Balancing beanbags, bottles and balls on a racket or bat

In these activities the child practices holding a  bat or racket horizontal while balancing one or more beanbags, a plastic bottle or a ball  on the head of the bat. Moving the hand in different directions while holding the head of the bat horizontal  creates several different challenges. 

Holding the bat in front of the body with the head of the bat horizontal requires coordinated action of all the joints of the arm:

  • The handle of the bat is held using a palmar grip.
  • Keeping the head of the bat horizontal engages the wrist lateral flexors and midrange forearm rotation. 
  • The elbow is flexed - elbow flexors activated 
  • Shoulder is flexed and in midrange for rotation - shoulder flexors and lateral rotators activated. 
  • Scapula is protracted - scapula stabilizers activated.  

►  The muscle forces needed to hold the bat steady differ in different positions of the UE and the weight of the objects being supported by the paddle of the bat. 

►  Changes in the position of one joint lead to adjustments in the other joints to maintain the horizontal position of the head of the bat. 

►  Walking while holding the bat and adding a secondary tasks such as counting backwards increases attentional demands of the task. 


  • A beach or table tennis bat, or a racket. 
  • 2 X 500 ml plastic water bottles partly filled with different amounts of water. 
  • Several beanbag or ziplock plastic bags partly filled with sand, rice, birdseed or beans. 

Balancing a beanbag on the bat 

Let the child hold the bat with the head of the bat horizontal. The bat is moved forwards so that the arm is moved away from the chest wall  This ensures that the shoulder flexors are effectively engaged. (See note below). 

Hold bat and bags.jpg

The child holds the bat steady and and a beanbag is placed ion the center of the racket or bat head.  A second bag is placed an top of the first one,  followed by more bags until the pile topples over or the bags are dropped on the floor. 

Reps  Repeat the activity 5-10 times. 

Challenge  Let the child place the beanbags on the bat.  Moving the opposite hand forwards to reach the head of the bat requires additional attention to keeping the head and shoulders steady for holding the bat. 

Notes  It is important to ensure that the total weight being held is such that the child is able to keep the arm away from the chest wall.  As the child tires, or the weight is too great, the child will move the arm against the chest wall to provide addition stability and reduce the load on the shoulder flexor muscles. 

Balancing a plastic bottle on a bat 

In this activity the child balances a plastic bottle partially filled with water on the head of a bat.  The weight of the bottle can be systematically increased by adding more water. 

Let the child hold the bat with the head of the bat horizontal.

  • Start by holding the handle close to the head to reduce the lever arm of the bat.
  • The upper arm should be held away from the chest wall. 

james bat hold close.jpg

Now  place a a bottle 1/4 filled  with water on the head of the bat.  Count to 10 and observe the child's response. If the task is easy,  add water to the bottle and repeat.  Keep adding water until the child can hold the bottle steady and with relative ease for only 10-12 slow counts (seconds).  This is the training weight. 

james bat and bottle.jpg

Reps  Repeat the exercise 5 times with a short break between reps. 

Increasing task demands 

►  Let the child carefully move the bat to the side and across the body,  backwards and forwards, up and down several . Repeat this sequence of 6 movements  twice. 

  Extending the elbow increases muscle forces needed to hold the bat up. 

James bat bottle reach.jpg   james bat bottle hold to side_1.jpg

►  If the child can manage this easily, add some water to the bottle and repeat the exercise. 

►  Increase the speed of the reaching movements.  

Balancing a ball on a racket 

In this activity the child practices balancing a ball on a bat or a racket. The challenge is to hold the bat very steady to stop the ball from rolling off the bat. This requires sustained and cooperative action in the muscles of the shoulder, elbow wrist, forearm and wrist, but also the ability to hold the trunk steady. 

James ball on bat.jpg

Notes Have a selection of balls available for this activity. This allows the child to choose which ball to use (providing choice to enhance sense of control). Also practice with balls of different weights and sizes to provide the child with opportunities to explore adapting the motor actions to the demands of the task. 


►  Walking and stepping over a series of obstacles requires attention to be divided between holding the bat steady and planning the walking path so as to negotiate the obstacles. 

►  Walking forwards on a flat surface while counting backwards or reciting a nursery rhyme is another way to increase the attention demands of the activity. 

Please note
The content on this article is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute professional advice.

If your child has a medical condition that affects their fitness and ability to do strenuous physical activity, please consult your child's health care professional before starting an exercise program, especially one that includes strenuous activity.

All liability is excluded to the fullest extent permitted by law in respect of any loss or damage whether direct, indirect or consequential that arises in connection with the use of or reliance upon any content forming part of this article.

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