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Connect Four for Group

October 28th, 2016

My son’s friend Lilly leads games for American Heritage girls every once in awhile. Last week, she created a giant Connect Four game to play with the group. she rolled pieces of tape to put on the walls where players could “drop” the connect four checkers (red and blue plates).  Then groups competed to see which team could connect four dots (horizontally, vertically or diagonally) the fastest.  Such a fun idea!

connect-4 connect-4b

Get it On: The Dance Challenge

May 8th, 2016

In our dance series of moves we’ve learned from teens, we’ve highlighted several dance moves. Did you take the time to demonstrate the moves you know and that your youth know?

Not only is dancing (movement) good as a brain booster, it’s also good as an inter-generational activity and a cultural activity where we exchange things we know and love about music AND share stories.

One last clip . . . just because – watch and see who knows what, who does what and what other epic moves it brings to mind.  Let the fun begin!  Enjoy!

 

Boost Your Brain: The Final 3 Dance Moves

May 2nd, 2016

On our journey to learn new dance steps from youth, we leave you with these three.  Are they still the latest?

Ask your teens to teach you the newest moves.  Ask the to share dance stories – the flopped moves, the great moves, maybe even the embarrassing moves.  It’s fun what you’ll learn as you move, laugh and dance together . . . which brings us back to the point of this series: boost the brain, boost the relationships.

 

for this next one, it takes about 30 seconds in to get to it.  :-)

Boost Your Brain: The Dancing Goes On

April 25th, 2016

Movement is an important brain booster.  And dancing is a great way to bring in oxygen, get the blood and heart pumping, reduce stress, build friendships and have a good time.

For this week’s dance moves, these three steps are easy (supposedly) beginner moves that anyone can do – even those of us with two left feet!  Poll your teens – do these moves still make the cool list? Or do they help them get away with “looking” cool?

 

Adults Need Play in Their Lives, Too

April 22nd, 2016

We write about the value of games and play frequently for the development of youth and of groups.  And there is research to back that up.  But, adults, too, need play in their lives and this article shares way to build in play and reminds you of the research.  Enjoy!

 

http://www.chopra.com/ccl/adult-playtime-6-ways-to-bring-more-fun-into-your-day

Boost Your Brain: Dance Moves 5-6

April 18th, 2016

Movement is an important brain booster.  And dancing is a great way to bring in oxygen, get the blood and heart pumping, reduce stress, build friendships and have a good time.

For this week’s dance moves, in our little series, we bring you two related to equipment. Can you combine them into one dance seamlessly?

Boost Your Brain: Dance Move #4

April 11th, 2016

For this week’s dance move that we learned from youth we know, we bring you the Running Man.

Ask your teens? Is this still hot? Or has it gone cold?  What IS the latest, greatest move?

 

Boost Your Brain: Dance Move #3

April 4th, 2016

Movement is an important brain booster.  And dancing is a great way to bring in oxygen, get the blood and heart pumping, reduce stress, build friendships and have a good time.

As Ann and I led a series for workshops, we tested various dance games.  We quickly learned that not all dance moves are universal . . . or equal.   As always, we love learning from youth . . .

Here’s this week’s moves that we learned. (One I can do!)

Ask your teens: are these moves in? Or are they now “so last year”?

 

Boost Your Brain: Dance #2

March 28th, 2016

Movement is an important brain booster.  And dancing is a great way to bring in oxygen, get the blood and heart pumping, reduce stress, build friendships and have a good time.

As Ann and I led a series for workshops, we tested various dance games.  We quickly learned that not all dance moves are universal . . . or equal.   As always, we love learning from youth . . .

Here’s this week’s moves that we learned.  Ask your teens: are these moves in? Or are they now “so last year”?

 

 

Boost Your Brain With Dance

March 21st, 2016

Movement is an important brain booster.  It brings in oxygen, gets the blood and heart pumping, reduces stress and quite simply, it can be . . . just good ole’ wholesome fun.

