“ Brand: Early Learning Centre / Age: 18 months+ „
I think I got a little carried away after I got home from shopping at the Early Learning Centre they had a special offer which was 3 for 2 on all outside items. I purchase some smaller cheaper items in the shop and then when I got home I ordered dome of the heavier larger items online so that I did not have to carry them. By the end if they were not for my nephew they were for the family to enjoy playing with in the garden and making the most of the summer weather. Not that we have had much of that yet. One of the items that I purchased was a set of Boules and this was a game that we used to play regularly at my grandparents house and is one of my games that I really enjoyed playing in my childhood. This game of Boules was very inexpensive at £2.50 for the game, which I thought was a bargain and this was one of my free items so I never even paid for it. On the label for this game it states that it is not recommended for children under 18 months. There are six Boules and there are two red, two blue and two yellow one and there is a little red ball which I believe if memory serves me correctly is called the jack. There is a case that is designed to hold all of the balls when not in use and also built into the case is a score card and pins so that you take takes scores as you play the game. The aim of the games is to get the most points and you do this by trying to get both of your coloured boules as near to the red jack as possible. Each player needs to pick which colour they are going to be, they then opt for who will go first, second and third. The first player throws the red jack and then each player takes it in turns to throw their boule as near to the jack as possible. You can also use tactics to push someone else's boule out of the way. The winner of that round is the one nearest to the jack, if both boules are closest then they get awarded two points instead of one. You then play a number of rounds and the winner is the one with the most points at the end. This game is great for hand to eye coordination as you have to line up where you want it to go taking into consideration the distance and the force the boule needs to be thrown. I have played Boules where there are 4 of each colour, but for £2.50 I was not expecting any more. This game is perfect for young children to be able to concentrate without getting bored. The game is great to play and is a game that anyone of any age can play, my nephew at just over a year and a half just likes rolling the balls across the garden and I am sure as he grows up he will love this game and start to play it properly. Overall for £2.50 and the entertainment value I give it the full top marks, although if you become a keen boules player you may want to invest in a better set. Also be careful not to lose the small red jack as the game can be pretty hard to play without it.
This outdoor game from the Early learning centre is a current favourite in our household. We bought the set for £5 at the start of the nice summer weather to play in the garden and it has been played with most weeks so far. This boules set comprises of a black carrier which the boules sit nicely in they can only be placed in the holder one way as the hole for them is too small on one side to fit the balls into. The other side has plastic curved shaped holders that move slightly as the balls are pressed in and out of the holder. My son actually enjoys this part of the game too as he pushes them in and out rather like a shape sorter. In the holder there are also two small bits that can be pressed out so that can then sit in holes along each side to keep count of how many games you are wining. We have actually left these in place as the pieces are quite small and I think they would be easily lost so though this is a nice idea for the carrier I don't think it works in practice. The carrier also has a small handle which means it is easily transported places when out and about and we have taken this one to the beach and local park and my son has always enjoyed carrying it so far before it becomes then my responsibility. The set comes with 6 large balls and the small black jack ball. The balls are three different colours meaning I believe from my understanding of the game that it can be played with up to three players. The balls unlike traditional metallic French Boules are made from brightly coloured plastic. The colours we have are red, green and yellow. The balls have a bit of cut away design to them so they are not totally smooth spheres. Whilst this makes them easier for small hands to hold it does mean the balls can get bits of mud caught in them which can then make them not run straight so often have to give them a wipe down with a cloth if they have landed in the muddy garden by some over enthusiastic throws and rolls. The small jack ball is totally smooth so doesn't need this treatment. The way we play boules is for the youngest player (generally my son) to roll the jack and then everyone to roll their balls in turn to try to get close to the jack. The person who gets the closet is the winner and at times this can leave a bit of humming and haring as we look at the distance between the balls and often we use a stick to take measurements. If you were keen you could get a tape measure out and as my son gets a bit older and sued to measuring things I am sure we will as it will be great practice for him. As this is a simple game it means that it is very easy to understand and my 3 year old has no problems with understanding the objective of the game and who has won or lost. Equally we have played this with younger children who have visited and 2 year olds definitely understand the game too. The age recommendation on this I believe is from 18 months ands I personally see no problems with this age recommendation. The bit that my son doesn't understand about the game currently and accuses people of cheating if they do it is to knock your opponent's balls out of the way to get your ball closer. This I am sure is just a development thing and as he gets older and starts to understand about strategy he will start to do this more. When the boules knock against one another when we do try this manoeuvre they do make a lovely thwack noise which I find quite satisfying. The boules themselves cope well with these knock and there have been no dints or marks on our set over the few months worth of play they have had so far. Overall ********* I would definitely recommend this boules set form the ELC it is well made and copes well with knocks and bumps. The game is simple to play and loved by both children and adults in our house. I can't see it currently on their website but I had spotted it on offer at £2.50 in their shop last week (August 5th 2011) so it is still available.
