World Lessons from Children’s Street Play

Filmmaker Jules Oosterwegel shares what he has learned from traveling the globe filming children's street games

More than 20 years ago, Jules Oosterwegel, a Netherlands filmmaker, was on a trip in West Timor. Standing and watching some children play a simple game in the capitol of Kupang, it dawned on him–I am the only one who sees this game. Why? And the Playtime Project was born. After visiting more than 23 countries and years of filming, Jules has collected dozens of short films featuring international street games. Along the way, Jules learned a few things…

Children are the same wherever they live. “Yes, there are a lot of differences between the cultures of children where they live,” he says. “That what makes it so interesting — to see how play culture is still alive worldwide and will not disappear ever.” Interestingly, however, culture, climate, economical landscape and population density create an enormous diversity in the style of play. Stones, coconuts, tree leaves and balls made of paper wrapped in plastic bags all can be children’s play materials. Still kids all across the globe use play to develop motor skills. And Jules has seen first hand that there’s no question; worldwide, kids just can’t sit still.

Play is important for the development of children. The research tells us. Observing kids shows us. Children need play. Jules lives this. He shares these street games with the hope that everyone will value play. He, in fact, plays daily with his own son. Stoepen is a favorite. “Play must be a subject and part of curriculum of all schools to play every day at least one hour,” he says. We couldn’t agree more, Jules!

Children must be given the freedom of street play. Kids need the time to direct their own play. Clear some time in the those schedules! We must also find a way to create a safe place for children to play. Jules suggest going to play together first. As parents, it is easy to be scared, but “don't panic or fear too much: one day you must let them loose.” Video games do not have the same benefits as street play. They must not replace it! And rain does not have to keep kids inside, Jules notes. “Let them play! They will come back dirty, yes, but with great stories to tell. And the washing machine does the rest, right?”

Looking for some new games to play? Head over to Kidsplaybook for the entire collection. Jules’ favorite games are Blarak Blarak Sempal from Indonesia and Tetherball from the USA!
 

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