The Rule of Fun

All too often when kids are being dropped off to their ski lessons, are the sage parental parting words, ‘Make sure you have fun!’ or the succinct, ‘Have fun!’. As if their kids not only have permission, but have an obligation to have said ‘fun’. Or maybe they were destined to forget about having fun because they’re in a lesson. ‘Okay, since you told me to ‘Have fun’, I suppose I better!’ And then, at the end of the lesson, when they pick up the kids the first question is invariably, ‘So, did you have fun?’

Ski lessons can be many things to many people, but a prime motivator for kids, or anyone for that matter, to do anything is that it is ‘Fun’.

‘Fun’ is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as ‘what provides amusement or enjoyment; specifically: playful often boisterous action or speech.’ However, ‘fun’ is subjective and there are many definitions of what ‘fun’ is or what may constitute ‘fun’. In the outdoors adventure world a ‘Fun Scale’ has emerged, the lines between the types of fun may be a little fuzzy, here I’ll try to explain.

Type I: This type of fun could be considered your standard, typical fun. Going to the movies or having a couple of drinks with friends, for example. The effort and commitment requirements are low, it is easy to maintain and you wish it would continue. Whilst there are fond memories of having fun, there is no emotional journey and as result, there is little sense of achievement. Participants either don’t need a specific skill set for immediate success or they already have the skills required, though, someones Type 1 might be some else’s Type 2.

We like to try to keep the first time skiing experience as Type I fun as possible. The more positive this experience, the more our guests will come back to invest more effort and become more emotionally involved. This sets them up for Type 2. Skiing with friends on familiar terrain fits Type I fun. As an experienced skier Powder days are definitely Type I fun!

Type II: This type of fun takes more effort and commitment than type I fun. Often, there is a certain mental fortitude required to complete the task at hand and won’t seem like fun at the time.Type II fun is about pushing boundaries, growth and development. There is fun recognised after the fact in the journey, or pursuit, of self-fulfillment.  But the journey is worth it as there is a considerable sense of achievement. In the context of a lesson, doing new things out of their comfort zone.

A child after a lesson a few years ago said to his dad, ‘He made me do things I didn’t want to do and it was really fun!’ (And yes, I did quietly question the wording of his exclamation.) We skied over a little drop where he was scared, at first I had to convince him that he had the ability to do it. Quite a lot of kids were scared at first, but once they’d done it they don’t want to do anything else. Exploring new terrain can be quite challenging in itself at times and once there is some familiarity, confidence can be developed.

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you”

Another example of Type II fun is when the weather is less than favourable and precipitation is more wet than light, dry and fluffy. The type of weather that mum and dad put the kids into lessons, then proceed to the cafe to stay dry. A specific goal of mine is to bring the kids back at the end of the lesson super keen to have one last run with mum and/or dad, when they’re both dry.

Type III fun is similar to Type II fun. But it takes a lot longer to realise that it was fun, if it was fun at all. Some extreme descriptions I’ve read mention Earnest Shackleton or books by Jon Krakauer as Type III fun. Type III fun could end up in the Patrol Hut, Medical Centre or Hospital, quite possibly on the first day of the season or holidays. The type of ‘fun’ to be avoided.

So, next time you pick the kids up from ski lessons the question isn’t whether or not they had fun. The question is ‘What type of fun did you have?’

References and Further Reading

“Fun.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Viewed on 25/08/17.

Dunfee, R. 2015. ‘The three and a half types of fun, explained’ tetongravity.com Viewed on 25/08/17 https://www.tetongravity.com/story/adventure/the-three-and-a-half-types-of-fun-explained

Wright, C. 2013. ‘Suffering for the Fun of it’ nationalgeographic.com Viewed 25/08/17 http://adventureblog.nationalgeographic.com/2013/11/26/suffering-for-the-fun-on-it-alex-honnold-and-cedar-wrights-worst-trip-ever/

Cordes, K. 2014. ‘The Fun Scale’ rei.com Viewed 25/08/17 https://www.rei.com/blog/activity/climb/page/2

Cordes, K. 2009. ‘The Fun Scale’ kellycordes.com Viewed 25/08/17 https://kellycordes.com/2009/11/02/the-fun-scale/

Staff Writer. 2016. ‘The Three Types of Fun’ steliasguides.com viewed 25/08/17 http://www.steliasguides.com/tech-tips/the-three-types-of-fun/

Rubin, G. 2013. ‘Consider the three levels of fun: Challenging, Accommodating and Relaxing Fun’ gretchenrubin.com Viewed 25/08/17 https://gretchenrubin.com/2013/04/consider-the-three-levels-of-fun-challenging-accommodating-and-relaxing-fun/

 

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The Benefits of Playing Sport for Children

Sport has long been considered part of a country’s psyche, with its respective national sport, state, province, region or county with respective teams and each town with it’s club. Professional or amateur, there is something about sport that brings people, and the community, together.

