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Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
Office Hours:
Class Schedule:
Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion

Catching is the most common manipulative skill and is fundamental to sport performance (Getchell & Haywood, 2009). The purpose of catching is to intercept an object with the hands, followed by trapping it against the body or opposite arm to quickly move to the next movement (Haywood, 2009). Unfortunately, catching is a relatively difficult fundamental movement skill(s) (FMS) to master (Getchell & Haywood, 2009). The interception of a moving object is the most difficult aspect of catching, especially for children during from 3-5, also known as the early childhood years (Getchell & Haywood, 2009). Catching is one of many FMS that are the building blocks to more complex movement (Logan et al., 2012). Although the child can become a proficient catcher by the age of 11 or 12, the early childhood years are critical for development of catching and FMS (Logan et al., 2012). A proficient catcher is one who has mastered the fundamental movement skill. In order to be able to participate any sport that involves catching, the child must become proficient at this FMS (Coaching Association of Canada, 2011).

Fundamental Movement Skills and Long Term Health

FMS assist children to control their bodies, manipulate their surroundings, and conduct complex movement skills and patterns that are essential in sports and other recreational activities (Crowe et al, 2003). However, in respect to the long-term health of an individual, FMS is crucial (Bremer et al., 2014). Optimally developed FMS are directly related to positive health outcomes (Logan et al, 2012). For instance, the lower the FMS competency of an individual, the less likely that person will participate in physical activity (Logan et al, 2012). According to Crowe et al., (2003), if competencies of FMS are not attained, children will not be able to reach their proficiency ceilings and successfully engage in sports and physical activity. Proactive programs that facilitate FMS development should be a primary focus when establishing curriculums within elementary schools and early childhood years (Crowe et al., 2003).

Developmental Stages for Two-Hand Catching

As a child continues to practice catching, their development will go through several changes most noticeably in their arms, hands, body and head movements (Getchell & Haywood, 2009).

Stage: 1 During the Initial Stages of Two-Hand Catching

  • Have little response to the object, extend their arms forward but there is minimal movement to adapt to the incoming ball (Getchell & Haywood, 2009).
  • Their palms will face up (Getchell & Haywood, 2009).
  • Their body will not adjust to whether the ball is thrown high or low; also known as the trajectory of the ball (Getchell & Haywood, 2009).
  • They will turn their head away from the incoming object because of fear of getting hit (Getchell & Haywood, 2009).
  • They will try to trap the ball against their chest, once it hits their arms (Getchell & Haywood, 2009).

Stage 2

  • The child will initiate hugging movements where the arms are extended to “hug” the ball (Getchell & Haywood, 2009).
  • Palms face each other (Getchell & Haywood, 2009).
  • They will still try to trap the ball against their chest.
  • Now there will be an awkward adjustment to the incoming ball, where the arms and trunk will begin to move, but the head remains still; this could be due to the child resisting to move off balance (Getchell & Haywood, 2009).
  • The child will now start to watch the ball until it has reached their arms (Getchell & Haywood, 2009).

Stage 3

  • The child now initiates a scooping motion where the arms are extended to meet the object, which is characterized by moving their hands and arms underneath the ball (Getchell & Haywood, 2009).
  • The child now starts to adjust their palms in respect to the flight and size of the ball (Getchell & Haywood, 2009).
  • The fingers and thumb are still close together (Getchell & Haywood, 2009).
  • The child will now start adjusting their feet, trunk and arms according to the incoming ball (Getchell & Haywood, 2009).

Stage 4: Proficiency of Catching

  • The child now extends their arms to catch the ball with their hands (Getchell & Haywood, 2009).


As a child matures, their corresponding FMS do not develop naturally (Logan et al., 2012). FMS need to be taught, practiced and reinforced (Logan et al., 2012). Consistently, free play has been the only opportunity that children have to practice these skills, and even though it might develop FMS minimally, it does not promote learning them (Logan et al., 2012). Learning FMS are dynamic since they are the result of the interaction between the constraints of the objective, the learner and their current capabilities, and their environment (Crowe et al., 2003). The constraints of task are the limits that are put there by the instructor, such as controlling the ball size or how the ball is thrown. Therefore, any movement skill activity structured with an intended purpose.


To effectively assess the progress of the child, the instructor should observe the child catching from either the front or diagonally across (Getchell & Haywood, 2009) (Coaching Association of Canada, 2011). Also, to efficiently track progress, the instructor should note the amount of balls caught in respect to the task constraints, such as: the size and type of the ball, the throwing distance and the trajectory of the ball.

