A major difference between children in the US and Costa Rica is in the way they play. It takes me back to when I was a child. They play tag, chase/racing games, and are often climbing trees. Sadly, most children in the US seem to have lost the art of play. I’m not sure why.
As an elementary teacher for several years, I noticed at recess that many of the children would just stand around. With no structured play, some of the children seemed uncertain and didn’t know what to do with themselves. Many times they would gravitate toward another student, and the end result would be some sort of conflict.
Free play is an important part of physical, social, and emotional development. It helps children learn new and lifelong skills. Whether they play alone, or with a group, it allows the child to be better prepared for the future.
I love it that here in Costa Rica an importance is placed on relationships. Society still allows and, for the most part, expects time be spent with others. Neighbors still stop and chat with one another on the street. Nearly every afternoon between 3:30 and 5:30, you will see many children (and adults) together–playing.
It’s just as important for adults to make time to play. It is a great reducer of stress. Why is it that we have so many excuses and fail to make time for play? It’s just not healthy. No one here can pull out of their garage in the morning and return in the evening, not having any contact with their neighbors. Nearly everyone here knows you by name.
In fact, I have a play date this evening. Several of my new friends and I are getting together for dinner. Why? There is no agenda, it’s just to spend time together–playing. It’s an important thing!