|It’s Circle Time… For Your Children
As we all know, there is a minimum age restriction on who gets to play Amtgard, but honestly, do you believe your kids understand that hitting people with foam swords is limited to teens and adults? Because there are so many adults in Amtgard, younger children end up being in tow. Like restaurants and their glasses of crayons, kids need to be entertained so they do not wreak havoc on the experiences of other Amtgarders. It happens all too often that parents see Amtgard as a time to play their own games while their kids are left on the sidelines. And it is easy to ignore your child or overlook the fact that they may be bugging someone else. I love kids and want kids to love Amtgard like we adults do. Between being excluded, ignored, or yelled at, kids may end up not wanting to come back to the park. These are some different recommendations to parents of kids and to parks with kids to keep Amtgard a positive experience for both parties.
For the kid who wants to fight…
While the Champion is in charge of all things fighting and teaching how to fight, it is not their responsibility to babysit your child. It is yours. So outside of Amtgard, teach your child the rules and the technique of fighting, and at the park give them a spot to fight with each other that is separate from the main fighting field. Also, being a child does not mean that they cannot be a part of the "big Amtgarders." It is the big Amtgarders they learn the most from and look up to. Maybe adopt a buddy system where a fighter takes a child aside at some point and works with them one-on-one so they feel a form of inclusion at the park. We all know how much we felt excluded at the children’s table at holidays.
Also, if you are having a special or specific battle game or tourney, make sure they watch! It’s like watching a sporting event, and children do need the rules of treating people with respect and being attentive to the rest of the park. This is important so they have a goal and something to look forward to as they get older.
Lastly, for the kid who wants to fight, let them, and let them shine. Think of it as a piano recital. Unless they are a shy kid, kids love being the center of attention, so let them showcase what they have learned and give them something to practice towards.
For the kid who loves Arts and Crafts…
Introduce them to the world of A&S! Arts and Sciences put emphasis on the creativity and know-how of those who participate. From the painted pasta necklaces and drawings displayed on the fridge at home, you know the fun kids can have from producing art. Bring projects for them to work on, such as jewelry, key chains, Amtgard favors, or drawings. Some kids can get engrossed in one project for the entirety of the day, but with others it may be in everyone’s best interest to bring a couple of projects. To keep things fun for your child and others, you could have them work on projects for the group, like making everyone a land-colored keychain for people’s bags. Search your local craft stores for discounted items for them to use. This does not have to get expensive. Amtgard can be expensive enough.
For the kid who loves competition…
Being a color, I live for the competition of Dragonmaster and Weaponmaster. Let the kids embark on their own competitions where everyone wins. Think of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, where kids complete projects and get recognized for their work through awards and badges. While this isn’t an Amtgard sanctioned idea, it could be fun for individual parks to do. Also this can be as easy or complex as the park/parent wishes it to be. You could have your child make a belt or sash, woven and fabric, on which they can make a badge or favor to add to it as they complete a project. Or you, as the adult, could make one to give to them. If you want it to be easier, use a simple word doc template and print out an award certificate with their names on it for them to keep in an Amtgard binder. The point is for the children to feel recognized and to keep them busy with a specific project.
Keep the ideas related to Amtgard. For instance, have your child make a felt pouch or do some other simple hand sewing project for an award. Or have them write a poem or a story about Amtgard. Have them, if they are at reading age, read the rules of Amtgard and do a presentation to the group to show their understanding. Maybe at an event, have them put up the tent to learn how. Or perform a skit about Amtgard. Think of projects that are at their skill level that they can work on independently or with other kids.
People are more likely to embrace your children when they are behaved and not annoyingly bored. That does not mean they have to be mute and just sit there, so don’t expect them to. Don’t be afraid to bring in other members of the group, such as the Colors on the sidelines. Designate an adult who loves kids to be in charge so you can relax and play the game. Tell your child who that is and have your kids go to them if any issues arise. That way they aren’t running on and off the field. These may seem like commonsense ideas, but I have seen way too many bored kids, annoyed parents, and pissed off members to not bring this up. Kids at Amtgard should be a good thing!
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