Kids had so much fun at ESF Winter Camp, of course we came back for more…
And this time, with the warmer weather –
There was water! And… seahorsies!
Queen E is rabidly excited. While she may be water-confident though, this is the first formal swim lesson she’s ever had, with actual technique and strokes –
So here she is somehow going backwards on the surfboard haha (not… that this will ever deter The Queen of Indomitable Spirit)
Lotsa games to warm the groups up and increase water confidence…
…like the animal impressions (now you see the Bunny Hop)…
…before flopping off the side into the water.
The kids are constantly reminded never to be under the floats or boards, which would make it harder for them to be seen should they need help in the water. Instead, they are to find their way to the tables, which appear to be adjustable platforms (they seem to be set in different positions each day I peek in) to make the water shallower for younger kids, or move to the sides of the pool or to the floats, as needed. One of their first lessons is also on “safe entry,” ie while facing the edge with their hands always on the side of the pool, as opposed to simply jumping in and then maybe finding the water too deep and the edge too far away for them to hang on.
While the instructors are still checking each child in turn, some of the kids hurl themselves in, vigorously splashing about. They are quickly benched/ sent back to the edge of the pool (the instructor explains to them that unlike on land, horsing around in water is especially risky – you don’t risk suffocation if you simply land on your bottom on grass, but you might, if someone knocks you over in the water, you go under, and then start freaking out). I’d like to add that one reason Rockstar dropped out of pre-school swimming at our clubhouse years ago was because he would be stifled by rowdier kids having splash fights and what-not – it made it much, much harder to then get him back into swim classes in school. (So, lesson learnt: No Lesson is better than Traumatic Lesson :D)
Once everyone’s ability and confidence levels have been checked, the kids are sorted into small groups
(Btw in case you thought this is only for kids who are strong swimmers – there are at least 2 in Queen E’s age band who can’t put their head in the water yet – this doesn’t stop them participating, having a really good time, and ultimately becoming more comfortable with water)
Queen E has so much fun she won’t leave the pool on the first day. I finally get her out (with help) and back onto the court for the last activity of the day… only to then have her refuse to leave the court <face palms>.
Behind my In-Control-Parent Face I’m cringing: O.M.G. Are We Going To Be Camped Out Here Pretending I Planned To Hang Around All Day While Miss Indomitable Skips About Reliving Her Fun Time And Hoping Tomorrow Morning Comes In The Next Hour – So Just Open The Office And Get The Balls And Hoops Back Out Already!
When we realise there are afternoon swimming lessons in the same pool, I go online to see if we can still sign up; everything is however fully booked up – turns out they’re really in-demand, and you can only get something for the following term…
By day 4 in Multi-sports, she’s got this…
…and also this haha (helping herself along the length of the pool faster)
And what of our older child?
Laps. But these aren’t just straight laps –
I came in halfway from settling Queen E (you need to help your under-6 kid change quickly in and out of swimwear for the pool, navigating between the locker areas, pool, court, and gymnastics hall – which I’m pretty sure is in that part of South Island School located in Siberia )… Rockstar’s group’s swim activity that day looked like two teams on either sides of the pool “invading” each others’ territory by swimming as quickly as they could the length of the pool from either side, then confronting “opponents” for a “battle” – of scissors-paper-stone – while trapping water (that’s the deep end, in the pic above).
For “Battle Laps,” as Rockstar dubs them, it’s in your best interests to swim as fast as you can against the swimmer coming from the other end, because the further away you are from your goal (the opposing “base”) at first “battle”, the more “opponents” you will eventually need to get through in order to reach the other side. Ready? Now scramble. Tread water… Right- loser back to Start, next player up to try and stop the invading swimmer. Hurry… Swim! Tread water again… Alright, and again, next player. Swim! Probably a tougher workout than just straight laps… if any of those kids noticed.
No Tiddler Left Behind is no mean feat, because you can bring a horse to water but you cannot make it jump in and start doing laps and all that...
Another day I peek in to see the older kids paddling about with their heads up, sans goggles… Because y’know, you might not always find goggles handy if your boat capsizes someday (again, they are reminded never to stay under a “capsized” vessel…)
Queen E’s group did this one too, they get dumped in and have to move out from under the “boats” before trying to get back on or over to the side in the basic safety exercise (the less water-confident group is capsized in water they can stand up in)
(On an aside, this is probably more important than we might expect, because of Normalcy Bias.. i.e. when you are psychologically less prepared to save yourself in a crisis event even if it becomes clear that you need to, simply because you have never mentally visited the scenario before – it’s the natural bias your brain has for assuming the abnormal (i.e. a disaster) is not going to happen to you. In crisis events like ferry boat accident or just the boat you’re on tipping over, it costs very precious seconds before your brain reacts, and can greatly increase the likelihood of casualty)
Different levels of confidence and ability are recognised and the activities adjusted to, it’s a real workout and all the kids are sufficiently challenged… if they ever stop having fun long enough to notice.
Next stop, Queen E’s first ever Gymnastics lesson!