Sport has a broad meaning that includes all sorts of physical activities. It can be outdoor or indoor and organised/competitive or casual sports. Soccer, Rugby, Basketball, Netball are examples of competitive sports. Other pursuits such as Dancing, Ballet, Jazz Ballet, Martial Arts, Gymnastics, Swimming, Running, Horse riding can be competitive, social or a mixture of both. Outdoor adventure pursuits such as hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, climbing, canyoning, abseiling, surfing, kite surfing, wind surfing also count as sport, as long as there is frequent participation. Although not necessarily sport, as such, Physical Play is not to be under estimated for it’s benefits, either. Skateboarding, roller blading/skating, rip sticking, though not in a team/organised setting have their benefits, as opposed to video games and chess which are sedentary. They mainly exercise the mind or hand eye coordination and reflexes.

We engage in the most play, or sport, during the times of our lives when the educational demands are the highest. Play has been defined as ‘voluntary, has no obvious survival value or is apparently purposeless, is pleasurable or fun, creates a diminished sense of time and self consciousness and is improvisational.’ (Hargrove, T 2011). Being voluntary and fun are important for children to maintain motivation for participation in sport, as a distinction from participating to win. And ‘a diminished sense of time’ basically means that ‘time flies when you’re having fun’, which has been known to distress some children because they don’t want the fun, or game, to stop!

For Humans, being a sociable animal, this is a benefit on a large scale, but what are the benefits of children playing sport? While this is not an exhaustive list I have managed to narrow it down to four major areas where sports benefit children’s development: Physical Coordination, Socialisation, Academic Improvement and Personal Development. (Oh, and may also benefit their skiing & riding, too!)

Sport and physical play are important for creating and developing body awareness. Most children in lessons will know, generally, what the different parts of their body are called. However, this doesn’t mean that they know how to tell that part what to do. The classic example is when a student is learning how to stop for the first time. They have been taught that making a wedge (aka slice of pizza or slice of anything circular or any thing that resembles a triangle) will make them stop. Then once sliding, they put their hands together and nothing happens with their feet and skis. This demonstrates a good cognitive understanding of what it is they need to do, however, their arms and hands have been used with more dexterous activities and receive the message first. The development of physical and motor systems start from the head and work their way down and is referred to as ‘Cephalocaudal development’. (McInerney & McInerney, 1998) Since it is a new neural pathway being forged to their legs it takes a little more effort to make it happen. From experience, this happens in both adults and, more so in children.

When teaching skiing, there is a noticeable difference between athletic, or physical, and sedentary kids. Children who are active in a lot of sports, or highly active in one, generally pick up snow sports quicker as they have more active neural pathways, resulting in improved coordination. ‘A child whose brain has more neural pathways will be able to learn more easily.’ (Johnston & Ramon, 2011) The best time for these pathways to be developed is between 3-6yrs.

Skiing involves the use of muscles that don’t get used in everyday life. And being a sliding/balancing sport, requires the use of the smaller stabiliser muscles in both the lower and upper body to maintain balance. The muscles used in a variety of activities such as skateboarding, roller blading/skating, rip sticking greatly improve a child’s (and adults) ability to develop balancing skills and then reappropriate these skills to skiing. Working in Canada, it’s interesting to see how quickly kids pick up skiing if they play ice hockey, or at least ice skate. There is a dramatic and noticeable difference between those that do, and those that don’t.

Developing these muscles, along with on mountain skiing experience, allows us to apply and adapt what is known as Perceptual Motor Skills. Perceptual motor skills could be described as the difference between learning to read and learning to write.(Johnston & Ramon, 2011) It’s one thing to know how a letter looks, what a letter or word is. It is another to be able to write the letter, or word, and coordinate what it looks like, or sounds like, to the movement pattern of the muscles in the hand and fore-arm.

Perceptual-motor skills also apply in other sports that involve the timing of catching, hitting, kicking or throwing a ball. These help to create and develop spatial awareness which is important when skiing in a variety of situations. When skiing in a class line, younger children have a tendency of crashing into each other, either while skiing or when stopping. Sometimes it is amusing to watch, although with older kids can be quite scary. The timing and coordinating of a pole plant or the gauging of jumps, ie. where the take off and landing are in relation to each other, which then determines what speed is needed.

Perceptual-motor skills means that we are able to see the terrain or conditions and adapt, and anticipate our movements accordingly. How we ski in the bumps is going to be different to how we ski on the groomed. And like wise, how we ski in powder is going to be different to how we ski on firm, almost impenetrable snow. Perceptual-motor skills are closely related to Proprioception.