When Ann and I lead workshops for camp, we often try out new games.  And our latest round of new games included dance moves.  In one game, instead of us telling them the moves to do for the game, we asked them for the dance moves.  And that’s where our education began . . . In the next few weeks, we’ll share the moves we learned and that made us “cool” with future teens and young adults.

It’s all in the moves. My personal favorite I learned while teaching Y-CAP summer camp staff (Vanderbilt football players primarily).  The guys taught me how to do the Whip.  Which came in quite handy a few months later when I was leading a training in New York and got the group’s attention by – yep, you guessed it – doing the Whip.

Cool dance move #1.  Enjoy!

Who Are You? (A Game to Explore Diversity)

January 14th, 2015

Excerpted from Groups Troops, Clubs and Classrooms by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor, 2014

This activity, developed by Sharon Williams, a seasoned youth services professional, lets youth explore their identity. Get into pairs. One participant will be the “questioner”; the other will be the “respondent.” When the facilitator says “go,” the questioner asks, “Who are you?” The respondent answers with a descriptor of themselves (“I am a brother,” “I’m a gamer”). The questioner asks the question again, “Who are you?” and the respondent answers with a different descriptor. The question and response goes back and forth until the facilitator calls time (after about 60–90 seconds). When time is called, the partners switch roles.  Afterward, debrief them with the following questions:

  1. Did you learn something new about your partner?
  2. What things do you have in common?
  3. Looking at the different things that make you “you,” what are you most proud to be?

Want to learn more?  Check out our newest book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!

Summer Days 11

October 13th, 2014

Summer Days are a 12-part blog series focused on lessons of gratitude passed on from dog to human. This human is still trying to embrace daily the lessons of gratitude, so much so that gratitude gets an entire chapter in the book I wrote with Ann Saylor for educators, youth leaders, and parents called Groups, Troops, Clubs & Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working With Youth. In there, lessons of gratitude are shared as a tool for maintaining personal power and strength . . . and teaching youth to do the same.

I read the other day in an article on play that dogs play their whole lives and never forget play in their routine. It’s simply part of who they are and what they do. My personal experience proves this to be true especially with my Summer Girl, my border collie/lab, who came into my husband’s and my life as one of our two canine kids.

In Summer Days 3, as we talked about delighting in the now, we mentioned that Summer often created her own form of “play”:  stalking the edge of the forest to look for stray crickets to chase as we walked, or hunting for bunnies and nosing frogs in water holes. In addition to these acts, Summer has been known to play with her food (bringing it from the bowl into the living room, dropping food on the carpet to get one kernel at a time). She has been known to dive into her bed and attack it; play with chew toys or rawhides (of course!); or play with Lacey and us. We have chased each other in circles around the house. But our favorite game involved guard duty.  We could literally look outside, WHISPER the signal “Lacey, Summer – squirrel” or sometimes simply “squirrel” and the two dogs would tear off to go outside and chase the offending squirrel or squirrels out of the backyard (usually across the top of the fence around the yard to a particular tree).

Did you notice I said, whisper?  How in-tuned to the idea of play is that? A mere whisper could bring it out of her!

Obvious to anyone who owns or owned a dog is his or her inborn ability to play and thus we have:

Lesson #11: Play. Always Play.  IMG_3973

We had to name it, even if it’s an obvious lesson because it’s still a valuable lesson. There are high connections between play and gratitude. When we play, we are less stressed, more present, more alive and more in the moment. Those playful moments bring about gratitude as a natural response. And yet we often neglect to play as we get older in order to work. (And if you want ideas on how to play, check out our books, Great Group Games, Great Group Games for Kids and Great Group Games on the Go.)

IMG_2245How do you like to play? How do you define it? What does it look like for you? Reading a book? Watching a movie? Playing board games or cards? Being silly with a friend? Taking a moment to run backwards in your workout? Having the windows down and the wind whipping your face? Today as you go about your normal routine, don’t forget to take a moment to play – whatever that looks like for you. You know what play is. It makes you smile, lightens your heart and makes you feel free and young. Put it on your list of “must do” today: go play.

