Funnel Ball + Park = Fun AND Education!

It has been one week since we came home from the hospital after the birth of our second son, and things are going smoothly! The postpartum recovery time has been much easier for me this time than it was with my first son. I had a vaginal delivery with no stitches required, and I think that made all of the difference! My husband was a huge help to have at home last week, taking care of me, our two boys, and our home. But he returned to work this week, and I have felt good enough to be up and moving, doing some easy chores and light lifting. Since I have felt so great, I decided that today was a beautiful day to take my first trip to the park with both boys on my own! It was nice to get out of the house and get a little bit of exercise for myself. Our baby boy got to ride in the stroller for the first time, and he was awake and seemed to really enjoy the light breeze and fresh air!

That being said, the purpose of our walk to the park was more for the benefit of my five-year-old than for myself or our baby. He will be at home with me for the rest of the summer until he begins Kindergarten in August, and I want to keep him stimulated and learning in age-appropriate ways during the summer months. Going to the park is a simple way to interact with your child and explore your environment. There are so many ways to do this, and you are only limited by the imagination of yourself and your child! Today, I want to share with you our favorite thing to do at the park: funnel ball!

We bring a small ball with us to the park, and we play funnel ball similarly to the way that you would basketball, except there are four different holes that the ball can come out of, labeled with numbers one through four. It’s also easier for young children, because it’s much lower to the ground than a basketball hoop, so my small preschooler doesn’t get discouraged from playing. We get a decent amount of exercise playing this game as it requires running, dribbling, stealing, blocking, rebounding, and shooting. But at the same time, it’s a great workout for my son’s little brain! We play the game by shooting the ball into the funnel, and whichever hole (one, two, three, or four) it comes out of is how many points that person gets. Today, we played three games of first-one-to-thirty-points-wins. Whether it was my shot or my son’s shot, I left the adding of the points up to him, asking, “You had four points, and you scored two more. How many points do you have now?” It’s a simple addition word problem, and a great way to boost his quick-thinking math skills without knowing that he’s learning. To him, it was just a fun game that he played with Mom at the park! In addition, this game is fast-paced, and it requires paying attention and using your memory to keep track of each person’s score. I think his memory was even sharper than mine today! I’m blaming that on the fact that I’m still recovering. 😉

Of course, the most important part of the experience to me was just spending some one-on-one time with my little boy. With a new baby in the home, it’s easy for older siblings to feel left out at times. The park was the perfect opportunity for our newborn to relax contentedly in the shade while I connected with my older son. The rest of the funnel ball benefits just make me feel good about playing an active part in my son’s learning experiences. The preschool teacher in me is always looking for teachable moments!

What are some fun ways that you have “snuck in” a little education to your child’s playtime?