Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Why Children Play?

“Play is the highest form of research.” – Albert Einstein 

Dr Peter Gray is a psychologist and author based out of Boston, USA. He described the importance of play in this wonderful video lecture of his online.

It made me curious. Was play important to me growing up? How important was it? Why did I want to play?

I had moved into a new neighborhood. I was very young and the only thing on my mind then was to play and make new friends.

Play at the Ground

There was a huge empty ground, just next to my building. About 30-40 kids from the neighborhood came there to play everyday between, 3 30 pm to 7 pm. I was one of them and we played late into the evening, sometimes even after sunset. We would play cricket, catch, explore the locality and invent new games of our own. 

Why did I want to play so much. Little Abhishek had one possible answer -

'It was like the summer of 69 every single day. School made me want to fit in. But here, I could be me. It was awesome. No worry. No home work. No competition. Just running around and seeing a new side of the same world, like a new born puppy, in a beautiful unexplored world.'

Play at the Club

There was a family club in my city where social gatherings and events were often held in the evenings. The club had two large tennis courts for the members. When not in use for the game, children were allowed to play on these courts. I had another bunch of friends here. We normally spend the weekends here, playing both formal and informal games. Cricket was a favorite.

I remember several summers where a group of us youngsters, would come to the club by 5 pm everyday and play football or cricket late into the evening and sometimes even until midnight. This would happen on both weekdays and weekends. This went on for two months that summer. There were conflicts, there were victories, but there sure was lots of fun.

“Play is a child’s work and this is not a trivial pursuit.” – Alfred Adler

Play in the Building

I grew up in an apartment complex. There were several flats on each floor. There was also a large corridor just outside my flat in the building I stayed in.

I had a separate group of building friends. Most of the tenants of the building had children, many of whom were in the same age range. So after school, and four hours play in the ground, I would go back home and eat something. Then I would go out and play for an hour more with my building friends.

In the building, we often created our own games. This is not very different from creating an app, book or company. Sometimes it is even more difficult because we have to convince other people in the group about our vision. This would include our own innovative version of catch, hide and seek and cricket. We would make our own rules and these rules were set based on the environment and context we played in.

The group of us was very creative in the way we used space. We would make spaceships out of staircases. The windows in our building were like open windows of a ship out in the sea. We would imagine our own little world outside these windows. We also utilized and explored every nook and corner of the building as new adventure in the making.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw

Finally Home

I would come back by eight in the evening and finish my homework, spend time with my family and then go to sleep.

When we got tired running around we would play board games with names like tumbling monkeys, countdown and monopoly at any one friend’s home.

The world inside my head – All children have a world inside their head. They make sense of the world here. For me it was a world of little soldiers, cars and animals going on adventures to save the world through my blankets and furniture and also through my kitchen and bedrooms.

I had three playgrounds and three separate groups of friends to play with in each one of them. It was a dream come true for any little child

So that was my schedule growing up. I would go to school in the mornings and then come back home and play late into the evening. On weekends we would play throughout the day, and late into the evening as well.

Sometimes we would create our own games and the evenings, when we were too tired we would spend the evenings at each others homes playing board games with named like tumbling monkeys, countdown and monopoly.

If asked why play was so important for me growing up? I would not have any single answer.

But one reason that stands out in my mind is that it allowed me to be me. 

It allowed me to be a child.

How did you play growing up? Would love to know your experiences. 

Let us have a conversation. Let us learn together.

Tweet @AbhishekShetty_

1 comment:

  1. Abhishek Shetty you made me remembered of my childhood and also bought tears in my eyes its awesome when you make your own games and plan and then your mom is shouting come home fast its time to do your homework- gaurav mishra