Having parked up in town, I was standing in a queue to pay before displaying, and the little girl in front of me was pestering her mother to be allowed to put the money into the machine. “Let me do it, mummy. Let me do it. Let me. Let me mummy, please.”
Now, I’m better than most at squeezing some fun out a tiny piece of blu-tac, but even I have to admit that the intrinsic entertainment value of putting some coins into a slot is pretty low - especially when all you get in return is a flimsy oblong of printed paper. But of course, that’s not the point.
The point is that young children have very little agency in the world. For them it’s always exciting to be the cause that makes the effect. You may be able to conjure up your own childhood memory that illustrates this. The one that springs to my mind - I must have been around five - is being on a fairground ride, in a trundling train carriage with a bell on the front. I gleaned so much pleasure from pulling on the cord that activated the bell. It wasn’t to do with the sound per se, it was being in control. I could ring that bell as much as I liked, there was no-one sitting next to me to tell me to stop, there were no rules that I was breaking. My train. My bell.
Children love to be given some responsibility, to hold a little power - if only for a short time and in a fairly inconsequential circumstance. It’s important developmentally. Every action has an equal an opposite reaction, and children need opportunities to test this out. No-one acquires faith in themselves and their own abilities without having learned the basics. Even if (especially if) it all goes horribly wrong for them, it’s valuable learning and taking the risk is always worth it.
So try to find something every day, a chance for your child to do it for themselves, to find out if they can, and to practice asking for help if they find they can’t - goodness knows, that’s something many of us could get a little better at. You may find your children are capable of much more than you thought, you may find yourself with a child who can take some of the load, if you’d only let them.
Earlier this year The Guardian printed a piece by the winner of their Young Sportswriter of the Year (ages seven to nine) award; one Caleb Waterhouse, aged eight.
It’s a piece about the snowboarder Katie Ormerod and how inspirational she is. It’s coherent, informative and charmingly rendered in the vernacular of youth whilst still being eminently readable. The link is at the end of this blogpost.
It’s not news that children - especially little boys - love superheroes. In the run up to, and during, Halloween it’s been possible to see youngsters dressed up in every flavour of crusader, caped or otherwise.
I have been asking mini-sized Batmen, Supermen, Iron and Spider Men amongst others what it is that they love so much about these characters. Mostly the answers revolve around their various superhuman capabilities and the fact that they are the good guys who can overcome any danger or threat to themselves or humanity as a whole. Behind these words lie the truth of the matter.
I've been holding drama workshops in Latvia again - so I'm re-publishing this blog, for the participants of those workshops:
This article, discussing the value of incorporating performance into senior school, first appeared in Teach Secondary magazine.
My thanks to editor Helen Mulley for allowing reproduction, and if you want to know more, details of this and their other magazines and resources are available at:https://www.teachwire.net
What a Performance!
It’s a curious dichotomy we live with when it comes to the notion of performance, I think. On the one hand it feels like every other young person you come across is all set to win the X Factor and become the next big thing, and on the other hand we’re brought up being told that no-one really likes a show off. . . talk about mixed messages. . . where does this leave us with our attitude to performing within our school environment?
How often do your children get to spend time alone without any outside stimulus? When was the last time they had to draw on their own resources to entertain and motivate themselves?
Timetables for children these days can be hectic; after-school clubs, the pressures of school work, social media and other screen-based activities all vie for their attention and focus. It’s not so often that they are left alone to their own devices free from these distractions. And the same is true of us.