Play Day Soup for the Teenage Soul

“Me oi, con muon di choi va an kem!” I had just found my mom within the crowd of parents trying to snatch up their kids and now all I wanted to was to get some ice cream from the truck and go home to my friends. School had been the usual bore and today, we had practiced cursive and I was super proud of my myself for achieving the letter r. And now, I couldn’t wait to get my Popsicle shots! After walking and eating for a bit, my mom and I walked past the gate indicating my neighborhood. Up ahead, I could hear my friends starting up the game of freeze tag. Of course, I let my mom walk me to the playground before giving her a peck on the cheek and running to join the game. Today, I was determined not to be “it”.

One of my favorite childhood treats before the idea that the “ice cream  man” was a threat to society

Growing up, the idea of play was constantly on the back of my mind because at the end of every school day, I would go to a playground in my neighborhood and play. Since the playground was in the middle of a gated neighborhood, the adults couldn’t care less about we did as long as we never strayed past the gates. Because of that, my little friends and I were able  play hide and seek in the bushes or tag on the playground. Eventually, everyone got bikes and our idea of tag expanded to the entire neighborhood. When the summer months came, we would bring water from home and turn our slide into a water slide. Sometimes even, we would bring little goodies from home and exchange with it each other.  That was how I remember my neighborhood years used to be.

Yet today in class, I realized that the fun filled, thrilling childhood I grew up in was not one that everyone experienced. In Peter Gray’s Ted Talk, I was astounded by the idea that the decline in play has correlated with the increase of teenagers’ anxiety and stress. I’ve never truly realized how important unregulated play was in helping kids develop social abilities to cooperate and get along with people. Of course, as I grew up, I’ve been guilty of hiding out in my room for an entire day, but this was done with good reason. At the end of the school day, I can’t afford to spend precious time playing when I have homework to do or work to get to. But what I loved about Peter Gray was how he pointed out that “there should be less school, not more….maybe BEtter school” Honestly, those words have never been more true.

On National Play Day, I was truly happy just to have a free period to socialize. When we gathered with the other class, my first instinct was to choose the people I knew to play with simply because it was comfortable and I didn’t have to go through the awkward phase of introductions. Just like that, I settled into a game of Connect 4. When I was younger, this game was always a challenge to me because it seemed like I never observant enough to win the game. Surprisingly, I had gotten good somehow and ended up winning most of the time. When my partner and I were bored of the game, we joined another group next to us and played Jenga with two boxes of blocks. Eventually when the game because dull, we simply talked and tried building houses from the blocks.

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In all honesty, I’m more of a mind game type of person and I would’ve loved to play with the cards because I enjoy the idea of instant gratification. But because all the cards were taken, I had to settle with what we had and make the best of it. Although I knew that this National Play was an opportunity for me to become a kid again and not be ashamed of it. I couldn’t help but realize that so many kids spend their days growing up hiding from the world. It seems like so many factors attribute to the reason why we don’t see kids on the streets. Due to this, I feel like the adults need to step it up and make the world a safer and happier place for children to grow up in.

Overall, I feel this truly been an eye opening experience because after the stress and anxiety of finals, it was truly exhilarating to have a free period to play. Wiith teachers, especially Ap teachers, giving up a period for free play sounds absolutely ridiculous since there are plans for each day and giving up one day means falling behind. But as I’ve said, it is only one period and having this free period scheduled into the school year gives student a day to look forward to. It’s day for students to appreciate what they took for granted during their younger years and it’s day to spend with their classmates to hopefully build a stronger connection.