All work and no play...

September 24, 2015, Chennai

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ChildrensYears ago, a friend of mine mentioned a photo she had seen of what human beings will look like in the future.


Emaciated limbs and a swollen head because that is the part he will use the most.

According to a Times of India report, we still are grappling with well-fed bodies - and especially the children. Parents may by gymming and losing weight, but children are still "cute and chubby", to their detriment. Their self-confidence is low, as they are not taken for any school activities, and it is a vicious cycle they get into.

As a dance teacher, I find that when I ask children to jump when doing one of the steps, they don't know what the word means. I demonstrate repeatedly, but their body - not fat, but heavy - refuses to lighten up for the spring action needed to do the step.

While teaching Nagaland folk dance in my children's school, we decided to ambitiously teach class 2 and 3 children the bamboo dance. To avoid getting hit by the stick when jumping over it, it requires again that spring action, a certain nimbleness and agility. To my horror, out of the six girls - and again, four not even fat -  only 1 could execute it with ease. One of them didn't know how one jumps, lifting the entire body and tripping, instead of bending the leg at the knee.

According to the Times report, 60 percent of the children do not know to jump... There were other such statistics, but this one, I could so relate to, since I personally see it happening.

I am sure parents are struggling today with heavy schedules - tuition classes, tennis classes, why - even leadership classes. But where then is the time for free play? I remember running, skipping, elastic, hopscotch and the like taking up my evenings. While specific sports maybe good exercise, it is free play that gives us a lot of skills - right from how to manage our time to holistic physical exercise and even interpersonal skills. It is a time when the children are on their own, without parental intervention, dealing with peers in a fun atmosphere. What can replace it ever as a means to learn the basics of life and living?

My current mantra to my students' parents is to get their children a skipping rope. Even if there is no play area, that is a game that is fun, can be played indoors and yet give physical activity for the children.

We need good brains, no doubt. But all work and no play... we know where that one leads to...

- Meera Srikant