Play is important for Kids

You would think everyone would know this, but parents sometimes do not comprehend the importance of play. They get caught up in keeping jobs and schedules, completely overlooking the fact that their kids need to play outdoors when the weather permits or indoors.

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According to the American Association of Pediatrics, the media diet for kids must be designed and monitored with care by the parents. Kids spend an enormous amount of time in front of screens – TV, computers and other devices. Parents feel they are safer when inside a house and playing a game rather than actually going outside and playing. With busy lifestyles parents also find it difficult to take their kids out to play and monitor them.

It was not so just a few decades ago, when kids had to be pestered to get home. In fact the inventiveness of kids at designing toys comes through in books and movies like ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ where the kids from the Great Depression era do just that. This improves imagination and lets kids do a lot of free thinking.

In fact kids under two years need to spend more time with people than screens for the development of their brains. The physical aspect of play is also very important. Exercise is great for kids to build stamina and strength. Hunger is built naturally and fussiness over food is reduced.

In fact in many of the online games, heroes have gone from the colosseum into a mobile game! The interest in such spectator games has not reduced, just changed. Sport is wonderful for spectators, but it cannot be compared to actual play. The thrill of participation is something else.

One aspect of play, which is rarely spoken off is what kids learn from games. They learn balance – the healthy attitude of you lose some, and you win some. Play teaches kids in a demonstrable fashion about how practice can improve skill. Kids learn to take defeat well – they move on instead of letting loss bring them down. Sportsmanship is a skill that helps on and off the field.

Football Games for Kids – Who Plays Them?

Surprise, surprise. Football games for kids are no longer just for kids as older folks get on the online football bandwagon. What is it about football games that has caught the attention of grandkids and grandparents alike?

Playing Safe

Football games for kids are safe and easy to play, offering the excitement of the game while keeping aside the physicality of the game. This is good news for young children who are too young to play the rough game on field and older folk who cannot afford to risk injury.

The Tech Factor

The rise of interest in online games is also because more and more people own mobile phones, tablets and computers. Hence, the games are easily accessible. Factors that hamper going out like weather and distance don’t come into play when one is playing football games online. Technology also benefits folks who may be homebound due to health reasons.

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Owen teaching Dad…” by Jordan Brock is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The Social Angle

There was a time when online gaming was considered a solitary activity. But this really depends on the choice of games. Many seniors play football games online on multiplayer platforms as it allows them to connect with other people across the world from the confines of their home.

This is also a great way for grandparents to bond with their grandkids who may not be living nearby. Kids can actually show them how to play and turn playing online games into a shared experience that strengthens their relationship with their grandparents.

Time to Play

Seniors have more time in hand. Due to their accessibility and easy controls, online games are a convenient option and a fun way to spend time. They are more interactive than reading books or watching telly.

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computers” by Jody Morris is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Health Kick

Kids aren’t the only ones who benefit from playing online games. Older folk also reap many benefits from playing games like football. Regular social interaction even if it is via games can boost the happiness quotient.  Online football games can improve executive functions, cognitive skills, memory, coordination, quick response and also offer mental stimulation.

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More talking with Grandma” by Lisa.B is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Apart from these football games for kids, for those grandparents who are looking for something more cerebral, there are plenty of puzzles to explore. They can also challenge their grandchildren to a game of Scrabble, DrawSomething and other games. Technology, once again, has emerged to bridge rather than widen the generation gap with gaming.

Polo – an ancient team sport

Say ‘Polo’ and it brings to mind different things for different people. Some visualize the car, others the US Polo logo and yet others might think of designer Ralph Lauren’s ‘Polo Ralph Lauren’ luxury line. There will be those whose tongues will go cool with the memory of ‘Polo’ mints (not available in the US, but very similar to Lifesavers)

I can bet not many would think of the sport polo.

Polo – some history

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“Polo game from poem Guy u Chawgan”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Polo_game_from_poem_Guy_u_Chawgan.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Polo_game_from_poem_Guy_u_Chawgan.jpg

The image above is a Persian miniature from the poem Guy-o Chawgân (“the Ball and the Polo-mallet”) during Safavid dynasty of Persia, which shows Persian courtiers on horseback playing a game of polo, 1546 AD.

Sometimes it’s a great advantage to grow up in a household where people are well traveled. I grew up listening to my grandfather (whose namesake I am) speak of sports/games he had seen as he traveled the world on work. My grandfather had watched a polo match for the first time in Asia.

Polo has come from an old team sport called chovgan, whose origins are lost in the sands of time. Played by ancient kingdoms stretching from Constantinople to Japan, chovgan was an elite sport played by riders on specially trained horses. The sport was also very popular in the Mogul courts of India.  Stables belonging to Akbar the Great are still standing in Delhi, India. Today it is played in about 50 countries around the world. The dominant teams are from the US, Argentina, and the UK.

