My favourite memories of childhood consists mostly of playtime outdoors, cooking play food, using sand for rice, red stones for meat, grass for vegetables, an old milk tin for pot and large stones as a burner. I took pleasure in gathering my ingredients and feeding my dolls afterwards like ma fed me. As I grew older though outdoor play took up more energetic forms. There were so many games to pick from: swell ( similar to hopscotch), red light:green light, Simon says, jump rope, ncho/ayo (also known as Mancala, Oware, Awale in other places), “oga”/ “ten-ten”, hide and seek,” chaser”, mkpumkpu ogene, onye ene anya n azu and lots more.
The novelty of outdoor play for me lay in gathering materials for the game, having different friends/siblings to play with and changing the rules of play to suit us at anytime. Outdoor play fostered a sense of community spirit, any child could join in. We expended a lot of energy, enjoyed the fresh air, improvised new play apparatus, utilized our motor skills, and learnt to share all in the process of having fun.
Todays society has almost made outdoor play unattractive for kids,and difficult for parents to encourage. iPads, tablets, social media and mobile phones has replaced outdoor fun for kids of all ages. Houses with large outdoor play areas are a luxury and leaving your kids unsupervised outdoors today is similar to placing a juicy bait in plain sight. In Nigeria there are no free parks or play areas, whilst these exist in the UK many are under serious review for funding which might lead to closures. In both cases however parents rarely have the time outside work to take kids for play and finding a reliable place and playmates for them is a treasure.
As society evolves we must endeavour to keep certain things for posterity’s sake. Outdoor play stripes away financial requirements, class or societal barriers. Technology has no soul or mind, interacting with it or through it constantly limits our exposure to the various shades of the human mind. It impairs our ability to assess situations as they unfold. it will remain a second hand substitute for aiding human growth and development. It definitely won’t create fun memories to look back on, for those you need to get up and live.
We all need those memories of scruffy jeans, falling of the bike, climbing up the tree, messy hair and missing tooth smiles with friends who look the same. I hope we do our best to encourage constructive play.