The Spirit of Play

This past weekend, in partnership with friends who offered lots of help, we put on a Christmas party for over 200 children in the slum area we regularly visit.  It was a wonderful way to celebrate the season!  The party included fun games played on a concrete basketball court in the middle of this large community.  I smiled so much my face hurt.  The children excitedly jumped up and down in anticipation of the relay races beginning.  They squealed when the leader called out, “One, two, three – go!”  They blew flour out of bowls until their faces were covered in white.  They passed Mentos with spoons gripped in their teeth.  They threw balls into small containers and so much more.  The roar of the children was deafening.  Their smiles radiated like sunshine and their laughter was infectious.

It reminded me of other events I’ve had the privilege of being a part of over the years.  A plethora of images swirl in my mind of joy-filled faces on children whose everyday life can be hard, being given the chance to play and simply be a child for a while.

A wonderful way to initiate play is by simply giving a ball to a child.  It makes no difference where that child may be.  Their eyes light up.  Their minds begin to spark with ways to play.  In India, the children take the offered ball and use it to play some form of cricket.  We had limited room at our children’s home there, so we used tennis balls to play indoor cricket as well as courtyard cricket.  This with made up courtyard cricket rules created by my husband.  Giving soccer balls to oftentimes withdrawn toddlers at an orphanage in China and watching them roll around the room on top of them, squealing in delight, was glorious.  Presenting the children at summer camp in Mongolia with large exercise balls, they happily bounced down the hill on their bums.

There is immense pleasure in play, whether on a cracked concrete basketball court in the middle of a place of poverty, in a sterile cold room of an orphanage or amongst beautiful rolling hills.  Play serves as a reprieve from everyday difficult life.  Every child should have the opportunity to play!

“Children need the freedom and time to play.  Play is not a luxury.  Play is a necessity.” by Kay Redfield Jamison (Clinical Psychologist)

These wonderful memories lighten my soul when life presses in and weighs me down.  I think play does the same … lightens the soul.  Let’s all make time to play!

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