Product Type: ELC Outdoor Toy
Newest Review: ... 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 bar... more
CHILD'S PLAY BUT FUN FOR ALL THE FAMILY
ELC Set of Boules
Member Name: lak11
ELC Set of Boules
Date: 16/04/11, updated on 10/07/12 (154 review reads)
Advantages: A very adaptable, transportable game for all the family
Disadvantages: None really
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 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 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.
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.
Summary: A good set to keep at home or to buy as a party present. Suits a good age range.
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