Play and learn

Published On: December 31, 2016 12:15 AM NPT By: Usha Pokharel

Play materials should match the developmental stage of the child. They should also be safe and age-appropriate
When I think of toys, memory takes me back to my childhood and that has me thinking of various items we used to play with. My first toy that I remember was a Japanese doll: a very sweet-looking one with long hair. It came with a comb and a bottle that you could refill. I was very small at the time, about five years old, and I remember it being bought in Delhi. We had accompanied my father on his official visit there. I saw this doll and fell in love with it instantly. It was my favorite.  

Soon enough we had to leave Nepal and I took my doll with me. I had it with me in Calcutta but soon we were to go to live in Assam, my mama ghar. I think that is where I lost it. We were living in a village and my cousins had not seen anything like that before. As usual, the boys don’t like playing with dolls and they would rather render it unusable than let us girls play with it. So one day the doll could not take it anymore and was broken. After that there were not many choices.  

Boys played with marbles or kites or were running around playing catch or even dandibiyo or fishing, if there was a stream nearby or just swim. While girls played with gatta and hand-made dolls. As per tradition, my mother used to make rag dolls for me. They were wonderful. They wore saris just like my mother and grandmother and other adult women. Next, I also spent some time with my kanchi phupu in Siliguri during the early 1960s, and she bought my cousin and me a set of aluminum cooking utensils. They were all small and very cute.

Now that I think about it, there was a clear demarcation as to what girls and boys played with. Girls were conditioned right from the beginning to look after the household, cook, organize marriage of their dolls and take care of other stuff while boys rarely took part in these games. Though I was fascinated by the small size of things we played with, these games did not hold much charm. With age I grew out of toys and become more of an outdoor person, playing marbles, gatta, hopscotch, badminton, skipping rope and doing other stuff like flying kite or even playing cricket with friends. 

As we understand, toys and playthings are more items for children to play with. It is supposed to be an enjoyable means of training young children for life in society, but things have changed now. Now with the introduction of digital media and console games, children have become more indoor-focused. At this point parents need to be careful regarding the types of toys they provide their children. As children grow, toys give way to play things and games. Parents buy expensive playthings in the form of gaming devices that are engaging to the extent of making a child addicted to them. Computer games, if not handled properly, might have negative impact on children. 

Play materials need to match the developmental stage of their child. At the same time toys and playthings need to be safe, age appropriate and affordable. This is also the time for parents to remember what kind of person they want their child to be when they grow up. Please keep in mind toys are not a substitute for the parental care and involvement that are important for development of a child. Children use toys, playthings and games to discover their identity, to help their bodies grow strong, to learn cause and effect, explore relationships and practice the skills they will need as adults. Toys might be means to develop warmth, loving and dependable relationship with their parents. 

When it comes to explaining to children concepts and emotions, toys come in handy and growing up and learning about the world around us is much easier with toys. Most children play with whatever they can find, even sticks and rocks. It’s their imagination that is always at work. Playing with a toy helps a child in all areas of development, including cognitive, language, social, physical, and emotional development. Parent’s participation in play brings them closer to their children while sharing their mutual joy and delight. Activities and conversations during the play provide parents an opportunity to understand their child better. All these activities enhance a child’s self esteem. With age children should be gradually playing outdoor games too. 

Finally, parents need to understand that play is essential for children’s balanced growth and to promote learning in them. While toys facilitate strong relationship between parent and their children, toys are again not substitutes for warm, loving and dependable relationship that children enjoy with their parents. Further, toys do not need to be expensive but they need to engage the child over a period of time. They should be simple but also creative enough to hold your child’s imagination. Of course it would be wonderful if parents could find some time to play with them. When parents participate, their children’s learning is enhanced. 

At the same time parents have the opportunity to understand their child better while observing their child’s skills. Parents can help expand those skills. If your little one has started building towers out of blocks, then it is a good idea to introduce other ideas of making more things out of the blocks, for instance a garage for the cars or a house for the stuffed animals. Yes, I can understand your dilemma. I know you do not have time. In the evening you come in tired after work and are in no mood to play with them. Have you tried spending time with your children when you are tired? It sure refreshes and relaxes you. Why not give it a try? Who knows, you might just surprise yourself.

The writer is an educationist and author of several children’s books

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