The Mountain Times

°F Wed, April 23, 2014

Central Vermont's Most Popular Weekly Newspaper

Instructional pointer: Childhood games

Between the ages of 6 and 12, children generally spend about 40 percent of their day with their friends. In terms of sports, during the spring and summer, roughly half a million boys between the ages of 9 and 12 participate in Little League. In a more general arena, both girls and boys engage in a wide array of different kinds of games as young children. 

Children spend enormous amounts of time playing.

Children's ski school programs, while not often considered, can be an important arena for children. In the view of the late noted psychologist Jean Piaget, it is partly through games and the resulting negotiation and resolution of disagreements that children learn to interact better with others. Games can teach girls and boys to play cooperatively, to play competitively, to maintain self control, to balance personal desires with social rules, to expand social skills, and to accept and understand the importance of rules. Children's programs, in general, offer the opportunity for children to explore their place in different social situations. Indeed, children's programs can offer children an important way to learn to negotiate, compromise, and to learn to develop responsibility.

Look over the children's programs at your ski area. Do children play cooperatively? Does the program balance cooperation with competition? Are the staff enthusiastic? Is there an adequate staff and student ratio. (Ideally, one instructor for every 4 to 5 children is good). Do the staff encourage rules which reflect a philosophy of moral education? In other words, are the staff sensitive to children who push, hit, or steal? Just as schools have certain rules which govern conduct and etiquette, so too, children's ski programs can (and should) encourage a level of conformity. Under the watchful eye of a responsible, knowledgeable, adult, children can develop in responsible ways.

Many parents know this, of course. But now, ski school has begun to recognize this too. Learn which programs you think will be appropriate for your children.  The games of childhood can teach children a great deal.

Contributing Writer Tony Crespi is a former ski school supervisor and development team coach. Keenly interested in children's programs, his column is published throughout the season.