6 Steps to Teach Catching

When teaching and assessing the progress of the child, the instructor should consider six different steps, which are:

  1. Identify: Can the catching technique be improved (Coaching Association of Canada, 2011)?
  2. Analyze: is it a novice catching pattern or a poorly executed proficient catching pattern. This stage will help provide appropriate activity needs for the child (Coaching Association of Canada, 2011). It is important to note that a novice catcher is one who is at the beginning stages of learning how to catch.
  3. Generate: Identify the changes that need to be made and discuss different ways to change the constraints of the task (Coaching Association of Canada, 2011).
  4. Clearly identify and explain what needs to be accomplished in respect to the task and instructions (Coaching Association of Canada, 2011).
  5. Implement the plan and assess the outcomes (Coaching Association of Canada, 2011).
  6. Assess any new developments in the catching technique and compare it to the developmental stages of catching; from here the instructor should either move on to the next stage, continue with the same plan, or change the constraints if the activity is deemed inefficient (Coaching Association of Canada, 2011).

As a Child Progresses From Novice Stages of Catching to Proficient Catching They Will

  • Learn to catch with the hands and gradually be able to absorb the balls force (Getchell & Haywood, 2009)
  • Master the ability to move left or right or forward and back to catch the ball (Getchell & Haywood, 2009).
  • Point the fingers up when catching a ball that is thrown high, and point the fingers down when catching a ball thrown low, generally below their waist (Getchell & Haywood, 2009).

Feedback & Communication

When communicating with the child the instructor should:

  • Bend down so they can get eye level with the child (National Coaching Certification Program, 2011).
  • Be positive and tell them everything they did right (National Coaching Certification Program, 2011).
  • Listen to what they have to say (National Coaching Certification Program, 2011).
  • Keep the instructions short and simple (National Coaching Certification Program, 2011).
  • Focus on telling them what to do, and not what they did wrong (National Coaching Certification Program, 2011).
  • Ensure that the child understands what you are trying to get them to do (National Coaching Certification Program, 2011).

Instructional Cues

To facilitate learning the particular FMS, such as catching, the instructor should use a set of common cues. In accordance to the child’s progress, the cues should also become more specific (Coaching Association of Canada, 2011). Examples of cue words during the novice stage are:

  • Watch the ball
  • Cradle the ball
  • Arms together

Example of cue words or phrases as they move towards proficient catching should be:

  • Eye on the ball
  • Reach for the ball
  • Absorb the ball
  • Squeeze the ball
  • Big hands: indicates to the participant to spread their fingers and thumbs to create a larger area to catch the ball


An instructor can easily observe catching by having children work together, but also can work with the child individually. As the child progress from novice to proficient catching, the task constraints should also change.

When Planning Activities During Stage One, the Instructor Should:

  • Use large, soft, and easily visible balls, while throwing lightly toward the child’s hands. This will allow the child to catch the ball with both hands and be able to secure it more easily. The ball used should be easily squeezed to assist in catching the ball. An example would be a balloon, or a beach ball.
  • Outline the instructions of the task clearly and provide continual encouragement (Coaching Association of Canada, 2011). One should regularly remind the child to keep their eyes on the ball, arms extended, elbows in and palms up. The instructor should also remind the child to bring the ball in towards the chest when the hands and arms make contact, to trap the ball.
  • Once the child has shown consistent ability to complete this task, the instructor should change the constraints of the task, which could be: the size of the ball should decrease, the distance thrown should increase, and the colour of the ball should also change to less visible colour.

Planning Activities For Children at Stage 2 of Catching:

  • Decrease the size of the ball to where it is the size of their hands or slightly larger. These can be regular balls, beanbags, or other soft balls.
  • One should throw the ball slightly in front of the child to allow them to reach for the ball. This will facilitate a progression from being in a still position into moving for the ball; it will assist in anticipating and intercepting the ball and providing a new learning experience.
  • Continue to provide cues such as “watch the ball,” “arms together” and introduce “reach for the ball,” and “absorb the ball.”
  • The instructor should continue to encourage the child to trap the ball in their chest.

Planning Activities For Children At Stage 3 of Catching:

  • The instructor should still decrease the size of the ball, increase the distance of the throw and they should start changing the throwing speeds of the ball.
  • Introduce new cues such as, “eyes on the ball,” and “squeeze the ball.”
  • Also encourage the child to squeeze the ball with their hands.
  • The instructor should now start throwing the ball at different trajectories to facilitate movement of the palms, depending if the ball is thrown high or low. The new trajectories of the ball will also facilitate moving of the entire body according to the flight path of the ball and further visual tracking.

Planning Activities For Children At Stage 4 of Catching:

  • The instructor should now start moving towards more proficient stages of catching by throwing the ball to different sides of the child to provoke lateral movement.
  • The instructor should continue to repeat phrases such as, “eyes on the ball,” and “squeeze the ball.”
  • One should also continue to change distances, trajectories, and speeds of the throw and the size of the ball.

