School trips, school camps, family holidays. David Green gives some practical tips on
Keeping Children Happy
On the journey
`Look out and admire the view, dear!’ rarely works for long. Variety is the key (although recently a friend of mine enjoyed a peaceful seven-hour car journey by playing cassettes of stories for his two young children). Word games like `My Aunt likes coffee but she doesn’t like tea’, where the object is to work out why she is so fussy and strange, go down well.
She likes letters but she doesn’t like mail, books but not stories, greens but not peas – in fact she only likes things which contain a double letter.
Try inventing `detective stories’, where they have to work out, by asking questions, what really happened.
`A man lives on the fourteenth floor of a block of flats. Every day he goes down in the lift from the fourteenth floor to go to work. At night when he returns he gets into the lift at the ground floor level, presses the seventh floor button, gets out of the lift at the seventh floor and walks up the stairs the rest of the way to the fourteenth floor. Why does he do that?’
(He’s a dwarf and can’t reach any higher than the seventh floor button.)
The Puffin Book of Car Games is a great source. `Traffic Bingo’ requires pencil and paper. Each player draws a nine-square grid (or have sonic ready). He then fills in the blank squares with nine two-digit numbers of his own choice. One person, appointed `caller’, calls out the last two digits on the number-plate of each approaching car. (Ignore those with only a single digit.) Any player with the called number crosses it out. The winner is the first person to get three crosses in a line (vertically, horizontally, or diagonally): Bingo!
When you are there
It is important not to organise every single moment of every day. Children need some time to relax and play at their own pace or just to be alone. On the other hand, to provide nothing organised but excursions is to miss out on a unique opportunity. You don’t need to be a specialist for these.
Outdoor Day-time Activities
Games, apart from the usual team games which not every child wants to play, can vary from an It’s a Knockout Tournament to smaller games like this one for two players called `Halt’.
1. Two players of similar height stand back to back, and at a signal start to walk away front each other. Either one of the players (as arranged) calls `Halt’ and both stop walking and turn round.
2. One of the players must now give an estimate of the number of strides he will take to reach the other. When he has given this figure, the other may either give a lower one if he thinks lie can do it in fewer, or say `Do it’. If a lower number is given, the bidding continues until one says `Do it’.
3. The player then told to do it must, without a run up, stride towards the other. If he does it in the number estimated, he is the winner; if not the other wins.
A match is the best of five games.
`Wide Games’, involving plenty of space, can be as elaborate or as simple as you choose to make them. Colony Holidays has its own formula with a strong fantasy element (usually based on a literary source such as one of Edward Lear’s nonsense poems) where the object of the game might be to find the Pobble’s toes. The game can involve tracking, following trails, stalking, decoding, doing tasks, avoiding baddies, etc. They require a considerable amount of organisation and preparation but are well worth the effort. Don’t make the codes too complicated though; it leads to immense frustration if children can’t crack them. (Why not give them the key?) `Orienteering’, both at night or during the day, is an exciting variation.
Singing is excellent for bringing people together. Unfortunately today many children have a built-in resistance to it. However, it is possible to win back interest and enjoyment. I like to start with action songs which are akin to games and therefore immediately acceptable. Rounds and echo songs achieve instant harmony without great difficulty.
Drama. Drama games are a good way in. Some would say that child drama should be personal and not public – I believe there is a place for both. Performing in front of others can be both challenging and nerve-wracking, but in the end is a rewarding experience and I have observed many children grow in stature and self-confidence as a result of the appreciation of their performance.
Making Things. A simple idea, using a branch of a dead tree, is to let children saw sections off the branch (preferably about two inches in diameter) and spend a long time smoothing each one with fine sandpaper. Then drill a hole, and perhaps write a name or the place where you are staying on it using a waterproof felt pen. Coat it with polyurethane varnish, thread string through the hole and you have a pendant to take home.
TV games are very popular, especially variations on `Call My Bluff’, `What’s My Line’, or `Double Your Money’. This last has become `Double Your Smartie’, `Double your Winegum’ etc. and is simply a quiz game in which the contestant answers questions (they need to be geared carefully to the abilities of the children playing). The right answer gets a smartie. The child can then decide whether to stop or try to answer another one for two smarties and so on.
A programme of stories, told or read, poems, and records always goes down well. This needs preparation to get a balance between short and long, live and recorded, comic and serious, etc.
Indoor party games
My current favourite is `Happy Families’.
1. Take from a pack of `happy Families’ enough cards for cacti player to have one. They must add up to complete families.
2. Each player has a card and there is a `mill around’ period while players swop them face downwards.
3. On the signal `happy Families’, each player keeps the card lie has, looks at it, and by shouting the name of the family, e.g. `Grits’, `Bones’, etc. tries to find the other members.
4. When the family is complete, they all sit on one chair in a set order, e.g. Mr on the chair, Mrs on his lap, etc. The last family to sit down is out.
Chorus: The Puffin Colony Song Book, edited by David Green, Puffin, 0 14 03.0941 1, 95p
Codes and Secret Writing, Herbert S. Zim, Piccolo, 0 330 02822 7, 40p
100+ Ideas for Drama, Anna Scher and Charles Verrall, Heinemann Educational, 0 435 18799 6, 0.40
Puzzlers for Young Detectives, K. Franken, Piccolo, 0 330 23196 0, 40p
The Puffin Book of Car Games, Douglas St P. Barnard, Puffin, 0 14 03.0845 8, 65p
Colony Holidays has a wealth of experience although most of it is not published. Courses are run, however, and details can be obtained by writing to: Colony Holidays, Linden Manor, Upper Colwall, NY Great Malvern, Worcestershire WR13 6PP.
David Green is Staff Development and Training Officer for Save the Children. He worked as a teacher in South Yorkshire for five years, and ran numerous school journeys, before running a children’s community centre in Cambridge. For the last ten years he has worked for Colony Holidays both as a director of holidays and a trainer. He is married with one small child and lives in London.
Results of the Piccolo Olympics Competition
It was tremendous to receive so many entries for the Piccolo Olympics Competition. Some schools were so enthusiastic they even went to the trouble of producing their own duplicated entry forms. Here are the names of the winners who will by now have received their prize – a copy of Piccolo’s Olympics 1980:
Ian Gray, Teresa Jeffries and Kerry Wood, all of Bristol; Jane Bateman, Neil Cushing, Jason Maslen, Jane Nichols and Shane Wesson, all of Kingsfield School, Bristol; James Clark, Mark Gilder and Spencer Harlow, all of Great Yarmouth; Samantha Croft, Lee Trimby, Kim Walton and Robert Wing, all of Wecock Middle School, Portsmouth; Michelle Bates, Tracy Carless, Johanna Gresty, Paul Hill, Gillian Patterson, Amanda Shore and Joanne Thompson, all of Ridgeway Junior School, Walsall.
Bookworm for Bookworms
Children in schools in the north-west have been enjoying their own magazine about books for over a year now. It comes out three times a year and contains an author-interview, crossword, tasters of books, reviews from children and lots of lively illustrations. We think it’s rather good.
If you’d like a sample copy to see if you’d like to order more of the autumn issue to sell to children, write to Eunice McMullen (she’s the book-mad teacher who produces it) at Howarth Cross Middle School, Albert Royds Street, Rochdale, Lancashire. Please enclose 25p to cover the cost of the magazine and postage.