Friday, 4 July 2014

Sport Casting Digger World

Digger loves me sport casting of his every move. He cannot get enough. He would have me do it all… day… long… if he could. ‘Peak, peak’ he chimes, pointing to my mouth. (S–sounds are very hit or miss at the moment.)

There are many words for sports casting: 'Peak, peak', verbalising stream of conscientiousness, broad casting, sports commentating, say what you see, voice over and hero sound tracking to name but a few. They are all of course subtly different. At our house we’ve settled on the term sport casting. My husband is getting into it too.

The present World Cup of course is really good for brushing off this particular skill.

It is simple – just say what you see your child doing.

‘Digger’s holding the bulldozer in his right hand. He moves the bulldozer in. In towards the giiiiaant heap of Duplo blocks. He pushes the nose into the pile. And clears a small path. Oouhh… this is tough terrain. And he get’s stuck!! He cannot move the blocks. Oouhhooo… But wait…. he pulls back. He’s free! He backs out.... He backs out a bit further… he hesitates… And now! At full speed! He rams the bull dozer into the pile again.’  You get the gist…

This is not the same as acknowledging their feelings, as in ‘Oh dear, I think you just got a nasty shock there. Is that how it felt to you?’ Nor is it solving conflict (see links below). This is primarily about seeing one child, and to verbalise what you see. And children love that. All the children in our family love it, and cannot get enough. It is a wonderfully effective way of opening your (my) own eyes to all the minutiae of your child's Toddler Kingdom.

But there are many pit falls in sport casting. I definitely had to practice before I got half way decent at it. And I still run out of steam. And end up saying the same few things over and over again.

Most practitioners agree that you should stay away from steering the child’s actions. That includes staying away from saying stuff that may change how your child is playing. Such as ‘are you sure that is a good idea to put the red block on the green block? Here… take another green block. It’ll look nicer’ or ‘Darling, you just need to turn the block over. Then they will fit together.’ or worse still ‘Do you want me to do that for you?’ My sports casting versions of these would be along the lines of ‘He picks up a red block. He puts it on the green block.’ Or..

“He appears to be a trouble…. The blocks don’t seem to fit together… This looks very frustrating for our young hero… he is now audibly frustrated…’ etc (Yes both Pierre and I can end up using less-than-toddler-friendly language – we get desperate, in our fumble for new words and ways of expressing it all.) If I step back and leave him to it, he usually solves the problem himself, if he doesn't give up and move on to something else.

So…absolutely no questions allowed, no interjecting (unless to keep your child safe) and no directing.

Just sit back, observe and speak. It’s a bit like jazz riffs and improvisations. Just go with the flow...

I channel my inner sports commentator. I get into the grove of it and enjoy it. It is fun! And can get very absorbing for us both.

I try to be enthusiastic, engaged and non-judgemental – just like sport commentators. They have to remain fair to each of the competitors, all the while they are completely riveted by the game.

Staying non-judgemental though is nearly impossible. Just try to think of a sentence that doesn’t convey how you feel about it. Even about the weather. ‘The sun is shining.’ See? Impossible.

There are times when I suggest sport casting to Digger. Like when we need to get a move on – e.g. getting home from the park in time for dinner (ie when mummy has lost track of time). Sport casting Digger when he is scooting has been a revelation. He motors off in great style, often so far ahead that he cannot hear my comments. And yes, people may look at me funnily when I continue commenting – I have come not to care about this. Mostly though, they laugh along with me...

Oh, the things we do for our children…

Here’s a few link of some posts with more info on sport casting, mainly from the Janet Lansbury school of thoughts, its origins with Magda Gerber acknowledged. There are others I like but I have not found English web links to these. Lansbury’s way and focus is different to what I describe above, although her sport casting is amazingly effective in resolving certain conflicts as described below:


  1. Sport casting - never heard this phrase before for it but as I have the footie on TV right now I see what you mean! We've also learnt this technique, though not with this name, during some recent training we had and it felt weird at first but now it's much easier. It definitely has a positive effect.

  2. Thanks Sezz. I am very curious at to what it was called on your training course. We also call it Hero, but that has a slightly more hyped slant on it. :)
    And I completely agree: it feels weird at first. But is super positive.

  3. It came under the title of Special Play and commentary. We only need to do it 15 mins a day - other play doesn't have to be like this.

  4. Cheers. I think at the moment I do several times 15 mins a day - it feels like that anyway.
    Sorry to ask again, i'm just curious - what was the 'system'?

    Pm me on digger if you prefer...
    or not if you don't ;)

  5. Do you mean the training we did? It was with PAC - I blogged about it

  6. Duh....Of course! my brain *has* turned to mush!!
    I read you blog with great interest and have passed it on to quite a few people. I think Skype is the way forward! Lovely to hear your view of it.

  7. Interesting - a speech therapist taught me a very similar technique - she called it 'narrating' - for use with speech-delayed toddlers, although I must say, I did it with considerably less imagination and verve than you seem to have! The purpose in that case was to model speech to the child without resorting to questions/suggestions, which are an all-to-easy fall-back point. I'd definitely jazz it up sportscasting style next time :-)