A few years ago, after our own kids were grown and gone, we drove to another city with friends to see a youth musical performance. We arrived at the church early and decided to wait outside in the parking lot because our friend’s very active 5-year-old Jacob was feeling restless from being cooped up in the car for 45 minutes. He needed to stretch and run before having to endure a long bout of sitting still and behaving himself during the performance.
The church yard had just been flooded for irrigation
So a big pool of water stretched along the back edge of the church parking lot, and Jacob said he wanted to throw rocks into the pool.
We had no objections, but I thought he needed more activity than that to stretch his muscles from the long ride and tire him out sufficiently to make him want to sit for a while. So I invented a variation on the all-important game for vacation trips and making other long drives with children….
Tire ‘Em Out.
I made up a rule: You Can’t Throw a Rock into the Pool Until You Run to the Fence and Tag It and Then Run Back for Me to Give You the Rock.
It was an excellent exercise game. Jacob ran all the way across the parking lot to the fence, tagged it, and then ran all the way back to me (his exercise), while I bent over and picked up a nice fat rock (my exercise).
I also cheered him on and told him what a fast runner he was...
and what a big splash he created...and now he was probably too tired—right? -- to try it again.…
He grinned and puffed and threw rocks and insisted he wasn’t too tired and galloped off again to tag the fence until he had managed four or five round trips from the fence to the pool. And then it was time to go into the church, and he was content to sit still for a while.
Why do children cooperate with such adult scheming?
I don’t know. All I know is, Jacob was happy, and my children used to be happy, too, with this sort of game—as long as they had my full attention, as long as I cheered them on as they ran, and as long as their muscles required a good stretch after a long drive.
The Tire ‘Em Out principle works for more than long car trips.
It works for homeschool lessons and pandemic lockdown school lessons, too. For young kids, being active is a reward in itself, so playing a variation of Tire ‘Em Out adds activity to lessons like math and reading drills and makes them fun.
For example, you can start a math drill sitting at the bottom of a big flight of stairs with your student standing at the top. You show the math or reading flashcard and call out the problem. Each time your student gives the correct answer, she gets to hop down one step.
Can she make it all the way to the bottom before you run out of cards?
Later, when she knows her facts better and needs more challenge, you can speed up drills by tossing a ball. You call out the problem, count three, toss the ball, and see if she can say the answer before she catches it.
There are a thousand variations.
Use your imagination.
© Becky Cerling Powers 2021
Reprint with attribution only
You can find more parenting insights from Becky Cerling Powers on her website (www.beckypowers.com) and in her book Sticky Fingers, Sticky Minds: quick reads for helping kids thrive
When I told our 10-year-old grandson that I was writing a blog about treasure hunts, he immediately began an enthusiastic trip down memory lane reminding me about the time I first introduced him to treasure hunts.
His grandpa and I were on vacation in a foreign country with him (age 5) and four other adults, and we had been driving all day long. We were all road weary, and the adults were cross. It was a working vacation for most of them, so when we arrived at our house rental, half got out their computers and started working and the other half started making supper.
Our poor kindergartner had been cooped up in the car all day.
Now he was bored, restless, underfoot and needing both activity and cheering up. I wondered what I could do with him.
Then I remembered what I used to do sometimes on dull days with my children when his mom was a little girl. “We’ll make a treasure hunt!” I told him.
We took paper and pencil and wandered around the vacation rental, drawing sketches of different pieces of furniture. I’m no artist, but since Nesta watched me make the drawings, he knew what all my clues meant. Then he had to go somewhere and not look for a while so that I could hide a treat like a cookie (to eat after supper) or a little memento I’d bought in the markets, and then made a trail of clues to the prize.
He loved that game.
He loved following the trail of clues and finding something special. He wanted to do it over and over, so that’s what we did until the adults were ready to eat dinner.
After that vacation, as the years passed, we kept on playing the treasure hunt game, making the clues harder as our grandson’s reading skills improved.
Making a trail of clues through the house for a family treasure hunt is a fun way to give kids practice and incentive for writing. And treasure hunts are great for cheering everyone up on a sad or a dull day, too.
You can begin by introducing the idea to your preschoolers with pictures.
