I grew up in Kenya where it was relatively safe to let the children play outside. Everyone practiced what is now called “Free range parenting”. We went to school came back at about 4:30 pm, had tea, finished our homework and went out to play. We would come back in in time for our baths and dinner.
Two quotes that summarize what play represented for me in my childhood are;
- “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation” – Plato
- “We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves, or more deeply engrossed in anything , than when we are at play” – Charles E. Schaefer.
The first quote resonates with me because I remember moving into new neighborhoods and making friends very easily by playing the same games with them. We would play and talk and by the time we went back to our respective homes we were best friends! The East African Safari rally used to be held every Easter weekend and we would make safari cars out of soil mixed with water and we would have our own rallies. This was the most fun time of the year. We also played with the jump rope and hop scotch.
We learnt to do a lot of stuff through play. For example we learned how to braid hair by braiding each other’s hair after much practice braiding the long grass! We were always outside with the other children. We went home for meals and came back out to play. We never stayed indoors. Video games were not as popular as they are today and we did not have cell phones. Technology has made it very hard for children to play. A lot of them would rather play their video games or skype, face time and Facebook with their friends instead of face to face interactions. We never had that. We made up games with used tires, made dolls out of clothes hangers and used grass for hair, we had our own “Olympics” and generally had a lot of fun making up games.
We also had tire rolling races which required a lot of control on the part of the participant. I feel play today is sort of restricted. The children are not allowed to play outside unless there is an adult watching them. This is understandable given the times that we live in with all the abductions and molestations.
Play is very important and should be maintained throughout one’s life. My husband has made a lot of friends playing golf over the years. So we see that play still has the element of social interactions even in adult play like golf, tennis, and exercise classes such as Zumba.