Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Kid Stuff

Child’s play overview – at ages 3, 6, and 12, it was tough to find activities, during their recent holiday break, that challenged them all, for any length of time.  However, the following are some ‘games’/activities we found and created, together (note the authorship role), since their ‘buy-in’ to a particular activity was essential.  These games, as well, are dynamic, meaning any component could be altered to created something new and to maintain excitement.  While Landscape Architecture indirectly involves psychology, the use of materials and space proved a grounds for design, with them...Creativity with a camera allowed for their indoctrination into mixed media.

TIME TO MAKE:  Board, 5 minutes / Bean bags, 5 minutes.  
BENEFITS:  Motor skills, Mathematics (addition, especially with tens-place numerals/”carrying the one”), Social and Game Rules (taking turns and fun-loving ‘jabbing’), Outdoor Activity

Looking for free stuff to do with your children or grandchildren?  This was ‘relatively-free,’ provided you have the following:  hard surface greater than 10' x 10', such as a driveway, sidewalk chalk, old socks (2 pair [need not be matching?!]), and a bag of dried beans [ours were garbanzo].  
The 'board' and socks (the score tells the story!)
The background:  while our daughter was mulling around the yard, looking for something to do, I pondered my sock drawer, full to the brim.  And oh, could those socks tell volumes, if they could speak – from meetings with Politicians, Developers, or Committees that greatly changed the ‘landscape’ of Southwest Florida – but I digress…so I grab two old pairs, fill them with beans, about a handful a piece, and tied a simple knot at the middle (the final product is shown in the photo), leaving a 'tail.'  Then I asked my daugher to help me draw concentric circles with the chalk.  She loves to draw, so this task was easy, and I allowed her curiosity to take hold, by not giving in to her inquiry of what we were doing, drawing, or going to do.  We then colored in the ‘bands’ created, and from the center, applied even numbers to each band with ‘8’ at the center.  She’s in kindergarten, so the concept of even numbers was easily-recognized, as well as the concept of adding, by tallying each round of throws.
The ‘rules’ were easy:  each round consisted of a four sock throw, per person, from a distance of about 10 feet.  Me-being-me I threw from about twice that.  Each sock or bean bag, must be held by the tail and swung, then released, providing a bit more challenge.  Three ‘cut-throat’ rounds for the best score (we also played best shot with one throw a piece), made it fun, and while hamming it up, the scores show whose boss (“d,” on the graphic, stands for Dad).  This take on the popular cornhole game (or yard darts when I was growing up), proved a winner.  And as we brought up chairs and let the afternoon unfold, drew our scores right on the driveway, temporarily (until the next rain) showing who the real winner was that day!

TIME TO MAKE:  15 minutes or less depending upon the trimming involved.  
BENEFITS:  Motor skills, Structural and Spatial Creativity, Social and Game Rules, Outdoor Activity/Calisthenics (based upon the activity created), Role Playing (if sticks are used in action games as walking sticks, telescope, etc.).  
sword, light saber, fort post, or limbo bar - let them be the judge
The background:  trim your yard and what do you have?  Well, in this case, from bamboo poles the potential to create an obstacle course, limbo bar (held in the boots between two palm trees), or an easy-to-stand tepee (with the aid of some rope at the top/kids used old palm fronds to give the tepee its sides).  What started out as yard debris and turned to a quick exercise in ‘reuse’ of waste, has become a take of 'pick up sticks.'  The photo shows the finished product, and this yard scrap has been put to good use for over 6 months.  Each bamboo pole was trimmed of lateral branches and cut to various lengths; however, bear in mind, any smooth surface stick or branch, greater than 1” in diameter should provide enough lateral strength (depending upon the species) to avoid breaking after being stepped on.  
With our children, the only ‘rule’ was provided:  hitting each other was unacceptable and meant the game was over.  The amount of game combinations is endless.  However, I have found that I need to sporadically 'feed' their creative side, to create new games.  For example, in ‘slide bowling,’ a kickball is released from the top of the slide, dropping down, to knock objects over – the kids integrated slide bowling, with the  sticks, forming two parallel rails, which then ‘guided’ the ball straight or around turns, on a track, to knock down plastic bowling pins.  ‘Forts’ and additional children’s creations from these simple sticks, or kit of parts, has proven endless.

TIME TO MAKE:  n/a; you need a digital camera and computer to edit, arrange, and organize the pics.  
BENEFITS:  Motor skills, Visual Creativity, Outdoor Activity, and Organizational Skills.  
The background:  our children watch me take photos with work through "free" means via my Blackberry, and more Professional means, with a Sony Alpha series and a Tamron 28-300 mm zoom [no lens change required!].
Naturally, they ask "Can I take a picture, Daddy?"  And of course, I reply, "well, not with Daddy's work camera, but..."  So this set the stage for some gifts, one camera that was "basic" and ran about $35 and one that had greater pic density and enabled video with sound, $80.  The only 'rules' set were to be careful with the camera.  If broken, it would not be replaced.  We started out simply enough - no rules.  The pictures were great, everything from wide angle to close ups, especially compelling due to the 3.5' vantage point!  They were shown the value of editing their pictures, since these were basic memory cards and were quick-to-fill the camera.
Then boredom set in - we countered by starting impromptu competitions based upon places, themes, or limits - all designed to reign-in and re-inject enthusiasm.
Another extremely-valuable lesson was the conversion from indoor-to-outdoor activity, as the downloads began.  To them, it was the magic of seeing what the device captured, appearing, larger of course, on the computer screen.  And to facilitate organization, dates in the filename, tags, and album labels soon got the creative juices flowing and showed how organization of 'files' will allow for quick reference later...this will be a lesson they will retain over the course of their lifetime, since "hard copy" photos of an entire roll of film are of a by-gone era...
The enthusiasm for this 'play' ebbs-and-flows; but every time I take a shot with my 'big guy' gear, I hear footsteps down the hall, as they gather their gear for a whole new round of photos.

For more child's play ideas:

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