Room use when families are divided into peer groups.
copyright©1986 Brian M. Brown
Developed in 1886 with the tentative name of Go Group.
First posted on the Internet: 1997
Modifications: 10/04/99, 2/10/00, and 10/18/00.
Recreation professionals and others have shown a lot of interest in this new recreation system, but up until now nobody has been willing to try it out.
More Detailed Summary Description
of How the Program Operates
Family togetherness is increased because the entire family goes together to the same building, they can be together on outdoor activities, tours, and outings; and they can be together during indoor family activities. This program allows for as many family activities as members prefer.
However, most of the time, members will probably prefer to be separated into groups with their peers so they can enjoy variety recreation programs (e.g. games, drama, crafts, singing, sports, special projects, etc.) which are specially designed for their age group. The assumption is that different age groups have different needs.† They have a natural tendency at gatherings to gather with their peers, because young children like to make noise, parents like a bit of peace and quiet now and then, preschoolers need to be protected, and older children like to be challenged.
When family members spend some time with their peers, there is a better chance that they will all go home feeling satisfied and refreshed, having things to talk about, and feeling like they want to spend more time together.
Even when family members spend most of the meeting night separated into age groups, this system of organizing can still increase family strength because they are all experiencing a similar program. As well, family members come together for the nightly assembly in which they are kept up to date on what other family members in the other groups have been doing. In addition, after the organization is well established and running well, the leaders can organize combined age group activities. This type of grouping allows for important, healthy activities when one age group offers to help, entertain, or share activities with another age group.
So, the entire family is sharing similar programs and at times they engage in the same activities. As a result, they develop similar interests, concerns, and expectations. This gives family members more things in common and more things to talk about; so during other times when the family is at home, they will tend to spend more time together. The program therefore works in many ways to increase family strength.
The leaders will have to plan and schedule ahead of time. They can respond to the needs of the group as they select a satisfying mixture of family, peer group, and combined age group activities.
Types of Activity Groups:
The leaders can help the group choose from three different types of grouping:
Group families together.
This can be used for theme nights, crafts, a special game (eg. indoor soccer, volleyball, or baseball using a large harmless ball), outings, camping, etc.
Use separate age groups .
Each age group can enjoy a variety program of games, crafts, drama, singing, special projects, etc. with their peers. The organization for this is depicted in the diagram below.
Combine different age groups.
After the program has been established, things settle into a routine so they run smoothly, and people stop feeling the program is too complex, the leaders can combine age groups. Combining two different age groups allows one group to help or entertain another. [e.g. Some parents can help their children with crafts, after preparations five to seven year olds can sing to parents, teenagers can prepare a special craft or prepare a skit designed for the enjoyment of the 5 to 7 year olds, teenagers can learn how to baby-sit, etc.]
The time schedule for an evening is designed so young children start at 6:00 P.M. This allows them to finish the program at 7:15 and go home to an early bedtime. Older children start later, so they have more time to eat supper. If some parents have children in both age groups, they can take their younger children home at 7:15, and arrange for their older children to either catch a ride or walk home at 8:00.
Family activities and combined age group activities will usually be run from 6:30 to 7:00 o'clock, during the time when all family members are in the building.
The Twelve Minute Assembly:
This is held from 7:00 until 7:15 and is designed to bring everybody in the building together. It is a fast paced twelve minute meeting which includes brief opening and closing ceremonies, announcements, entertainment, and short explanations of what each age group has been doing.
The assembly gives family members similar experiences, concerns, and expectations. As a result, the family develops more things in common and this tends to draw them closer together. In addition to increasing the strength of individual families, the assembly will help to create a community feeling, unify the entire group, and help everyone feel like they are part of an extended family.
To start the assembly, the main leader goes to the location where it will be held and then calls, "STORM COMING!" All the children respond by stopping their activities, and then yelling as they run from all areas of the gym to the assembly location. They can imagine their noise as being a real storm.
