Give the Gift Kids Will ‘Die’ For (adult supervision discouraged)

IMG_0095The force is strong in these two! The force of fun, that is. You want to know their secret? NO adults told them to do it.

I took this very same die (in gender-neutral lime green) into the fourth grade classroom at a local elementary school this week. The second I walked in, all heads turned and the whispers began. What’s that? Are we gonna play? All right!

They were up and out of their seats in a split second pushing to see, wondering what we were gonna do. I had to do crowd control just to be sure everyone could play. “Back it up! Everyone’s heels have to be on the edge of the carpet!”

They dutifully, albeit reluctantly, backed and then waited. I tossed the die in the center of the circle. IMG_0093“5!” they shouted, and then looked at me. What do we do now?

“Uh, 5…jumping jacks!” Instantly, 24 little bodies jumping.

6! “What should we do?” I asked. “Six…push ups!” one boy shouted. Down they went to give me 6.

“Can I roll it?” one pleaded. Then another. That opened up the floodgates until. yep, there we were, in a public elementary school, using instructional time to…play exercise games. Happily sharing, cooperating and completely out of breath. Each one got a turn to roll and call out something to do that many times. 2 burpees! 4 jumps! 6 knees up! 5 running in place!

Here’s the rub. After half a dozen kids took their turns, they were all out of ideas. All they could do was to repeat what had been done. They began shouting repeat ideas for a friend who couldn’t think of something. One enterprising young man named Andy rolled a “1.” One, one-handed push up! Full credit for effort, but what happened to creativity?

In this whole class of 24, not a single child suggested we do something that hadn’t been demonstrated for them either in gym class or at soccer practice. To them, a game without limits had become totally limited.

Are we ruining our kids? Are our classes, curricula and organized sports providing so much structure they are clueless when unstructured opportunities arise? This is not going to go well, folks!

Even with me prompting them to come up with something new, try not to repeat, it doesn’t have to be an exercise… we do our 5th set of jumping jacks.

IMG_0096“How about Be a surfer! Be a wave! Be silly!” I try, with my best 4th grade body english. They’re not buying. Finally, I hand the die to their teacher. Surely, she … “Lift each leg 4 times,” she says, “just like Alexandria makes me do every morning.”

OMG-how many things can you do with a die? It’s a game waiting to happen! Yet, they made it into a workout, totally mimicking the sporting and fitness-leading adults in their lives. What has happened to our fun gene?

After the die had made the rounds to each child, I concluded the game with a desperate plea. “Folks, over winter break, think about one movement, one activity, one game we can play with this die that is not an exercise. Okay? I’ll be back to see what you come up with!”

What you don’t finish in class, you take home as homework. Always check their homework. Hey, once a teacher, always a teacher!

After all the kids had gathered their backpacks, instruments, and papers and had hugged their teacher goodbye, she smiled an exhausted smile. She was so glad to see the day end, what with its meetings, so many demands and so many things she ‘would really like to get to but didn’t have time.’ Now it was vacation week. Finally, there would be time to recover.

Hey, I told her, this die is for you. Keep it at the ready so you can have fun anytime. Roll it in real time to give yourself a break. See how many kids pick up the floor, which row goes first, girls or boys, evens or odds. Heck, I’ll get you another die and you can do math facts!

“Wendy,” the teacher told me, “you can make a game out of anything.” Sure can. Otherwise, what’s the point?!

Here’s the point, shared by my friend Bonny. I gave her a pink die to enjoy with her two grandchildren. She wrote me:

“I never got a chance to play with the die! The kids went bonkers over it and disappeared to their room. I heard screams over who would play with it. A few minutes later they came up with this game:

“Roll a #1, clean up one toy, roll #2, clean up two toys, #3, three toys.  If you were lucky enough to roll a 4 and answer a math question, then you only had to clean up 50% of the toys left.

They have never had so much fun cleaning their room. I reckon it falls into the category of a Christmas miracle!!

If you want to give the gift of fun, too, I got the die for $5 at the Five Below Store. Totally worth it!

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