Take photos or make several simple drawings of familiar furniture – the rocker, the refrigerator. (Printing out photos is easier, but if you have to rely on drawings, don’t worry about poor drawing skills. If your children can’t figure out what you have drawn, tell them what it is. Next time, they will remember.)
Your children can follow the picture clues from the crib in the baby’s room to the rocking chair in the living room, then on to the sofa, and so on, following the clues until at long last they come upon—ta da! -- new underwear. Or two cookies apiece. (Simple things turn into something special when you find them at the end of a treasure hunt.)
If your children are beginning readers, add simple instructions, like “LOOK UNDER THE (picture of keyboard).”
Pretty soon, your children will want to make their own treasure hunts.
Keep a stack of photos or drawings available for preschoolers to arrange a trail of picture clues for siblings. After they begin to read, encourage them to add more and more writing to their clues. Even children who dislike writing don’t notice they are getting practice when they’re making clue cards for a treasure hunt.
As children’s writing skills improve, they may like the challenge of making riddle clues or clues in rhyme (see my grandson’s example).
If children ask how to spell words, just tell them simply.
(No exasperated “You should know that!” comments.) Keep it a fun activity. I did not correct my children’s spelling mistakes on clue cards because I figured that it would dampen their enthusiasm and it might make my Writing-Hater quit one of the few writing activities he loved. In time he started correcting spelling himself because he wanted people to be able to read his clues.
If you don’t have a good prize for your treasure hunt, use dinner.
A treasure hunt meal is usually conducted outdoors to reduce damage from spills. At the end of the first two or three clues, the family finds plates, silverware, a beverage, and another clue. A couple clues later, they discover the salad, and everyone sits down to eat it. The family keeps on following clues and sitting down to eat as they find the rest of the meal, including the final treasure -- dessert.
©Becky Cerling Powers 1992, updated 2021
Reprint with attribution only www.beckypowers.com
For more insights from Becky Cerling Powers see her parenting insight book Sticky Fingers, Sticky Minds: quick reads for helping kids thrive in the Bookstore
On Sundays… When we see our kids getting hurt unfairly, we need to teach them the art of forgiveness, keeping in mind that forgiveness is a spiritual issue – as is hatred and revenge. So, we can’t nag or preach children into forgiving. Or reason them into letting go of an offense. We can only practice forgiveness ourselves, then present it as a solution to our youngsters’ pain and prayerfully guide them through the process.
On Mondays… remember that children need to have their fathers and mothers weave three consistent messages into the fabric of their lives: “To me you are special. No matter what, I love you. You’re part of me; we belong together.’’
On Tuesdays… we weave the messages while keeping in mind that truly loving children includes setting firm limits. When we deal lovingly but firmly with unacceptable behavior, it helps children begin to develop the self-control necessary for future healthy relationships.
On Wednesdays… make sure to take advantage of children’s tendency to get talkative and reflective when you are putting them to bed. You’ll probably be more patient with the process if you set bedtimes early enough to include 15 or 20 minutes of talk time.
On Thursdays… keep in mind, when faced with your child’s messy bedroom, that in order to teach neatness, you need to eliminate as many organizing problems as possible. So sit on the floor and check the room from a child’s eye view. Maybe your child has too many toys to manage, or perhaps the clothes rod is too high for him to hang his clothes easily.
On Fridays… don’t make the mistake of parents who feel so embarrassed or angered by their children’s social blunders that they humiliate their children by pointing out their mistakes in public. This uses bad manners to try to teach good manners. The heart of good manners is consideration for others. So parents need show their children consideration by taking them aside to explain privately how they expect them to act. (If children still misbehave after that, though, they may be testing their parents’ authority to see if they can flout home rules in public. That situation does require firm consequences -- but not adult temper tantrums.)
On Saturdays… remember that no amount of treats, gifts or special favors will ever substitute for a parent’s undivided attention. And no child can feel loved without experiencing that kind of time.
© Becky Cerling Powers 2021 All Rights Reserved www.beckypowers.com
Becky Cerling Powers is a veteran homeschool grandma and the author of Sticky Fingers, Sticky Minds: quick reads for helping kids thrive and Laura’s Children: the hidden story of a Chinese orphanage. She also compiled and edited the faith based stories in My Roots Go Back to Loving and other stories from Year of the Family.
For all the generations seeking God together
Activities for all ages to seek God’s presence by engaging with the Bible in simple, natural ways at home.
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