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All images and posts written by and copyright to Amanda Clements (nee Gray) 2009-2012 unless otherwise indicated.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Demystifying playground games

The playground can be a very confusing and lonely place if you don't "fit" anywhere.

Imagine you see the world in a very literal way.

You have just run out onto the playground and you see a bunch of kids from your class running around, chasing and hitting each other. You know that hitting is against the rules. But these kids seem to be laughing. And the teacher is watching and seems to be happy about it, too.

So you dash in and join in. You start running around madly and hitting anyone who comes close.

Suddenly everyone stops. A child pushes you back with a very unhappy look on their face. The teacher charges up and sends you to sit by yourself for "cool-down" time.

You are confused. What did you do wrong?

No-one really explains it in a way you understand. So next recess time you run out on the playground. The kids are all chasing and hitting each other. Again you join in. Again you find yourself on the "cool-down" bench. You also find that other children are avoiding you.

And your mum is told that you are not doing the right thing on the playground.

What's going on?

What you haven't realised is that what you were seeing was a game of tips. There are rules to this game. Rules about who chases who, how hard you tip, where you can go to be "safe", what you have to say when you are "safe". But you have missed all these finer points because you are seeing the world through different eyes.

Learning the rules

The first thing you need to do is learn the rules. Just having someone tell you the rules will probably not make much sense. You need to learn by explicit modelling and playing.

A bit of role play

Your teacher or another adult might need to sit your down with your friends, explaining that not everyone understands the game of tips. Your teacher can then get your friends to talk about and demonstrate what playing tips is all about.

You need a clear guide as to who is "in". So you and your classmates might have a special card to hold if you are "in". You pass this on to the next person when they are "in".

You will need to practice "tipping" to make sure you don't hit. Everyone could have fun practicing the difference between a hit and a "tip" by hitting a big bouncy ball then "tipping" a buddy. At first you might need a little extra, hand-on-hand help from an adult.

A supervised game

Then you need an adult to direct a game of tips with you and your friends - maybe during physical education class. You can practice your tipping, and passing the "in" card. You might also need to start with only three or four people.

You may also need a "cheer squad" - a teacher, teachers' aide or buddy to call out things like "Run, Johnny, run! Billy's in!" It would be most fun if a teacher plays with you.

And you need to play all this in the same place you would if you were playing with your classmates at lunch time.

A social story

Once you have learnt the game in physical education class, then your teacher and family could help remind you about the rules using a social story. In the social story it would mention who you want to play with, when you might play with them, and what to do if they don't want to play tips today.

Before you go onto the playground a recess, your teacher can help you look at your social story and remind you what to do. If you get too rough, or forget the rules, the playground duty teacher can help remind you what to do using your social story.

Play, play, play!

The more you practice, the better you will get at playing. But you will need extra supervision at first. And you will need just a few buddies to play with for starters.

When you get better at it, you can start playing with more and more people.

A reward

Getting to play with your friends will be a great reward. But sometimes you might need to be reminded how good it is to play tips by following your social story. So you might get to write a short sentence about your game of tips in your communication book with you teacher, so you get to talk about it with your family when you get home. If you need extra help to remember the rules of tips, you might get an award and/or points towards a favourite toy every time you follow the rules.

Practice in different places, with different people

After you are good at playing tips at school with teacher help, it is time to be more independent.

The best way to be good at playing tips without help is to start playing it with different people in different places. You can play it at home, at play-dates, at the park or on holidays. But make sure everyone knows the rules first. Adults might need to help you start games at first. But eventually you will be able to do this for yourself.

For a while you will need to keep using the "in" card. But, when you get really good at playing the game without help from any adults, you and your teacher might need to change the social story and try playing the game without the special "in" card.


Playing tips: A social story

My name is Johnny. I love playing tips. I like playing tips with Billy, Matt and Susie.

When the recess bell goes, I can say to Billy, Matt or Susie, "Do you want to play tips?"

If Billy, Matt or Susie say, "No." then I will try to go and play in the sandpit. It is OK if they don't want to play tips.

If Billy, Matt or Susie say, "Yes." then I will go to the grassy play area with them.

I like to be "in" first, but sometimes it is Billy, Matt or Susie's turn to be "in" first. I wait for my turn. It is OK if I don't get to be "in" first.

I run away very fast from Billy, Matt or Susie when they are "in". I stay on the grass. But sometimes they "tip" me. It is OK if they "tip" me.

I run very fast to try and "tip" Billy, Matt or Susie. I "tip" them very softly.

Sometimes it takes me a long time to catch them. It is OK if it takes a long time. It is fun.

If Billy, Matt, Susie or I don't want to play any more, we say, "I want to do something else now."

I like playing tips with my friends. It is fun.


Marita March 1, 2011 at 10:05 AM  

Thank you for this super helpful post :-) My 6yo has just started school and is really struggling with chasey / tag style games.

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