New School Transition? Make it a game.

IMG_5577Poor little Gavin was very sad. He missed his old school, and he was really nervous to be starting 2nd grade. It was a brand new school in a brand new town.

Gavin is the sweetest, most caring, most helpful little guy a Dad could ask for. He’s also very smart, but he struggles socially. Many times last year, I would drop him off at school. His friends would see him and excitedly say, “Hi Gavin”. Sometimes, he would smile, but mostly he’d just look at them and keep walking towards the classroom. He is also very shy and struggles with self-confidence. As an extremely shy kid myself, I knew this disposition would make it difficult for Gavin to make new friends at his new school.

Before school year started, Mom and I spent time teaching Gavin strategies for talking to new kids, conversation starters, and we got a book from the library about starting a new school. We sent Gavin to school this year hopeful that he would be able to make new friends and transition seamlessly. Unfortunately, after the first week, Gavin broke into tears one night because he was having a rough time making friends and he missed his old school. I knew I needed to come up with a new strategy that would encourage Gavin to reach out of his comfort zone, and help him start enjoying school again.

 

The Solution

I decided the best thing to do was to make a game of it. The idea was to give him a new mission everyday. If he accomplished this mission, he would earn pieces towards a new Lego set. Gavin picked out this awesome 220 pc, Avengers set at Target. We started with easy missions and increased the challenges as he began completing them. Thus far, the strategy is working very well.Every morning, Gavin asks for his new mission, so he is really into the game. We’ve been doing this since the start of school 4 weeks ago.  Gavin’s mood before and after school is better, and his anxiety was gone on Day 1 of the game. If you child has trouble like Gavin, give this a try. It worked great for our little man.

To get a better idea of the game we created, take a look at the first week of missions for Gavin. 

First week of missions. 

  • Day 1: Learn the name of a classmate.      (1 piece)
  • Day 2: Learn the names of 2 classmates.   (2pieces)
  • Day 3: Ask a classmate a question.            (4pieces)
  • Day 4: Give a classmate a compliment.      (8 pieces)
  • Day 5: Ask someone to play at recess.       (16 pieces)

      BONUS 4 pieces for completing all 5 missions in a week Total of 20

 

I got the inspiration for this idea while listening to a podcast of the Tim Ferris Show. The guest on the show was Jane McGonigal. She is most known for her TEDtalk on video games, which has been viewed over 5 million times. In the episode, McGonial talked about how she got herself through an extremely difficult time by making a game out of her recovery. She created a game of her recovery and she credits the game to the her successful recovery. Of course, our situation was not as dire as Mrs McGonial. However, as I was listening to this interview, I thought, I can do that with Gavin. I took those concepts and created a game that helped Gavin focus on the mission instead of his fear. So far, Gavin has completed all his missions and has earned 80 pieces. He is well on the way to earning his trophy. In reality, however, he’s already earned his prize, in improved confidence and the new friendships his generated.

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Please leave a comment.

*What do you think of our mission to help Gavin improve his social skills?
*Have you helped your kids overcome challenges by making games out of them?
*Do you have any good mission ideas for Gavin to accomplish?

2 comments

  • AWESOME idea for a new school transition!! So glad you are blogging!

  • Patricia Luck

    DAVE, I always admire what you and Heather and your young family accomplish. The change in health of your whole family is remarkable. Keep up the work and sharing your story.

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