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Traditional Play


Play. A word that is synonymous with setting the mind free, using imagination and almost creating a new world. However, today, we are increasingly turning to electronic games to fill in most of our play time. Video games and the like are certainly entertaining and stimulating. With advanced technology and thrilling effects, they sure give us an adrenaline rush! However, forms of conventional or traditional play can also offer us a number of psychological benefits in addition to physical benefits. We could be missing out on a world of good that our good old indoor board games, outdoor games and imaginative play could do to us. Wonder how? Let’s explore.

What is imaginative play?

Imaginative play, a type of traditional play, is a non-structured form of play. In other words, it does not involve rules or even specific playing objects. Weaving stories around a doll, pretending to be mom and cooking with the ‘kitchen set’ or going ‘vrroooooom vroom vroooom’ while sitting on a bench are all forms of imaginative play.

What Can the Traditional Forms of Play Offer Us?

  • They hone Creativity 

Thinking of a new place to hide, a quick joke to end the opponent’s ‘statue’, discovering how regular household objects can serve as unique toys all silently hone creativity… Creativity is usually at a high while engaged in imaginative play, as it does not have boundaries. There is no limit, for example, to the stories that can be woven around 5 barbie dolls, or the number of twists in rules that one can introduce to a regular ‘catch me if you can’ game. Electronic games don’t leave us with such opportunities. Everything from the rules of the game to the levels and the equipment is preset for us. There is very little scope for invention and innovation. Food for thought.

  • They hone Interpersonal Skills

Playing with living and breathing people versus playing against a computer. What do you think this could imply for communication skills? Proficiencies like Conflict Management, Negotiation, Team Building and understanding Group Dynamics can all be built through playing with people. An electronic game with all its graphics and speed is very exciting! However, it cannot substitute for actual human interpersonal dealings. Think about those arguments and dialogues surrounding who will be the captain of the team, about how one guy cheated, about selecting team members etc. With every such argument, one has the scope for plenty of observation and covert learning of interpersonal skills. This perhaps is one of the biggest advantages that regular indoor and outdoor play can offer us.

  • They help build a Realistic Perspective of Losing or Failure

Losing to a computer or losing to a person – which one is likely to get you more frustrated? Therefore, which one is more likely to help you face and cope with failure? Clearly, the latter. Games and play help us experience failure in a safe, ‘no-stakes’ environment. Therefore, they help us adapt to and cope with failure. Think about it. Can losing to a computer ever generate the feeling you had when you lost to the opponent in a game? The answer says it all.

Attain a Balance

In the light of the advantages described above, we can certainly afford to rethink whether we underestimate the power of conventional or traditional play. The idea is definitely not to stop electronic play but to attain a balance between the two. Electronic games are a good way of reducing reaction time and improving eye hand co-ordination. However, playing with people or even by yourself (and with your imagination) is one thing which going by me you mustn’t miss. Get the best of both worlds. Play wise, play well!

Post contributed by: Malini Krishnan (Psychologist, Inner Space, 2010-Present)

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