These lazy days of summer are the perfect time for your kids to get outdoors. Think there’s no social studies to be found outside? Think again! Petanque, a traditional French lawn game, is a wonderful activity to entertain groups of kids and help them learn a little bit about other cultures. Jouer à la balle! (Play ball!)
Explain to your child that petanque is a French ball game (somewhat similar to horseshoes) that developed during the early 1900s in the Provence region of France. It is still played in France and throughout the world with hollow metal balls called “boules.” Your child can play with tennis balls.
At least 2 people should play. Make 2 teams with the same number of people (up to 4) per team. Teams of 1 or 2 players get 3 balls per player; teams with 3 or 4 players get 2 balls per person. Write “1” with the marker on Team 1 balls, and “2” on the others.
Find a semi-hard surface (compact soil, concrete, or a solid grassy yard) so balls can roll. The space should be 12 feet by 40 feet or larger.
Use chalk to draw a circle about 20 inches in diameter any place on the play area.
Have Team 1’s first player stand in the circle and throw the ball, making sure his feet stay inside the circle. He should aim for the ball to land 18 to 30 feet away. Write “T” for “Target” on this ball.
Other Team 1 players (if any) now take turns each throwing a ball while keeping their feet inside the circle. Players should each try to get their ball as close to the target ball as possible.
Next, each Team 2 player goes in the circle to throw one ball, aiming to get even closer to the target. They can try to knock away any of Team 1’s balls so that theirs is closer to the target.
Whichever team does not have the leading ball goes next, each throwing a ball until they are leading. Then the next team takes turns.
When a team has no balls left, the other team throws their remaining balls.
After all balls are thrown, the leading team scores 1 point for each of its balls which are closer to the target than any balls from the other team.
A new circle is drawn in the old target area, and the game starts again. Play usually continues until one team reaches 13 points total—may the best team win!
Beth Levin has an M.A. in Curriculum and Education from Columbia University Teachers College. She has written educational activities for Macmillan/McGraw-Hill and Renaissance Learning publishers. She has a substitute teaching credential for grades K-12 in Oregon, where she lives with her husband and two daughters.