Do you remember the games you played in your childhood? It’s fairly certain that your own children will not be playing most of the same games. Playing games is a natural part of childhood but as the urban environment changes, so do the type of games played. In most cities today, increasing traffic needs have pushed children out of playing areas and into smaller streets and vacant lots. There are specialized sports complexes and parks but in neither is the type of unrestricted free play that we indulged in as children, possible. The pressures of studying and homework and weekly tests have also put paid to play time. Moreover parents no longer have the time or energy to pass on the heritage of the games they played as children. Unfortunately, this means that not only are today’s children getting more and more computer and TV bound, but they are also missing out on some wonderful fun memories and a chance to fine-tune essential skills.
Many childhood games from our generation are dying out at least in big cities. Taking their place are more ‘sophisticated’ games and sports such as pool, billiards, bowling, skating etc. Even traditionally played games such as cricket, football and tennis are now not played in neighbourhoods for fun but learnt as part of a coaching class or training session. Think back to your own childhood days and try and remember the last time you saw a child play crocodile crocodile or pitthu!
While team sports teach the child a great deal about cooperation and team spirit, these older games have a lot to teach the child as well. In crocodile crocodile, a child learns about colours in an enjoyable manner. In oonch neech, hide and seek, blind man’s bluff and other such games, the thrill of daring or defying danger combined with the fear of being caught, is a wonderful way for the child to safely and acceptably express such feelings. Instead of getting her thrills second hand from a movie or a TV programme, a child satisfies her need for safe excitement through these games and pleasurably exhausts herself emotionally and physically. Today’s substitute? – the video game, which neither
exhausts physically nor enhances group skills.
Skipping, running, hopscotch, langdi tang, dodgeball – these are all simple inexpensive games that enhance agility and motor skills while toning up the entire nervous and muscular system. The child gets rid of not only all excess nervous energy but the activity releases endorphins or stress reducing hormones. She will sleep better and the fresh air and exercise will give her a better appetite. Other boisterous games such as dark room and blind man’s bluff help to teach spatial orientation and encourage hearing skills as the child is unable to see.
There are numerous indoor games, too, which should be an essential part of childhood. Take a game like scrabble for instance. Scrabble enhances vocabulary and encourages a child to think. Using only capital cities or nouns or adjectives in place of normal words can be used to bolster any weak area such as Geography or English. Similarly, other word games, like name-place-animal thing, can be a great way for the whole family to spend time together while at the same time improving vocabulary and general knowledge.
Games like monopoly can help teach children about money or property, jigsaws are excellent for fine motor coordination and logic, and carromboard helps teach strategizing, betters aim and motor skills. And all of them encourage family bonding and are great fun!
Many parents encourage their children to play card games. By and large card games are addictive and therefore not very good for children. But games like memory can help sharpen memory while court-piece can teach important strategizing skills. Another old favourite is marbles – again it does wonders for motor coordination, strategizing skills and the child’s aim. Dumb charades encourages the child to express himself and become more aware of his own body. In addition it also teaches them to be able to read other people’s body language, gestures and expression all of which are essential skills for successful relationships. Antakshri helps a child overcome self consciousness and improve his singing voice.
The list of games is endless but tragically, there are very few games left that your child will recognize. While each generation plays their own variant of the different games, we live in a time where it is all too possible to ‘forget’ certain games. As we have seen, most of the old games evolved in the absence of TV and the computer and emphasized fresh air, exercise, social bonding, knowledge and actual participation. The games that are at a premium today, by and large emphasise competition over cooperation, virtual participation and are largely based indoors. There is a time and place for each type but it can’t be doubted that the childhood years benefit much more from the former than the latter.
Fine, you’re convinced but what can you do? Where is the time or the space for such games? The answer is that anything worthwhile needs a certain amount of effort. Try these tips for enhancing your child’s play life: –
- Today in most cities, colonies are getting together to provide for combined security and other essential amenities. Surely, the residents can clear out a small area inside the colony for their children to play in? Get trees from the local forest nursery where the saplings are likely to be at reduced rates and plant an environmental screen against the road, the traffic and the air pollution. Grow a little bit of grass on a vacant lot. If worst comes to worst, cordon off a part of an internal street to allow the children to play freely for at least an hour or two.
- Join the children in play. Sometimes there may not be very many children on your street. But even if you have only one child, you and your spouse and your child make three people – and three people can play a variety of games. They’ll be good for your health and happiness as well!
- Put aside some time each day to play indoor games. Even if your child is older and studying for exams, he will certainly be taking small breaks. Utilize 10-minute breaks to play a quick game of court-piece. He will feel far more refreshed than if he had watched a little TV or even rested. Go for a short walk and play word games such as starting each new word from the last letter of the last word.
- Tell your child about your own childhood games. Chances are that he will of his own volition want to try the same games, if only for novelty value.
- Go for picnics and pack your gaming kit with a fine mix of golden oldies!
Games are serious business – just ask any video game manufacturer or game show producers. But health and quality of life are even more serious issues and as a parent, your skill lies in ensuring that your children have access to the games that will enhance their playtime and contribute to all-round development. And nothing can further your aim in this respect more than memories of your own childhood games. So dust off those memories and revive a vanishing tradition – and see your children blossom before your eyes!