How to Be Sillier than the Kids:Dealing with Shy Kids

Last week I went skiing with a group of students.  We had a ball. I have to tell you, it’s hard to believe that a nearly grown woman could laugh that hard with a room full of six and seven year old girls.  This was my third year as the chaperon for the first grade girls.  This was also the first year that I had a room full of shy campers.  In the past the young ladies were more self-sufficient.

This group was a bit different, they were more timid and soft-spoken at the beginning of camp.  I must admit I was a bit nervous because they barely spoke in class and tended to hide if they were asked a question.  By the end of our four day trip all of the kids were cracking jokes and slapping their thighs like a group of old ladies hanging in the onsen.

How do you establish candor between an adult and a six year old?  First, my chargers already knew me as an authority figure. They knew what I expected of them as students. However, ski camp is a bit different. There are no tests at ski camp. There are no math books, science books, or even a decent snack time. It is just skiing.

In order to let the kids hang loose, I had to let my hair down first.  Here are four ways to just get silly with it:

1) Make up silly songs! I made up a song called, “I love vegetables!” I sang it in different octaves, keys, and styles. I went from operatic to country, then from country to rock and roll. The girls loved it!  While I was putting on my one woman performance I saw them mocking me in a fun way.  They were laughing and having fun.

2) Be a bit wacky! Let’s say the the kids just happened to be making their beds and you just happened to notice a pile of down comforters just waiting to be jumped on don’t hesitate! Listen to your inner six year old and Do IT! Jump on those covers! Don’t pretend that you don’t see them! I’m sure boys won’t have this problem, but sometimes little girls are already grown up women before they get a chance to be a bit of a tomboy.  All of the girls in my room were jumping on comforters and futons. I was the one who started it!

3) When there is down time children tend to do as they do. They run around, wrestle and tease one another. Interrupt their “play” with a silly song! Here is my version of Oh Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea.”

I checked online and I saw about four different versions of this song. Mine wasn’t one of them. C’est la vie!

4) Challenge the kids to a race! Earlier in the day I noticed that the kids rolled down the hill to get to the restaurant.  I looked at them once and I really wanted to do it. I mean, who wouldn’t the snow was like air on earth.  So I went into the cafeteria and challenged all of the kids to a roll down the hill race!  It was fun! I have to say I ended up competing against three boys.  They told me they would be a team against me.  They won the first round, but not round 2! I was like Rocky Balboa coming in as the underdog!

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At the end of the day, the kids just want to see that you can have a good time just like them. By putting yourself out there just a wee bit, it gives them the confidence to be express themselves. Hey, why should kids have all the fun?


About Michaela Chatman

Michaela Chatman is the founder of Camp Roadless Summer Visual and Performing Arts Summer Camp based in the Tokyo area. She has taught in Chicago, New York City, Hiroshima, and Tokyo. She has worked with children from ages 5-16. She is a dedicated fan and supporter of the arts. She performs locally in Tokyo with Kaguratei, a blues band. She is an active member in TELL:Exceptional Parents Group, Japan Affiliate of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum (JASCD), Tokyo Investment Group, and Pink Cow Connections Networking Group. For fun she organizes The Tokyo Lovers Pizza Meetup Group.
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