By Fun Researcher #33 Billy Mitchell
Around these parts, Number One on the list of "things to do when there's nothing to do" is to go to the playground. We're blessed with several options around our neighbourhood, mostly due to the generosity of local service organizations like Rotary and Lion's Club.
I was at a playground the other day with my children and a neighbor's children. The two five-year-old boys were vigorously playing a game of "Troll beneath the bridge" with my neighbor (Lisa) when she turned their aggression into something nice.
As you know, to play "Troll beneath the bridge" an adult runs around below the playground apparatus trying to catch the children by the ankle whilst growling "Who's that on my bridge?" in their best Troll voice. The children generally respond with squeals of mock fright and delight as they thunder about. Young boys, however, can start to respond with violence, shooting imaginary machine guns, plasma-wave rifles or what-have-you.
Lisa explained to them that Trolls are pretty much immune to conventional weaponry but, as they're evil, compliments and loving words can defeat them. Within moments the two boys were shouting, "You're beautiful! I love you!" and other such phrases at the Troll, which succumbed to these assaults.
I was aghast! The boys' play was not impeded by this change in tactics; they responded with gusto as they sought new compliments and phrases to shower upon the Troll.
I'm sure that some other parents and many of the children were shocked to hear such terms of endearment hurled about at the playground, but they'll surely recover from the verbal assault.
It was a marvelous example of turning negative into positive and has helped me to look for imaginative ways to steer destructive play into creative play.
Here're some ideas:
- Look for opposites. Like in the Nice Words game, turning something around can be fun and funny.
- Use the Golden Rule. Ask "how would you like this?" when an activity starts to turn nasty.
- Find positive alternatives. Steer a toy military attack into a rescue mission.
Okay, so you're never going to turn a toy car demolition derby into a safe-driving carpool exercise, but helping your children find alternatives will pay off in creativity and enjoyment.