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Playing Within the Lines

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Haabibi’s reflection on their experience with play as a child shares a common theme with Stuart Brown’s idea that: “Without play… “there’s a sense of dullness, lasstitude and pessimism, which doesn’t work well in the world we live in.” The setting of the play area is marked by “apartments of fifteen stories everywhere”  and “seldom a park around to play, but lined spaces for cars to park.” This creates an image of a dull, crowded city atmosphere that is not conducive to the social wants of the children. The image of the scene is contrasted with the children’s desire to find somewhere to play. Haabibi describes finding locations to play in as “always a difficult task” and a “journey” that that the children had to embark on. Finding somewhere to play was an important enough task that they did not let themselves be stopped by their seemingly unsuitable environment. The willingness of the children to take such a trip rather than find an alternative such as staying inside or partaking in another activity, gives the sense of the eagerness and even necessity to the children of engaging in this sort of play. Examining the perspective of the children enjoying themselves playing made up games while ignoring or ceasing to remember that they were in a “dull and dark concrete-made parking lots” implies how playing draws away from the negativity of the outside world, like Brown articulated. 

Haabibi discusses bringing “plastic cups,” “inviting neighbors for tea,” bringing “flowers for decoration” and making a “toy store” a as part of the imaginative play scenarios the children constructed while in the parking lot. A play situation in which children are thinking about adult events such as hosting a formal gathering or working is likely not something the children came up with on their own. These ideas probably came from the children having seen their parents host such parties, and seeing adults working in stores. The description of the play scenarios they engaged in are consistent with the ideas of David Lancy that: “their make-believe play forms, is constrained by the roles, scripts and props of the culture they live in” (Henig 13). However, by calling these made-up games imaginative, Haabibi implies that their play is more than just a regurgitation of what they have seen and experienced in their lives. By mentioning how the children created the toy store with the intent to “exhibit their toys and share them… to play together”   it is evident the children were doing more than just copying what they had seen other adults do. In the adult world, the purpose of owing a toy store would be to sell toys, however in this situation, the children wanted to make a toy store so that they could show their toys and play with the other children. This contradicts the idea that the children’s made-up games are constricted to what they know or have experienced. It more adds to this idea by establishing that children use what they know as a starting point, and then create their own spin on the situation. 

Haabibi’s essay does not idealize play, but rather focuses on arguably, the most important aspect of play, the fact that play is fun. The description of the parking lot having been “flourished with laughter” shows that the goal of the play was nothing more than to have fun.  Peter Smith, a play skeptic argues that when children play they “learn to use sophisticated language, negotiate roles and exchange information” (Henig 10)but that these things could also be achieved through “other forms of play, work activities and old-fashioned instruction" (Henig 10). Based on Haabibi’s take on play it seems that the elements of learning associated with play are a by-product of the play, and happen by chance. Haabibi mentions instances of play where the children are essentially copying adult activities, however there is no mention of how this play could have benefited the children or had any connection to the children outside their play world. The children are described as building inside the “lined rectangular spaces in the parking lots,” as if the imagination and make-believe games that went on there had relevance only to their made up world, and not to the real world. 

Haabibi’s take on play is interesting because it implies that play is necessary because it has the ability to transform a dull place into a world of endless possibilities. Play skeptics might argue that this play is unnecessary because there are other ways the children could be passing their time to remove themselves from their seemingly boring environment. Haabibi implies that the necessity of this sort of play is that it allows the children to be innovative and create something new out of something like a parking lot, that possessed no value to them. I think the idea that children are capable of creating their own happiness regardless of their lack of suitable surroundings, makes play extremely important.