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Baloo's Bugle

April 2006 Cub Scout Roundtable Issue

Volume 13, Issue 9
May 2007 Theme

Theme: Cubs and Bugs
Webelos: Outdoorsman & Artist
Tiger Cub


Games as a Learning Tool
Bill Smith
, the Roundtable Guy

Children love games.

By the time a boy starts Tigers he is already comfortable playing games. He likes rules and is learning how to adapt his behavior to fit rules and then how to deal with a new set of rules for a different game.

Good leaders become proficient at using these traits to both control behavior and to teach their charges. You can make almost any Cub Scout activity be some kind of game. It requires a bit of imagination and some understanding of what a game is. I have always believed that Scouting should be a lot of games, governed by Scouting’s Ideals, occasionally interspersed with a few ceremonies.

Rules are the essentials of many a game. For children, following the rules is often more important and even more fun than winning or losing. In fact many games they play and enjoy don’t have winners; all they have are rules.

For example, take the game where they sit in a circle and the first boy whispers a message to the ear of boy on his right. He then passes the message to the next boy and so on all the way around. The last boy then repeats aloud the message he heard to the whole den. No winners or losers, just fun.

In last month’s Bugle, Sean Scott described how to make awards ceremonies more exciting. He made giving out badges and pins into a game involving role playing and a lot of “let’s pretend.” When rules disappear and imagination takes over, games enter what I like to call the realm of pure play.

Pure play is about imagination. It rarely involves rules. When a boy plays with his partially completed pine wood car, climbs a tree, or stomps through a mud puddle, he is in a kind of dream world. He pretends he is someone else, somewhere else, having a great adventure.

The use of a monthly themelets a boy play the role of an astronaut, clown, explorer, scientist, or other exciting character. Boys find adventure in exploring the outdoors, learning about nature, and gaining a greater appreciation for our beautiful world.

The Benefits of Cub Scouting

The importance of play

A child's life is largely made up of play, but that play is very real to the child. Children not only pretend to be jet planes or astronauts, while the game is going on they are jet planes or astronauts. They are disappointed and disillusioned if a grown-up takes a game lightly, finishes it abruptly before it is played out, or does not worry about keeping the rules.

The play-world is a very real world to children. In it they are learning and testing out the rules of life which they have to observe as adults later on. They will learn to give and take, to co-operate with others, to accept defeat without complaining, and succeed without being boastful.

Scoutbase UK Scouts 

People who study children’s games have traced games that have been passed on from generation to generation, some for more than a century with no adult involvement. Some of these games remain confined to a restricted area – even a neighborhood – and others are carried by children across oceans. The rules and structures rarely change with time even when transported to a new country with a different language.

Also last month, Russ of Timucua District game us some wonderful examples of simple timeless games in Take ‘em outside and play TAG! I once watched a boy visiting here from Japan who immediately was able to join into tag games with the locals seamlessly with little difficulty.

Role playing and simulation games can be important teaching methods. Things like fire drills, first-aid practice and rescue breathing are standard methods to learn certain skills. I recently saw a bicycle safety clip on  Youtube

 that was really a role playing game. It was hilarious but the boys seemed to be learning a lot.

Competitive Games

Boys usually enjoy games where they compete against each other or against a standard. It challenges them to do their best. The fun and excitement involved are effective tools for leaders to use in their Cub Scout programs.

Use a variety of these games in your den and pack meetings and especially in outings. Watch out for the boy who doesn’t like to compete, who hangs back and doesn’t seem to try. A good leader will discover his hidden talents and abilities and use a game where he will excel.

In competitive games, the rules tend to be selection processes that determine winners and losers. A sack race selects abilities like agility and concentration to determine who wins. The rules of a spelling bee select other qualities.

When choosing a competitive game, start by considering what abilities or talents will be needed to succeed. How much will chance or luck be a factor?  Over a short period of time you should like each of your boys to gain the esteem of winning.

Most boys understand winning and losing so you don’t have to make a big thing out of it. We adults tend to over react to who wins and, in turn, stigmatize who loses. Some pinewood derbies have rules that tend to select only the most capable parents – even those who secretly purchase ringers – as winners. Then these qualities are validated by glorifying the winners with trophies and publicity. Can you imagine what would happen if the rules were changed so that the winner was the slowest car that crossed the finish line?  What qualities and abilities would then succeed?

Over the years I have coached boys in sports teams and science teams as well as Scouts. I have rejoiced in their dedication, their inventiveness, and their indomitable spirit.

Some of my fondest memories are of those kids just doing their best. It was always fun and I guess that’s what it was supposed to be.

Some Interesting links on games and play:

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just click right here!

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