball control, aim and your preschooler's balance as he shoots and, possibly, catches the ball. Teach him about bending the knees to help his balance.
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