Living room volleyball

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When I started this post, it felt like -9 outside, but we are entered a week in which the true temperature will not rise above zero two different days. This morning, it was -11 and felt like -26 when my son got on the bus for school. Here in Minnesota, parents of active children have to get good at finding things for our kids to do indoors that both get them moving and don’t drive the parents crazy.

My son’s choice of activity for yesterday fulfilled both of those requirements, but only because I chose to have fun instead of worrying about rules. We played living room volleyball.

Living room volleyball is not new to our family, and our ball of choice is actually not a ball at all–it’s a balloon. A balloon won’t do damage to photos or small children’s heads and moves slowly enough most of the time for even toddlers and preschoolers with yet undeveloped motor skills and hand-eye coordination to be able to get their hands on the ball. And because it’s nearly impossible to hit a balloon more than four feet, an adult can even play sitting down, making it possible to play even after you get home from work (plus it gives you a little more head room so you’re not always hitting the ceiling).

But yesterday we had no balloons, so we used a small rubber ball–the kind Target or Walmart has in a huge bin, held in by bungee cords. The ball was still soft enough not to hurt much when inadvertently glancing off a face; however, it is definitely hard enough to knock ornaments off the Christmas tree, make framed pictures fall off the wall and the flat-screen TV wobble if you don’t have it strapped down (which you should!). So use a ball at your own risk–or at least at your knick-knacks’ risk.

I showed my six-year old how to serve, bump, set and spike, and after the picture frame fell off the wall, we concentrated more on lobs and control. I taught him what kinds of things would earn us points in real volleyball but then instituted a no-points policy, making the game much more relaxed and centered on learning instead of who screwed up.

Not only did he learn about volleyball and get some exercise, but he also was able to practice some much-needed hand-eye coordination and vision exercise. Lately, I have been doing some research on vision deficits and how they can affect reading and writing abilities (including reversals, which is my son’s main problem), which seems obvious, but also behavior, mimicking ADHD. My first-grader’s teacher said that even though the number of my son’s reversals is much higher than most kids at his age, reversals are normal until the beginning of second grade. She recommended we keep an eye on things.

Because I am a teacher and not one to simply keep an eye on things, I did my research and decided that before worrying about dyslexia (which I had already begun to get freaked out about), I need to get my son’s vision checked. Not a regular eye checkup like he had just a year ago, which also diagnosed his color-deficiency, but a developmental vision evaluation, which looks at how the eyes work together and how well they are developed for use in learning. My husband wants to wait, like the teacher said to do, so my compromise is that I am having our son do exercises that can help his vision and coordination with the hopes of it helping him immediately.

Some of the exercises have to do with hand-eye coordination, depth perception, tracking and crossing the midline, and it just so happens that his requested activity of living room volleyball works all four of those areas. And as a bonus, my son didn’t even know he was strengthening his eyes in the process.

Today, he did alphabet figure 8s, which are not nearly as fun but practice crossing the midline, core muscles for posture, tracking, left and right, and correct letter formation. I also threw in a little more living room volleyball to soften the blow of having to do “homework” the first day back to school. The volleyball was a good move, because my son declared he was going to sign up to play real volleyball. Apparently, living room volleyball was a confidence-booster as well.

*See tomorrow’s post to see our alphabet figure 8 exercises my first-grader does to attempt to improve his writing and letter reversals.

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