Teaching your children about Irish culture does not have to revolve strictly around St. Patrick’s Day activities. Since the Irish people have been historically poor, families used what little they had to entertain themselves. Teaching your children Irish games is inexpensive and will enlighten them about how another country’s youth entertain themselves. If your family has Irish history, ask relatives if the family knows of any additional games.
Dance a Jig
Teach your children a simple jig and dance about to traditional Celtic music. The local library may carry CDs of Celtic jigs you could borrow, and they might even include dance steps or lyrics. Jigs emphasize footwork and hands are kept low, so encourage your children to stop their feet to the music. A simple jig involves hopping back and forth between your feet in a simple pattern, crossing one foot behind the other. The steps don’t matter as much as having fun dancing to the traditional Celtic music and encouraging the children to sing along if there are lyrics.
The Irish alphabet does not include many of the letters in the English alphabet. The letter j, k, q, v, w, x, y and z do not appear in traditional Irish words, although they do appear in English words that have been adopted into the vernacular. If your family’s names include any of the letters that do not appear in the Irish alphabet, have them attempt to find an alternate spelling using the letters that do appear there. Once you have figured out the best alternate spelling for your name, or your children have found theirs, everyone can practice writing their names in Gaelic script.
Irish culture is rife with folklore, so look for Irish children’s books at your local public or school library and read them with your children. Use different voices for the characters in the book, or attempt an Irish accent if you are feeling brave. Fantastic children’s books range from “The History of Ireland” to “A Pot o’ Gold: A Treasury of Irish Stories, Poetry, Folklore, and (of course) Blarney” to “Tim O’Toole and the Wee Folk.” Irish versions of traditional fairy tales and stories can be fun to read, as well. See if your children can point out the differences between the Irish versions of the stories and the version they are used to hearing.
The caber toss is a traditional Celtic game played by men who were competing to be deemed the best in arms. A caber is a long, cylindrical piece of wood traditionally about 18 feet long and weighing 115 lbs. Men held the cabers upright on the thin end of the pole and would throw the caber so that it would land on the heavy end for a moment before flipping over. The object of the contest was not to see who could throw the caber the furthest, but who could get the caber to land pointing at 12 o’clock if he was standing with his back at 6 o’clock. Adapt this game for your family by playing with a caber as small as a pencil or as large as a dowel from the hardware store, depending on the age and maturity of your children.
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