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Helping kids play together – without the drama!​

One of the great joys of parenting is watching children play happily together.  There’s nothing quite like the magic of seeing children laugh and have fun together, or watching children use their imagination, come up with a creative game and act it out.

Of course, in the real world (goodbye Johnson and Johnson moment) it doesn’t always happen that way.  Instead, we often hear yelling and tears:  “that’s not fair!”, “who said you were the boss??” and screaming and storming off sometimes ensues!

At this point, it’s much less delightful, it must be said. 🙂

While some kids will often eventually resolve the conflict themselves, some (think kids with big feelings, strong independent streaks or difficulties with flexibility just to name a few) find it harder.  And for ALL children, sometimes play just gets hard.

It can be helpful for us as adults to proactively provide a few tips, coach and help children learn to play games kindly and fairly with each other.

Generally it’s better to do this kind of coaching before the problems begin, and to also ask children to think about specific games they play rather than “playing” in general.   Here are a few specifics in coaching children to play kindly and fairly.

Ask children questions about their game playing

It can be useful to ask children questions about their play times/game playing regularly – to check in on their skill levels, any problems and anything that has improved/is going well.  For example, we might ask:

Who are you playing with at the moment?
What games are you playing?
When was the last time you/your friend got mad during those games?
What happened?
What are you good at when playing with friends?
When do you need an adult’s help when playing with friends/siblings?

Once we are aware of how kids are going with their game playing, we can then look at skills.

There are a number of skills which we can look at when teaching children about “good play”, but below I’ve focused on three specific ones  – generating rules, dealing with problems and kind game playing sentences.

1 Helping children generate useful “rules” or guidelines to play

When you know a child is playing a particular game regularly, or having problems with a particular activity with their peers, it can be useful to get them to talk about rules for that game before they begin.

For example:

Tell me about what you might do with Jack today?
What might you play?
What do you think might be some fair rules when you are playing that game?

I ask children to think about rules for the beginning, middle and end of games.  I also talk about how it’s important to try to agree on the rules of a game before you start the game.

2. Helping children anticipate problems and develop problem solving strategies for games

It’s also often effective to ask children to develop strategies about game playing problems which have happened before – and ask them to generate potential solutions to these problems.

For example:

What will you do if you disagree on when balls are in/out when you are playing handball?
What could you do if both of you want to be the dance teacher when you are playing dance school?
When you play xbox today, how will you agree who gets what game at what time?

If children have trouble thinking about the problems that might come up (remember kids live in the moment, and often won’t anticipate/remember problems which as adults we are well aware of!), think of the problems you’ve seen happen previously – and ask them questions like this:

What could you do if someone wants to play the game and someone doesn’t?
What could you do if someone wants to finish playing and someone doesn’t?
What could you do if you disagree about the rules?
What could you do if you disagree about what happened?
What might be a good rule about what NOT to say or do?
What might be a good rule about what everyone agrees to do?

When thinking about what NOT to say, I talk with children about avoiding using the word “cheater”.  For example, I say:

What happens if someone calls you a Cheater?  What could you say instead if there is a problem?

If children have trouble thinking about problem solving strategies, I help them out by asking them about these ideas:

“I think……………(say the problem)” OR
“Can you please…………..(say what they want)” OR
“Let’s take a break” OR
“Let’s ask Mum/Dad for help” OR
“No big deal, let’s just keep playing”

If kids feel frustrated in a game they say: “I need a five minute time out” and they do something else for a minute.

3. Helping children generate kind sentences to use in games

I also have found that teaching children the specific words to say when being kind and fair in a game is more effective than talking generally about “being kind and fair”.  This means coming up with “kind game playing sentences” for each game.  For example:

What could you say to each other which would be a compliment/make them feel good?
What could you say that might make someone feel better if they are upset during a handball game/imaginery dance concert? 

If children can’t think of kind game playing sentences you could make some suggestions, and ask children what they think about them.  For example:

When could you say “Good shot”?
When could you say “Have another go”
What would happen if you said: “You go first”
What would happen if you said “Bad luck”
How could you congratulate people at the end of the game?
What might make a “losing person” feel better if it is a competitive game (would “winner packs up” be a good rule for this game?)

Last ideas about coach kids to play games

Kids will fight during game play.  It’s totally normal.  But usually they will fight LESS over time, if we teach them, specifically and slowly – how to play.  Sometimes it can be helpful to actually ask children to play a game, following these rules, while we watch them for ten minutes.

If you can find time to do this, while you are watching do TWO things.

