Games for Children

Before sunrise, a group of Nigerian-Igbo children, boys and girls, ages four to six, will gather in the front yard of the family home, and we will use dry branches to scratch the column and row grids inside an area of ​​six square feet in unpretentious sandy soil. Then we will take turns and line up with our backs to the grid. From outside the margin, the first child will throw a pebble above his head, hoping it will land on one of the units smaller than the grid. Then, still in front of the margin grid, the pitcher must pick up the gravel, wherever he lands, from outside the margin.

A good pitch is when a pebble lands with a thud in the middle of the unit, where the child can lean on one leg and one hand, stretch his body and take it with his free hand. Successful throwing and retrieval gives the child ownership of the unit, and he can use the acquired unit to take the pebbles that will be thrown into the future. The most accessible unit is the one closest to the margin, and we will try the first. A pebble that does not fall into any unit is a bad throw, which allows the next child to throw.

Directing and throwing overhead with your back to back is a challenge for most children. It feels like groping in the dark. One must mentally calculate the position of each unit so that the pebble that is thrown can fall into it without slipping.

There is a lot of motor planning that goes into the critical part of the game. For example, the child must think about how much power must be applied to the gravel, and in what direction he wants to go. He also has to remember units that are still open; that is, the units have not yet been obtained. Taking pebbles from where they land is also a challenge. To do that, they must support their bodies with one foot and one hand, while using the other hand to take gravel. This maneuver must be highly tasked with the vestibular balance system, as well as joints and proprioception. Children who do not have a sound balancing system will often overturn and fall on their stomach.

Sometimes it also appears when children are expected to jump around the unit on one foot to pick up gravel. It is against the rule for your feet to touch the line. To avoid the fall of the rules requires a lot of accuracy and praxis, and coordination between the visual system, the motor system, and the vestibular system. We made several repetitions and replays. Each game lasts for hours, it becomes more difficult when each child has to land their pebbles in one of the remaining units in the corner of the box. However, I think we survived because we competed with each other and because the game was challenging.

That does not mean that there is no frustration. Children with difficulty balancing are especially frustrated playing this special game. Ironically, I remember the frustration aspect of the game more than the routine part. I remember the tendency of gravel to slip from the screen, many times children stepped on the line, and children fell on their stomachs when they reached out their right hands while balanced on their left arms and left legs. Falling, though disappointing, is also fun.