Boules is a classic outdoors game popular in France, traditionally played on grass with metal balls. It traditionally involves a small ball - about 3 cm in diameter - made of wood, called a jack, and several larger, heavier metal balls - about 7 cm in diameter. It is played in two teams of 1 or more players. One person throws the jack, and then everyone takes turns bowling the larger balls in order to get their balls as close to the jack as possible. Players may knock other peoples balls out of the way in order to do this. After each team has gone, their points are added up - points are assigned depending on the boules' distance from the jack - and the team with the most points wins. We have had this Early Learning Centre children's boules' set in our garden for many years and it has frequently been a great source of entertainment for both the adults and children in the family. The balls are made of plastic rather than the traditional metal which renders them suitable for children. They are lighter than the metal variety which means your children are less likely to be bludgeoned with them, and any windows nearby will be safer as well. The 6 balls are very attractively coloured - 2 yellows, 2 reds and 2 blues - with a white plastic jack. They are packaged in a plastic case with a handle, which opens up and has compartments to fit the balls in. This makes it easy to transport, in case you want to walk down to the local park to play with them. The bright colouring also means the balls are less likely to get lost in the bushes. This boules set is priced fairly cheaply as it can be purchased from the Early Learning Centre for £5 which I think is very good value for money. The game itself is great fun to play with children, or even just with adults, and it is good competitive fun. It is not too strenuous so can be enjoyed by absolutely anyone. An excellent game. Suitable for children over the age of 18 months.
Now I will admit that I should be too old for toys, but then again, I don't think I ever really grew out of liking toys. And my children are all grown up now; well they are just about, even if they don't always act it. And, as yet, I have no grandchildren...so you may be surprised that I am reviewing a children's set of French Boules. When my children were young I was often on the lookout for outdoor toys. In my first home, as a married woman and then a mum, we couldn't have a lawn in our garden; it just wouldn't grow and so, after several attempts to cultivate, we decided to concrete most of the garden, as an improvement. We had a rockery at the end of this garden, and flower borders to each side. But, as there wasn't a lawn to cushion the children if they fell, I was reluctant to buy toys such as slides, swings or climbing frames. Fortunately my parents decided to buy a slide for my (then) two children which they kept at their home, which was only a short walk away. Most Sundays were spent at my parents' house anyway so this worked well. Many a happy few hours were spent in my mum's pretty, yet child friendly garden. But I still had the task of finding toys to occupy the children in their own garden and still have some peace of mind. They had tricycles, pedal cars, pull along and push along toys, and a see-saw, but nothing too high; not until we moved to a house with a better garden, with lawn, anyway. And I bought them child sized tennis bats and cricket sets. But we lived in a small house and the garden was small to match. It was a case often of losing the ball and having to wait for the neighbours to throw it, or them, back. This would sometimes stop play. One day, whilst looking for outdoor games for my young son's July birthday, I saw a set of French Boules, or you may know this as Petanque. At the time I didn't know anything about this game but thought that the game must be some type of rolling the ball game. The set looked attractive in its bright colours and I thought it would be suitable to use in my own garden, the children's grandparent's garden or to take to the park. I seem to recall that this set was bought for my son (with my help) as a present from his sister who is eighteen months older than him. In all honesty I cannot be sure if the first set was bought from Early Learning Centre; over the years I have bought several sets but the last set was from this store. We began to learn the rules and loosely followed these. In our garden with such a hard surface we played by rolling the balls but when playing boules at the park, or anywhere on grass, the children attempted to throw. THE SET The set consists of six attractively bright boules two yellow, two blue and two red. The colour doesn't actually matter as long as they are distinguishable as one player's boules or balls and there are three pairs. The balls are quite heavy but clearly they won't weigh as much as the proper metal boules. The set also contains a small jack. The case makes the set easy to transport and we have taken ours too many places. THE GAME The real game of French boules is played with metal silver boules and a small white marker known as a jack or cochonnet. These are quite heavy for children, and if thrown in a small garden could cause damage. Keep away from the greenhouse! Because of the weight I have kept a toy set of boules throughout the years as, although a toy I've always found adults have fun with this game too, whether using the metal balls or plastic. Also when children visit this provides some entertainment for