Newspaper Crash

activitiesThis is an activity I learned about, I think, from the incomparable Bev Bos. You know in action movies how super heroes smash right through walls? You can give children that incredible feeling of power in a safe way with newspaper—and you won’t have to hire anyone to hang drywall after.

Basically, the idea is that two adults open up a sheet of newspaper and hold it on either side so that it’s like a wall, and kids run straight through it, smashing it to bits. Cool, right? (I’ve tried it with just one adult—it’s tricky.)

Two and three year olds probably can’t run fast enough to actually break the paper; you may need to just hold it loosely so they knock it out of your hands. Older children will probably run tentatively the first few times, because it’s scary to run straight into something. But once they get warmed up they’ll run full speed ahead, often releasing a yell as they burst through. It feels AMAZING.

If you’re doing this with a group of kids, you’ll probably want them to line up, and you can call them one at a time. It can move REALLY quickly, so it helps to have opened up all the newspaper and laid it flat in advance. Also, you’ll go through newspaper faster than you think is possible—even if you keep re-using the sheets that only tear at the edges. A Sunday New York Times will last you about two minutes. Start with a pile of paper that strikes you as absurdly large.

“But what about the clean-up?” you cry. “There’ll be tatters of newspaper all over the playground!” Ah, but this is not a challenge—this is an opportunity! When you’ve used all the newspaper you have, tell the kids they have one minute to make as many newspaper balls as they can, and then you can all throw them at each other! If you don’t want to call it a “newspaper fight,” you can call it, I don’t know, a “newspaper explosion” or something. And when the energy starts to wind down, pull out a big trash can and announce “newspaper basketball” until it’s all cleaned up. Boom.

But the crashing is the good part. Young children benefit enormously from opportunities to feel a true sense of POWER. They’re on the cusp of real physical strength and ability and toughness, but they’re also still incredibly vulnerable. Getting to smash through a wall allows them to really feel what their bodies are telling them they ought to—but without getting hurt. (It’s the same way they’re teetering between competence and helplessness, and giving them opportunities to be helpful and able lets them negotiate that balance.)

Anyway: try it out, and thank me later.

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