Larger groups who have a lot of heavy people might want to use the yell, "EARTHQUAKE COMING."† After people settle down in the same area and the dust has cleared, they can all form a semicircle around the group of leaders.
When the assembly is completed, the older children will quietly sing a bedtime song as the younger children say "Goodnight," and their parents take them home.
Special program for adults:
The adult program needs to be flexible.† In most groups it will probably become evident that the needs of adults and their willingness to take part vary widely.† Some parents will not be physically fit, some will lack the patience required to be with a bunch of noisy kids, and some simply will not feel comfortable with most activities. Also, after a long day of work, some will need to relax, some will want mental activities, and others will prefer physical activities. †This program can respond to these diverse needs.
The unique needs of each parent needs to be respected.† The family can be healthier if adults can also feel at the end of the evening that they have had a night out, that they have had a break and are feeling refreshed.† But, some parents will feel presured to stay home so they can get some work done. This can be an option, but they need to keep in mind that when family activities are run, their children will prefer that at least one parent be there to take part.
In some recreation programs, because of their unique needs, half the adults will probably prefer not to become fully active and committed members.† However, in other programs where the spirit is high, it could be that almost all of the parents will become eager to participate fully on every meeting night.
The parents that do become deeply involved as helpers and as active participants can become a long term source of group strength.† With time, they will learn more, become more involved, and because of their experience they will help with other age groups, help to keep things organized and running smoothly. A few parents might agree to become a leader of a childrens program, and in this way become an even better role model for their children.
While their children take part with their peers, parents can organize their own activities in their own room. If they are given the proper instructions, they probably won't need any outside help from leaders. In fact, it is probably the adults who will choose to take turns looking after the preschoolers and who will encourage a few teenagers to get involved with the preschoolers.
Suitable recreation for adults could involve reading, or just chatting. Meanwhile, others may decide to organize cards, board games, sports, prepare a campfire skit, do a craft, knit, or cook a meal as a group to take back home for their next day's meal.† Others might get permission from the teenagers in the gym to take part in sports. It will probably turn out that the number of teenagers doing activities in the gym is small, so they might actually prefer that adults join in.
Special program for preschoolers:
The adults can take turns looking after these children. Some of the teenagers may want to help out. While the best program for this age group is free play, it does not hurt to add a few odds and ends so they will be excited to grow up and begin taking part in the other programming. If some of the group makes use of uniforms or special clothing, then some preschoolers might want to have their own hat to wear.
Variety program for children:
Both the younger children (5 to 7 years of age) and the older children (8 to 11 years of age) will engage in a variety program of games, crafts, songs, drama, skits, and special themes. Also, preparations for special theme nights, outings, camping, etc.
A variety program has loads of potential. Although daycares, after school programs, and the schools offer variety program type activities like crafts, singing, and games, there are a lot of ways to make these activities fresh, new, and attractive. Also, this recreation program has a lot of other alternatives so that if some see the variety program as weak, leaders can respond by choosing popular themes and projects, and by making use of combined age group activities to add interest to this part of the program.
Enriched program for teenagers:
Teenagers will begin the evening doing activities which they have chosen in their own room. No doubt, they will need some direction from leaders, guidance on what to do, and maybe inspiration. After the assembly, some teenagers might want to go back to activities in their room while others might want to make use of half the gym.
Teenagers will find that this program allows them some unique opportunities. They can find motivation in activities which involve other age groups. Teenagers can do preparations to entertain other groups or the assembly, learn baby sitting skills, or help organize crafts for a younger age group and then help with making the crafts. They can also get involved in things related to running the overall group, things like preparing a regular newsletter, helping with the bookkeeping, looking after the money, etc.
Since the entire family is involved, and other long term relationships will develop, there will be a greater tendency for teens to remain active in the program as they get older.
During the meeting, from 6:30 to 7:00, everybody will be in the building, so this is the best time for family activities to be run.† As well, family nights can be held maybe once a month in which the entire evening is set aside for family activities only. Also, family activities can be run during outings.