Comprising horse vault…
…at the end of a routine that the kids have to pay attention to, or else they won’t know where to go (I said literally that to Queen E who is, again, rabidly excited – this time at being able to fling herself off stuff onto the thick mattresses – and then gets lost on her first try in the middle of the room because she’s forgotten where to go haha).
Then there are the court activities each day, where the various groups gather for briefing (i.e. Listening Practice in English )…
And I just realised the mums are all in sneakers – it’s like Mum Bootcamp! :)
But, No Pressure… The way groups and activities are constantly mixed up, staying ahead or falling behind is pretty non-sequitur – and there is so much going on, your kid lying on the floor doing a nutty (I mean if – if, it should ever happen) cannot be seen. Your child having the meltdown is invisible. You are merely scooping them up out of the way so no one trips over them (invisible, remember? )
Lots of activities that are constantly changed up – so the kids have to really listen to the rules (note also the younger kids here – some of the youngest I think are just over 2yrs)
Off she goes! (A few of the littler kids go from bawling and clinging, their parents hiding behind doorways the first 2 days, to delightedly navigating obstacle courses that span the entire length of the gym hall)
Some kids also casually join the other groups if they want to sit out swimming for the day… It’s a really good non-threatening way for kids, especially the younger ones, to try stuff out without feeling pressured to keep up or participate in absolutely everything… And it’s a really good opportunity for parents to get to be around throughout, and help their younger kids get through any shyness or, in Queen E’s case, practice listening – because the combination of Water + Friends, Lotsa Friends! and echoing halls full of activity make her so buzzed I initially need to keep reminding her to follow along, not do some… crazy dance around the huge hall and then forget whether she’s coming or going (and where).
(Not… that they don’t get free play… and then here, she decides to sit quietly and watch everyone around her, right in the eye of the storm in a nest of hula hoops?!)
And Then There Was Soccer.
This is her taking a turn as goalie (and this older kid on Defence, whoever he is, is really amazing – he’s playing proper soccer ok… like, I can’t even play proper soccer)
…tackle… wait for it…
…and the crowd goes wild!
Queen E was one of the youngest in her age band; some of the older ones especially those who are also in the ESF Sports Clinics for specific sports have some serious moves… No wonder Rockstar would tell me to look out for say, the ‘soccer kids’ who are so good it’s just cray.
There are also colour-based sorting games, but I missed taking a picture of the big pile of different coloured plastic cones that the younger group was working with…
Looks something like what they have in the background on the right of this pic
What are court games without that oldie-but-goodie, Duck Duck Goose?
The mum next to me volunteers that her child will start at the Chinese International School next fall (Queen E will be joining Rockstar at Kennedy School)… Another brother and sister pair, in the youngest and oldest groups respectively, hail from ICA (International Christian Academy). Rockstar recognises a few returning camp-mates from one of the other ESFs – Bradbury I think it was – and Queen E also recognises a few in her age group.
Of course after camp while we’re waiting in the taxi line Rockstar is embroiled in (quiet, serious) conversation with a boy from the Quarry Bay School, about….. Pokemon Go <face palms>. The benefits of Gen 2 creatures and the merits of setting game rules like which Poke are evolve-able when you’ve collected enough points, and which have to be caught or hatched. Rockstar googled some article about the likelihood of rare Poke in 2km vs 10km eggs (discussion about your chances i.e. probability i.e. math behind the easiest way to get rare Poke…).. Still, Rockstar – I hung in there as long as I couldzzzzzzzzzzzzz I know it’s about marketing a game that hooks all the kids and then keeps them playing, but -)
zzzzzzzzz – gif from imgur.com)
(For real though, my point is the opportunity kids have to meet and mix with other kids from all over, in a fun and non-competitive setting – because kids seem to have increasingly fewer chances to socialise between schools in non-competitive settings in Hong Kong nowadays)
Ok, and now we have what I like to call the Cute Overload Round.
All ages all groups, all mixed together in the finale each day, where the kids run the length of the court navigating various balancing activities, some involving also tennis rackets, ladder run (like tire runs), hoops.
The course runs the entire length of the gym hall, which is several courts wide, allowing older kids to tear up and down at top speed, alongside toddling younger ones who soon get so caught up in the excitement that they forget to feel… shy? Scared? despite the loud echoes and thundering steps all around them. Some of the younger ones, not much older than 2, have gone from bawling and clinging to parents hiding in doorways to squealing in delight as little legs navigate obstacles (closely supervised – if they wander in between lanes or too near the older ones barrelling up and down, you can see the coaches step in very quickly)
After the first day, I gave up bringing my laptop or even a book with me. Especially when there’s swimming, you really do need to be around, preferably in comfortable shoes (But I think it’s a really good parenting opportunity in a fun, comfortable environment.) By the time Cute Overload Round comes up however, I would never want to be on my laptop
“You have TWO kids, right?” – wait staff at Stanley Plaza outlet…
This is a standard kids’ pasta meal at Classified. Last day of camp, between these 2 kids, they completely finished eating 6 of these pasta portions sans juice (Rockstar had 5, Queen E had 1 plus an additional meal of scrambled eggs).
She wanted one of those big boards. And uh, for the dog to join her.
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