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To play have fun is also a right of a child
Amidst towering buildings, roads and car parks, there is simply no space for children to play. The sports clubs and grounds have restricted entry, making it difficult for them to get the much needed space to play. Lack of exercise leads to obesity.

 “ALL WORK and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” I remember parroting this line every time I was told to stop playing and get back to finishing homework or doing some household chore. We had ample opportunities to all kinds of play – be it indoor games or outdoor sports. With little or no equipment, we would play with gay abandon with children from the neighbourhood.

We would fall, get hurt, become dirty and get completely exhausted after playing. We would return home with twinkling eyes and a mischievous smile. The foundations to team work were laid during team games like cricket, Lagori, Son sakhli, Chor police and other traditional games where we selected a leader and others were allotted responsibilities. We learnt to focus on the goal and play our roles to achieve it. We learnt to communicate and handle disagreements, take winning and losing in our stride. We explored our creativity and became innovative, as very often, we made our own equipments and invented our games.

Today, it is sad that this culture is dying out in the middle class section of our society. Parents living in urban areas are sceptical about leaving their children unattended. They often fear the safety of their loved ones. The common fear is, “What if they get hurt? Or have an accident? Cars and motorcycles move at such high speed!” I have very often heard mothers say, “You just can't leave the children on their own. You know how strangers try to get friendly with them.”

Another problem in urban areas is the lack of space. Amidst towering buildings, roads and the car parks, there is simply no space for children to play. The sports clubs and grounds have restricted entry, making it difficult for most children to get the much needed space to play. Lack of exercise is the main reason sited for increase in obesity among children in the US and UK. Children in cramped metros of India too are becoming prone to it. Obesity is also linked with the “one child” phenomena and the closed door policy.

Children very often do not have any playmates and end up playing TV and video games (WII being the latest), when they should be exhausting themselves playing a game of catch or hide and seek. With the increase in purchasing power of the middle class and the wide range of toys available, children have also started demanding expensive play equipment. They feel inferior if they have to borrow a toy. They want to be proud owners of the latest toys and so, sharing toys is becoming unknown to them.

For those who are lucky enough to get the opportunity to develop through sports, more emphasis is laid on individual excellence. “Participation” is losing its importance and competition, winning, securing the first place, being the best, are becoming the focus.

In such scenarios, it is imperative for parents and teachers to take the responsibility of encouraging children to play together in groups, to share toys and providing ample opportunities to play in the outdoors. Participation and Excellence should be given equal importance and every child participating in a game, should be lauded for the role he or she played in the game.

Children should also be taught to take responsibility for their mistakes. However they should not be blamed for everything that goes wrong, as one learns only through mistakes. Insteading of letting them spend the day watching TV, playing computer, video games, playstations and WII, they should be encouraged to play board games with neighbouring children if they have to play indoors.

It is not harmful to play a game of hide and seek or catch, chain or poison medicine at home. All that is needed is a bunch of children and a willingness to let go of peace for a while, as their shrieks and laughter will engulf the house. Make time to take children to the local playgrounds and parks. Take them for outdoor trips in the wilderness or places where they get to exert themselves and feel the essence of the outdoors. Remember, the joy felt by them during a play session is incomparable with any other joy. Let children live their childhood with lots of play as playing is their right.

 


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