Have you ever thought about how bowling can be therapeutic and beneficial for kids? Today occupational therapist Cara Koscinski of PocketOT.com continues our series on the therapeutic benefits of recreational activities as she explains the therapeutic benefits of bowling!
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Bowling is one of the oldest sports in existence and was even played by the Romans. Many people enjoy participating in bowling leagues, with family and friends, and as a professional sport. The best part is that bowling is a sport for kids of all ages. Families can play together and often eat fun foods while at the lanes. Serious bowlers enjoy choosing their own ball and even have holes custom drilled to fit their hands.
Bowling is easily scored (mostly by computers) and can be adapted for people of all skill levels.
One of my favorite things about working with children who have special needs is taking them out into the community to participate in leisure tasks. In fact, one of the areas in which occupational therapists work is community integration and participation. Many community bowling alleys will be happy to work with therapists during the ‘non-busy’ times in morning and early afternoon. It’s best to call ahead of time and let them know that you’re coming. Ask if the manager will work with you to turn off the flashy lighting, which can evoke a fight or flight reaction. My local alley even asks my clients which type of music they’d like to listen to while bowling!
I encourage kids to stretch before beginning to loosen up the muscles and joints. We place our arms out to the sides and rotate them in large and then small circles. Encourage kids to do jumping jacks, leg lunges, or any exercise which they are able to complete.
Choosing the ball’s weight and color is fun and exciting for kids. The best part is that the alley has balls which are lightweight. Bowling balls come in weights from six to sixteen pounds. Some bowlers choose balls which are ten percent of their body weight. I recommend that you choose a lightweight ball for your clients.
Many alleys have ramps available for use with children, those who have special needs, or older adults who are not able to swing the ball. The ramps are fun and allow participation by everyone!
Oftentimes when the pins are older and unusable, the alley will either offer them for purchase or give them away if asked. I love it when my clients bring their friends along to play and we can all sign our names with marker on the pin as a souvenir! Did you know that bowling pins are often made of maple wood and stand fifteen inches tall?
One of the benefits of bowling is that it can easily be done with friends or a group with no pressure to converse with each other. Many of my clients enjoy talking about scores, ball colors, and the pattern that the standing pins make. One of my favorite things to do is to encourage kids to cooperate instead of playing an individual game. As a group, we try to get the highest score we can.
Facilitating social skills is one of the best benefits of bowling.
One of my favorite therapeutic benefits of bowling is that it helps to build patience. A player must wait until the sweeper arm is finished doing its job before taking a second turn. Additionally, the ball needs to make its return to the player through the automatic system. Many of the children I work with become excited and have difficulty waiting their turn. To play the game, they must learn to wait until it’s their turn before playing again. Decreasing impulsive behavior is a common goal for many of my clients and bowling is the perfect way to work on this skill.
Finally, the muscles of the arm and entire body work together in order to throw the bowling ball. Core muscles need to engage for body stability. Leg muscles bend to provide a stable base for the bowler. Arm muscles co-contract to provide the motions of throwing the ball down the alley. This is not only great strengthening, but also great “heavy work” for kids who may seek out more intense sensory input to their muscles and joints throughout the day.
I recommend practicing bowling with plastic pins and a weighted ball in the clinic for a few sessions prior to your field trip to the bowling facility. This way, children will know what the actions feel like and can practice the key skills, including shifting body weight for the task.
I hope you’ll consider taking your child or client on a bowling field trip. It’s a sport that promotes family fun while working on many skills that kids will use throughout their lifetime.
If you’d like more information about bowling for children who use a wheelchair, contact the America Wheelchair Bowlers Association at http://awba.org.
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Cara Koscinski is a long-time pediatric occupational therapist, speaker, and author of the Pocket Occupational Therapist book series. She is the mother to two sons with autism. Her books include, The Pocket Occupational Therapist for Caregivers of Children with Special Needs and the Special Needs SCHOOL Survival Guide for Autism, ADHD, Learning Disabilities, and More! For more information, visit her website at www.PocketOT.com.
Previous posts in this series on Mama OT:
Therapeutic Benefits of Swimming
Therapeutic Benefits of Horseback Riding
Therapeutic Benefits of Playing at the Park
Therapeutic Benefits of Hiking
Therapeutic Benefits of Rock Climbing
Therapeutic Benefits of Exploring Nature
Therapeutic Benefits of Playing with Giant Bubbles
Additional posts coming up in this series! (in no particular order):
Therapeutic Benefits of Bike Riding
Therapeutic Benefits of Dance
Therapeutic Benefits of Gymnastics
Therapeutic Benefits of Running
Therapeutic Benefits of Surfing
Therapeutic Benefits of Yoga
Therapeutic Benefits of Exploring Nature (from a Speech Therapy perspective)
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