Leaders can try games like indoor baseball, volleyball, or soccer with a plastic ball, beach ball, or other safe ball; a carefully selected craft which requires work from all age groups; an indoor campfire; go outdoors for sports or games; try short hikes, walks, and picnics with family type activities; go together on tours of fast food restaurants, factories, bus terminals; etc.
Combined age group programming:
My experience with combined age group activities, is that a special unique helping atmosphere is created when children of different ages get together †(E.G. They become more considerate, caring, and nurturing). This develops important relationship skills which will help them when they grow up.
Also, in the past, I helped with a recreation program for about 12 to 15 children aged 3 to 14. The program was run mainly in one average sized school classroom, with the desks pushed to the side. It was a success. I observed a very positive helping, family type of atmosphere.
As well, in my experience as a student teacher, I observed activities where an older group of children came to help our class of younger children. Again, the atmosphere was excellent as the older children became eager, careful, and considerate when they were placed in the position of helper. They enjoyed taking on nurturing roles.
Parents have less wasted time. Since the entire family is focused on the one recreation program, parents only have to volunteer for the one program, and they only have one program to drive to. In this program, parents can take a break and enjoy their choice of recreation, and they can do it in an organization which is beneficial to their family.
Families are together more. They are all together during parts of meeting, during family activities, during the assembly, on outings, during special family nights, and when traveling to and from the meeting.
This program works better than many current recreation choices. Today's parent often chooses to leave their family and go to a separate place to take a break, to do something of their own choosing. Today's parent also tends to drive each child to a separate place so the child can take part in recreation of their own choosing. This leaves the parent sitting and watching their child, a role that is not as beneficial as actually participating in recreation with their child. It is better for children to see their parents model compromise and a healthy lifestyle.
Family members develop more things in common. They do similar things, are more aware of what other family members are doing, and can look forward to the same special events. Instead of developing separate interests and growing apart, this program helps to maintain family values as members enjoy similar things, develop things in common, and grow closer together.
Family activities in moderation can be a lot of fun. When all family members are taking part in the same activity, an enthusiasm develops. Quite often parents play a big role in creating spirit and enthusiasm in the group.
It is like an extended family. It brings all members closer together, encourages a community type spirit, and can provide support to other family members. As a variety of relationships develop, everyone will tend to become committed long term members. As children get older, even as teenagers, they will tend to remain connected. Experienced members will tend to help out and this will help stabalize the group.
Parents model a healthy lifestyle. With current recreation choices, instead of parents enjoying healthy recreation, parents take on the role of driver, servant, or observer.
Children can develop their full range of talents. In a variety program, the leaders have lots of opportunity to allow children to be helpers and leaders, to take the initiative, to take on challenges, and to explore their diverse talents.
Also, when children of different ages come together in combined age group activities, they are placed in a unique helping role and so become considerate, caring, and nurturing. This develops important relationship skills which will help them in their current and future family.
Overall, the need for children to conform, cooperate, and interact in a variety of ways with various age groups will be important experience which they will be able to apply in today's and tomorrow's diverse workplace. More and more, jobs in the workplace are requiring workers to conform, cooperate, and interact in a team atmosphere.
Reduces child abuse. Parents will tend to conform to the standards of the group. They will tend to treat their children at home in a way that is similar to the way they are treated while in the group.
Prevents sexual abuse. More adults will be involved so there will be little or no chance for a molester to operate. A molester would move on to other organizations which offer more opportunities to abuse.
Costs less. There is extensive and efficient use of the facilities.
Disadvantages and Response
It is not an easily understood program.
people can get lost in the details and forget that it is actually a reasonably simple program. (Maybe my first file has finally made the program look workable and easy to run, so people will now be willing to try it.)
All family members must agree to sign up for the same night.
the advertising, notice, or public relations must convince parents of the benefits of the program. Parents will then be willing to have all their family members give this program their first priority. Family members can then use the rest of the week for their other priorities.