1. Coach them while they are playing (“can you remember some kind sentences to say”, “now’s the time to say “let’s take a break”, say it softly please, “remember what do you do BEFORE you start the game”, “let’s pretend someone breaks a rule – what will you do?”)

2. Notice their good play (“wow, great kind sentence”, “nice work on using a calm voice, I’m so impressed”, “You’re such a good sport to remember to say congratulations”, “hey you guys solved that problem so maturely all on your own”).

Spending this time (in the car on the way home, while you are unpacking a dishwasher, just before bed) brainstorming rules, problem solving strategies and kind sentences that children can use to help them play fairly and well together – and then spending time watching children play and coaching them through difficult interactions – takes time.  However a few minutes here and there (it doesn’t need to be hours) often saves time in the long run.

Article by Kirrilie Smout

51 Comments on Parent Page

  1. Rob Anderson
    July 30, 2013 at 8:31 am (5 years ago)

    Why was Ned Kelly so famous?

    The main reason Ned Kelly is the standout bushranger in Australia’s history is because of the suit of armour he built to protect himself. This armour served him quite well at the seige of Glenrowan, where he no doubt would have been killed except for the armour. (He ended up with 28 gunshot wounds in his legs which were not protected).

    He then went on to be acptured and later hanged which added to his fame.

    There is also a questionable reason that he robbed and gave money to the poor. This possible myth added to his fame. Having a ‘gang’ rather than being a sole bushranger also captured the publics imagination a bit as well.

    • baker2012
      July 31, 2013 at 8:24 am (5 years ago)

      Thanks Rob for helping us with our investigation about bushrangers! Thanks for being the first parent and Dad to help us out! I want to send you a Freddo Frog but I’m scared Scarlett might eat it on the way home!

  2. Suzanne Caruana
    July 31, 2013 at 6:11 am (5 years ago)

    Who was the last ever bushranger?
    Well, many considered the Kelly gang to be the last bushrangers but they later discovered that the last bushrangers were actually Jimmy and Joe Governor and Jacky Underwood!

    • baker2012
      July 31, 2013 at 8:22 am (5 years ago)

      Thanks Suzanne for helping us to learn more about bushrangers!

  3. grace giudice
    July 31, 2013 at 6:55 am (5 years ago)

    what guns did bushrangers use?
    Bushrangers typically used pistols, revolvers and rifles. The collection of guns grew within the Kelly gang, as, each time they held up a bank, for instance, they would steal weapons. By the time Ned Kelly was captured, the gang had an impressive collection of guns.

    • baker2012
      July 31, 2013 at 8:22 am (5 years ago)

      Thanks for helping Luke!

  4. Josie Roker
    July 31, 2013 at 7:50 am (5 years ago)

    Why was Ned Kelly’s family so poor?
    Ned’s father John Kelly was an ex-convict who was sent from Ireland to Tasmania for stealing pigs. After receiving his Certificate of Freedom 7 years later, he went to Melbourne, then traveled towards the Donnybrook/Kilmore area and worked as a carpenter. After getting married, he made a living farming and gold mining. But he ended up in jail many times for horse /cow stealing. With a wife and 8 children, he could not afford to feed them. When he died in 1866, Ned, then just 12 years old, was left as the oldest boy to support the family. He however turned to a life of crime, charged many times for assault/highway robbery/bushranging/bank robbery and horse/cow stealing. He then spent the next years in and out of jail, unable to support his mum and brothers/sisters before being hanged in 1880 at the age of 25.

    • baker2012
      July 31, 2013 at 8:21 am (5 years ago)

      Thanks Josie, Max will appreciate your help!

  5. Denise Birrell
    July 31, 2013 at 8:52 am (5 years ago)

    Why was Ned Kelly the most famous bushranger in his gang?

    I think because he designed and made the armour that he and his gang wore which made them stand out from all others and has become a famous icon in history!
    Also because he was hanged and capital punishment is no longer part of our penal system, it is something that we remember about his death and the grisly nature of it.

    • baker2012
      July 31, 2013 at 9:17 am (5 years ago)

      Thanks Denise for helping us with our Inquiry!

  6. siobhan beaney
    July 31, 2013 at 9:29 am (5 years ago)

    the fire started that killed dan kelly was by the policemen because they set
    fire to the hotel that had dan in it

    • baker2012
      July 31, 2013 at 9:44 am (5 years ago)

      Thanks Siobhan for assisting Ed with his wondering question!

  7. Dominic Cannata
    July 31, 2013 at 9:52 am (5 years ago)

    Did other members of the Kelly gang kill anyone?

