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The Necessity Of Games

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



GAMES must be an integral part of every system of physical training. No other form of gymnastics is so recreative in its effects, and none has such lasting power over young and old. Why this is, has been a matter of inquiry for years, and many psychologists have been led to investigate why this form of bodily exercise has such great fascination. In the "Play of Man" Groos expresses the view that by means of play the young of both animals and man develop those physical and mental powers which they need later in life. Games thus serve for the preservation of the individual and of the species. The instinct of self-preservation thus would be the power which excites us to play, therefore an animal which did not play during its youth would be sure to be underdeveloped and lost in the life-struggle.

Stanley Hall opposes this idea. He states that true play never practices movements because they are to be of use later in life. He says that plays and games are the expressions of the motor habits and spirit of the past of the race. They are rehearsals of those bodily and mental activities which in the early life of man were necessary for self-preservation. The work executed in play was necessary to the life of our earliest ancestors. Now, if function makes or modifies growth, that is, if we have our present shapes because our ancestors were forced to do certain things, it will be seen that even many of the apparently aimless games of young children have a deep meaning. According to this view these games exercise some rudimentary function which, although disappearing in later life, must be exercised at this stage of the child's development, in order that certain organs of the child may develop normally. These plays are adapted to their motor needs. It is because they develop the motor capacities, impulses, and forms of our past, says Hall, that plays and games have such a strong hold upon us. According to this definition all true play, all games that have a chance to survive, must consist of such forms of activity as have their origin in the far past.

Looking at their effects we see that the first and greatest effect of all forms of bodily exercise of a playful character is a feeling of exhilaration. In games this mental effect is increased, and the cheerfulness developed is undoubtedly caused by our gratifying the basic demands of our nature.

Most games demand good honest, hard work, and we are surprised to see how joyfully this is given. Overcoming difficulties is a genuine pleasure to a player. Games awaken and develop the high moral qualities of courage, determination, and presence of mind. They give energy, decision, and promptness to the will. They teach subordination of self for the benefit of the team. In short, we see that games not only help the physical and mental development of the person, but that they are also of great use in cultivating high civic virtues which are necessary for the life of the community.

It is highly gratifying, therefore, to see that everywhere there is a great awakening as to the importance of games, and that large playgrounds are being looked upon as an essential part of every school. The schoolyard should be the natural playground of the small children of the school district. Other children should be supplied with larger grounds for their games. Next in importance to the ground is its equipment. Much money is often wasted by erecting elaborate structures, which make a great show, but are little used. If there is enough money and space this may do no great harm, but playgrounds for children may be equipped for little money. Where money is not abundant the question "How many children may use this apparatus at the same time?" should govern the selection. The following apparatus is a good equipment for an ordinary school or small municipal playground : two giant-strides, two horizontal ladders, four teeterboards, also two sandpiles, a few small black rubber footballs, and beanbags for the smallest children; then a few basketballs, four poles for vaulting, and a place for jumping. If more apparatus is wanted, add two more giant-strides, two horizontal bars, four tetherballs with eight bats, an iron pipe climbing frame, swinging rings, a few sets of quoits, and iron shots for putting.

The disposition of the apparatus is of great importance. It must be a rule to place all stationary apparatus at the sides of the grounds, so as to leave the largest possible space free for games.

Now comes the choice of games for those who are not exercising on the apparatus. The playground supervisor must see that these suit the mental ability of the child, for the greatest difference in games lies in the varying degree of mental difficulty. He must remember that those games interest children most which develop the basal powers old to the race, i. e., running, throwing, striking, chasing, dodging, etc. He will find many games at his disposal. New ones are continually being invented, but only those will interest the child which express some fundamental bodily or mental state and call for natural movements. He must know that a person would rather chase than be chased, would rather strike than run, would rather throw than dodge, but that he would rather dodge than be inactive. A child would rather take an active than a passive part in a game. A game putting a premium on the second activity would, therefore, be fundamentally wrong. To illustrate : Sixteen boys stand in a circle, and four are inside. The boys standing in the circle throw a ball at those inside; if one of these is hit he takes the place of the thrower. Now, a boy would rather throw at some one than dodge, and the result of this game usually is that those inside do not take the greatest pains to dodge. They want to get to the throwing part of the game as soon as possible. This could be made a true game by putting those who are hit out of the game, then there would be the inducement to dodge so as to stay in the game.

There is a natural progression to games which gives to the youngest school children such simple games as cat and mouse; Jacob, where are you? I spy, and the simple racing games over a short distance. In ball games, the tossing and catching of beanbags and the kicking of a light football will meet with most favor.

Raising Children, from seven to twelve years, take delight in chasing and racing games as cat and mouse with two cats, or in several circles, black man, cross tag, black and white, fox out of his hole. Also in antagonistic games, such as stick wrestling, foot in the ring, rooster fight, etc. In ball games, we find the throwing and catching of a small ball in all its variations, the batting of a ball with a club, the kicking and catching of a football. The games of this age are still individualistic, every one looks out for himself. At about twelve years, games requiring instant decision and great quickness such as three deep, prisoners' base, rabbits, and the like, have their greatest popularity. Then comes the age that chooses games that have a low degree of organization, and which require limited team work, games that have several positions to be filled by the players, as for instance, the simpler forms of baseball. This is also the time for running, jumping, hurdling, vaulting, relay races. Then, as the last group, come the games requiring good team work, such as captainball, basketball, the simpler forms of football, and last, but best, baseball.

Experience has proved that weak and backward Raising Children, that is, those who need play most, usually stand back, and must be encouraged to take part in the games. This shows the need of intelligent supervision of playgrounds so that most good may result.

If the foregoing lines have shown not only the desirability but also the necessity for play, and if they have given to parents and children an idea of how to make games successful, their object has been accomplished.



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