I was really unwell a couple weeks ago, so I took a break from the computer screen, but I thought I’d pop up a quick post to reassure everyone that, in the words of Terry Pratchett’s fantastic character Granny Weatherwax ‘I aten’t ded’. The post has nothing to do with STEM (I have stacks of post about that which need writing up) and is instead about team building and encouraging feelings of self-esteem in kids.
For Christmas my lovely in-laws offered to get tickets for the boys and their cousins to go to Go Ape at Bedgebury Pinetum in Kent. If you haven’t come across Go Ape before, they operate at several locations around the UK and are a way that people can enjoy an the excitement of an adventure in the tree tops with the safety of being attached to wires. The kids have been eyeing it up ever since we started visiting Bedgebury, and with the opening of a version suitable for accompanied kids (over a minimum height) called Tree Top Junior, their dream came a step closer. However, it isn’t exactly a cheap hour’s fun, so we were really happy when grandparents stepped in.
Our kids and their cousins ranged in age from 5 to 11 and were accompanied by the hubster and his brother. They had a safety talk, signed some things, tried out the kit on a short course just above ground level, and then they were off, up into the trees balancing across tight wires and hurtling down zip lines.
Adventurous play in a slightly scary activity helps kids to learn to manage everyday stress (scientist think it’s a big reason why young animals play) and it helps them to see things that provoke adrenaline as potentially exciting rather than always stressful. When you think about it, the sweaty palms and pounding heart of anxiety and excitement are physically identical, it’s just our brain’s recognition of each that allows us to differentiate them. This helps them to take other potentially stressful situations such as starting a new club, meeting new people, learning a new skill as something to be excited about rather than stressed by.
Playing adventurously with their family members (or other peers) has the additional benefit of bonding them through a shared exciting situation – no interesting anecdote ever started ‘Remember that time we were watching TV and your shoe fell off…’. An interesting anecdote starts ‘Remember that time we were 20 feet up a tree and your shoe fell off and nearly landed on that lady with a dog, and she tried to throw it back up and it landed in the brambles…’. Working together and sharing experiences bonds people and is why activities like this have long been popular with business managers trying to get their employees to work more effectively as a team.
As well as the proven benefits of playing with their whole bodies on co-ordination and motor skills, activities such as this which are set amongst the tree are also a way of getting a lungful of fresh air and appreciating the natural environment from a perspective which few of us ever enjoy – playing like a squirrel in the tree tops.
As to why I wasn’t up there with them? Ahem, erm, it’s definitely not because I don’t like heights, I would definitely have done it but I was looking after our friend’s dog. Next year definitely, maybe, I will if you will…
Notes: I’m not affiliated in any way with Go Ape, it just fits in with the blog’s ethos of promoting activities for children which enrich their experience and enjoyment of life, and promotes physical and mental good health. For more information, including pricing head over to their website, here. Opinions, images and fearless monkeys are all my own.