The following games are activities for children and parents that positively reinforce foundational Systema skills and personal safety.
Attention! Do not participate casually; breathe and maintain a good working state throughout. Remember that you are teaching by example.
Rolling on the Floor:: There is no need to teach a child to roll. Your child will follow you, imitate you, and do very well over time. This exercise teaches ground mobility with a splash of impact training.
Ring-Around-the-Rosie:: Great for young children. Play the song “Ring-Around-the-Rosie” over stereo and run, skip, or walk in large circles with your child. When the song plays the line “all fall down,” show your child how you fall onto the floor and get back up again. You may also listen to other children’s songs and periodically say “Fall!” and fall in place with your child. Instruct your child to try falling forward after a few rounds falling backward. If your child falls softly, tell him or her “nice fall!” This exercise teaches children to fall softly without tears or fear of falling (which generates the tension that causes harm in serious falls.) Children will fall; best teach them to fall well. Hide-and-Seek:: Play with your child in the house and outside (with boundaries, such as fenced backyard.) It is a fun game and besides the obvious skills that it teaches children, it will also teach them where they can hide if they feel threatened by an intruder. Likewise, you will learn where they like to hide.
Invisible Dog:: If you have a family dog, or your neighbor has a dog, you may play this game with your child. Tell your child that the dog is invisible when it is standing and only visible when it is sitting or lying down. Play along side your child until she understands the rules. When the dog is standing, walk around looking for the dog (without making eye contact.) Say things like, “Sasha, where are you?” Look around the room for the dog showing a concerned look on your face. Walk past the dog, around the dog, saying, “I can’t find the puppy. She is invisible!” When the dog sits, shout “There you are!” Show your child that you can now approach the dog and pet it. It is important to exaggerate emotions so your child understands the game. This exercise teaches your child safety around dogs, whether it is your own dog or a strange dog. Likewise, it teaches your dog that she will not get attention from your child by pushing, jumping, or nipping.
Chase:: Run around the house, as in tag. Crawl under coffee tables and roll on the ground. Teaches familiarity with the house and mobility. Good exercise too.
Leap Frog:: This game is played in a group. All players but one (the Leaper) kneel down in a row and place their hands around the back of the head. The Leaper jumps over the first player in line by placing her hands on the back of the first player for support. The Leaper continues leaping over everyone until she reaches the front of the line, kneels down, and places her hands around the back of her head. Wait while each player repeats the steps in order. Teaches mobility with light impact training.
Red Rover:: This game is played in a group. Two teams line up opposite each other, no more than 30 feet apart and links hands. The first team agrees to call one player from the opposite team, and chants, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send (player’s name) on over!” The person called runs to the other line and attempts to break the chain (formed by the linking of hands). Another variation requires both teams to stand shoulder-to-shoulder while the Red Rover tries to squeeze through. Teaches children flexibility, mobility, momentum, using body weight for control, and relaxation. It also teaches children how to get through a crowd in a relaxed manner and to escape someone who is trying to block or grab them. We use the same exercise in adult classes.
Sharks and Minnows:: This game is played in a group. The group starts out on one side of the field or room with one player in the middle of the room. The player in the middle will call out sharks (boys) or minnows (girls). She will then specify how she wants them to cross the room (running, backwards, hop on one foot etc…). She will then chase in the same manner that she called out. If one of the sharks or minnows are tagged they sit right where they were tagged and become seaweed. The seaweed has to stay on their backsides, but they can tag other players that are crossing as long as they are sitting. If tagged by seaweed, players become seaweed as well. This is a fun variation of tag that teaches unique mobility skills, escaping reaches, grabs, and running away.
Any other ideas? We would love to read them in the comments section below.