While being physically aware of others around them is important, so is knowing how to socially interact with those around them. Playing team sport has the benefit of allowing the interaction and development of positive and valuable relationships with others their age, as well as other adults, coaches, trainers and parents of other team members.

As a child gets older a sense of ‘us’ is developed, being able to share and take turns. Seeing where a child is in its’ social development is demonstrated in many ways. The two more distinct ways are separation from their parents and the importance of where they are in the ski school snake. The former is evident in the younger ages (3-6), while the latter is more evident in the 6-8 yr old age range.

Playing team sports exposes children to the highs and lows of life through winning and losing. Being humble in the win and gracious in defeat, a sense of sportsmanship and egalitarianism can be instilled by being part of a team. Interacting and communicating with other team members can result in a successful team. Once children have seen that positive interaction can lead to positive results, the desire to cooperate with each other is heightened. The sense of belonging to a group and being able to contribute to the team’s success can improve their self-esteem and self-worth. In this process leadership skills can also be developed.

The relationships and teamwork involved with playing sports has other benefits. Solving problems and either defending or attacking on the field develops the mind through strategic thinking. Practising plays to get past or through the opponents defences, and then to be able to create variations to counter what’s in front of them allows them to learn how to think on their feet under perceived pressure. Instances of thinking strategically in skiing include navigating through the trees, race gates, or congested runs. Determining one’s own speed, the speed of others, the spacing between trees, gates and people all contribute to the child’s ability to think on their feet. Trying to think how the opposition, or others, thinks also helps develop empathy.

Studies have shown that those that participate in sport are less likely to suffer from depression. Physical stimulation of the brain increases endorphins released in the brain, maintaining an equilibrium of neural chemistry, which in turn helps to have an increased attention span. (Bilich)

Playing sport, and skiing/snowboarding, assist with a young persons Personal Development. Helping to develop an intrinsic sense of self-awareness. For example, they may be disappointed in their personal performance, even though the team won. This intrinsic sense of self-awareness can then transpose between sport and academia. Setting goals, practice and perseverance are relevant in more than one facet of life. Achieving set goals contributes to a more positive self-image and builds confidence. This is particularly true for young women, as playing sport increases their chances of graduating college by a staggering 41 percent. (Hadfeild, 2007)

In a ski lesson, an instructor was heard to say to his student, ‘Do you know why we fall over?’ ‘It’s so we can learn to pick ourselves up, again.’ A lot of the time a child only needs moral support to get up…..after you’ve walked half-way back up the run to help them. The skill of emotional self-regulation is developed and honed in the theatre of sport. This is one of the reasons that parents put their children in to ski lessons, as they either don’t have the patience or they find themselves always physically helping their child, rather than emotionally encouraging them.

Some of life’s little lessons are learnt through sport and play. And not necessarily high consequence lessons, either, but rather lessons that aid the personal development of the child. Exploring and learning things for themselves, through trial and error. The more experience they have of cause and effect, the more likely it is that they are developing an awareness of themselves and their surroundings.

Skiing is a versatile sport that you can compete in various disciplines, train to improve technique, go on week-ends by yourself or on holidays with family or friends. Skiing is a sport that can represent so much, to so many. There are not many, if there are, sports like it. For those that live near a ski resort, skiing can be structured weekly training/lessons or recreational fun, for those that go skiing on holiday it would more likely be recreational fun and exploration.

The benefits of sport improved Physical Coordination, Socialisation, Academic Improvement and Personal Development are enhanced significantly through the Theatre of Sport and can afford a more holistic development of the child. Skiing also lends itself to the positive development of children and the participation of other sports lend itself to the development of their skiing.

References & Further Reading

Devenish, C. 2016. ‘The Benefits of Playing Sport for Children’ nzsia.org Viewed on 11/07/16 https://www.nzsia.org/2016/07/the-benefits-of-playing-sport-for-children/

Hargrove, T, 2011. ‘The Importance of Play for Motor Learning’ Bettermovement.org Viewed 22/11/14 http://www.bettermovement.org/2011/the-importance-of-play-for-motor-learning/ 

McInerney, D.M & V. 1998. ‘Educational Psychology: Constructing Learning’ Prentice Hall.

Johnstone, J.A. and Ramon, M. 2011, ‘Helping children develop to their full potential through perceptual-motor experiences’, Humankinetics.com. Viewed 22/11/14 http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/helping-children-develop-to-their-full-potential-through-perceptual-motor-experiences

Hadfeild, J. 2007. ‘BYU study: Girls + high school sports = college graduation’ news.byu.edu Viewed 15/03/2015 http://news.byu.edu/archive07-Jul-GirlsSports.aspx

Bilich, K.A. ’10 Benefits of Physical Activity’, Parents.com. Viewed 22/11/14 http://www.parents.com/fun/sports/exercise/10-benefits-of-physical-activity/

 

Have you heard the one about the….

