By Kirran Khan
The early stage (0-8 years) of life is a crucial time period for a child’s holistic development. This stage is the period of tremendous growth and development (UNICEF 2012). Play is the universal language of childhood. Children have the right to play and engage in activities which are appropriate for their age. Play is an activity which contributes to the overall development and learning of children. According to Sluss (2015), it helps in building all the developmental domains such as the physical, social, emotional, cognitive, language and academic development. However, if we see in the context of Chitral, the community is mostly seen not favouring play in early years. As a community member and an Early Childhood Development (ECD) teacher I want to share my own experiences. During my teaching in Chitral I was questioned mostly by the parents, especially mothers who if I had nothing to teach in class. They expressed their displeasure in engaging the kids in learning through playing and singing activities.
If we keep a light glance on different research studies on early childhood, the results speculate that nearly one quarter million nerve cells are formed per minute in a child’s brain when s/he is in the mother’s womb. That is where her/his development starts. From birth till the age of 6, a child’s brain develops remarkably and during this period, children develop their senses and play is the best tool for them to explore and experience the world around them (Blasi, Hurwitz & Hurwitz 2002; Meyers, 2010; Pardhan & Juma, 2011).
Chitral is culturally bound area where mothers have a specific perception regarding bringing up their children and supporting their children’s learning and home environment.
While males are considered the bread earners and income generators who support their families, thus, they mostly have to stay out of home or out of town. Being a close observer and having close interaction with mothers of Chitral, I have experienced that a myth which was believed in decades ago still has a control over the thoughts of the young parents, who are of my age. They argue that home is the best place for play and school is the place for reading and writing. They are completely blind to the fact that academic development is only one aspect of a child’s nurturing process. Socialization, conflict resolving abilities, understanding of self and others’ emotions, development of rightly body movement etc., are elements that are as important as academic development.These aspects of development lead the foundation to make a healthy individual. Furthermore, literature portrays play as a self-organizing system because when children interact with each other they influence each other’s development and they organize themselves by showing self-discipline or self-responsibility. In this way, they understand each other and start making sense of the world around them. Play is also very important for children’s healthy development. Children get the opportunity to interact with peers and the physical nature of the play, dealing with conflicts and socializing with others contributes to the physical development of children (Bento & Dias, 2017).
Recently, I had an opportunity to survey the opinions of mothers who have children aged 4 to 6, enrolled in ECD centers in Upper Chitral. The data collected from 8 ECD centers showed that mothers are in favor of play and want to play with their children;however, they are less likely agreed to engage themselves in their children’s play activities. This is mostly because they are culturally bound and their other household responsibilities do not allow them to spare time with their beloved children, in this crucial age of holistic development.
I want to leave the decision to the readers regarding encouraging the mothers to provide their children opportunities to play and also to engage themselves in their children’s play activities. Secondly, I would like to ask “are mothers the only parents who are responsible for the upbringing of their children?”