Congratulations, You Played Yourself

Play? Not to sound too anti-millennial, but the only “play” we adolescents seem to recall is in last year’s DJ Khaled memes where he warned us to never play ourselves. He must have been mistaken though because playing? That’s the real key to success.

Professional lecturer Peter Gray presented to TEDx his argument that playing— interacting with peers in an unstructured environment with games and physical activities—is vital to the development of today’s youth. Back in his time, kids were given three school recesses a day, did not have anywhere near the amount of homework and standardized testing distributed now, and thus had a significantly smaller number of depressed and socially anxious teenagers. He explains how this generation’s organization and routine of every single day down to the last detail only translates into stress. Youthfulness? Essentially transformed from freedom into résumé-building.

After acknowledging this perspective, I participated in Gray’s project: Global School Play Day. The abundance of sports equipment and board games which my peers brought to school on Wednesday last week completely renovated our attitudes that period. Suddenly our junior-level AP Language class? No longer a dreaded and stressful hour of reading and analyzing, rather a nostalgic moment we all needed. I went outside with a familiar group of friends to play classic card games like Uno and my favorite, Tien Len (more commonly known as Thirteen), a Vietnamese game I had always played with my grandparents growing up. The game of Speed also challenged us, providing everyone with an intense and emotional friendly competition. But the most exciting experience was playing a quick game of handball in the last five minutes; I wish we had spent a greater majority of the time involving ourselves in some exercise, but now we know.

Such a day was uncommon to me. Not never-done-before but not something I could easily remember. Wistful and interesting. My friends agreed: this should happen once a week. As “big kids” with “big” responsibilities which separated us from little kids who were accustomed to playing all day, it was like we had repressed all the fun of freedom and freedom of fun.  It felt new. To be doing what we wanted without adults controlling that and more significantly during school. We weren’t stressed and by the end of the hour I saw every classmate smiling. Even the classmates who were always monotone, yawning, frowning, or sleeping on usual days. There was jump rope and basketball and Twister and no phones? I have nothing against technology but we can all see this as a deviation from the norm.

So why is playing limited to young children? Shouldn’t we all be having a good time without thoughts of worry? It’s obvious that infants and toddlers require play in order to develop motor/social skills as well as creativity… but why is it assumed that this necessity ends once we become teenagers?

Our activities on Global School Play Day made me really wish we had a recess like in elementary school. Although it would be unrealistic for a high school of 4,000 students to go outside to play at the same hour, it would be nice to receive maybe one or two hours a week to interact with our friends in childhood games. Hosting the recess during a specific class like how we did during Play Day could possibly help to avoid an overcrowded and inefficient chaos. Either way what I’ve taken from this movement is that I need to schedule going outside and getting active with my friends more often. This also means saying No. less whenever my three year-old sister asks me to join her in a conversation with her dolls since playing and having fun has the same level of importance for all ages.

Need help on how to have fun? Play the video below and watch as even puppies relax by engaging in physical activities with their owners and puppy friends!

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