Over the years, I have earned myself a reputation for telling jokes to the kids at the meeting area. To some the jokes may seem quite droll, however, this is to serve a few functions. To build rapport, earn trust and gain an understanding of our students. One way to Build rapport with anyone is through humour, not too much, not too little and just the right kind. It’s important to create a relaxed and comfortable environment quickly as our students will be more likely to be open to learning. Also, making sure that the delivery of content, being ‘on the same level’ as the kids, is imperative, or they’ll be lost, or worse they’ll never be there to start. Treating them too young, may seem patronising, too old, and the reaction might be ‘I have a Dog!’.

Telling jokes, and having the kids tell jokes back helps gauge where their humour is and usually gives a pretty good indication of where they’re at Cognitively and Emotionally. Some of the jokes I tell at the meeting area are funny (well, that’s what I tell myself), others not so funny, but then this would generally depend on the age of the child. I noticed that I could tell the same joke to a different age group and get a completely different response, may be better, or worse! Whether they get the joke to start with, or genuinely laugh at the jokes, roll their eyes, or vaguely giggle with a ‘knowing glance’, often indicates what ‘level’ they’re on and helps determine how the lesson is approached. And when done accurately, this helps to earn and build trust.

The younger kids (3-4yrs) usually have the most ridiculous, nonsensical jokes. This age tends to react more to visual and physical/slapstick humour. (Price 2007)  Although, sometimes they understand basic word-play and riddles.The most common joke for this age group seems to be the classic ‘Knock knock’ joke. This may be an indictment of their understanding of the world in a very defined way, having not developed language skills, understanding double meanings, amongst other things. Black is black, white is white with very few, if any, shades of grey in between (and certainly not 50!).

On a chair-lift ride with older kids, the 4-year-old might make up a joke that combines the previous 2 jokes they’ve heard, and only tell it so they feel like they are part of the group, which they are, just on a different level. This kind of mixing and matching of components, without knowing the rules, or structure, is an element of ‘Egocentrism’, where the child doesn’t know the rules or how to apply them but thinks they do.

From my experience, By the time kids get a little older, they usually have a pretty good understanding of basic (or in some cases, complex) word play, which requires understanding context, multiple word meanings, contradictions, metaphors and ambiguity. (Stern, 2010) And the older they get the more sophisticated the joke. Or, they’ll rip the joke to pieces. I once got in to an Existential discussion with a 10-year-old after I told the ‘Why did the dinosaur cross the road?’ joke. ‘Chickens are not invented,’ she said, ‘they evolve and roads are invented, but they didn’t exist because there weren’t people then.’ And so it went. Needless to say, once I had this discussion I re-thought my approach!

References

Price, M. 2007 ‘The Joke’s in you’, American Psychologist Assosciation                          Stern, V. 2010  ‘Jokes crack open brain connectivity in Autism’, SFARI (Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative), viewed 10 August 2014

Here is a selection of jokes I have heard through the years, by no means is this ALL of them.

If you have any to add, please, feel free to post in the comments, send me an e-mail.

What do you get when you cross an elephant with a fish?
Swimming trunks!
Why did the cow cross the road?
He wanted to go to the moo-vies!
Why did the chicken cross the road?
To get to the other side!
Why did the turkey cross the road?
It was the chickens day off!
Why did the dinosaur cross the road?
Chickens weren’t invented then!
Why did the whale cross the ocean?
To get to the other tide!
Why did the chicken cross the park?
To get to the other slide!
Why did the possum cross the road?
He wanted to visit his flat-mate!
What do you call cheese that’s not yours?
Nacho Cheese (Not your cheese)
Have you heard the joke about the pizza?
Nah, I better not. It’s too cheesy
Have you heard the joke about the Nachos?
Nah, I better not. It’s too corny.
Have you heard the joke about the wall?
Nah, better not. You won’t get over it.
Have you heard the joke about the butter?
Nah, better not. You’ll just spread it.
What kind of cheese do you use to disguise a horse?
Mascapone. (Mask-a-pony)
What kind of cheese do you use to coax a bear out of its’ cave?
Camembert. (Come-on-bear)
What did the cheese say when it looked in the mirror?
Haloumi. (Hello-me)
Why did the toilet roll down the hill?
To get to the bottom!
What’s red and sits in the corner?
A very naughty strawberry!

What’s the laziest mountain in the world?                                                                      Mt Everest!