Updated: Oct 2, 2021
By Emily Hanlon
Thumb ball is one of my 'go to' activities to use in both individual therapy and groups. There are so many ways to use it to work on a variety of skills. I use thumb ball to work on self-esteem, social skills, and rapport building, but there are so many other ways to use them!
Basically, you take a soccer ball, and in the spaces on the ball, you write questions or statements. You can create this activity as a conversation starter, a social skills friendship resource (where you include social scenarios), or negative thoughts, self-esteem questions or anything else you can think of. Then you tell the child that you are going to take turns throwing the ball back and forth. Whichever spot your dominant thumb lands on (the thumb on the hand you write with), is the question/strategy/scenario you need to respond to! It's such a great activity while also getting kids out of their chairs and moving.
You can actually buy pre-made thumb balls online in different categories, but they are expensive and can only be used in one certain way. I would recommend trying to find a deflatable ball for easy storage, but if you can't, your local dollar store will sell soccer balls for $2-$5. It's better if it's one of the softer beach ball materials and not leather/pleather, as with the plastic ones, you can use nail polish remover to remove the permanent marker and re-use the ball with different questions/statements/scenarios. The leather/pleather ones end up making a huge mess when you try to do this!
Thumb ball is the perfect activity to keep in your 'tool kit' for kids who present with a lot of nervous energy, are irritable after a big day of school, or just need your therapy sessions to be more play based. For more information on 'tool kits' refer to this blog post I wrote last month: https://www.theplayfulpsychologist.com/post/session-planning-vs-tool-kits-why-i-made-the-switch
Check out some of my thumb ball ideas from my Instagram page below:
You can grab an inflatable soccer ball to make your own thumb ball, as part of my Emotion Kit:
However, if you're after the ball alone, here are some links for inflatable soccer balls, which I personally now buy purely for storage purposes (it gets hard storing 5+ soccer balls in a small clinic space)!
Check out this link from Pinterest for some ideas on other ways to use thumb ball: https://www.pinterest.com.au/pamdyson/thumb-balls/