Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pen Fights and other games

These days I am reading a lot on how children think and I came across the Piaget Primer for beginners. Piaget's contribution to developmental psychology and cognitive psychology is tremendous but that is not what I want to discuss here. I won't bore anyone with theoretical inputs but for those interested in research concerning children or interested in children, this is 'The book'.

I have already discussed about play patterns of children in an older post "Lets' play". Children learn a lot by playing (though as adults we concoct plans to steal this pleasure from them). Play to child is as inevitable as gossip to adults. In the right sense both can be enriching. Beginning with imitative play where children derive pleasure from imitating our actions to make believe play where children pretend to live the outer world through games , children progress sequentially through developmental stages through games. It culminates to a stage where a child invents his/her own games and decides rules for them too. Big or small, logical or non sensical these games are dear and mean business to a child.We all have fond memories of such games we played in childhood or observed others play.

These are excerpts of some games, some heard some seen and some experienced.

Piaget described a game played by shepherd boys of Valais using 'Y' shaped sticks as pretended cows. The 'V' part of stick was taken as the horns of the cows and the lower part of 'Y' became the body of the cow. The game involved pushing and throwing of one cow by the end of the game.

I studied in the middle east and we had no pleasures of climbing trees , date palms were not ideal climbing material, or playing in the wild. Every game I played was within the concrete walls of my house or the pathways surrounding my building. I remember boys in my school playing pen fights. I never understood what the game was like but reading about the Valais reminded me of this game.

Students played this in teams of two. Each had a pen and the kind of pen added to the prestige. Some used ball point pens because if they fell they caused lesser harm than ink pens. Some used ink pens confidently, sure they would not drop them. The arena was the desk and the player like rodeos sat at two ends of the table. They pushed pens with their fingers and the whole game was more like the Valais cow fight. Pens flew off table, fell over a pen overthrowing it and boys cheered around as if in a Colosseum. I never saw girls playing this and never did a girl kiss a pen saying it was her lucky 'pen fight' pen but the boys obviously practiced these traditions with rigour. To me it was just waste of ink and pens. Now that I look back it explains to me the nurturing instincts in men towards games that involved power, authority and violence, maybe their pens represented themselves, their pride and even in silly games these emotions and ideals manifested.

The silliest game then was called 'gold spot'. There was basically a catcher and all the players huddled together with the 'den' and on the utterance of the word Gold spot all ran as far as they could and froze . Now the den in seven steps was supposed to capture one of the person and he became the new catcher or den. We even had people breaking their bones in attempt to jump high and capture their preys in less than 7 steps. I got no clue why the game was named Gold spot and who invented it. This was a mixed game with both boys and girls but you never found boys above the age of 10 playing it. I don't know why girls enjoy hopping and why boys hated it.

The craziest of all was 'crocodile, crocodile can we cross the golden river'. Too long a name for a game I would say. Here the game had a crocodile who would prevent people from going to the golden river unless they provided an object with a colour he/she asks for. The squealing and screaming as we neared to the crocodile frightened the life out of me though I knew it was a just a game. Girls went hysteric, more than boys, worrying over shades of colours while for guys silver and grey meant all the same. More than the crocodile the girls ended up fighting over whose shade was the perfect one. Maybe this was a forerunner for the shopping mania women were to enter in future.

I personally feel we carry over these games with us into our adult life and release them once in a while. Do you? Share your child hood games and how you relate to them today. It could be fun.


Anonymous said...

"Girls went hysteric, more than boys, worrying over shades of colours while for guys silver and grey meant all the same."

that was excellent.

~moonstruck~ said...

hahaha..... felt nostalgic reading ur post... yea we used to play the same games.... Seven tiles was also a favourite.... I liked the silver-gray line too.... :D

feel-good post

The quirk said...

Thanks Sari, I guess I know what seven tiles is :)