Saturday, March 24, 2007

Emotional Relay Race

Just came across a book called Everyone Wins!: Cooperative Games and Activities. Now, non-competitive kids' games (what used to be known as "getting along") are just fine as an occasional alternative to the usual smash 'n' grab, winner-takes-all kind of games that kids actually want to play. But making them literally the only game in town – as many schools, institutions, and parents try to do – just forces kids to direct their aggression and competitive instincts into subtler, more emotional forms of competition and oneupmanship. Capture the Flag becomes Destroy the Self-Esteem. The withering remark becomes more valued on the schoolyard than a fast set of legs. It's actually perfect training for the hollow, passive-aggressive, middle-class adulthood many of these parents want for their children, anyway.

Most picked-on kids fantasize about having the playing field leveled for them, and to have quick wits, sound reflexes, and physical skills eliminated as potential tools for success. But then, most picked-on kids (believe me) also fantasize about having their tormentors boiled down to fat and bone. It's never a good idea to over-indulge the fantasies of children. Children are natural fascists.

(It's a very close cousin to the policy of non-contact, where kids are barred from horseplay and wrestling and play-fighting, which is a recipe for kids who don't understand boundaries, because they've never been tested, and who don't know their own strength. The worst, most damaging acts of violence I remember witnessing as a kid were often committed by the coddled, repressed bow-tie kids who suddenly go all Keyser Söze one day and do something like bite the ear off a bully.)

This book has a few games perfect for that little emotional terrorist-in-training. Games like (and I am making none of these up):
  • Strike The Pose
  • A Chance To Be Nice
  • Dances Of The Mind
  • Talking Without Words
  • Direct Me
  • Make Me Into You
  • Subtle Pressure
  • Psychic Nonsense
  • Emotional Relay Race
  • What Did I Do?
  • What Does This Mean?
  • Do You Know Me?
  • Where Were You?
  • Hello, But I'm Gone
It also has some games I can't see even the worst parents wanting their children to play. Such dubious-sounding games as (again, I am making none of these up):
  • Couples Sports
  • Getting Together
  • Clothes Switch
  • Body Ball
  • Down The Tube
  • Down In The Hole
  • On Your Knees
  • In And Out
  • Hit The Nail
  • One Big Slug
  • Use That Body
  • Use That Rope
  • Blow The Ball
  • Don't Use Your Teeth
  • Gyrating Reptile
  • Hold That Floor
  • No-Hands Ball Pass
  • Snake In The Grass
  • Smaug's Jewels
  • Stiff As A Board
  • Strange Positions
  • Blanket Toss
  • Blanket Volleyball
  • Hawk And Mouse
  • Move Softly
  • Find Your Rock
  • Rope Raising
  • Probably Wet
  • Tied Together
  • Where Did It Go?
  • Popcorn Balls
  • Find Your Animal Mate
  • Hug Tag
  • Inuit Ball Pass
  • Pull Together
  • Try Not To Laugh
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Come Together
  • All Of Us, All At Once
  • Sleeper
And then, of course, after all that it has:
  • Casual Conversation
I. Swear. To. God.

3 comments:

Emily D. said...

I think you forgot "hide the finger" and "name that smell" - two cooperative favourites of mine.

Ross McKie said...

Wow, you certainly know kids today. Do you ever sound, um, I don't know...desperately new-anglo. That's my new term for your type, mister (you started it, bucko!). You're a New-Anglo. No, you're New World Anglo. Ah, fuck it. Damn, my kids are doomed coz they ain't the rascally kind. (Hope you're well, Whitlock.)

nathan said...

Peace and love be upon you, Ross.