Child’s Play You Say?

Last week, Tomorrow’s Youth Organization (TYO) launched The Women’s Group Summer 2015 program for women residing in refugee camps and disadvantaged neighborhoods in Nablus, with a focus on mothers of children in TYO’s Core Child Program. This week concludes our second week of health, nutrition, and exercise seminars alongside IT classes. These seminars have made it overwhelmingly evident that the power and importance of play does not stop in childhood, but continues well into adulthood. The importance of creative play for children is well-known. Imaginative games help young kids express themselves in a positive way, as well as learn empathy through the experience of make-believe. It is widely believed that children who engage regularly in creative play grow up to be smarter, more emotionally intelligent and better able to cope with stress than their non-playful counterparts.

So, why do we stop working on these skills as adults?

According to an August 2014 National Public Radio report, healthy play leads to a healthy adulthood. In the report, Dr. Stuart Brown the founder of The National Institute for Play states that play teaches children how to get along with others, develop empathy, roll with the punches and learn resiliency that carries through to adulthood. While what occurs in adult play is slightly different, it is as equally beneficial. Play for adults helps maintain their social well-being, connect with others and uphold cognitive functioning throughout aging.

Zahi Khouri Fellow, Vanessa, and The Women's Group take it outside to enjoy the summer weather

TYO understands the importance of play for adults, including sports and games in our curriculum. Participants lose track of time, forgetting that they are receiving a cardiovascular workout, as they play games that keep them entertained, laughing and running around. They waste no time diving into whatever new adventure awaits them, often demonstrating a competitive edge they seldom have an opportunity to showcase.

Given how complicated life is in Nablus, many of the participants in The Women’s Group did not enjoy traditional childhoods filled with sports and games. As a result of this deficit and the tremendous responsibilities that await them at home, the women seize any opportunity they are given to have some fun.

In merely two weeks, the women participating in The Women’s Group have proven Dr. Stuart Brown’s argument: play is powerful.

After an hour of play, the women demonstrate remarkably improved moods and more confident demeanors. They come to the following class ready for the fun, challenge and relationship building that awaits. At TYO, we are proud to offer women in Nablus an opportunity to explore their more playful side, as the benefits of are too great to ignore.

-Vanessa, Zahi Khouri Fellow