To the older generations (teenagers, young adults, adults, and the elderly,) play is simply a four-letter word describing activities people do recreationally for personal enjoyment once in a while, on the rare occasions when we have the time or motivation. To the youth in our society, play is an opportunity to spend time with friends and family in the beautiful environment encapsulating us and to possibly improve our athletic abilities. Comparing these two mindsets, the older generations may disregard play as just having fun with no real value or importance in our lives, but I believe the youth have the right idea in mind when it comes to play, as it is actually physically and mentally essential in order to live a happy, healthy, and extraordinary life.
“I learned [during Global School Play Day] that sometimes instead of being so tight and high strung about school, it is perfectly fine to give myself time to relax and enjoy the company of friends, and enjoying the little moments in life.” –Michelina Nguyen
Play, whether it be through outdoor sports or television or anything in between, is an escape from the mundane, an escape from the repetitive lifestyles we all experience day by day without any thought. Wake up, eat, work, sleep, and repeat; that’s basically all there is in our lives, a spiraling cycle of stress and worry with a sprinkle of social interaction or sports in between. Our stress and anxiety about school and work have overshadowed our ability to go out and experience life to the fullest, the beauty of life as it naturally is. It was easier to play outside when we were young children, as there was nothing truly important that consumed our lives in a negative way. Now, according to Peter Gray and his TEDTalk concerning the importance of play, the involvement in play has gradually decreased as time moves on and as people grow older. It is hard to find the time or motivation to actually go outside and relive childhood activities, such as playing handball or drawing chalk murals on the side walk, because we, as a society, have placed standards upon ourselves to be a perfectly rounded student or worker for a “better” future. We believe that this can only be achieved through long days and night of hard work and constant deprivation of basic human necessities like sleep or even eating, without spending any time for our own happiness.
“I always thought play in school was essential because it allows the child to be free. They’re cooped up in classrooms together and taught to think in a certain way, as if other perspectives are deemed incorrect. When children are given play time, their minds think in many different ways that could not be stimulated by just school work.” -Tiffany Vo
There are many scientific explanations regarding the importance of play within our lives, including brain development, confidence building, improved social skills, stronger physical capabilities, and imaginative thinking. Play provides a gateway into new developmental growth needed to overcome numerous obstacles in life, such as public speaking and decision making, but yet is restricted more and more everyday with constant educational rigidity. By participating in play and the outdoors, it provides a strong foundation for a child to start their young lives with maturity, allowing them to truly grow as a well-rounded individual. Play can also affect the older generations as well, not just children, as it provides freedom from the exhausting pressures of school or work. By clearing the mind of any stress, worry, anxiety, or doubts, play transforms our bleak, dull perspective of life, constantly in-and-out of classrooms and working with pens and paper, into a spectrum of colors through the scenic nature surrounding us. It allows us to envision the world in a different way, which can eventually help with schoolwork because it creates new ways to think and work more efficiently.
One way to implement playtime within the educational system is through Global School Play Day, a special day dedicated for students and teachers to avoid classwork and instead, simply enjoy each other’s company through various fun activities in or outside the classroom. I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to experience this event during the 55-minute period for my high school English class on February 6, and I sincerely hope to relive it once again in the future. Being able to spend time with my classmates in such lively activities sparked glimpses into my past, where I would constantly play all day, everyday with my friends at recess, after school, and even on the weekends. This day enabled me to forget about the dreaded workload waiting for me, the tests calling out my name, or the pencils ready to thrown in frustration during a difficult math assignment. Play was a fundamental key as to why I had such a happy, enjoyable childhood, as many others did too, but its effect has sadly diminished as our generation grows older. However, I surely hope that one day, in the near distant future, Global School Play Day will be experienced by many more schools around the world and not just certain classes like my own school, because I believe play is definitely essential for society’s judgment on what helps one create a “better” future, as it relieves both the mind and body from exhaustion and tension from overworking.
All images provided by Unsplash.