Friday, February 12, 2010

The Importance of Playground

After my sister came back from a 2-days course for brain-injured children she attended along with her hubby last 2 weeks at The Nury Institute, she shared with me about puzzling stories. One of them is about a 14-year-old dyslexic girl who couldn't write. Do you know what was suggested to her mother? The girl needs to learn how to crawl. Apparently, she didn't learn how to crawl when she was little.Weird isn't it?

Now, it explains why babies, naturally, would start crawling before they could stand up, walk and run. It also justifies why parents should delay the onset of getting their babies into walkers. Scientifically, these little movements denotes the complex interactions between parts in our brain that allow such perfect sensory coordination that would equip them later in life in many ways.

"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished" ~ Lao Tzu

That brought me to the importance of playground - a topic we have neglected too much because we thought with the advent of technology, for the sake of our children safety and simply to make our life a little easier, we deem playgrounds are things of the past.

Please, playing the video games and anything that makes their eyes glued to a screen is just another sure way to kill their brain cells - that's definitely not to be considered as play.

I know, most of us think the kind of games play by our children signify our class in the society. Even as adults we classify people to the games they play, no matter how suck they are at it. God, we adults should stop doing this and start 'walking the right talk' to our children.

Let's look at how playgrounds started in the land of Mr. Barack Obama. Towards the end of 1800s, a national reform movement dedicated to women's suffrage began, as a result of industrialisation, urbanisation, and immigration. It later progressively branched into Mothers' and Children's Movement, which was responsible for working out policies at state-level designed to protect children in the labour force and to support schools, playgrounds and kindergartens.

Recognising the need for such, the other half of Madam Eleanor Roosevelt, stated in 1907 that: -

"City streets are unsatisfactory playgrounds for children because of the danger, because most good games are against the law, because they are too hot in summer, and because in crowded sections of the city they are apt to be schools of crime. Neither do small back yards nor ornamental grass plots meet the needs of any but the very small children. Older children who would play vigorous games must have places especially set aside for them; and, since play is a fundamental need, playgrounds should be provided for every child as much as schools. This means that they must be distributed over the cities in such a way as to be within walking distance of every boy and girl, as most children can not afford to pay carfare".

Too bad, in our Ibu Pertiwi, our children's safety outside our homes is a dream, far from reality as we have children that went missing. Still, that shouldn't make us all pessimistic and dump the importance of outdoor play and recreation. For that, as I always tell my sis-in-law, we ought to elect a Yang Berkhidmat that promotes such policies that benefits not only the parents, but also the future of our nation - our children. Yes, that's the power of voting the right person. So, have you registered yourself as a voter because you are not only voting for yourself but for your child and your next generations. May I push you to go and do something about this, ASAP, pleasee? (Blink, blink, blink)

So, back to our extinct playgrounds (well, if we do have, some may not be functional, dangerously rusty and broken), have you, as an adult, seen a child cry while busy playing? I never seen one because physical activities prompt our brain to release endorphins - the happy hormones. Plus, better oxygen supply to our brain makes us become sharper and think better i.e. smarter.

Joseph Lee, long recognised as the father of the playground movement, said, “Play for grown people is recreation – the renewal of life; for children it is growth – the gaining of life”.

But most of us think that play and recreation contribute nothing concrete to child development.

Well, you may want to re-arrange such school of thought after reading this comprehensive paper by Linnea M. Anderson, "which explores the development of organised recreation programs in the American settlement and playground movements, where she examines core themes and methodologies that emphasised the relationship between organised play, health, character and democracy", as she aptly put it that "The Playground of Today is the Republic of Tomorrow".

"Recreation is stronger than vice and recreation alone can stifle the lust for vice” ~ Jane Addams (The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets, 1909)

I also found a interesting position paper by The Association for Childhood Education International ("ACEI") titled "Play: Essential for all children". Apart from physical, play promotes social and emotional development, because we humans are social beings. Studies indicate a positive relationship between play and student learning, improvements to attention, planning skills, and attitudes, creativity and divergent thinking, perspective-taking, memory and language development.

Blimey! I never thought playgrounds could play such monumental roles in our children's life? Come to think of it, we, too, were once a child. Do you think those games we played make a difference to us, in positive ways? For me, yes, they did.

OK, I have a slight mind-bending game. Imagine you having a group of people lining up. So now, while holding hands, form a circle but yes, you can't form one by the first and the last person in the line holding hands. Let me know if you can, ok?

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