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When children get bored…

Children love Lego, they like board games, watching cartoons and playing computer games. Sometimes, however, there are such moments when all else fails and young explorers want to continue to experience, learn, and above all, spend time actively with their parents.
Every mother has had such a situation more than once. It has also happened to Magdalena Szot – mum of Kuba (11 years), Jaś (9 years) and Maja (7 years).
“2 years ago Kuba got flu and spent over a week at home under my care,” Magda says. “When all methods of providing him with home entertainment failed, I had to use my imagination and come up with something that we didn’t have before. At that time the help came to us with scouting proficiency.”

The process of creating names for particular proficiencies and defining the rules of their gaining turned out to be a blast. Skills were divided into 2 categories: an individual proficiency and a group proficiency that is this one which was only possible to be gained with the cooperation of all three of them.
Proficiencies were adapted to the age and abilities of the children. Although the names for individual proficiencies were the same for Kuba and Jaś, they varied in a difficulty level of the tasks. Maja didn’t want to gain individual proficiencies, but it was a pleasure for her to take part in gaining “team” proficiencies.
Magda – a mathematician by education, but a coach by passion and profession, took care to prepare special cards of skills for both boys. These were those cards on which children received “pluses” meaning completion of a task. A sample card looked like this:

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“A suitable badge designed by Jaś and sewn by me was supposed to be the prize for gaining a skill but …kids got going that I didn’t keep pace with embroidery. So we abandoned this idea pretty quickly. There were no awards for most of the game. Despite this, the children were playing in it for a few weeks,” Magda says.

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(na zdjęciu [in the picture]: proficiency of a mushroom picker, pick 30 mushrooms up, proficiency of a kitchen boy, cook dinner and dessert, proficiency of a painter, paint a picture on canvas, proficiency of a swimmer, swim 100 meters, proficiency of an assistant, help in gaining another proficiency, proficiency of a cleaner, tidy up the whole house, proficiency of silence, don’t say anything for 12 hours, proficiency of puzzle puter, put 1000 puzzles together, proficiency of a mathematician, count activity on addition, 25 exercises on multiplication),
Kuba began with the proficiency of a kitchen boy – he gained it during his illness. The first task which he completed was baking a cake. He succeeded in this “deliciously” (of course with a small help of his mother, who was responsible for his safety).it3

Among other tasks in this category there were also: frying scrambled eggs, preparing fruit compote and recognising herbs (such as marjoram, basil, thyme, oregano and sage) by smell.
The proficiency of Waypointer (Wskazidorga) and a treasure hunt in the forest made the biggest impression on the children. “It was a proficiency which required us-parents- a huge commitment, but IT WAS WORTH IT!” Magda says, “We went together to the forest. My husband and I prepared them 11 envelopes, in which there were hidden following fragments of the map.”

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To get another clue they had to perform various tasks – from simple ones such as doing sit-ups to complex ones such as building a hut and preparing a picnic table.

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In the forest for the first time kiddies were drinking tea from a thermos – for us-adults- nothing special, for children – a unique experience.

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Another proficiency that is worth mentioning was the team proficiency of “CINEMANIAC” (“KINOMANIAK”). The task was to prepare a cinema evening for parents. Children had to choose the right film, had to design and make the tickets and prepare a box office where the tickets were supposed to be sold. They were also supposed to prepare a cinema room, prepare space with numbers and take care of popcorn. Preparations for this evening took them a few hours. A ticket office was the biggest success. Hidden inside Jaś was selling tickets for the whole family.

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Other proficiencies were completed at a rapid pace: gardener, collector, nature lover, book lover, liaison, athlete, IT specialist, cleaner, waiter, artist, medallist and small actors, writers, mushroom pickers, artists, friends of Winnie the Pooh and many others.
Proficiencies were springing up like mushrooms after the rain – when parents wanted to teach their children something, they were creating an adequate proficiency and kiddies acquired the knowledge in no time. It was like that for example with the proficiency of the waiter, which taught them to put cutlery, set out plates and fold napkins correctly.
There were, of course, situations when the scheduled tasks weren’t possible to complete. It was like that for example with sleeping in a tent, which was necessary to gain a proficiency of the Tramp (Łazik). However, as it is stressed by Magda, “the idea was not to implement all the ideas by all means. It was supposed to give first and foremost great fun. If children couldn’t manage to do something or they didn’t feel properly motivated then we simply didn’t do that.”
“This game also showed us how different children we have,” Magda says. It turned out that while Kuba passionately devoted himself to gain the proficiency of the kitchen boy, Jaś was satisfied with preparing water with lemon and he wasn’t interested in further cooking. There was a similar situation with a gardener: making a scarecrow was exciting for him, but not necessarily weeding flower beds.

Soon we noticed that the children chose most of these tasks, which were consistent with their passions and interests, and those that allowed them to touch the “adult world”. Jaś preferred proficiency in which he could show his manual skills – he liked to draw, model, sew, design. In contrast, Kuba chose more humanistic proficiencies – those associated with reading books or reciting poems.
When I asked Magda what her family got from such a creative approach to the time spent together, I heard, “Gaining proficiencies stimulated competition and made our children learn to choose. On the other hand, we also observed that Kuba, Jaś and Maja worked fantastically together when they had a common goal – they supported and helped each other, took care of each other. Thanks to the proficiencies children have learned a lot but also have gained self-confidence, and have become more courageous. (This year Maja as a 7-year-old girl went to the scout camp before attending school.)
What Magda hasn’t said, because it’s obvious for her – is a relationship which this developing game has deepened in a beautiful way, the relationship between children and parents. I have thought that Kuba, Jaś and Maja have cool and wise parents. Parents – worldchangers. That is why we asked Magda to share her story with you. Maybe she will inspire you.

For EI KIDS

Magda Falkowska

Magda Szot

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