Baby, let’s go bowling

A day out patting around on the faux turf is a relaxing way to past the time. Young folk are increasingly returning to local bowls clubs, there is a resurgence as we hanker to reconnect in a calm setting where snacks and beverages are not far away. People gather for barbeques, birthdays and now bring their babies. Bowling with Babies has slowly built momentum throughout Melbourne’s suburbs. With Vic Health supporting the initiative, families have even more incentive to get together, refine skills on the green, work in some exercise and enjoy some fresh air with their little ones in tow.

As it happens, lawn bowls lends itself well to this demographic. It is safe, easy going and fun. Neil Gray has a great interest in sport. He has worked in the sporting world, in cricket. After his son Freddie was born two and a half years ago, he saw an opportunity to refresh the usual parenting catch ups and involve sport and the great outdoors, rather than meeting in a hall or class room setting.

“I had a flexible work schedule and my wife is a teacher, so I went to a lot of the ‘activities’ when she returned to work. Gymbaroo, swimming, coffee shop catch-ups etcetera. When I got the role with Bowls Victoria I thought that Bowls clubs, which are greatly underutilised during the year, would be ideal venues for Mother’s groups to congregate, have a low impact physical activity and the little ones would have loads of room to roam around safely.”

Bowls is usually seen as a sport for the older portion of society, but the pace is good for any age, and as this program has shown, it is ideal for babies. They can crawl about on the turf. Socialise with other babies and practice their fine and gross motor skills. Meanwhile, the adults get to do the same.

“We aim to have bowls clubs as a hub for the community with a real open doors policy and welcoming to all,” said Gray.

“The sport and this program bring generations together and introduces new families to the sport and venue where they can socialise at the weekend and in many instances, we have seen Mums who attend the program make long lasting friendships and even gain a great number of “pseudo” grandparents!”

For many years playgroups have been designated to education precincts- halls, schools, community hubs- and yet playgroups can go anywhere and do a variety of things. In fact, a variety of play experiences and environments are good for children. The change in scenery is especially good for parents and carers to reenergise and indulge in self-care. The physical component of bowls is beneficial for the mind and body. As is greenery and the sunshine.  

Statistics have shown that bowling has created positive change in participants. This extends to exercise habits, a sense of enjoyment and confidence.    

“Nine per cent of attendees have shown a significant rise in physical activity following the program. 30 per cent said this was their first organised physical activity in one-three years!” said Gray.

“Confidence to participate in bowls has gone from 3.1/10 to 5.5/10. Bowling skills have gone from 2.3/10 to 4.3/10. 97 per cent of participants would recommend bowls and 82 per cent said that participating with children increased enjoyment. 978 parents can’t be wrong.”

Attendees are encouraged to pack a picnic, grab a coffee, kick back to enjoy. There’s no pressure here to be structured, to overshare or overcommit. It is intended to be relaxing; a time to bond and to play.

“The mums and dads have loads of fun as well, so the old adage of happy parent happy child prevails,” said Gray.

Bringing baby- what is supplied at the venue?

Bowls Clubs who run Bowling with Babies are fully equipped for little crawlers on the green. Clubs provide change tables, comfortable feeding areas, blankets and playpens. There is also plenty of time crawling on the green. Older children are welcome, but the more mobile they are the more mum or dad has to keep an eye on them!

Each club has worked closely with Bowls Victoria to ensure their facilities are suitable and their club welcoming to all families - including dedicated and supportive volunteers.

 Why Bowls?

•             It's fun and social

•             Keeps you fit and health

•             Enhances mental wellbeing

•             It's inexpensive to play

•             It's a sport for all abilities

•             Improves cognitive function

Learn more here-

Register here-

 Article by Sinead Halliday

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