“I am Tiger Woods.” Okay, so maybe your child won’t be saying that after a round of golf at your local putt-putt course. But he’ll be picking up more than just golf balls once he’s through. That’s right, mini-golf can teach your child a few things about life, too.
First, go when it won’t be too crowded (call ahead). There’s nothing worse than feeling rushed through miniature golf with a preschooler who insists on hitting the ball and getting it in the hole – all by himself. Also, sign up for 9 - not 18 - holes. You’ll likely be ready to call it a day after that.
So what can your preschooler learn from a colored golf ball and pint-sized club? For one, he’ll strengthen his hand-eye coordination and balance. If you’ve ever played golf, you know that making contact with that tiny ball is not a walk in the park. You need a good stance, a gentle touch, patience and practice. If your child is new to mini golf, reassure him that he may not hit the ball on the first try, and that sometimes even the pros whiff it. Encourage him to take his time, get his balance, and swing until he does. Vocabulary word opportunity: mulligan. For the non-golfers out there, a mulligan is a shot that, against the rules, a golfer allows an opponent to take again. In mini-golf, there is no cap on these.
What goes up must come down, right? He’ll get a quick physics lesson as well. Especially from those pesky holes that are all uphill to the elusive hole sitting under a giant windmill. The ball has a funny way of changing its mind at the top and rolling back to where it started. It may take a few putts to get the ball to stay put.
Speaking of windmills, he’ll learn about timing and velocity too. When one of the windmill’s sails comes down, he’ll need to whack the ball hard enough, but not too hard, at precisely the right time to get it through the opening. You are allowed to help here by yelling, “Now!” Otherwise you may be at that hole awhile.
Keep the mood light. There is a fine line between having fun and exasperation. Teach him it’s okay to laugh at his mistakes. Then make a few yourself (for some, this may not be hard – mini-golf isn’t what it used to be!) and laugh aloud as the ball races back to your feet, or jumps up and lands at the next hole.
Above all, don’t make it a competition. Let him hit your ball in once in awhile if it’s closer to the hole. Throw away that score card they give you. The only thing that should count here is fun quality family time. If you all walk away smiling, you know you’ve hit a hole in one.