    There is no evidence to suggest that the other members killed anyone. Ned claimed personal responsibility for killing all 3 policeman at Stringybark creek. Whether this is the case or not is unknown because McIntyre (a policeman who escaped the shootings at Stringybark Creek) witnessed him shoot only one of the three who died. It is possible that Ned made the claim in order to shield one or more of the other gang members. In any case, all other gang members were later killed by the police so they were never tried or convicetd for murder.

    • baker2012
      July 31, 2013 at 9:54 am (5 years ago)

      Thanks Dominic, we love when Dad’s can help us in the classroom!

  8. Nadia Tomarchio
    July 31, 2013 at 9:55 am (5 years ago)

    Who was the last bushranger?
    Many actually think that Ned Kelly was the last of the bushrangers but as late studies showed that Jimmy and Joe Governor were really the last.

    • baker2012
      July 31, 2013 at 9:59 am (5 years ago)

      Thanks Nadia for your help with our investigation!

  9. Sue Ryan
    July 31, 2013 at 10:01 am (5 years ago)

    Why did Ned Kelly decide to form the Kelly Gang?

    The Kelly gang was formed to change their world for the better. Ned’s father died when he was only 12 and Ned’s family were poor. He also held deep resentment towards the British. Faced with poverty he started stealing horses when he was 16. Later Ned and his brother Dan together with their mates Joe Byrne and Steve Hart formed the Kelly gang.

    One day they came across some police camped at Stringy Bark Creek. Ned thought the police tried to kill Dan so a fight broke out and Ned shot the police dead. A reward for the Kelly gang started at 2000 pounds (which would later rise). For two years together with the help of local support the Kelly gang dodged police and began robbing banks (shooting no-one). At each robbery Ned gave one of his hostages a letter explaining that he shot the police in self defence and called for justice for the poor.

    • baker2012
      July 31, 2013 at 10:22 am (5 years ago)

      Thanks Sue for that detailed answer, great help to Georgia!

  10. Nancy Bendinelli
    July 31, 2013 at 10:39 am (5 years ago)

    Ned Kelly was arguably the most famous Australian bushranger. He was defiant in his treatment of the law and police, especially when he tried to take the whole town of Glenrowan as hostage. Interestingly he is considered an Australian legend despite the fact that he was an outlaw and a murderer.

    He was also famous for the armour which he wore, particularly, the “bucket” style helmet with a slit for the eyes. This has become synonomous with Ned Kelly.

    • baker2012
      July 31, 2013 at 10:46 am (5 years ago)

      Thanks Nancy, you have given us some new words to learn as well as teaching us about Ned Kelly! First person to find out what synonomous means gets a Freddo Frog!

      • baker2012
        August 1, 2013 at 9:16 am (5 years ago)

        Well done Georgia! Everyone wants that Freddo! Angus was the first person to answer though as soon as I opened those doors this morning! Go you though for finding out!

  11. Brenda
    July 31, 2013 at 9:44 pm (5 years ago)

    In answer to my question about how many bushrangers there were Wikipedia was very helpful……A bushranger was a thief who lived in the Australian bush. Bushrangers often stole expensive things from banks or coaches. There were more than 2000 bushrangers during Australia’s past. Most were simply criminals and thieves. A few bushrangers became famous and were seen as heroes. They are part of a long history that has men such as Robin Hood and Dick Turpin in England, or Jesse James and Billy the Kid in the US.
    Happy learning!
    Brenda Pote

    • baker2012
      August 1, 2013 at 2:34 am (5 years ago)

      Hi Brenda, thanks so much for your response. The children have really loved giving their parents some homework!

  12. Heather Heanue
    August 1, 2013 at 10:21 pm (5 years ago)

    Why was Ned Kelly’s family so poor?

    Ned Kelly’s father, John, came to Van Dieman’s land as a convict for stealing two pigs in his homeland, Ireland. Having served his sentence he came to Victoria as a free man and married Ellen Quinn in 1851. The Kelly’s were small selectors, and often the plots allocated to the farmers were too small and the soil too poor to make a living from. Often these small selectors stole cattle/horse from the wealthy squatters to survive. Times were tough in the bush, and with a large family to support, John Kelly was involved in ‘cattle duffing’, and once again in prison. John Kelly died shortly after his release, Ned was 12 years old.
    The Kelly family continued on the land, but found it difficult to make a living, and Ned having grown up in an environment of contempt for the authorities who they saw as corrupt and harassing, drifted into horse and cattle stealing himself. The Kelly family constantly received unwanted police attention, and with Ned and his brothers in gaol or on the run continued to struggle to support themselves.

    • baker2012
      August 1, 2013 at 11:00 pm (5 years ago)

      Thanks Heather for your response! The Kelly’s didn’t have a great start to their life in Australia!

