HOW WE’VE BEEN MOTIVATING AMÉLIE TO KEEP GOING
Exactly two weeks into our project of helping two-year-old Amélie hike the entire 316 kilometres of the East Coast Trail powered only by her little legs, we’ve already had to be quite inventive about ways to help encourage her to keep going.
When Amélie “quits,” we’ve noticed that it’s rarely because she’s tired. Actually, it’s almost always because she’s not having fun. So making sure she’s having fun is definitely a priority.
Here are some of the tricks we’ve used to make it fun so far:
- LETTING HER LINGER: Amélie makes very frequent stops. At first, we were always trying to get her to just move on and keep walking. But that really doesn’t work. So despite the fact that we’re sometimes spending a lot of time picking up pebbles on the trail, we end up being able to hike much farther than if we’d tried to rush her.
- SINGING SONGS: If they sing Jody Calls in the military, it’s because they work. The songs don’t have to be about paratrooper boots to entertain Amélie – she loves songs from her music classes, lullabies, folksongs, the theme songs to Passe-Partout or Inspector Gadget…
- NOT MAKING IT EASIER: One way of keeping things interesting for Amélie is to let her try… and fail (we do hold her hands and/or her harness to make sure she doesn’t hurt herself, but we don’t do anything for her). Her successes are entirely hers, and we make sure she knows it.
- CHANGING THE SUBJECT WITH SIGHTS & SOUNDS: When Amélie’s courage is waning, we sometimes try to bring something new to her attention. A birdsong, the sound of the waves crashing on the cliffs, a squirrel’s call, whatever. This often helps her forgets why she was starting to peter out.
- RITUALS: This trick works almost magically. When she’s hiking, we get Amélie to give a hug to each of the trail markers. We encourage her to stomp on all wooden structures (bridges, boardwalks, etc.). We get her to jump from stepping stone to stepping stone. The effect of this is that she’s always looking forward to the next signpost, the next bridge, and the next set of stepping stones.
- MILESTONES: Before we set out for the hike, we explain to Amélie that we’re going to try getting to a specific spot on the trail. Since we never know how far we’ll get, we always pick “moveable” milestones, which we can adapt to her needs. “Today, Amélie, we’re going to walk to the point.” Or the beach. Or the big hill. When we judge that Amélie’s about done for the day, we tell her, “Look, Amélie, the hill is right there!”
- THE FAIRIES: The fairies are by far Amélie’s greatest motivators. They watch Amélie hiking on the trails, and place little “rewards” on the signposts along the trail. They only do this when she’s the one walking. Amélie LOVES spotting signposts in the distance, and never forgets to check them to see if the fairies left something for her! (Other hikers, sleight of hand, and distraction all help the fairies do their job – * read more below).
Some of these tricks work sometimes.
None of these tricks works all the time.
Most importantly, we need to know when to call it a day so that she keeps loving this and asks to go hiking again the next day!
Please help us help keep Amélie motivated by writing YOUR tricks & ideas in the comments!
ABOUT NEWFOUNDLAND FAIRIES:
Newfoundland fairies are nothing like the fairies people think they know about anywhere else. They’re nothing like Disney’s Tinker Bell. They’re much bigger. They’re not at all like the fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream either.
About the size of a large toddler or a small child, Good People are a mischievous bunch. While they’re not “evil” per se, anyone treading in their territory should take special care to avoid crossing them. Here’s a video of our neighbour telling stories about the Little People (the 4th, 5th, & 6th story told by Clarence are warnings about them): https://youtu.be/FQ4MWia6xmA.
Newfoundland fairies have a special penchant for little children. While they’re generally repulsed by human adults, they love little children. So much so that the island has a long history of fairy kidnappings.
In order to protect ourselves from the Little People, we wear some pieces of clothing inside out, carry dry bread in our pockets, and make sure to avoid staring at them should they ever appear. A sure-fire way to protect ourselves from their shenanigans is to say, out loud:
“My name is Sébastien…” (or whatever your name is, since upon heading your name, they can no longer know it),
“…today is Thursday…” (whatever the day, we always tell them it’s Thursday since nothing ever happens on Thursdays).
“…and the fairies can’t hear me” (Telling them they can’t hear you makes it true).
Since they love little children so much, it was not difficult to enlist their help with Amélie’s project of hiking the East Coast Trail. In exchange for a promise to avoid disturbing their fairy paths and a promise of a fiddle tune once we’re done, they leave us be and gladly leave little presents for Amélie.