Path to Story, Ch. 41: “Snakes, Sharks, and Crocodiles!”

If you’re waiting during an in-between time, maybe before a meal or trip, and playing a video game or watching TV would require too much commitment, playing a random game with whatever you can find with rules that are made up on the spot may be just what you need! “Snakes, Sharks, and Crocodiles” was what recently worked for my family while we waited for something.

Much like at times with the “Blanket of Mystery” in chapter 35, I had no idea what I was doing till I did it. I just knew I had to do something before things got too complicated. At times, my kids would complain about being bored, which can often provide the perfect environment for innovation. A messy room provided the palette of useable toys/supplies.

On the floor was a tri-bladed Nerf boomerang that one of my kids had tied a rope to. Also on the floor were two rugs, they gave us the setting and the challenge for the game. I placed myself between the rugs and stretched out my arm like a branch (I soon had to replace it with a pool noodle reinforced with one of my kid’s bo staffs because of rope-burn). The goal was to wrap the boomerang around my arm with a toss so that it would hold as my kid would swing on it from one rug to the other, sort of a live version of the old Atari game “Pitfall!”. Two stuffed animals also in the room: one a shark, the other a snake, were the enemies/danger. The crocodile was played by another of my kids. He was very excited to eat his siblings.

We started out timing the attempts- as many as you could do in 5 seconds. If you failed to get a wrap, you were considered crocodile bait, but this became an issue so we took the timer off and limited it to 5 attempts.

A missed throw was simply that, a miss. Everyone would yell, “Miss!”, and it would count against your allotted 5 attempts. If your attempt made a wrap but failed to get secured as you tugged on it, then everyone would yell, “Snake!”, and you’d get the stuffed toy snake thrown at you. It resembled when ‘George of the Jungle’ thought that he had grabbed a vine to swing on, only to realize he had grabbed a snake! This also counted as a fail taking another of the allotted 5. If your attempt made a wrap and almost held in time for you to get to safety- the other rug, but still fell, then everyone would yell, “Crocodiles!”, and you were then considered croc bait, which my awaiting son- when not attempting himself, would then attack. This yet again counted against the 5. If you failed all five attempts to get a ‘secured wrap’, then everyone would yell, “Shark!”, they’d throw the stuffed shark at you and you were shark food. After the allotted 5 attempts or a ‘secured wrap’ was achieved, it was then the next person’s turn.

A Secured Wrap and Winning the game: If however, you made a wrap and it was secure, (You know it when you do it because you can’t tug it free), then you’d get a victory point- first one to 5, up to 10, won the game and everyone would cheer, “Yay!” Everyone except crocodile boy…

Creating games may not always keep tempers calm, but it can make time fly with a lot of fun. Besides, if peace is what you want, you can always make your kids read a book while they wait. Boo!

Path to Story, Ch. 40: “Fetch!!”

It all began from a distracted mother’s complaint. “They are too loud! I need to focus on my work!” You see, her two sons had come rolling down the wooden staircase like boulders and had begun quarreling about one’s need for sleep vs. the other’s need for help. This would’ve been fine had the stairs ended in any other room except the one containing their hard-at-work mother, but they didn’t. So again, “Change the Story”, was my mission, and I explored why my son needed help.

Fear was the problem, but I couldn’t understand why. We had moved about 6 months ago and our new house unnerved one of my kids, but even he didn’t understand why. To figure this out, we played a game we called, “Fetch!”. We ‘changed the story’ by making the different areas of the house levels by their inherent scariness. The basement, our darkest room, was Level One. The garage, home to many ‘creepy crawlies’, was Level Two. The attic, sealed off by locked doors was Level 3. We had a small stick, like the alien had in Shaun the Sheep (“The Visitor” from “One Giant Leap for Lambkind”) which he threw to distract Bitzer from barking at him. I used it to distract my son from his fear.

I had my triplets together place the stick somewhere in their respective Levels. The challenge was to go there alone and bring the stick back to me while I waited in a different room with the other two. They would then replace it for the others to take their turn. After everyone retrieved the stick, we would rank the level’s scariness from 1-10, with 10 being the scariest.