One family member might not like their peer group program.
leaders have a wide variety of modifications that can be made. Keep in mind that the program offered in every age group will be supplimented with combined age group activities and by the rest of the program. So, all family members should find that, overall, the meetings are worthwhile.
All facilities will not be perfect for all groups.
limit the number of families who join so all age groups have adequate facilities.
Some recreation leaders may see this unique program as too complex and challenging.
When the program is first started, it can be introduced in a simple form. It could begin with a simple schedule of mainly peer group activities, with the exception of the first meeting of each month which is reserved for family activities. But in order to succeed the program needs good leaders who do good advanced planning and communication.
Everybody needs to keep in mind that this type of organization occurs naturally at many rural and large family gatherings, and nobody there has to make a real effort to organize things. It all comes naturally, they are accustomed to doing things that way.
Since this program is only a system, a way of organizing things, it has the potential to be used by a variety of organizations. It can be organized by a city recreation department, by a community recreation center, by a baseball team that wants to stay together during the off season, or it can be adopted by a volunteer organization like the Boy Scouts.
Notes on Beginning a Program
Leadership is the key to the program. Whether the leaders are professional or volunteer, they must be experienced enough so that the families who are thinking of joining can feel confident that it will be a worthwhile and successful program. Some groups might decide that the easiest way to start and run things is to hire three professional recreation leaders: two for the childrens program and one for the teenagers.
When a program first begins and parents come in contact with advertisements or simple verbal descriptions about the program, they will probably find it hard to understand. They might assume that a family program should offer mainly family activities.† Parents will need a simple explanation at an initial information meeting, and maybe a handout to take home and read so they can understand the benefits that come to all family members when they spend time separated into peer groups.
Parents who decide their family will join the program need to be convinced that it will be worthwhile for all family members. Parents must have enough confidence in the program so they will risk telling their children to try something different. Parents must insist that all of their family members make this program their first priority, and then allow them to choose whatever recreation they want to fit into the rest of their week. Families and marriages succeed because of compromise on the part of all members, so the compromise needed to join this program can be seen as a positive learning experience for all rather than a sacrafice.
Most of the above problems will become minimal after a pilot program has been run and it has been proven to be successful. Then, with the help of good public relations, parents will have more confidence in the program and they will have a better idea what to expect.
Families who want more family programming than what the group agrees to can be encouraged to spend more time together at home as a family, any time during the week.
The need for current recreation patterns to change:
Some families will not want to sacrifice their preferred lifestyle for a family program. They will be reluctant to take a chance on something new when they believe that their current choices are the right ones. It is important that they evaluate what they are doing.
Often, parents believe their child should be able to choose their preferred forms of recreation, and parents sometimes feel free to do the same. On Monday night, one is gone from home, and on Tuesday night another is gone. This weakens the family. As well, today's tendency is when one child prefers to get deeply involved in both music lessons and swimming, parents tend to think the best and proper thing for them to do is to allow it and encourage it. But the child is learning to pursue his or her own selfish interests and fails to learn to compromise for the sake of the family.
Quite often today, the parent's recreation is that of the driver and watcher, so they form a boring role model. In the family program, they could model an active, healthy, enthusiastic lifestyle, and then go home feeling refreshed. Their children would then be observing a healthy lifestyle, a lifestyle they will tend to pursue when they grow up.
For the main leaders, at the start, it will be a challenge to get organized and maintain effective communication so everyone in the group knows what is planned.† The leaders need to thoroughly understand how the system works and be committed to it.
The school Principals I talked to about using their facilities for this program were quite receptive to it. They seemed to like the idea of a family program and that it made efficient use of their facilities. They were very cooperative, and even offered the teacherís lounge for use by the adults. Unfortunately, the difficulties encountered when promoting this new and untried program could not be overcome by one person.
If you try a group, or a modification of it, please keep me posted on how it goes. I could start a mailing list so groups can learn from the experiences of others.
If you have any comments, questions, etc, contact the author.
back to summary introduction to the recreation program.
Posted January 10, 2001.