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Paper #4

Kismet's picture

Nostalgia is at an all-time high these days.  In an age of political instability, terrorism, education reform, and technological advancement, we often wistfully remember what are often referred to as “the good old days.”  These are the days when kids could ride bikes all over town from dawn until dusk and their parents would rest easy without fear of creeps and kidnappers that might prey on their children.  These are the times when you could play with your dolls instead of being rushed off to a Test-Prep Session or a Cello class.  This was an era when kids played hide-and-seek in their homes instead of their rubble and ruins.  In these troubling times we all want to remember those years that felt carefree and fun.  

As adults we mourn our inability to have fun without scheduling it into our days, and we worry that children are missing out on their best days because they, too, are exposed to the anxiety and fear in this world.  However, children cope with these troubles through play.  Anna, a classmate of mine, shared her experience of growing up in Germany while learning the language.  Clearly the idea of moving to a different country and having to learn a new language is daunting to most people, regardless of their age.  However, she learned German in a way that was not stressful, but fun - through play.  She recounts that she never felt alienated from her peers because they were so deeply connected through their fun antics.  In her Serendip post she wrote, “Play has the power to do that.  It has the power to break down language barriers and allow us to connect on a deeper level.” (Lebewesen, 2016).  This speaks to the resiliency of children, and raises the question of how play functions to bolster this resiliency.  

One possible answer to this question is called the play-as-preparation hypothesis.  In the New York Times article Taking Play Seriously Robin Henig explains, “In this perspective, play evolved because it is good preparation for adulthood. It is a chance for young animals to learn and rehearse the skills they will need for the rest of their lives, and to do so in a secure environment, where mistakes will have few consequences.” (Henig, 2008).  This explanation of the hypothesis references the fact that humans aren’t the only animals that play, and therefore it is believed to serve an evolutionary purpose.  It is possible that many different animals play in order to develop skills, especially those that are useful in social situations.  A clear example of this is Anna’s anecdote; for her, play was the avenue through which her German language skills developed.  Knowing German made life in Germany easier for her than it would have been had she not learned the language.

Besides language skills, play often helps children develop better social skills such as sharing, problem solving, and cooperating with others.  It is how most children make friends.  The skills developed in childhood play are often very important later in life.  Someone who spent more time playing and negotiating ideas with others as a child is much more likely to work well in groups, such as in many careers.  We also hone our ability to understand social cues through interacting with others when we are young.  Children who are more social are often quicker to catch sarcasm than children who spend more time by themselves.  Considering that all cultures have different mannerisms and cues that are deeply established, it makes sense that they are learned through social interaction from a young age.  Even though Anna wasn’t born in Germany, she was able to easily assimilate herself into her classmates’ culture largely due to the fact that she was only four years old when she moved.  She was young and flexible enough to learn the accepted behaviors easily.  Because of this, she was not seen as an outsider by her peers, which further contributed to the skills she learned through play.

Anna’s description of her childhood play experiences is full of warmth and pleasant feelings.  She clearly expresses her positive feelings about growing up in Germany.  She, like many other people, is quite nostalgic regarding her childhood.  In this day and age it is common to feel overwhelmed by stress, obligations, responsibilities, and fears.  In fact, it’s less common to be consistently content.  This is why we tend to yearn for the years filled with fun and play, the years that made us who we are today.  Nostalgia is healthy, as long as we do not use it to compare our childhoods to those of younger generations.  Times change, and society changes, too.  Our children will not play exactly the same way that we did.  We must not be worried by this difference, nor by the fear that they won’t be as joyful as we were.  We must know that we cannot control the world that we raise our children in, and that’s okay.  They will find a way to play, even if it’s among ruins and rubble.  Regardless of the hardships our world faces, we can take comfort in knowing that even in times of trouble, play will always prevail.



Edensor, Tim, Bethan Evans, Julian Holloway, Steve Millington and Jon Binnie. "Playing in Industrial Ruins: Interrogating Teleological Understandings of Play in Spaces of Material Alterity and Low Surveillance." Urban Wildscapes. Ed. Anna Jorgensen and Richard Keenan. New York: Routledge, 2011. 65-79.


Henig, R. M. (2008, February 17). Taking Play Seriously. Retrieved September 23, 2016, from


Knefel, M. (2015, July 16). Kid Stuff. Retrieved September 23, 2016, from

Lebewesen, A. (2016, September 18). Home is Where the Heart is. Retrieved September 23, 2016, from /oneworld/changing-our-story-2016/home-where-heart