The game

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“Terrains de polo et de football (US compliant)” by Sébastien Santoro aka Dereckson – Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Terrains_de_polo_et_de_football_(US_compliant).svg#mediaviewer/File:Terrains_de_polo_et_de_football_(US_compliant).svg

A polo ground is vast as the sport is played on horseback. The image above should give you an idea of how large. Two teams of 4 players in each play against each other. The riders use a long handled mallet(called a polo stick) to hit a ball into the opposing team’s goal. The team which scores the most, wins.

The game has multiple rounds of play called ‘chakkers’ of seven minutes each. The ‘chakkers’ and the breaks roughly add up to about 60-90 mins. This is a game where the rules ensure the safety of both the rider and the ‘pony’ (as the mount is traditionally called, in spite of the ‘pony’ being a full grown horse).

 Interesting trivia about Polo

The name ‘polo’ is supposed to come from the Tibetan word for ball ‘pulu’

In the Mameluke dynasty, playing cards features polo sticks.

The British picked up the game from Manipur in northeast India. From thereon it spread to the west. In the old game played in Manipur the teams were bigger and it was a much faster game.

Both Mogul kings and queens played this sport.

The rules of polo allow mixed teams of men and women.

All players have to hit the ball from their right side. Even the left-handers.

The Jodhpur breeches were introduced to the English in 1887 by Pratap Singh of the Jodhpur team who designed them.

Some variants of polo are ‘elephant polo’, ‘camel polo’, ‘segway polo’ and event eh ‘yak polo’!

 

 

From Heroes at the Colosseum to Heroes in Mobile Games

Sport was one of the most popular forms of entertainment in ancient Rome. Armed combatants called gladiators in the Roman Republic and Roman Empire would entertain a tightly packed colosseum with violent confrontations with other gladiators, wild animals, and condemned criminals in the presence of their emperor. Gladiators, who reached the height of popularity under their emperor Claudius, either fought to death or till the first shedding of blood, and would eventually place the decision of the outcome of the fight on the emperor. He would then either signal death with a raised fist with the thumb sticking out upwards or deliver mercy with a raised fist with no extended thumb. Most of these gladiators were either slaves or came from socially marginalized races and would fight till their last breath to exemplify the Roman martial ethic of ‘fighting or dying well’. The heroes of this violent sport have been celebrated in both high and low forms of art and commemorated in the Roman world though they were mostly treated as social outcasts during their lifetime.

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Coliseo, Coliseum by Vicente Villamón is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Other sports such as cursus (running), lucta (wrestling), pugilatus (boxing), pentathlon (consisting of jumping or leaping, the foot-race, throwing of the discus, throwing of the spear, wrestling), and pancratium (a combination of wrestling and boxing and martial arts) were also common sports in ancient Rome. Violence and bloodshed were two common threads that linked one Roman sport with another. Records say some Roman heroes were felicitated while others were segregated even in death.

Sports on the field

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2012 0921 JPII football 17 by Tim Donovan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Today, sports have evolved. Though there still exist, violent sports like rugby, wrestling, and boxing, they are played adhering to strict and fair rules and regulations. While the winner is commemorated, the loser is not humiliated either. Events such as the Olympics and World Cups offer fair ranks to first, second and third runners up in case of tournaments with many teams. While wrestling and other fighting sports have evolved into Krav Maga, Freestyle boxing, Judo, and kickboxing, soccer and football have evolved into modern day rugby, freestyle football, Paralympic football, futsal, cubbies, flag football, and more. You’ll be wrong if you thought these sports are played only on the fields and indoor arenas. With evolution, they have moved beyond and further. They have migrated to electronic gadgets such as our phones and tablets and taken the world by storm. Children who are shy to take to the fields and prefer to watch these sports on television sets have started to play such participatory sports.

Sports on mobile phones and other electronic devices

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“Worm Attack!” Mobile Game Helps Rid Communities of Intestinal Worms by USAID U.S. Agency for Inter is licensed under CC BY 2.0

GameDay Heroes is an app from the NFL stable aimed at getting kids on board. It can be played over a Wi-Fi connection with friends and family. The game consists of multiple football-based mini games that give children the scope to indulge in participatory sports. The game acquaints kids with NFL teams, jerseys and other gears, and allows them to dabble a little with shadow football. In a nutshell, it gives children a chance to explore the world of football and grow an interest for the sport in the most encouraging and entertaining way. While “Spot What’s Not” is a mini Game Day Heroes game where children have to spot the differences between two scenes straight from a football field, “Scrimmage Swap” is a tile swapping game where NFL helmets act as the different tiles. Anybody and everybody can be a hero in this mobile game, without shedding a single drop of blood or having to fight it off in real life on the field in front of a tightly packed auditorium!