      First person to post the difference between a settler and a selector will take home a Freddo! That’s if I don’t eat it first!

  13. chris molino
    August 2, 2013 at 9:51 am (5 years ago)

    Bushrangers were originally referred to as runaway convicts who had the survival skills necessary to use the Australian bush as a refuge to hide from the authorities.
    The term Bushranger then evolved to refer to those who rejected social rights and privilages to take up robbery under arms as a way of life, using the bush as their base.

    • baker2012
      August 2, 2013 at 1:02 pm (5 years ago)

      Thanks Chris, I know this must have been an effort for you with moving house! Much appreciated by all the students!

  14. Alyssa Bendinelli
    August 4, 2013 at 12:55 am (5 years ago)

    The difference between a settler and a selector is that a selector is a person or thing that selects something, in particular, and a settler is a person who settles in an area, typically one with no or few previous inhabitants.

    • baker2012
      August 4, 2013 at 6:00 am (5 years ago)

      Hey Alyssa good work. Tell me the difference between them in terms of the time of the bushrangers. We talked about it in reading groups!

  15. Matthew
    August 4, 2013 at 1:06 am (5 years ago)

    Why is Ned Kelly so famous?

    Ned Kelly is famous primarily for two reasons. Firstly the metal suit he created to protect himself against bullets from the police has become famous throughout the world and is entrenched in Australian folklore. Secondly he represented to many, the underdog, who generally is a person from a working class background, fighting against injustices, whether perceived or actual. This trait has become an integral characteristic of what we now regard as being Australian.

    • baker2012
      August 4, 2013 at 1:42 pm (5 years ago)

      Thanks for your help Matt, it’s nice to see so many dads visiting our blog!

  16. Lili De Carli
    August 4, 2013 at 2:49 am (5 years ago)

    How old were Ned Kelly’s siblings when they died?
    Ned Kelly had 7 full siblings and 4 half siblings they were:
    Mary Jane Kelly born 1851 and died later that same year
    Anne Kelly born 1853 died 1874 aged 21
    Margaret Kelly born 1857 died 1896 aged 39
    James Kelly born 1858 died 1946 aged 88
    Dan Kelly born 1861 died 1880 aged 19
    Kate Kelly born 1863 died 1898 aged 35
    Grace Kelly born 1865 died 1940 aged 75
    Ellen Frost Kelly born 1870 died 1872 aged 2 (illegitimate child)
    Ellen King Kelly born 1873 died 1963 aged 90
    John King Kelly born 1875 died 1956 aged 81
    Alice King Kelly born 1878 died unknown , was unable to find out when she died.

    • baker2012
      August 4, 2013 at 1:41 pm (5 years ago)

      That’s alot of siblings! Thanks Lili!

  17. Ann
    August 4, 2013 at 6:37 am (5 years ago)

    How did the Kelly gang make the armour in such little time?
    In 1879 – the year before the Glenrowan siege and Ned’s ultimate capture – the Kelly gang began constructing the suits of armour from mouldboards, the thick metal parts of a farmer’s plough. They acquired these materials in various ways – some were bought; others were offered to them by sympathetic farmers; a few were stolen. The suits allowed the gang to walk away unharmed from close-range shooting, but they also served a less practical function: they made the gang members – Ned in particular – seem larger, more intimidating; even ghostly! So it did take a year of collecting the metal for the suits but only a couple of months to construct .

    • baker2012
      August 4, 2013 at 1:40 pm (5 years ago)

      Wow, seems like they were planning this for awhile! Thanks Anne!

  18. Andrew Coloretti
    August 4, 2013 at 6:46 am (5 years ago)

    How did Ned Kelly make his arnour before anyone could find the kelly gang? Ned Kelly made his armour In a horseshed with foundry tools and iron in north east Victoria.

    • baker2012
      August 4, 2013 at 1:39 pm (5 years ago)

      Thanks Andrew for helping us!

  19. Marieta Ryan
    August 4, 2013 at 8:12 am (5 years ago)

    Why did the police not like the Irish e.g. the Kelly’s?
    When the protestant British military founded and ruled the colony of New South Wales in 1788, they brought with them anti-Catholic sectarianism. eg. There were no Catholic priests allowed into Australia for the first 30 years!

    In the nineteenth century the core identity of Australia was British imperialism, loyalism to the monarchy, and Anglo-Saxon supremacy. However Irish-Catholic settlers and convicts were an increasing proportion of immigrants to Australia due to the Great Irish Famine of 1845-49 and later the transportation of Fenians (Irish rebelling against British rule in favour of an Irish Republic).

