A Rola Bola Christmas

Rola Bola in use

I had a lot of fun on rola bolas when they were introduced at a Spacial Dynamics training. I managed to buy a board and some PVC pipe, but I’m not much of a power tools and sawdust girl. It began to look as if I had added to the clutter in our home rather than moved closer to my new toy.

I called my Dad and suggested that we make a rola bola as a father-daughter project when I visited over Christmas. “A what?” I e-mailed a description with measurements and links to some YouTube videos.

He called a few days later to ask if I really wanted to be involved or could he go ahead and make it in advance. Having completed one, he called again to ask if I would like to have two — perhaps the second one in a slightly shorter length?

Of course, they’re beautiful. Dad bought high quality stair treads, rounded the edges and corners, inset the screws on the stoppers on the bottom. My mother applied sealer to the bare wood and they added two strips of grip tape to prevent feet from sliding. Gorgeous. I was pleased to find it’s a skill like riding a bike: I was able to get up right away and not embarrass myself — even after months of no practice.

We had seventeen family members over on Christmas Day, five of them children ages seven to eleven. I had expected they would find the rola bolas fun for a little while. I had not expected to spend most of four hours spotting them or the need to set to a three-minute timer to ensure fair rotations.

Each child met the challenge in a different way — one with fierce determination and focus, another with cheery laughter. Their lack of common sense surprised me. More than one child tried to mount by first stepping on the high side of the board. More than one child tried to dismount by first taking a foot off the side that was touching the ground. We had only one real fall, no broken toes, no trips to the emergency room. A good day.

I was grateful for the practice guidelines that had been modeled at the SDI training.

You must have a spotter until you pass the Level 1 Test:

Stay up without the board touching the ground…
…for 10 slow seconds
…while bending to touch the board
…while bending to touch the ground

The test gave them a target. It also cut any discussion about whether or not they needed an adult close by. Soon, all five children had passed Level 1 and wanted to know what they had to do for Level 2. I got my juggling balls and had them play catch, alternating right hand and left hand. Before long, we had two Level 1 graduates up on rola bolas facing one another and tossing balls back and forth. We also had children clamoring for their own Dads to make them a rola bola, too.

So hooray for Dads who make toys for their children. And hooray for children who spend time becoming more skillful.

I live far away and don’t see these particular children very often. They might or might not be interested in rola bolas next time I’m in town. But I enjoy planting seeds, giving them experiences of seeing and trying and getting better at something. I would love to set them up so that when they see someone else doing an impressive feat they know, “That’s a skill. I could acquire that skill, too, if I just spend some time working at it.”

What about you?

Any great and memorable gifts from your Dad?

Any fun skill-based activities with children?

PS: If this post has inspired you to try a rola bola, don’t go it alone! Please start out with a spotter. I’ll write a post on safety tips soon. If you have one for your children, make sure to provide spotting when friends come over.

If you’d like to make your own, see: How to Make a Rola Bola: Tips from Kim’s Dad

Dec 28

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