this thing's incredible

I Let My Kids Play Soccer in the House With This Accident-Proof ‘Ball’

Photo-Illustration: retailer

While current conventional wisdom suggests we should spend as much time outside for as long as we can, winter is coming. Much like Marion anxiously watched the flame of her torch extinguish as she confronted a chamber of snakes in Raiders of the Lost Ark, parents like me are now anxiously watching the last rays of autumn sunshine fade into a long winter stuck indoors, where kids can’t easily partake in favorite hobbies, like sports, without doing so in front of a screen. “Don’t play ball in the house!” is a maxim as age-old as they come. But in this year of upending tradition, I’ve dropped the don’t and actually encourage my boys, ages 6 and 9, to play ball (soccer, specifically) inside, thanks to a novel toy that makes doing so hazard-free.

A thoughtful godmother gave my younger son, Theo, the so-called hover soccer ball for his birthday. Designed to look like the real thing (down to the black-and-white pentagons), the lightweight hover ball functions more like a giant air-hockey puck. While there are battery-powered versions, this one charges via USB; when turned on, a tiny fan inside sucks air through the top and expels it with enough force that the ball hovers — or more like glides — above the floor. A well-placed kick can easily send it 15 feet along a bare floor and roughly half that distance on carpet or rug. But no matter how hard my budding David Beckhams strike the ball, the design makes it difficult to send it too high above the ground, so they’ve managed to avoid inflicting damage to our couches, windows, light fixtures, or other breakable bric-a-brac.

My boys have played many a game in our apartment’s narrow, uncarpeted hallway using a door as a goal, and a few more in our building’s longer, shared hallway. (Unlike the ball, my kids don’t have an “off” switch, so we’ve mostly kept games inside our place for the sake of our neighbors.) A ring of styrofoam-like padding around the ball makes it even more accident-proof; in fact, I know a few parent friends who let their toddlers play with similar hover balls because this padding provides extra protection in the case of unexpected face-plants. Aside from its shape, the hover ball’s LED lights are another detail that separates it from traditional soccer balls — and allow for my kids to even play with it outside (on pavement) after the sun sets, on days I crave some semblance of normalcy.

Photo: retailer

If you have the space, WisToyz also sells a hover soccer ball with two goals and another traditional ball you can inflate, with an included pump. Somehow, the bundle costs less than the hover ball alone — but the hover ball in this set is battery-powered, not USB-charged.

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My Kids Play Soccer Inside With This Accident-Proof ‘Ball’