    In Victoria, the Irish were implicated (along with the Scottish) in the Eureka stockade of 1854. Hence the police (and all the British authorities) were very suspicious of the Irish and kept them under constant surveillance.

    • baker2012
      August 4, 2013 at 1:38 pm (5 years ago)

      Hi Marieta, thanks for your very detailed response!

  20. Bryan mueller
    August 4, 2013 at 8:13 am (5 years ago)

    What did the local people think of bushrangers?
    Some people think that bushrangers like Ned Kelly
    Are sort of heroes because they defied the strict
    British rules (most bushrangers were Irish convicts)
    Some other people think that they were just crimals
    .The truth is somewhere in the middle(that’s what most people
    think).Most bushrangers were kind of force to become bushrangers
    Because the govemt haven’t treated them fairly or they had no money because they were convicts.

    • baker2012
      August 4, 2013 at 1:37 pm (5 years ago)

      Thanks Bryan nice to hear from you. We appreciate your help!

  21. Luchia
    August 4, 2013 at 8:45 am (5 years ago)

    The use of the word “bushranger” first evolved in Australia in the early 19th century.

    The first recorded use of the term bushranger was in an article in the Sydney Gazette in February 1805. The article claimed that a cart had been stopped by ” three men whose appearance sanctioned the suspicion of there being bushrangers.”

    From this time on the term was used to describe criminals who attacked people in the bush or on roads.

    • baker2012
      August 4, 2013 at 1:35 pm (5 years ago)

      Wow how interesting Luchia, thanks for your help!

  22. Todd Vains
    August 4, 2013 at 9:55 am (5 years ago)

    Were there bush rangers in other countries? Yes there were. In Britain around the same time Bush Rangers went by the name of highwaymen and in the Wild West of the USA they were known as Road Agents. Essentially wherever there were large volumes of value in the form of gold or cash criminals were attracted to steal it. The term Bush Ranger is unique to Australia however the activity of stealing is not.

    • baker2012
      August 4, 2013 at 1:33 pm (5 years ago)

      Thanks Todd for helping us learn more about our topic!

  23. Kath George
    August 5, 2013 at 5:44 pm (5 years ago)

    Who was the first bushranger?
    The first ever bushranger was a convict named John Caesar. He arrived on the First Fleet in 1788 after being convicted of stealing £12 from a house. he was sentenced to transportation for seven years. John Caesar was of African descent, his family possibly came from Madagascar. His nickname was ‘Black Caesar’.
    On 29 April 1789 John Caesar was again tried for theft and was again sentenced to transportation, this time for life! Fourteen days after being sentenced Caesar stole a gun and supplies and escaped to the bush. He was caught 6 days later. This pattern of behaviour continued for the next 6 years with John Black escaping a further 2 times.
    Late in 1795 Caesar was with a party that was attacked by Aboriginal warriors lead by the famous Aboriginal warrior Pemulwuy. Caesar wounded Pemulwuy. It was in the December of 1795 that John Black escaped from custody for the last time. He lead a gang of vagabonds and absconders into the Port Jackson area – becoming Australia’s first bushranger. Settlers were warned against supplying him with food and ammunition and in early 1796 a reward was offered for his capture – the reward was five gallons of spirits.
    On 15 February John Black Caesar was shot by John Wimbow at Liberty Plains and died after being carried to Thomas Rose’s hut.

    • baker2012
      August 5, 2013 at 8:58 pm (5 years ago)

      Thanks so much Kath for helping us out! Have you slept in the past couple of weeks! You are one dedicated parent, can’t wait to see the ball artwork!

  24. Ruby George
    August 6, 2013 at 6:51 am (5 years ago)

    thank you for that answer mum

  25. suziecranstoun
    August 18, 2013 at 8:02 am (5 years ago)

    Hi 5/6 Baker – well I have agonised over my decision about Ned Kelly – I can see why some people say he is a hero, but my decision is that he is a villain. I made my decision because, I believe that no matter how hard your life is or how unfair you may be treated, it is NEVER OK to take someones life. Ned Kelly did murder and due to this, I can never say he was a hero. Hope I’ve helped you make up your mind too! 🙂

  26. Brenda Pote
    August 18, 2013 at 9:57 am (5 years ago)

    I think Ned Kelly was a villain. There’s no way I could vote a murderer as a hero.

    Brenda (AKA Jonty’s Mum)

  27. Daniel Pote
    August 18, 2013 at 10:09 am (5 years ago)

    I think Ned Kelly was a villain because he killed people.
    Dan (AKA Jonty’s Dad)


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