Thanks to all who answered last week’s request for suggestions for playing bocce with young children. Most cautioned us to watch out for errant tosses and for bocce balls dropped on tiny toes. Many recommended using smaller, lighter balls that could be more easily managed by little hands. All of this was good advice.
Still, there was the question of how we would actually introduce bocce to the tykes. After much thought we decided to model the same successful format we used previously with middle school kids (see Volume II, Issue 8 – February 24, 2003 – archived at JoyofBocce.com’s Back Issues link).
First, I enlisted the help of many adults (bocce players, day care providers, parents), impressing upon them the need for “crowd control.” The event was well publicized and about 30 children (mostly 3- to 5-year-olds) showed up at Methuen’s Bridgewalk Family Resource Center. Dolli Pariseau oversees the center which offers a variety of free children’s programs and parenting services.
We brought the children into the building’s old gymnasium and sat them down for a brief talk about the origins of bocce and an even briefer demonstration of how to play. We repeated several times the admonition to “Roll the balls very GENTLY.”
Then, before sending the preschoolers off to experience the joy of bocce, we set the tone with some mood music (Frank Cappelli’s Bocci Ball). If you are unfamiliar with Cappelli’s wonderful melodies, you are in for a treat. Contact him at F.E. Cappelli Publishing Co., 717 North Meadowcroft Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15216.
We set up 3 sections of carpet on the gym floor and sent the three-, four-, and five-year-olds off to different areas. The older children played bocce games with regulation bocce balls and two-by-fours marking the court boundaries. Several of our Monday morning bocce players did a great job of organizing the games and instructing the kids.
When the children tried to pick up two bocce balls at once, they dropped one or the other or both. So, we learned to roll the balls GENTLY, and one at a time, please!
The younger tykes just practiced rolling balls. They used small, brightly colored plastic balls or special water filled bocce balls. It wasn’t certain that they understood the object of the game, but it was infinitely clear that they were having a blast!
The event lasted just a little over an hour, and before they left, many of the adults asked for more information about the game. So, we not only survived a close encounter with tots armed with bocce balls, we succeeded in spreading the word about the game we love – a game that many call the “best kept secret in sports.”
The Bocce Guy