Tuesday, August 21, 2012

modern medieval family: getting kids interested at a young age

My children are all still considered quite young, so my view on kids at SCA events is currently aimed at how preschoolers and toddlers interact with the Society. If you read my last post, you'll know now that, while that's where my head is at, I've come to realize how wrong I've been about actually getting my kids interested.

And that's just not acceptable.

When I began attending SCA events, I was 16 and had the mental capacity to know what was going on (mostly). I came to the SCA with an understanding and interest in medieval culture already, as well as a desire to participate in the Society's unique culture. It's extremely easy to take for granted the ease all that came to me.

But what about a way to make learning all that stuff fun, interesting and exciting for a toddler? What if there was a tradition that could be built into the act of going to events with young kids that, with repetition and time, taught them about events, the SCA, and helped them to feel included?

How about my Event Activity Hunt?

I picked 20 items that happen at our local events. These include "typical" activities, such as Heavy Weapons fighting and Archery, as well as special activities that happen rarely, like Coursing. Then there are items that aren't so much activities, but rather things that are at many events, namely the merchants, but also the feast kitchen and scribe's room. I also included the royalty and our local group barony.

I also threw in two "wild" cards, "Most Authentic Garb" and "Most Impressive Encampment".  These two are not activities, but are ways to encourage the kids to recognize when people at events are doing a good job at something and provides a unique opportunity to interact with those people.  I'll be making some bead tokens for the kids to give to the people they pick for these cards.

 I created cards with images on the front to represent the items, then named each and included a short "definition" on the back. I had my local print shop print them on heavy card stock, then finish them with rounded corners and lamination. I could have done them on my own at home, but I want them to be sturdy and kid-proof. It cost under $20 to have the printer do it. 

Here's the idea:

Before attending the event, we determine if any of the "special" activities or items will be there, and we make sure to include them in a grab bag. We remove cards for items we know will not be available.

Throughout the event, the kids get to draw a card at random. Then we "hunt" for the activity. Once we find it, we read off our definition, then spend a few minutes at that activity, either watching and explaining what's happening, or interacting with the people doing the activity.

I color coded the cards to easily separate the special cards and the cards that you may not actually get to interact with or even get into (like the Feast Kitchen).

There are several ways to adapt the game, depending on the kids, the nature of the event, and the items drawn. For instance, let's say that the kids pull the Royalty card, and at that particular event, the Royalty is very accessible. The "hunt" for the Royalty that day could mean finding them, approaching them, and introducing the kids to them (while explaining what you're doing). The next event, though, perhaps the royalty is less accessible. So instead of interacting with them, you simply find them or point them out, or maybe just look for the thrones.

Other adaptations are to only pull a card when you're sick of being at the sunshade, or to have a specified number of cards that must be pulled at the event.

There's also the possibility of adding prizes or tokens that they receive for each activity they locate.

And it's a great way to gauge interest. If every time a particular activity is drawn, the child goes nuts and immediately wants to find it, it's safe to say that activity is something that interests them. If they stop getting enthusiastic about certain activities, then they probably aren't as interested in them. Instead of dropping that card, though, have the child tell you about the activity- they may not understand it which has caused them to not care for it. If they do understand it, then have them define the activity each time it's pulled, and ask them to tell you why it's included in events. They need to be respectful of other people's interests, after all, so it's important that they never think that it doesn't matter.

I'm excited to try these with my daughter at our next event.  If nothing else, they will give us a good excuse to get out from under the sunshade and actually see the event!

If you would like to start your own Event Activity Hunt tradition, and would like to use my cards, you can download a PDF of the cards herePlease use them only for personal, non-profit use.


  1. Hi! I love this idea and would love to download the cards to try out with my smalls. It looks like it's hosted on dropbox though and only people who have dropbox accts can download it. Can you post it to a public download site? Maybe scribd?

    1. Yeah, The PDF didn't like the public link. I've removed it for the moment. I'll find a different host. Sorry about that!

    2. Alright, back up- should work now without having to sign in. Let me know if it gets glitchy on you!

      I'd love to know how your kids like them!

  2. Thanks so much for you unique idea. My children are now 18 and 21 having been in SCAdians for 5 years. But I have a good friend with a 19mo daughter and a 19mo godson to make sets for. We also do War of 1812 reenacting, so perhaps I'll borrow your idea for our other group too.

  3. I love this idea. I need to add some cards tho. We often have musicians playing somewhere or someone dancing or telling a story somewhere. Perhaps a Bardic card? Also people playing period games, or someone doing something period that is not part of a display (like sitting in their pavillion spinning or weaving). Maybe 'Random Acts of Period Behavior" card? We also have Youth Rapier, Thrown Weapons and Archery. We also have moments of Personna Play.

  4. Wow!!! What a great idea!! My daughters are 7 and 4 and their interests vary greatly!! I love that this can easily be adapted for both of them!! Thanks!! :)

  5. Thank you for posting this! I think this would be a fun activity for newcomers of any age. :)

  6. I stumbled across this on Pinterest. What an awesome idea!

  7. I have an almost three year old who loves to play "I spy". Thanks for these - we are totally going to use them at the next event.

  8. Would it be possible to have an editable copy of the file to translate to French? I'm part of a small group of SCAdians in Belgium and we want to be able to attract families with kids. I'll gladly send you the French version to distribute alongside your English one if you'd like

    1. Unfortunately, the original file of these cards was lost when my old computer decided to quit. The only file I have is the PDF. But you are welcome to use that file however you'd like for your local group, as long as you aren't selling any part of it.