I am not a fan of collective punishment, but since this was a game everyone wanted to play, they did it together. Even though I knew the other two would be fine, I included them to help encourage their brother. Besides, they were needed for the stick’s placement.

Level One was a breeze. The highest scary score, or HSS, that was given was a two. Next up was Level Two, which again, surprisingly to me, was easy with an HSS of 3. However, things took a major turn for Level 3. I had the other two go first one-at-a-time, to lend encouragement to their brother, which they did and gave the level an HSS of 2. But when it was his turn, he froze before the attic door. The drama level went to the max as he began to berate his disobedient legs. With confused tears in his eyes, he turned to me not able to explain why he couldn’t fetch the stick. I let his siblings get a little closer, but not enough to spoil the challenge. His legs were freed and he got the stick.

Afterward, I brought them all to me and we discussed it. Fear, as we’ve discovered from “Scary Time” described in Path To Story Ch. 36, and from watching shows like Scooby-Doo, doesn’t always make sense. It can make us think silly thoughts that make things possible that aren’t. Or make us run, jump, scream, or like my son, freeze us in our tracks.

I then explained why I was proud of them: They aren’t afraid of the dark, otherwise Level One wouldn’t have been a breeze. They aren’t afraid of bugs, otherwise Level Two wouldn’t have been so easy. But why was Level 3 so difficult? It was obviously the source of my son’s fear. He told us about how the insulation hung like monster claws, along with other things. He’s right, it totally looked like monster claws. After he told us about it, he didn’t seem so afraid anymore. In fact, I recently asked him about it and he said he doesn’t even think about the attic anymore.

I’m just glad the doors are locked shut on those freaky looking monster claws…

A Path to Story Ch. 15: Game w/ Story

I enjoy creating games out of random things.  Sometimes I make games out of necessity, and sometimes it’s just a fun way to spend time together.  Creating a game while also telling a story of what the game is for helps to give it a context.  Most of the computer games I played as a kid and still do have a creative storyline that gives purpose to why you play.  Whether it’s to save the princess or to turn back the dark forces threatening the kingdom, giving a game a story makes it change from a simple test of skills to an epic battle of warrior awesomeness.

Here’s an example of a game-with-story that I made up and played with my kids.  I called the game: “Ninja!!”

Story (It doesn’t have to be long, just a quick reason that answer’s the “why?”):  The training of the Ninja is a time-honored practice taught for centuries amidst the misty mountains of Imaninja.  During the once in a century meeting called “The Only One I’ll Be Alive For”, or “TOOIBAF”, the sensei masters of the Imaninja Dojo have agreed to reveal the entry-level test to the world.

The goal is to have your kids sneak up on you and touch you on the shoulder 5x’s (or however long you want the game to be and as the kids stay interested).  If they achieve 5 taps, they will be given the entry-level title of Mouse, or make something else up.  You can do this by adding their favorite animal, or something sneaky.  The entry level makes it repeatable.

If you have a child who is not interested in staying entry level but wants to be a full Ninja Master, you could add to the story by saying, “No one has ever completed the entry-level test as quickly as you have.  I have been given the authority by the ninja counsel of the Imaninja Dojo to bestow upon you the rank and title of Master.”

Set Up:  First, place a chair in the middle of a room, this will be where you will sit with eyes closed for the game.  Second, pick the distant place from where your kids will begin.  The starting place could be the corner of the room or down a hallway etc.  When everyone’s ready, you begin the game by shouting “NINJA!!” If you hear them you open your eyes and if you see them they have to start over.  You can turn off the lights to make it easier for them to evade you.  You can also help them by snoring. You can occasionally wake yourself up which makes them have to decide to freeze or move to hide.

If caught, your kids have three options:
1. They can throw down a smoke bomb to become invisible and have 3-5 sec. to hide, but they only get one of those per attempt.  Smoke bombs can’t be used for a tap, they are for hiding only.
2. They can pretend to be an animal by meowing or barking etc., thus tricking you, but this only works when they are farther away and low to the ground.
3. Sing a lullaby which lulls you back to sleep.

This entertained my kids for a good 1/2 hour. No props needed.