them without taking up barely any space in my garage. The plastic children's set is still heavy but suitable for small hands and ideal to learn the basic concept of this game. The 'real' boules are marked with different amount of stripes to show they belong to different players. The game can be played in teams or single players. With the child's set the balls are different colours to show ownership whilst playing. These sets are sometimes marked with lines going around the circumference of the ball but often the balls are only patterned. The one to throw (or roll) first needs to be decided. With serious play this would be decided by the toss of a coin but with children 'dipping' or other methods should work well. Then a spot is chosen from where to stand and begin the game. The player going first then throws the jack. This is where the game is good for all the family to play together as throwing a long distance isn't necessarily better in this game, and great strength isn't really needed either. The same player then throws or rolls (throws for adults) their first ball (boule) aiming to get as close to the marker as possible. Next the other player stands in the same starting spot (or close to with children) and throws their ball as near to the jack as they can. This may knock their opponent's ball away from the jack and this is allowed. Of course the game can be varied; I've always found it works well if younger children are allowed to stand a little nearer to the jack than their older friends or siblings. The aim is to get your ball closest to the jack. The child or player of the team having the most balls ending up nearest to the jack wins. BENEFITS We have had hours of fun with this game. My children were very competitive. When we used to play cricket in the park it would often end in tears, however I found this game to be more of a leveller skill wise. It's not always the sportiest, the eldest or fastest or even the strongest who wins. It's often surprising how quickly young children pick up how to play this game. If they get overly competitive then it's easy to change to teams, or even to change the teams around. If there are too many to play then this game lends itself well to tournaments. It's a good idea to let one keep score and a referee/umpire can be used when there is conflict as to which ball is closest; in tournaments a tape measure is produced for these times. I feel this game is great for co-ordination skills. It gets the family out in the fresh air. French boules is a game that can be played by the young with the old and the fit with the ailing. I'm not the sportiest person but I'm quite good at this game, even when playing against adults! It's a game that can be played in a garden or elsewhere as it's so easy to transport. We have taken a set on many holidays in England, and it has always been used. As this game can be played on surfaces of stones, gravel, sand or grass it makes it very versatile indeed. French boule for children can be adapted. If the child cannot yet throw properly then it can be adapted as a roll the ball game. Or an older child can throw whilst the younger one can roll. If the younger one throws the jack it may end up not so far away and this may suit the younger, not so strong player, more than the older one who perhaps will tend to throw with too much strength and the ball will land too far from the jack. I can vouch for this being family friendly as my children were spread out with the eldest being eleven years older than the youngest but we all played this at some point. Often three generations were involved in playing this. And when at the park, a game of football sometimes (often really) became too rough for the younger ones, and then this game really was useful as an adult could play this with a younger child to keep them occupied and away from harm. French boules is a good game to encourage team play and learning to take turns. THE START OF SOMETHING As I had played this game for years with the child's set, when as a family we attended my eldest sons' rugby club fun day we were asked to join in the French boules tournament. Thinking this would be a laugh and that we should join in, my husband and I along with my friend and her husband, decided to have a go. Little did we know how serious this game was taken. We had a practise and a drink (I needed Dutch courage!) Now I'm not competitive but, when we started playing we competed against a couple of teams who were sure they would beat us as we were novices. They were quite arrogant so our competitiveness came out. Well maybe it was a fluke but, believe it or not we ended up winning, much to the annoyance of some and the amusement of others. Over the years myself, my husband and our four children have all, at some point, played French boules in competitions on holiday. I find it is a way for them, and us, to make friends. For me it's a great game as there aren't many sports that I am able to participate in so this is something that helps me to feel included. When we play in amateur competitions the metal balls are used but I think if we hadn't began with the children's set we wouldn't have thought to play this. And this all started with a child's toy! WHERE TO PURCHASE/PRICE My latest set is from Early learning Centre and it cost £5.00. ELC recommends this toy to be suitable for children from eighteen months of age. Argos also sell a set which is priced at £4.99. This set contains eight balls so may prove better value.