Play energizes us and enlivens us. It eases our burdens. It renews our natural sense of optimism and opens up to new possibilities.
– Stuart Brown,, MD,Contemporary American Psychiatrist
Play, while it cannot change the external realities of children’s lives, can be a vehicle for children to explore and enjoy their differences and similarities and to create, even for a brief time, a more just world where everyone is an equal and valued participant.
– Patricia G. Ramsey, Contemporary American educational psychologist
The Strong (2015). Play Quotes. National Museum of Play. Retrieved from http://www.museumofplay.org/education/education-and-play-resources/play-quotes
On weekends, at the break of dawn, I feel excited to wake up and explore the outdoors. Feel the warmth of the sun on my head when I climb trees and play hopscotch. It is so different when I wake up from Monday to Friday thinking I could be
sick so I do not need to worry that I would be in trouble with my teachers if I do not answer the fraction problems correctly or identify the subject and verb agreement in an English sentence. I liked playing in my world where I discover that rocks can be used to draw and write on pavements, and flowers can color my cheeks and lips. I made “oil” out of Gumamela leaves that I pounded with a stone, used leaves as money, made drums with sticks and covered my nails with petals of flowers. I loved my days of freedom to choose, to explore and to create without being afraid to fail in my attempts.
Growing up with five siblings who are just one to two years apart, we enjoyed our weekends, holidays and summers playing together. There was one condition that our mother asked us to do before playing – that we should do our assigned home chores. From washing the dishes to making our beds, we were all eager to finish our tasks to get on with our business – play. I remember my siblings and I collecting all the blankets and tying them up together, then we put them on our head imitating the peddlers that shout “Bili na ng kumot!” (blanket for sale). We collected broken jars from the garden so we can draw our hopscotch or play “teacher-student”. Our form of play was elevated to a sophisticated clubhouse that was built by our grandfather. He allowed us to pound the nails with a hammer and sand the planks that we used as walls and floor. It resembled a real nipa hut with a traditional kitchen and bedroom. Our mom allowed us to use the old kitchen utensils so we can cook in our playhouse. We mimicked the lifestyle of the farmers that we saw on TV. We dressed up in our grandfather’s old clothes and shoes. Our daily allowances were saved so we can go with our housekeeper to the market to buy our food to cook in the playhouse. We made fire with wood. Our grandfather taught us how to make fire. We were reminded to pour water in the charcoaled wood after cooking and before leaving our playhouse. We picked mangoes and starfruit from the trees to add to our playhouse meals. We learned life skills and how to practice safety habits as part of our play. Thanks to our mother and grandfather who trusted our skills and ability to problem solve, regulate ourselves, and to do things that people would think could be dangerous. It was fun!
Ironically, my daughter’s childhood was spent in the world of the concrete jungle. She did not have the big outdoor space where we lived when we were young. She did not have five siblings, nor children in the neighborhood to play with. Like many other children, she was confined in the house with her store-bought toys. Her play dates were organized and controlled – picnics at the beach, rides at the mall or bowling for kids at the entertainment square. This was my daughter’s world with her friends at least sixteen years ago. Fast forward to the world of our present children, they are glued to Ipads, compelled to attend structured activities such as painting and dancing after school and required to learn advanced math and reading skills from tutorial centers. From the time they wake up to go to their programs to the time they attend after school activities, these children go home with barely enough time to think of things they could choose to do. They get ready for supper and an hour or two later, would be bedtime. In those moments when children were engaged in organized and adult-initiated activities, did the children have the time to play with others and build friendships? Did they have opportunities to negotiate, assert their emotions, understand the feelings of others or even problem solve? It is my hope that as adults, we would give these children of the present generation a chance to be in an environment that they can explore, use their bodies for active play, discover their identities, and develop relationships where they could learn from and with each other. Through developmentally appropriate opportunities to develop cognitive, personal, social, emotional, mental, and physical aspects, children would have the intrinsic motivation to able to sustain their thirst to learn for life and be successful in their future.