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13 Reasons Why Your Kids Should Play Pinball (Yes, the Arcade Game…)

Pinball had a dubious beginning, from mob rumors to early versions that lacked a flipper, thus were all chance and no skill. Consequently, pinball was banned in many parts of the United States and Canada well into the 1970s. However, with the invention of the flipper in 1947, pinball evolved into a game of skill and strategy and has some less obvious health benefits. 

Pinball is a fun game that gets kids off screens and on their feet. It teaches crucial skills such as patience, good sportsmanship, strategy, and turn-taking. It also develops eye-hand coordination and other motor skills. The game boosts self-confidence and promotes positive behavior. 

Pinball isn’t just a way to have fun and get kids off their bums and onto their feet (but it does that too). Pinball is a valuable tool for developing skills and is used as a therapy tool at hospitals, senior centers, and learning development centers, such as working with Autistic kids. Thus, here are 13 reasons kids should play pinball, including yours. 

1. Pinball Gets Kids Off Screens

Pinball gets kids off the screens and focuses their attention on something else. By now, we all are aware of what too much screen time does to our eyes. Thus, it is important to encourage children to take a break and do something else. By redirecting to pinball, the parent or caretaker is making it clear that they are not anti-fun; they just want the kid to give their eyes a break. 

2. Pinball Is Done Standing Up

Pinball is a game that is done standing on our feet. WHO has released warnings to parents on how lack of exercise and movement negatively impacts mental and physical health. Teaching children at a young age to take part in activities standing up will help them as they advance into adulthood. 

The issue goes beyond exercise. Yes, being physically active is essential. But sitting too much can have severe repercussions on our well-being even if we exercise. Just standing on your feet, rather than sitting down, can help improve a person’s health. Thus, pinball is an excellent and fun way to get your kids on their feet even when they don’t feel like running around. 

3. Pinball Can Be A STEAM Project

Pinball can swiftly be turned into a rainy-day-STEAM-project (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics). The internet is full of various ways children can make their own pinball games. By employing their design and problem-solving skills, the kids can even try creating a unique version of pinball. 

To help get you started with pinball ideas, here are a few fun DIY pinball tutorials:

4. Pinball Is Nonviolent (usually)

Parents and education groups sometimes have concerns over the violence in children’s gaming. But pinball is an innocent challenge with no guns, knives, or bloodshed. It’s a ball game with lights and buttons, almost as American as baseball and apple pie. 

Well, the actual playing of the game is nonviolent. But unfortunately, children have the remarkable ability to make even standing in line a dangerous sport. Never mind the little darling that decides to climb on the pinball machine to test gravity. Childhood: it’s incredible how many survive it. 

5. Pinball Can Be A Social Activity

Pinball gives children a common activity and topic to discuss. They cheer each other on, compare scores, warn each other about obstacles, and will debate the pros and cons of various game strategies. It acts as an icebreaker and glue for groups that might not seem to have much in common. Thus, social loaners will have a way “in” that they might not otherwise when just “hanging out.”

6. Pinball Improves Eye-hand Coordination

Pinball is a game that develops eye-hand coordination. There has been a plethora of studies supporting how crucial eye-hand coordination is in children’s development. But centers for seniors have also found pinball a fun way to slow down the deterioration of eye-hand coordination. Thus, pinball is a perfect game for grandkids to play with their grandparents. 

7. Pinball Is Accessible

The accessibility of pinball makes it the perfect game to have around when dealing with groups of children with ranging skill levels, ages, and challenges, including mental and physical.  

While there are levels of the game that can become more complicated, at its most basic, it has few rules. Essentially, stick your token in and keep the ball from shooting past the flippers.

 Arcade Access has also developed versions that can be played by people in wheelchairs and quadriplegics. This accessibly has made it useful in rehabilitation hospitals. 

8. Pinball Teaches Patience And Timing

Pinball teaches the valuable lifelong lessons of patience and timing. Strategies such as just whacking the ball whenever with the nearest flipper will lead to poor scores. To gain better scores and longer gameplay, kids have to learn to wait and allow the ball to hit key spots and angles. 

With patience, kids can even master the “catch,” holding the ball on a flipper, providing them more time to consider their move. Thus, in pinball, patience is rewarded. 

9. Pinball Has Been Used As A Lesson In Grief

Pinball has a history of being used as an analogy in grief. Thus, youth centers and youth groups sometimes use pinball as a way to explain to children that grief isn’t linear. As children play, allowed to focus on the box rather than an adult’s eyes, they are more likely to relax and open up. The game enables places for pause without the awkward silence. 

10. Pinball Teaches Strategy

Pinball is an excellent game to develop strategy. Safer, less risky moves are rewarded with fewer points. On the other hand, high-scoring moves can bring big rewards but also end the game. Thus, children are presented with a situation akin to the fable, The Tortoise in the Hare.  

  • Do they try slow and steady? 
  • Do they just shoot big? 
  • Or can they find the right mix of safe moves with larger shots interspersed? 

11. Pinball Encourages Conversation

Many children (and adults) find conversation awkward, even between people they love, such as their parents. Pinball provides a common ground, a safe space, where comments can begin on the game. Interaction no longer feels as forced or staged because a game is occurring, taking up spaces that might otherwise feel awkward. 

12. Pinball Has Been Used To Help Kids With ASD

Pinball has been an excellent tool to help kids with Autism (ASD). From hospitals to small organizations, pinball has been a refreshing activity outside of the standard therapy routines. Benefits of having pinball as part of Autism therapy include:

  • Promoting positive behavior
  • Learning tact
  • Promoting goal setting
  • Building coping strategies
  • Developing self-confidence
  • Promoting emotional communication
  • Developing verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Improving motor skills

Robert Gagno, 2017 world pinball champion, credits Autism as part of his success with pinball. Certain Autistic qualities such as the ability to focus, make quick calculations, and a strong visual memory are strengths in pinball. 

But Gagno also points to how pinball has helped him learn to live with Autism. 

  • Learning turn-taking
  • Sportsmanship
  • Developing small talk
  • Boosting self-esteem
  • An avenue to make friends

13. Pinball Is Fun

Most importantly, pinball is fun. Children need healthy activities that promote joy in a world of wars, pandemics, and other uncertainties. We all deserve fun in our lives. Pinball provides a safe space where children can happily challenge themselves, try out new things, and revel in the minimal consequences of a “game over.” They are on their feet, focused, and laughing––beautiful. 

Last Word

Pinball is a healthy pastime used by hospitals, therapists, and youth community groups for a plethora of mental and physical benefits. It teaches children crucial lessons such as patience, sportsmanship, and developing strategy. But most of all, pinball is a blast to play, no matter your age.