|THE ACTIVITY DIRECTOR'S OFFICE
|Silvana Clark's Insights
by Silvana Clark, Professional speaker, presenting keynotes and workshops
on humor in the workplace as well as ideas on creative activities.
Silvana Clark began her
activity/recreation career 20
years ago as a spotter for kids
on a trampoline. Every
Saturday, for four hours, she'd
watch kids bounce up and
down, up and down, up
and...you get the idea. Since
then she's written eleven
books and is a popular
speaker at conferences
around the country. She was a
keynoter at the British
Professionals conference and
recently gave a keynote for the
Her sessions are filled with
humor, practical information
and small group activities.
She is recovering from her
appearance on the Fox reality
show, Trading Spaces, where
she spent a week living with a
family that saw no need for
any kind of fun activities.
Contact her at
Doesn’t Everyone Love Bingo and Decoupage?
It’s obvious that anyone reading this article on the Activity Director’s Office website understands
the importance of humor and recreational activities. How many activity directors do you know that
announce, “This place has too much fun. I’ve cancelled all the BINGO games and don’t expect
any May Day activities this month!”?
I too, used to think that everyone saw the value in games, crafts and celebrating special events.
Things changed when our family was asked to appear on the Fox reality show, Trading Spouses.
Yes, our family was one of those crazy families that “bared our souls” to the world in the form of
reality television. The premise of the show involves two families with different lifestyles, where the
moms trade places. For this show, I spent a week living with a family in another state while their
mom stayed with my husband Allan and daughter Sondra. Even though I didn’t know the ages of
the children, I packed an assortment of craft and activity supplies such as fabric crayons,
wooden race cars to decorate, cardboard dinosaurs and a kaleidoscope making kit. I even
brought a parachute!
Upon arriving at the new home, I discovered the three children, aged eight, twelve and
seventeen, spent their summer days watching R rated TV and videos for 14-16 hours a day.
Breakfast consisted of coffee. Around noon, the kids complained about headaches. Dad kept
telling me his eight year old daughter had ADHD, was hyper-active and a poor reader. (In front
of his daughter.) Lunch consisted of ice cream eaten directly from the carton while watching
The show is designed that for the first two days I fit into their lifestyle. On the third day I declare,
“Now we’ll do things MY way”. (That’s where the fun starts!) First change was turning off the TV. I
bought fresh fruit and started serving breakfast. (Miraculously the headaches disappeared!) We
went hiking, read books and rode bikes. Then the crafts appeared. We started with the family
making kaleidoscopes. The very macho dad made constant negative comments including four
letter words that weren’t “glue” and “lace”. He called his twelve year old son a “sissy” for enjoying
the craft project.
I discovered this family never attended community festivals, sent the kids to camp or just did
family activities at home. Throughout the next four days, the two younger kids kept asking if I had
more things to do. We rode bikes, went hiking and played games. Sounds pretty normal doesn’t
it? The dad was so upset with all my activities that he constantly swore and fought every activity I
suggested. He refused to spend one hour bowling with his daughter because he saw no purpose
in doing something fun with her. The kids on the other hand, seemed to thrive. They stopped
fighting because they were actively involved in a project. Crafts were a big hit.. We designated a
shelf to display their creations for their mom. The TV crew bought more supplies because the
family didn’t even have colored markers or construction paper. The so-called hyper-active eight-
year old spent two hours intensely mixing paint colors together. She’d never used paints and
was fascinated that red and white paint created pink. The 12-year old boy loved drama but his
dad felt drama was not a “manly” activity. I went ahead and signed up the boy for a drama camp.
He loved the experience of acting and doing improve activities. His dad cussed because he didn’
t want his son taking part in such a girly activity.
The program aired, showing the kids in my new family happily engaged in hiking, painting and
gluing.(With their dad cussing in the background.) Evidently a large portion of the viewers
agreed with the dad that kids don’t need to take classes or get involved in activities. . My e-mail
box was flooded with messages such as “You are a *#%@*^ mother!” “How can you be so &%$@
(&% stupid to have that boy take a drama class? He’s smart. Only idiots are involved in drama.”
Why did you make those kids do crafts? Crafts are for pre-schoolers!” (Get the idea?) We got
prank calls at midnight. The Trading Spouses chat boards were overwhelmed with people calling
me the crazy activity lady that forced kids to ride bikes and be creative instead of watching TV.
It never occurred to me that engaging in wholesome activities could be so controversial. Yet it
also showed me that a segment of the population see no need for what activity directors do on a
daily basis. Perhaps some of you have encountered resistance from people who don’t want to
attend to your programs. So here’s my advice: keep encouraging those reluctant participants to
at least give your events a try. You may just win them over. At least you can work with them
without television cameras recording your every move!