On the occasion of Emirati Children Day, we would like to remind you that play is equally important to the basic needs of children, such as nutrition, protection and education, etc. Happy Emirati Children Day. So read the SMS (sender: ECD Play) that popped up on my phone yesterday noon. The UAE marks Emirati Children’s Day on March 15 every year. A reminder to play, that’s what caught my eye, and with it came flooding many memories of the decades gone by.
Some time ago, I’d even come across news that the American Academy of Pediatrics was prescribing play for children; the report stated that the kids are over-scheduled, and the doctors are being told to prescribe play. It sounds like an extremely sad prescription for both the doctors to scribble and for parents to be reminded of. The only thing the doctors prescribed to me as a child was a Tetanus shot after I’d fallen on the cemented playground or sometimes when stitches were the only solution to keep the wound together. I did get injured enough for my parents to invest in an antiseptic solution and band-aids as sundry items. The sting of the medicine when applied to a fresh wound is still fresh in my old mind.
As a child, teenager, and let me confess even as a young adult (until I turned 16) playing was one of my most important, enjoyed and looked-forward-to activity. When and why the need to send such an SMS became a necessity? I recall my childhood being an endless fun argument between my parents telling me I’d played enough for the day and requesting an extension of another ten minutes. Them and I, both took turns to be the winner here. On growing-up, when playing hide-n-seek, hopscotch, et al became too babyish, my friends and I would cycle for hours, until we either got a flat tire or our lungs ran out of air. After which too, we wouldn’t head home, instead, we’d sit on the grass and spent another hour either gossiping about school or playing some self-invented game which we, of course, thought was cool.
We’d often return home dirty, tired and hungry, the latter two factors worked in the favour of our parents, for we’d watch little of television, chat away lesser, and fall asleep, exhausted. Yes, when video games became a part of our lives, we did enjoy Pac-Man and Bricks, still, we played. It’s easy to argue that the kids don’t play enough these days, especially during a pandemic, for parks too are not safe as they used to be, and yes, online games are preferred over running on the tracks, but one can only hope they are still finding time to play, virtual and physical. And when I say play, I mean playing without having it being part of a school project, a social media challenge or a forced extra-curricular activity to gain extra points for future college admission; I mean playing for the sheer thrill of indulging in mindless fun, squabbling with siblings and friends, and being simply a child and not a competitor, a roll number, or the class monitor or best student.
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