Why the Obsession With Competing?

11 07 2011

Up and down the country children and adults alike are fretting over school sports days. Sources of worry are diverse: will Jack be allowed to win every race again? Will Ruby’s trainers be up to scratch? Will Liam be able to stand the humiliation of losing? Are children being damaged by competitive sports days? Should there be a prize for everyone?

Our school Sports Day was firmly in the competitive camp. As a child, I was able to run at a perfectly reasonable speed unless it was a race, at which point I would go into slow motion, the ground would turn to treacle and I would barely be able to lift my legs. The notable exception to this was when racing my brother – a highly competitive and extremely undignified affair. Needless to say, I was last in every race at every Sports Day and Swimming Gala for my entire school career.

My parents were not amongst those who provided blue tack for the egg and spoon race or those who turned up with running spikes and mowed down Katie’s dad the year he was trampled in the fathers’ race, neither did they have me training for the sack race in the garden every night, while my mother looked on with a stop watch.

Read more on the Huffington Post…





Free Summer Fun

8 06 2011

The summer holiday season will soon be upon us and who doesn’t know someone who’s going somewhere that makes you green with envy? At this time of year, it can feel as though you’re no one if you’re not going somewhere that’ll make everyone green with envy.

I don’t know how many of you watched the BBC TV series, Beautiful People, but there was an episode in which Simon’s family had been telling everyone they were going away on a fantastic holiday, but found themselves too short on cash to actually go, so, to keep up appearances, they locked themselves in their house for a week and carried on as though they were on holiday. They decorated the house, dressed in their holiday clothes and held holiday-camp-style competitions in their living room. They had a whale of a time.

I’m not suggesting that you go to the lengths of lying to your friends, family and general acquaintance about your whereabouts, but here are a few ideas for fun holiday activities on a shoestring budget.

House Swap

If you fancy getting away, how about swapping houses with a friend who lives in another area? You can have fun making lists of local sights and activities for one another and you won’t have to worry about finishing absolutely everything in the fridge and getting someone in to water the plants and feed the pets.

Picnics

Picnics are vastly under-rated. You can go where you like, within legal limits, obviously, and eat what you like, when you like. You don’t need to be near a cafĂ© or restaurant, you don’t need to comply with their times, you won’t find that there’s nothing you like on the menu or that everything’s over-cooked. It won’t be hideously expensive. Basically, it’s all on your own terms and you don’t have to be on your best behaviour!

Fishing

Spend a pleasant summer’s day by a river, enjoy being outside, take a picnic and maybe a book or a radio and you’ll maybe get something to take home for tea. It’s not free to fish everywhere – you need a ticket or club membership in many places. dofreefishing.co.uk has information on where you can fish for free and what you can catch there.

There really is something very satisfying about catching your own food!

Free Days Out

For ideas on free days out, try dofreestuff.com. There’s also a list of free museums provided by the Department for Culture. It would also be worth checking your council’s or local attractions’ websites, to find out whether admission is free or discounted for local residents.

Discover your home town

Very often, we look further afield for our holiday fun, but how many of us can say that we’ve taken the tourist trail round our home town? Get a guide-book out from your local library and find out what you’ve been missing out on.

If you can get hold of a walking tour map itinerary, you could give yourselves the full-on tourist experience. Go in a large group and you can take turns at being the guide and being the tourists. Why not go the whole hog and create characters for yourselves?

Cycle paths, bridleways and green lanes

The countryside and, for that matter, towns are full of paths and shortcuts you would never see from public transport or your car. They say a change is as good as a rest, so why not look at your town from a different perspective?

Scavenger Hunts

These are great, in that you can easily make them age-appropriate and you can even sneak a bit of learning in there.

For those who don’t know, on a scavenger hunt, each participant has a list of items they have to find. The first to return with the full set of items within the allowed time wins.

They’re nice because you can pass time with spin-offs. A rainy-day project could be making or decorating bags to carry collected items in. The journey could be spent making up the item list in the style of the game ‘Granny went to market’.

Let the Children Camp in the Garden

Just because you’re not going away, it doesn’t mean you have to stick to the term-time routine. Why not let the children camp out in your garden? You can have a quiet night in and they can imagine they’re anywhere – American pioneers, heading west, nomads in the desert, circus performers, a travelling fair, jungle or arctic explorers – the world’s their oyster! If you have a sandpit and or a paddling pool, they could create their own beach. They could put on their own circus act with your friends. It gives a taste of independence, with the safety net of running back in if they need to.
Maybe they could cook on a camp fire, under adult supervision? Some easy cooking ideas:

  • Baked beans – cook them in a pan then eat them out of a mug
  • Jacket potatoes – wrap them in tin foil and put them in the embers of the fire, once it dies down
  • Marshmallows or toast – put them on skewers and toast them over the fire
  • Cocoa – make it in a pan over the fire, then pour into a mug. It goes really well with marshmallows.

When you’re camping in the garden, you might see all kinds of wildlife you wouldn’t see in the daytime: hedgehogs, foxes, owls, badgers etc.








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