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The power of play: Here is how fun, traditional childhood games can help children thrive

Dr Priscilla J S Selvaraj Dr Priscilla J S Selvaraj 5 Mins Read

Dr Priscilla J S Selvaraj Dr Priscilla J S Selvaraj


Did you know that traditional childhood games help improve brain power in children? Read on to find out more in this article

The power of play: Here is how fun, traditional childhood games can help children thrive

In this digital era, when children are hooked to electronic gadgets at a very young age, parents find it challenging to get them off their couches. It's a constant tug-of-war between gadgets offering online games and parents pleading for some 'proper' playtime.

This is where simple traditional childhood games can help. They not only ensure physical fitness but also boost brainpower. What a combo! Surprised? Well, you shouldn't be. Here are some traditional games with their benefits to the brain explained.

1. Skipping:

Good old skipping involves concentration, perseverance, and memory power. Also, as traditional skipping games involve keeping steps to music or rhymes, the child needs to maintain tempo, beat, and rhythm. This game involves visual-spatial perception skills too. The child needs to assess the distance of the rope from the floor, the position it is in, the direction it is swinging towards, and, most importantly, its speed. This judgment involves a lot of mental calculation wherein the brain is actively involved. And, it is this assessment that will help the child place her feet on the floor when the rope is up in the air. Another important skill involved is eye, hand, and body coordination. This coordination is dependent on the brain monitoring the body movements. The Jump Rope Institute (founded by the US Olympian Buddy Lee) states that skipping or jumping rope is an ideal brain exercise and that it helps develop both the right and left hemispheres of the brain. It adds that it increases memory power and mental alertness. Never thought this simple game would involve so much mental exercise, right?

2. Swinging:

Another fun activity, swinging develops perceptual skills and spatial awareness. It also helps integrate sensory information - awareness of body movements, sight, sound, and gravitational pull. Such sensory inputs form the raw material for the development of the brain. Thus, swinging, which processes a lot of sensory data, aids brain development. Also, the rocking movement while swinging stimulates the cerebral cortex which is the part of the brain dealing with concentration and focus. Moreover, while swinging, the vestibular system, which involves the sense of balance, movement, and equilibrium, is activated.

And, this activation, depending on the type of movement, can either help your child stay calm or alert - the former because of the rhythmic swaying motion and the latter because of the increased blood flow to the brain. What if your child is prone to mood swings? Let her swing away; for, swinging lifts up the spirits as it raises endorphin levels. Is your head spinning with all this information? Well, stay calm. Swinging, spinning, sliding, and rocking movements - all have benefits for your child's brain. So, let him go swinging.

Generally, many would think that sports and games aid physical development. Yes, they do. But, most games also involve exercising the brain. Whether it is outdoor games or the ones played indoors, almost all of them demand staying focussed, being alert, thinking strategically, employing different tactics, placing oneself in the opponent's shoes, and, of course, quick and smart thinking, and memory power. For each move that the player makes in any game, impulses are sent to the central nervous system which processes them and enables reflex actions. Whether they are modern or traditional, all games require mental fitness. Tennis, kho-kho, kabaddi, dodge ball, chess, pallanguzhi, carrom, even track and field events - you name any game; they all involve a 'workout' for the brain! When children engage in playing games, this workout boosts their brain power. So, parents should encourage children to participate in games and sports.

- Isabella Concesso, Senior Physical Education Teacher, St Francis Xavier's Anglo Indian Hr Sec School, Chennai

3. Hide and Seek:

So, you thought this game, also known as, 'I spy', was just fun and exciting? Well, here's the news for you. As far as the seeker is concerned, all her senses become sharp - sight, touch, sound, smell. Her observation powers also reach a peak. When she tries to guess the hiding place of her friends, she has to rack her brains. And, when she attempts to lure them out of their hiding place, she has to employ strategic thinking and problem-solving skills.

She has to stay focussed, alert, and, maybe, even crafty throughout the game. She cannot afford any distractions. All these require keeping her brain sharp. For the one who hides, it isn't too different. She has to work her grey cells out in trying to come up with a new hiding place each time (one that would challenge the seeker), staying alert to sound and movement, and being wise enough to not fall for the seeker's tactics in making her give herself away. So, whether it is playing peek-a-boo with your babe in the cradle or hiding behind the door for your child to seek you out, be sure that this game boosts your little one's brainpower.

4. Kho-Kho:

This exciting game releases mental stress and speeds up the working of the brain. It's a tag sport that tests both physical and mental endurance. The players, be it chasers or defenders, need to concentrate and literally 'think on their feet!

Strategic thinking is also required to avoid getting tagged or tagging someone. When it comes to the chaser, he needs to make wise choices when it comes to tagging players. The brain is actively involved in such decision-making. And, the increased blood flow, better circulation of blood, and raised levels of endorphin - all mean the brain is alert and active. So, if you thought this game was only brawn and no brain, you need to change your perception now. It is after all a thinking game. Get your child to round up his playmates and get ready for the game.

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