The joy (and the power) of experimenting in the 'gamified garden'


I like to think of my back garden is a lab in which I conduct experiments in skill acquisition...

My experimental methods are backyard games...

My children are the lab rats!

So here is a story about my latest experiment...

My little boy Evan is 8 years old and he is mad about cricket. He's not fussed about watching it (he doesn't know who Alistair Cook is and has no concept of what scoring 10,000 test runs would be like!) but he loves to play.

Almost every day he asks to play and most days I am only too happy to indulge him and his 4 year old little sister Isla (although she always has to bat first and then has a massive strop when she gets out and storms off).

We have been playing off and on for the past 2 years or so. He has a plastic bat and we play with either tennis balls or plastic 'wind balls' which bounce a bit lower and are better for development.

One of the interesting things for me has been watching his technique develop with me giving him hardly any instruction.

We play games, a lot of games...

We have loads of them...

"Pressure 6"

"12 balls"

"Runner runner"

the latest one we called...

"Maker's name"...

Evan has developed a really effective 'pull shot' (a shot which he hits to his left in a baseball style for those that aren't into cricket). But the problem is that he wants to hit it every tine and their are times when the ball is in the wrong position to play that shot and him trying to play would get him out which was frustrating for him.

The problem is that he is a product of his environment...in this case and 'L' shaped garden.

Let me explain...

This is what our garden looks like...

The diagram (hopefully) shows that the best place for even to score his runs is to his left towards the patio. If he hits it straight then there is a chance that I will run him out or I will catch him out. So hitting to his left means that he can always score and is pretty safe from being run out.

I have been trying to get him to play other shots by bowling the ball in a spot to see if he would work out a way to adjust on his own. I have asked him questions about whether the pull shot is the right shot all the time. I have tried modelling a lot of other shots when it has been his turn to bowl but he always seemed pretty keen on hitting that pull shot.