Tuesday, June 28, 2011

BETCHA CAN'T FIND… – A Simple Game of Observation

Starting when my kids were about three and four years old, they'd spend their summers with me. I did my best to keep them busy learning and having fun. While I worked, they were in summer art programs, at day camp or with friends whose parents were around during the day. Evenings and weekends we also had lots of fun, but sometimes we’d find ourselves with some time to kill—sitting at the laundromat, on long trips in the car, or waiting for Grandma.


To make the best of that time, we invented a simple game of observation. It usually works best outdoors, but it can be fun indoors too. The more varied and cluttered the view, the better. I don’t think we ever named it, but, after playing it once, all I had to do to declare the game underway was to say “I’ll bet you…can’t…find a…," and fill in the blank with the name of any object I knew we could all see. I’d always say the words very slowly, sort of dramatically, which became their cue to dial up their sharpest eyes.

 In order to challenge them for more than a few seconds, I had to find more and more minute details.

Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, at first it was. But my kids proved so good at it that, in order to challenge them for more than a few seconds, I had to find more and more minute details or things that were visible only intermittently (like a waving flag that showed between two buildings only when billowed by the wind).
Since the object was for one sibling to find the object before the other, it became an exercise very much like speed reading—scanning a visual “lexicon” for that one key “word.”

...it takes a little time, which, after all...is the greatest gift we can give our loved ones…and ourselves.

Like anything so wonderfully simple, I’m sure this game wasn’t our exclusive invention. There could be any number of variations; any format will do. The key is to use one’s sight like a laser to cut through the flashy, loud, obnoxious foreground layer that so often clambers for our attention, and see some of the other layers of rich detail life lavishes on us.

The beauty of Bet You Can’t Find… is that the only equipment you need is your eyes, something those of us lucky enough to have good vision take with us wherever we go. And, of course, it takes a little time, which, after all—one of the main points of One Man's Wonder—is the greatest gift we can give our loved ones…and ourselves.


rick ackerly said...

Your project is very important. Brain research shows that the early years create the general frameworks for functioning in the world. However the brain oversimplifies the world in the early years so shall it be oversimplified in future years.
Brains (not just humans but other organisms too) raised in complex environments grow up with complex dedritic structures--in simple enviroments, simple dendritic structures.

Lindsey said...

I love this! Adding it to my child distraction repertoire.

rick ackerly said...

are you sarcastic or brilliant or both?

Jeffrey Willius said...

In answer to your second comment, Rick, the answer is neither ;-)
Seriously, thanks for your comments, especially the first which would seem to add some scientific backing to what was, for me, just an intuitive understanding of how the brain might work. I've always felt that if you expect a child to be smart, he/she stands a pretty good chance of being so.
It's great to be in touch w/ you Rick!

Jeffrey Willius said...

Hey Lindsey -- So nice of you to pay a visit to One Man's WOnder! I hope you'll come back now and then (and remember to share things you find interesting) Thanks for your encouragement! Have a super-fun Fourth!!

Anonymous said...

Hey Jeffrey! I enjoy reading your stuff. I found you, and hence One Man's Wonder, on the Zihua board. I had to chuckle...your game of "I bet you can't find....." was one we played too, only my Dad started it off with "I spy with my little eye... something (then a description)". Memories, huh?! Looking forward to reading more of your insights....(Michelle aka Puddin')

Jeffrey Willius said...

Hola Michelle -- Many thanks for your comment. Yes, the game is so common and obvious that it's easy to forget how much fun it can be.
I really appreciate your interest in One Man's WOnder, and hope you'll come back. Also, please share anything you feel your like-minded friends might enjoy. Thanks!!

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