Throughout the entire developmental process and activities, the instructor must use effective feedback and communication to provide encouraging information to the child (Coaching Association of Canada, 2011).

Teaching Catching to Individuals With a Disability

The instructor must be able to accommodate activities and learning experiences for children of different abilities to still ensure optimal development of catching and other FMS.

Teaching Catching to Children with Developmental Delay

Developmental delay (DD) is a temporary chronological delay of reaching motor milestones that are expected with a certain age range (Kirk & Rhodes, 2011). Children who have DD do not form the same FMS at the same pace of typically developing children and therefore are at a greater risk of compromised health and increased delays in social, emotional and cognitive development throughout their entire life (Kirk & Rhodes, 2011). To appropriately develop FMS for children with DD, teachers, parents and even health professionals must understand that it will require sufficient time, teaching, and reinforcement to ensure that these children develop accordingly (Kirk & Rhodes, 2011).

Teaching Catching to Children with Auditory Disabilities

Children who are affected by hearing disabilities are also at risk to not fully develop FMS (Gursel, 2014). Since the children either have full, or partial absence of their auditory capabilities, they are less likely to explore the environment outside of their current sight, which leads to less practice locating and following objects in comparison to children without hearing impairments (Gursel, 2014). Therefore it is critical for the instructor to clearly demonstrate the objective of the drill and potentially use modelling to provoke learning of catching in different situations.

Teaching Catching to Children with Visual Disabilities

Individuals who have typical vision abilities receive about 75% of their sensory information by sight (Canadian Blind Sports, 2012). For individuals with visual limitations, it is much harder to develop optimal FMS. Therefore, it is vital that during the early years, these children receive much greater exposer to physical activities to facilitate to living an active life (Canadian Blind Sports, 2012). By providing directions, helpful information, using music and rhythm, and by increasing contrast for individuals with low vision, physical literacy can be obtained (Canadian Blind Sports, 2012). It is recommended to use a soft ball when practicing catching to avoid injury. Also, a ball that makes sounds, such as a soccer ball with a bell in it will provide another source of sensory information to assist in learning the skill. However, it is recommended that at the beginning stages of teaching, that rolling a ball, which also makes sounds, is a more effective method of beginning skill acquisition (National Coaching Certification Program, 2011).

Teaching Catching to Children with Intellectual Disabilities

For children individuals with an intellectual disability, the coaches should never assume that they do not understand what is being said (National Coaching Certification Program, 2011). The name of an individual’s disability does not necessarily mean that they do no have the ability to learn (National Coaching Certification Program, 2011). When instructing an individual with an intellectual disability it is important to talk to them directly, not to their caretaker or parent (National Coaching Certification Program, 2011). The instructor should only ask yes or no questions and give clear and succinct information for effective communication (National Coaching Certification Program, 2011). Regardless of the disability, every individual should be exposed to sport at an early age so they can build their physical literacy and potentially be able to compete in sports that cater to their abilities (Special Olympics Canada, 2007). It is recommended that the instructor structures the developmental program to meet the individuals personal needs (Special Olympics Canada, 2007). The use of bright coloured objects is an example of a way to accommodate for the individual to allow for quicker, and simpler visual tracking.


Bremer, E., Lloyd, M., Saunders, T. J., Tremblay, M. S. (2014). Long-term importance of fundamental motor skills: a 20 year follow-up study. Adapted Physical Activity, 31, 67-78. doi:

Canadian Blind Sports. (2012). Goalball long-term athlete development model. Retrieved from

Coaching Association of Canada. (2011). Fundamental movement skills. Retrieved from

Crowe, H., Goodway, J. D., & Ward, P. (2003). Effects of motor skill instruction on fundamental motor skill development. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, 20, 298-314. Retrieved from

Getchell, N., Haywood, K. (2009). Life Span Motor Development (5th ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics

Gursel, F. (2014). Inclusive intervention to enhance the fundamental movment skills of children without hearing: a preliminary study. Perceptual & Motor Skills, 118(1), 304-315. doi:10.2466/10.15.25.PMS.118k14w0

Kirk, M. A., & Rhodes, R. E. (2011). Motor skill interventions to improve fundamental movement skills of preschoolers with developmental delay. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, 28 (3), 210-232. Retrieved from

Logan, S.W., Robinson, L. E., Wilson, A. E., (2012). Getting the fundamentals of movement: a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of motor skill interventions in children. Child: Care, Health & Development, 38(3), 305-315. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2214.2011.01307.x.

National Coaching Certification Program. (2011). Coaching athletes with a disability. Retrieved from

Special Olympics Canada. (2007). Long-term athlete development for athletes with an intellectual disability. Retrieved from