Homemade Beginner’s Juggling Balls

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A recent trip to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus inspired me to make some juggling balls that are perfect for beginners. The circus experience is absolutely amazing, and I was devastated to hear that the biggest name in the industry would soon be taking down its tent. Having only been twice when I was almost too young to remember, my dad agreed to take the entire family one last time. Of course I bought some overpriced food to go along with the show. My rainbow snow cone came in a souvenir elephant mug, though there were no elephants featured at the show, and my bag of cotton candy came in a colorful fabric top hat. These made perfect props to go with my pictures.

Juggling is a key part of any circus, and like most things in life, can be mastered with patience and practice. Having recently learned to juggle myself, I discovered that some things made practicing a little bit easier. First, I needed three objects that could fit in my hands easily. The trick here is to be able to hold two at once in either hand. And while it’s not necessary for the objects to be equal in size or weight, it certainly helps if they are close when you start out. These juggling balls are easy to grip, and they are a very nice size.

The second issue I picked up on is how often I dropped the balls. This brought up a lot of issues when it came to picking them up. Sure you could juggle bouncy balls you played with as a kid that still might be laying around the house, but you’ll probably spend more time chasing them than juggling. I figured I needed something that didn’t really roll or bounce when I dropped it, and that is surprising hard to find. These balls, however, are pretty good about staying close by.

Another perk to these juggling balls is that they are relatively soft. You don’t have to worry about leaving dents in a wood floor or making too much noise when they hit the ground. This is not to say that if they hit a delicate knick-knack on the edge of a table it is guaranteed not to break. Always be mindful of where you are practicing and know your tendencies. For example, when I started out, I always seemed to end up throwing forwards too much and having to lean and walk with my juggling. Anything in front of me was in danger.

By now, I’m sure you’re dying to get started, and it’s likely you have most or even all of these supplies in your house already:

  • Rubber/Latex Balloons (The kind you can buy at pretty much any store with basic party supplies. You’ll need 3 for each ball you plan on making, and if you are using old ones from around the house, have some extras in case some break.)
  • Scissors (To cut the balloons)
  • Flour (This is what we will use to fill the balloons with)
  • Bowl (To catch the majority of the flour that may spill. WORK OVER THE BOWL.)
  • Funnel (Make sure the end isn’t too wide; you will secure the mouth of the balloon to it. I used a regular kitchen funnel.)
  • Spoon/Measuring Cup (For scooping the flour into the funnel. I used a 1/4 cup measuring cup but a spoon will work just fine.)

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Oh, and one last thing! Wear clothes you don’t mind getting messy and work either outside or over an easy to clean floor. My hand slipped every once and a while and this project ended up being a little messier than intended!

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^^^ That’s why you shouldn’t work over your lap!!

Okay, now that we have that little precursor out of the way, you are ready to begin!

img_4716The first step is to fill up your base balloon with flour. In the excitement and confusion of figuring this project out (I did it from memory of something I did somewhere between 5 and 10 years ago), I forgot to document my first few steps. As you can see from my mess, I had to start over and rework my process a few times. The good news is that the steps I left out aren’t very complicated.

First things first, blow up the balloon and release the air to stretch out the balloon. Then stretch the mouth of the balloon over the end of the funnel. You’re going to want to hold on tight because it will try and slip off and then you will have a lap full of flour. That’s one lesson I learned the hard way so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

After that, begin filling your balloon by scooping flour into the funnel. Use small amounts so that your funnel doesn’t get clogged. If that does happen, open it up again by gently sticking the end of your scissors through the hole. DO NOT squeeze the balloon. It seems like a bright idea, that is, until you have a face full of flour. Another lesson learned so you don’t have to.

The trick to having a good juggling ball is to fill up the balloon so that it is a little bit stretched. To do this you will need to pack in the flour kinda tight. I found that the easiest method is to use my thumb and push at the base of the neck of the balloon into the flour sack. This pushes the flour into the sides of the balloon, stretching them out, and creates a space for more flour. Continue this process until you reach your desired capacity.

We are now caught up to my image above! Carefully remove the balloon from the funnel, emphasis on carefully!

img_4717This next step is optional, but you may choose to cut off the neck of the balloon if you wish to have a smoother ball. It may, however, make the next step a little more messy.

img_4715Cut the necks off of two more balloons. They do not have to be the same color. The next step is a little bit difficult and takes two hand so I couldn’t really get a good picture.

Finally, you will stretch the two balloons over the first one that is filled with flour. I found this works best if I close my fingers together like a beak and insert that into the balloon. Open your fingers inside the balloon and gently grip over the hole of the flour filled balloon. Use your other hand to pull the outer balloon off of your hand and around the first one. The hole of the second balloon should end up opposite the hole of the first. Follow the same process with your third balloon so that the hole is roughly even with that of the first and opposite that of the second.

Voila! You are done! I chose to make a sleeve for one of mine by simply taking one more balloon of a contrasting color and cutting it like a paper snowflake. Have fun with color combinations and designs!

Now you have some great balls to practice juggling with… But how do you juggle?! I weeded through the web for you guys and found a great juggling video tutorial. This guy does an amazing job of breaking down the art into quick and easy step by step video segments and even does a troubleshooting video for anyone that may be struggling.

Have fun and embrace your inner clown!

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