When Otis was little I looked everywhere for one of these fantastic ball trackers. He loved the one at his Montessori Toddler Class (pictured below) but I couldn't find one to buy locally. I've recently noted that the Nienhuis Ball Tracker (above left) can be found in Australia so I thought it was time to share!
The large ball trackers are suitable for children from around 18 months or when the child is able to stand to put the ball into the frame. This will be enjoyed by children up to around three to four years old. While these are great for the home, I love to see them in toddler groups or classes where they can be enjoyed by many children.
The child drops the ball at the top and it zig zags as it rolls down. The child can collect the ball from the bottom and start over again. The Nienhuis Ball Tracker (above left) has an object permanence box at the end, which is lovely, it helps to teach the young child about object permanence, the object is there you just can't see it, until you open the drawer. The Nienhuis tracker is all natural timber which would assist the child in tracking the ball and not be distracted by additional colour. However, the TAG Amazing Tracker (above right) and as seen below is so attractive, bright and colourful, it would look great in a nursery!
Tracking toys provide children with the opportunity to build important developmental skills including those relevant to cognitive and physical development. The benefits of using this material include;
- Develop tracking skills - allows the child to focus on a moving object, the child will begin to watch the ball roll while keeping their head still or with only slight movement, this prepares the eyes for reading and develops important ocular skills.
- Strengthens eye muscles - as the child is able to focus and track the ball for longer periods of time they will strengthen their eye muscles.
- Develops coordination - the child coordinates the movement of both eyes as they focus and track the ball in addition to developing hand-eye coordination as they reach for and grasp the ball.
- Builds concentration - the ball tracker attracts attention and therefore is used repeatedly and builds concentration.
- Learn problem-solving skills - if ball falls out or if the ball doesn't go in the child begins to problem solve.
- Learn basic concepts of gravity - drop a ball and it will fall down or roll down, the ball moves in a downwards motion.
- Teaches basic concepts of logic - when they drop the ball into the frame the child will begin to predict what will happen next, they might even start to put their hands at the end to catch the ball before it gets there.
- Develops gross and fine motor skills - the child will grasp the ball, squat, move up and down and reach out repeatedly.
- Develops core stability - for young children the squatting and moving up and down picking up the ball and standing independently can help develop core stability.
- Develops bilateral integration skills (use and coordinate both sides of the body at the same time) and provides opportunity to cross the midline - children may pick the ball up with one hand and pass it to the other hand or will cross the midline to put the ball back into the frame.
In these large ball trackers, the ball moves slowly which is easier for the very young child to track. With smaller tracking toys the balls or cars can move really fast and are best suited to a slightly older child. Do you have or have you seen ball trackers in your Montessori or other toddler classes?