Play is an important part of child development. As children get older, they go through distinct stages of play. Each stage helps the child acquire skills and learn to navigate the environment. At a glance, play is a simple task. But during play, the child acts out his/her conflicts, engages in self-talk and creates an imaginary world. It is a space to relax, develop and learn, both in isolation and with others. Considering the various benefits, it is necessary to establish play as an important part of a child’s routine. Yet, the daily schedule of the current generation of children has limited time for play.
Unlike in the past, children of today cannot freely engage in play. There are many barriers to play such as a lack of open spaces, a love for mobile games, an increased school workload and limited parent-child interaction. Mostly, the major portion of the child’s day is spent at school and therefore parents do not pay attention to these factors. The school is focused on academic results and tries to cut down on the free time to complete the curriculum. When both parents and school fail to encourage children to play, the well-being of children gets affected.
The only time parents worry about lack of play is during the long holidays. Though nowadays these holidays are also filled with projects assigned by the teachers, parents still struggle to keep their children engaged and reduce the time spent on electronic devices. Not every skill can be taught by teachers within classrooms. By allowing children to participate and interact during play, children acquire lessons about peer relationships, emotion management, planning, verbal communication, and identity formation. These elements occur naturally in a playground. In the absence of such an environment, these skills are underdeveloped.
It is possible to conduct separate classes on these issues to educate the child. But when we have the option of learning in a natural environment, it seems foolish to make children spend hours listening to talks and expecting them to learn the concepts theoretically. Like how our bodies rejuvenate during sleep, our brains require play to consolidate the experiences from the real world.
Earlier, children used to play in courtyards. Now parks are the cheaper alternative available in the city. The parks have a dedicated space for children to enjoy the swings and slides, but these are not always child-friendly. The lack of focus on safety is a major issue. Sometimes the slides are too steep and fail to break the descent of the child properly while at times the swings are not maintained by the authorities due to which children hurt themselves. It is time we pay attention to promoting play in our surroundings.
These parks have given children a chance to enjoy childhood and we must try to create safer playgrounds through solutions such as the installation of rubber mats, regular maintenance of the equipment and child-friendly play options. The proverb, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, reflects the importance of play and the sooner we pay heed to this, the better our chances of raising healthier children for the future.