Playing catch isn't a strictly father-and-son activity -- moms can get in on the action, reaping surprising benefits for their boys. Playing catch with your son teaches everything from self-control and turn-taking to hand-eye coordination, and can even bolster the closeness and connection you feel with your child. Although it's one of the most time-tested games around, playing catch comes with its own fair share of considerations before diving in.
Gently throw your child a small stuffed toy, bean bag or a soft, lightweight ball, such as a foam ball, when he's about 3 years old. At this age, your son should be able to catch a slow and careful lob and return it to you. Throw underhand so he has plenty of time to anticipate the catch, and avoid using hard objects. Play catch in this style until your son reaches about 5 years of age.
Give your son a baseball glove sometime after his fifth year, when you both feel comfortable with your catching game. At this point, you can upgrade to a slightly harder ball, such as a Wiffle Ball, tennis ball or soft ball. Before you get into pop-fly territory, practice rolling the ball into the glove and allowing your son to toss it back to you. At about age 8 or 9, move on to a baseball and vary your throws, including overhand pitches. Give your son time to ready himself for the catch, but feel free to vary the rhythm or distance of your game based on your child's comfort level and ability.
Teach as you play. After a few years of casual catching, at roughly age 8, your boy should be ready to learn some techniques. Instruct your child to grip the baseball across the seams, with his fingers over the top seam and thumb level with the bottom seam on the back of the ball. Encourage him to grip with his fingers rather than palm and throw with a loose wrist, arcing shoulder rotation and forward step, engaging his body as he throws. Give him a throwing target by holding your hands or mitt out at chest, waist or overhead levels. On the catching end, encourage your boy to follow the ball rather than standing still and track the ball with his eyes from the moment it leaves your hand until the moment it lands in his glove.
Encourage and inspire. No matter what age, playing catch should be fun and educational, never punishing or embarrassing. Even if your boy isn't the best athlete, focus on what he does well. Compliment his strong points as you give him pointers to help him improve on weak points.