Athletic Games by Kids, for Kids

Having a variety of athletic activities is very important for children’s healthy development, both mentally and physically. It is especially important for  children in our target areas, who have grown up in a disadvantaged and violent environment. Sports and other activities at TYO are helping those children to be more expressive, to think critically, and to play and create. Play and laughter is an essential medium for creativity for all people around the globe, and this is what the Core Child Program sports classes offer to both children and their parents.

Data from my own observations of UNRWA and government schools in Nablus, in addition to an interview with the Dean of the Sports Faculty at An Najah National University reveal that more than two-thirds of our children don’t have the opportunity to participate regularly in sports or exercise. Even elementary schools in Palestine do not spend much time on sports—a Palestinian child has less than two hours a week for sports at his/her school. Moreover, our children’s schools have insufficient spaces for sport classes; for example, a class of 40 children usually has its sports class in a space that is only 60 square meters. Another problem in Palestine is an underestimation of the importance of sports in schools. For example, teachers of other subjects, such as English and mathematics, sometimes take this class period to teach their subjects, which are generally considered more important for children than sports. And when children leave the school, they usually don’t participate in sports or exercise, since they spend the afternoon and evening doing their homework for all of their other subjects, and frequently spend the rest of time playing on the computer or watching TV.

In this environment, TYO’s sports classes for children aged 4-14 are critically important. Children in the Core Child Program sports classes (for 4-8 year-olds) have recently learned two new simple games designed by their classmates. I’m going to describe them to the world in order to fulfill to the promise that I gave to Yazan, who created this game, that I would spread his game all over the world!

The first game is called “The Escaping Hula-Hoop” for a group of 4-10 children. It requires one hula-hoop, enough space for children to run comfortably, and a smooth playing surface. Five children form an outer circle, and the other five form an inner circle. The ones on the outside will try to pass the hula-hoop between the children in the inner circle. The  ones in the middle stop the hula-hoop by standing inside it.

The idea for the second game came from students in Jawad’s drama class. They further developed their idea and implemented it in sports class under the name “Numbers Race.” This game doesn’t need any materials, and 25 children can participate in the game. Children need enough space to form a circle or square shape. Five children will stand outside of the shape and count from 1 to 5. While they are counting, the rest of the children square will have to run from inside the square or circle and touch the wall before the outside children have reached number 5. Children were very engaged in this game, especially since they created and developed it.

I hope that, in my capacity as a sports teacher at TYO, I have helped these children to develop a healthy and creative approach to life, as well as personalities that will allow them to be creative and productive members of their families and communities, despite the tough environment that they live in.


Haitham Okeh is one of TYO’s Core Child Program teachers; he teaches 4-8 year-olds.