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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

DIG it- Dirt is Good

How Often Do you see a child's play face?

Pertinent question isn't it? Something that most of us would like to respond with an answer like- all day, everyday, every moment, as often as I want, always....
But today I am not sure how much do we watch our children really play. No I am not talking about the play on gadgets. I am talking about mud play, water play, playing in the grass, in the soil, doing physical activity. Getting messy and dirty and playing with stuff that are not toys but improvised from everyday objects.
Have you ever noticed the laughter that emerges when they are doing real play vs gadget play is totally different. It is more spontaneous, natural and healthy?
It ensures that the children build a healthy mind and body for life and most importantly, build happy memories of their childhood. Just like we have our own memories of playtime.

I often say, my kids are my own clay to mould and therefore I would like to give them experiences that only I know as a parent that is going to become a rarity as they grow old. Which is why, in the presence of so many distractions for the children of the internet era, I insist that they get as much free play as possible. Which means, get out of the house, switch off the gadgets and play, run around and do physical activity. Play ball, play cricket and cycle. Feel the breeze on your face, look at the lizards darting on the walls and the flowers fallen on the grass. Look at the bug crawling on the grounds and make a mini pond in the place where the grass has worn off. 

Watch a cat beg for food and count the number of puppies that have just been born. Count the number of crows lined on the wall and watch the squirrels skip across the branches.

Imbibe as much as you can about nature in the city and make sure you do not miss a single day of play. 

Get as much dirty as possible for dirt is good!

And so is the grass and the leaves that cling to your clothes.

And didn't mamma tell you that a cactus should not be watered so much! Well, watch out, for that is what she is about to tell you next and you will be sure to remember that and not water them and the cactus in a hurry henceforth!

Play is part of the serious business of growing up. Indoors or outdoors, on muddy fields or at home, children find play irresistible for a good reason - and you can see the benefits written all over their faces.

The grouse that I had when my kids joined play school was that they do not get enough time to enjoy the swings! I could be called an antithesis of parenthood. Whoever asks the teachers to allow their kids to play in the swings? Everyday I would ask my kids, did you play on the swings today? Because I know that swings can be found only in schools and if you do not get to play there you do not get to play them at all.

More kids today are growing up in cities than ever before - but cities are not always designed for children.  When Surf Excel asked kids what they'd change, they had all sorts of ideas. But more than anything, they wanted space to play. By 2020 half of the world's children will live in cities. Let's make sure we listen to them.

Which is why I always insisted that my kids get out in the only green space I have, play there, even if it meant getting wet with the water pipe that was watering the garden or getting bitten by bugs.
Even if it meant they would pluck a few leaves from my precious plants but still, at least they got round to exploring a green space.
I am fortunate that my building has enough space to play. In fact that was the reason why we zeroed on this apartment even before we became parents. Because, in our minds, we were sure that we would not want our children to grow closeted in the house without a space to play. In the town where I grew up, there were huge maidan.....spaces left vacant after every few rows of houses. And these were used as play grounds by the children in the vicinity. This is something that urban cities do not have and of course busy parents like us do not have the time to take children to a park to play. So we ensured we have everything we need right in our complex and we also got a mini garden space as unexpected bonus. And what a boon it turned out to be!

Learning is Messy
Scientists are making amazing steps forward in improving our understanding of how children's brains and behavior develop through childhood. These new advances help us understand better than ever before how important it is to allow our children the freedom to get dirty.

Hence I never stopped them from muddying up by digging into my empty pots and filling them with soil, or rolling over the grass and getting grass stains on their light blue jeans.

They would dig out soil and spread them all over the stair case and I would sneak out of my apartment in the night and quickly sweep the mud before anyone slipped.
The phase passed soon but still the children found other things to play. The great Indian cricket and football. Or even climbing of the solo frangipani tree causing great trepidation among the parents in the building!
Well, that phase passed and we heaved a sigh of relief. Yet I am glad that they still want to play rather than stand outside and gossip as older children do!

See a fresh perspective on childhood:
"We've created the Surf Excel Kids Today Project to get a fresh perspective on modern childhood -- especially looking at the importance of hands on experience and getting dirty in our children's development. Dirt is proof that children are living life, participating, exploring and experiencing. We believe that Dirt Is Good."

Which also means that kids love to do things by themselves. The messier the activity the better. Polishing shoes, washing slippers, folding clothes, climbing upon the basin and washing dishes, sweeping or rather breaking the brooms with vigorous sweeping, putting veggies in storage, playing with dishes pretending to arrange them but actually messing them up....we could go on. They say every such activity builds cognisance and hand eye coordination. In the earlier days there was no organised play, only free play and most children learnt by imitating their parents. Which also meant that the only toys they had were the objects in and around the house, ever wonder why kids love banging vessels!

The Surf Excel Kids Today Project

Have you ever noticed that childhood today is more work and less play than it used to be? You are not alone!

Surf Excel has conducted new research amongst 1,000 Indian mums and found that they strive to find the best way to ensure their children are well-prepared for the competitive world ahead:
•    60% of mums believe their child’s future happiness is dependent on them doing well at school
•    One in four would like their child to spend more time at school
•    However, mums also believe learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom – children can learn life skills from everyday experiences (82%)
•    Collaboration and teamwork are more important than being successful academically (66%)

To help redress the balance, Surf Excel has launched The Kids Today Project to show that recreation and hands-on experiences are not nice-to-haves, but are in fact critical to every child's developmental success.