It’s more than just play

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It’s more than just play

Sunday, 07 July 2019 | MUSBA HASHMI

It’s more than just play

There is an adage — all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Experts tell MUSBA HASHMI the advantages of including play in a curriculum for the child’s overall development

Kheloge kudoge banoge kharab, padhoge likhoge banoge nawab.

We have all grown up  listening this ageold adage. While it may have some truth, there are  many studies that point to the contarry. More so today, in an era where sportspersons are bringing glory to their country. From Sania Mirza to Saina Nehwal to PV Sindhu to the Sachin Tendulkar and to Virat Kolhi, there are many khiladis on whom we count on. The dawn of the sports era has brought with it changes.

 Still, there are parents out there who are not so open to include play in their child’s extra-curricular activities. ‘Playing is a waste of time and will distract their child from academics’, is the general opinion. But just the reverse is true.

Several studies have shown that playing is the key in a child’s overall development. To address this issue and to create awareness about its importance in a child’s development Sesame Workshop India Trust and The Lego Foundation came up with a programme which aimed to shed light on how parent-child play is linked with boosting creativity, learning and development of children. The programme was spread over two years and targeted a niche audience.

Almost 2,500 families were reached out through this programme. The children between the ages three-six years were part of the workshop. The programme was a success as it helped the targetted group to learn the benefits of playing and was accepted as a part of their child’s daily routine.

Sonali Khan, Managing Director, Sesame Workshop India tells you that the programme not only aimed at making parents realise the advantages of playing but to also engage them with their ward during playtime.

“All the parents and children participated in our workshop. Initially, some of the parents were not that open to playing with their children and they left their children to play on their own. But, that was not our motive. It was to make parents realise that it is important for them as well to be involved with their children and play together. It took us a couple of sessions to let this realisation sink in. When it did, they were more than happy and were freely engaging in all the activities with their kids,” she says.

After the programme was evaluated the findings showed a positive visible change of attitude of parents and caregivers towards play.

Ira Joshi, Vice-president, Education & Research, Sesame Workshop India  says another the other motive of the workshop was to make people realise that play doesn’t always mean high-end toys.

“Everything in the workshop was made from recycled items and the children loved playing with them. It all depends on how you present the things to them. Some people think that playing means that it involves high-end toys. But, it’s not the truth. Making your child play with expensive toys is not constructive, it’s destructive. There is a thin line between the two and parents have to figure this out. Play should be such where a child is learning something from it in a fun-filled manner,” she explains.

While the aim of the programme was to involve both the parents, sadly, only the mothers turned up.

“An interesting or shocking fact that we saw at the workshop was that very few fathers turned up. Mostly there were mothers. It was a bit weird and strange but then everyone knows that mothers are the primary caregivers,” Joshi tells you.

Before the programme, academic success was more important for the parents which shows that as a country we need to address this issue and get rid of the study pressure that we put on our children. There is an immediate need to understand that no all children are the same. Some may excel at academics, some at sports or some may have a different perspective of what they want to be in future.

As parents, we have to respect their choices in life and give them the freedom to choose what they want to be. That was the underlying message that Three Idiots gave out loud and clear. But it appears that little has changed the way we perceive what success is.

“We saw some mothers who were in competition. It was like ‘achha yeh apney bachche key sath aisey khel rahi hai toh main bhi aese hi khelungi’. Some even took the charge of play. But we told them that the idea was to let their ward play and take charge and for them (mothers) to join in, not the other way round. It was not a competition after all,” Joshi says.

For example, we allowed the child to dance if he wanted and we encouraged the mothers to join their wards. Or if someone was willing to play with blocks, we gave them the  space to put it in the sequence if their choice. Instead of dictating them how they should put it. The whole idea was to let the child be free and play the way he wants.

Mythili Bector, OSD, Primary School Education, Directorate of Education, Government of NCT Delhi tells you that more and more schools should adopt the strategy of play-based learning for nursery and kindergarden children.

“Primary education should not only be restricted to books but instead play-based learning should be inculcated in the school curriculum and it should not be restricted. Children should be taught in a way where they should not think of education as something which will bore them but something that will make them learn new things in a fun manner. This not only improves the child’s creativity but his thought process as well. He learns to see things in a different perspective,” she tells you and adds that there are different types of playing and parents, teachers and caregivers should be able to identify them.

“The different types of play include free play — where a child is free to choose what game he wants to play and how, then comes active play — where a child is actively participating in play, onlooker play — where a child is not participating in a play and watches others around him playing and many others. It is up to the teachers and parents to differentiate between these and find out what type of play is their child is engaging in,” she says.

Shahnaaz Hussain, a mother of two — a four-year-old daughter and  a six-month-old son, who was a member of the workshop said a lot has changed between her daughter and her after they completed the workshop.

“My bonding with my daughter have improved. Earlier, we two never spoke with each other much. I used to get angry over her if she didn’t listen to me. I used to ask her to concentrate more on her studies. I used to think that playing was a waste of time which will affect her performance in school. But, after the workshop I realised that play is equally important. She needs time for herself. Now, we both play together and study together. For example, If I ask her to bring tomatoes from the fridge, I would count with her. This makes it fun for her and she takes interest in helping me in the household chores by doing these small things. Her concentration in school has also improved. She has become more talkative and takes keen interest in learning new things. Earlier, she was just a daughter of mine but now she is a friend. We share a much stronger bond,” she tells you and adds that every parent should encourage good playing habits.

We have come a long way from the folklores which insisted that play doesn’t make you a winner. There has been enough evidences that shows the power of play and how it helps children.

As Warren Beatty has rightly said: “You’ve achieved success in your field when you don’t know whether what you’re doing is work or play. “

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