As someone who escaped the experience of teaching his five-year-old nephew to bowl with only a minor skull fracture and minimal orthodontic surgery, I feel I’ve acquired a level of expertise that could be helpful. Let’s begin with shoes. Changing into your bowling shoes while in the carpeted area will give you a false sense of security, making you less prepared for the realization that walking in tractionless shoes on a highly-waxed surface is a lot like strapping soap bars to your feet and trying to cross a wet mirror.
Ironically, children have the natural ability to perform double axels over the same surface. Which isn’t to say that you won’t; it’s just that theirs will be on purpose.
When it comes to selecting a bowling ball with a child, remember: At some point it will be hurled backwards and into your stomach, chin, and/or groin. So go light, and make sure the child’s fingers fit the holes snuggly. A ball that’s moving out of control but still attached to a small child can provide you with an extra two seconds of reaction time.
As most bowlers know, delivery style is a crucial element to success. A curve or spin placed at just the right arc can mean the difference between a strike or split. Fortunately, you won’t have to worry about either since a child’s delivery is closer to something like this:
Walk up to line.
Lift ball over head.
Throw ball straight down.
Get soda while ball is moved by earth’s gravity toward pins.
It’s at this point that the bowling alley’s manager will offer your child free, personal instruction that begins immediately.
Next, don’t forget to ask for bumpers, which are metal gates about six inches high that extend to block the gutters and keep the ball in play. In addition to that, consider bringing along some extra fencing [chain-link is best] that can be attached to the bumpers. Though the metal gates keep the ball in play, the fencing will ensure that play remains in your lane.
Finally, it’s inevitable that children become infatuated with the ball-return mechanism, which, as I explained it, is sort of like a giant throat that hacks up bowling balls from somewhere beneath the lanes. At some point, children will begin hovering around it in spite of your warnings that ball-return machines have been known to suddenly switch into reverse and suck small children into them, where they are forced to live as pin-setters until released by a 800-series bowler.
This warning makes no difference to a 5-or 6-year-old drawn to the mystery of the ball-return machine. Which brings me to my final suggestion:
If you have children that bowls, always keep a spare.
(You can write to Ned Hickson at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at Siuslaw News at P.O. Box 10, Florence, Ore. 97439)