You can read all the gratitude lessons we’ve learned from our four-legged Gratitude Guru and learn for yourself how to: show love first thing each morning; be joyfully exuberant when doing what you love; delight in the now; always show appreciation to others; work and contribute; presume friendship; just be; sleep and eat regularly; offer presence; be patient; and play.

Quotable Words on Play from Counselor Jake Lawrence

September 17th, 2014

“Game time is important. We throw the football, talk about video games, or play games. Connect Four, Tumbling Towers, dominoes—I use these with all ages. It’s a great opportunity to transition from hanging out to talking about something important. “What does it take to win the game?” becomes “What does it take to win in life?” Games are like minilives—you just expand them.”

– Jake Lawrence, licensed professional counselor

Resource for Substitute Teachers

August 9th, 2014

One of our educator friends emailed us this note about our best-selling books Great Group Games.   It made us smile, and we thought it might give you an idea to encourage youthworkers and educators in your life:

“I led the Human Treasure Hunt with a 2nd grade class last week and they had a blast!!  Susan and Ann – you girls have made my substituting days SOooo much easier and so much fun!”

Find out more about the book here or at your favorite online reseller.

Summer Days

August 4th, 2014

Summer Days are a 12-part blog series focused on lessons of gratitude passed on from dog to human. This human is still trying to embrace daily the lessons of gratitude, so much so that gratitude gets an entire chapter in the book I wrote with Ann Saylor for educators, youth leaders, and parents called Groups, Troops, Clubs & Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working With Youth. In there, lessons of gratitude are shared as a tool for maintaining personal power and strength . . . and teaching youth to do the same.

When it comes to gratitude and living a joyful life, I’ve had a constant teacher for 12 ½ years.  In my own home, she has daily modeled what it looks like to embrace each day with joy. Her age? 84. Her background? She faced abandonment and trauma as a little one; overcame fear and timidity; found her voice and learned to look for and discover joys in every day living. She turned her life from that of victim and being afraid of adults to one of fearlessly choosing good, living in the moment and enjoying each day.

Summer, my border collie/lab mix, has been “the” teacher to show what it means to choose happiness and gratitude. From her, my husband and I have learned many lessons that we could benefit by if we, too, (the humans) would simply apply that learning to our everyday existence. We want to share those lessons with you in a blog series, we’re calling Summer Days.

IMG_2201Lesson #1: Always begin each morning by showing affection to the ones you love.

Summer puts major emphasis on the “pack” and its happiness together. If she’s up first, she comes over and greets us to help us wake up by either nuzzling a hand or giving a single lick to a forehead. And as our eyes open, we see a happy grinning dog wiggling her whole body saying hello. If, on the other hand, we are the ones who are up first, then as we walk past her, her tail begins an instant thumping staccato beat of joy before she gets up to come over for “lubbings” (love + rubbings).

How often do you start your day with a kiss, a hug or with a cheery “good morning, love!” and a smile? If you’re a morning person, you may very well do this. If you’re not a morning person or if you have kids to get ready or are running late, your morning start may be more like this: “Uhmmm” (unintelligible greeting) Where’s the coffee?” (the non-greeting) “Kids, you’re going to be late!” “Don’t forget to pick up something for dinner on your way home.” “Sorry, I don’t have time for breakfast – see you this evening!” And with these words there is rushing around grabbing items before running out the door to catch the bus or the car to get to where you need to be and any true connection gets lost in the busyness of getting on with the day.

How different would your day be if you started it off showing affection and gratitude for the ones you love? What if you invested the energy into expressing cheeriness, love and warmth and started their day off right? We emphasize breakfast; why not love?

Today, don’t take your pack for granted but be deliberate in expressing love, affection and gratitude. Done on a daily basis, it can build up lots of good juju on one’s inside. Trust me  – I know.