It has been a long journey for sports – from the Colosseum to phones and tablets in young hands.

Taking American Football to Europe

I was surprised to see the spread of American football in Poland. This is one game which has not spread rapidly outside of America, however loudly we cheer our ‘world champions’. The European League never really took off. In fact most of the world calls a completely different sport as football!

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Image Credit: J J Hall

There are other games like basketball and rugby which have caught on elsewhere, but our football has found it hard to leave our shores. Perhaps its the expensive gear or it could be the fact that the world already has a sport called football which is very-very-very-very popular across the globe. When good players emerge in the small pockets where American Football is played, the stars move to the center of the ‘football galaxy’ which is America. That works against the development of the sport where the star developed. Like a football-talent-drain problem!

Our football is a true blue American game – most players are either born or groomed here, viewers are American and other viewers outside our borders are generally American expats. The European league was set up to popularize the game. It failed because it did not catch on at the grassroots.

There is an IFAF Federation List which is long and well populated with leagues in 64 countries and they even have a World Cup. Something which really helps in popularizing the game is NFL’s new strategy to play one regular-season game in Britain every year. One thing is for sure, I have read that the Super Bowl parties have increased!

Gaming Grandma

I saw a strange scene last week. Grandma and grandson were sitting very companionably and playing a computer game – she on her tablet, a gift from her daughter, and my son on his device!

I picked up my poor surprised jaw off the floor and walked into the kitchen. As the door shut, I could hear my mom shout out, “Beat you!” with great gusto. My mom watched a lot of sports (and she could be very vocal about her support), but she had never played a single computer game as far as I knew. She and my son had spent many wonderful hours playing other games at the park and at home.

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Image credit: makelessnoise

Maya, my wife, explained that a few days ago, my mom had asked our son if she could watch him play his computer game. After many instructions and explanations, they seemed to have found a nice rhythm to their play. They started taking turns playing on his device. Once she got comfortable, out came her as-yet-unused tablet. Now, she was playing a multi-player game on her tablet, against her grandson on a different device!

Curious to know what they were playing, I sauntered over and watched. They were playing something called Food Flick, flicking food to people in the stadium. Busy flicking burgers and sodas they answered me in grunts and monosyllables. I interpreted their communication and understood that my football mad mom and son had downloaded the NFL Rush Zone app meant for kids called – Game Day Heroes. What they were playing  was a mini game from the app.

Gaming which is beneficial for Seniors

With the rise of memory loss in the elderly, doctors and researchers have been suggesting games as a good way to keep the brain active so as to slow down the effects of age-related cognitive decline. It’s believed that certain problem-solving skills and strategizing, that is required in gaming, might slow down the effects of aging on the brain.

Interestingly, gaming, which was considered an industry that targeted the youth, now also targets the elderly! For the elderly who have restricted movement, gamification of real life activities (which they can no longer do, like walking a forest trail) will add a new dimension in their lifestyle. The challenges are many as seniors might be hesitant to use digital media. This could be eased if real world experiences are created with easy to use interfaces. Also, they can use digital media to keep in touch socially.  Interestingly, games have been found to be better than anti-depressants for solving depression problems.

Other Grandmas and Gaming

This old commercial actually features a gaming grandma and her grandson on a game which was very popular, but that’s just an old commercial. Here’s a real life gaming grandma on MTV.

Perhaps it was the effect of one of her oldest and dearest friends being diagnosed with dementia. I’m not sure what had got my mom interested in her grandson’s games, but I’m glad she was. Computer games are a great way to bridge the generation gap.

6 Football Games Families Can and Should Play

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Image Credit: Ian Hughes

If raising a brood of couch potatoes is the last thing you want, ditch the T.V. and take up these fun and free football games your family can and should play. You’ll be spending more time together, laughing, playing and exercising without even knowing it!  Are you ready for kickoff?

Football Tossing Contest

NFL season has just started and it’s time to host your own football game. Invite everyone to a friendly contest in your backyard – the person who can toss a ball the farthest is the undisputed football champion. If the weather forces you to host the game indoors, use a soft foam football and toss it into a basket or through a hula hoop. Everyone gets five attempts – the player who makes the target the most times wins. If you’re cooped indoors for any reason, you can also play fun and free football games on your mobile! It’s certainly not the same as stretching your legs outdoors, but it’s more interactive than staring at the TV!

Flag Football

You can play this for fun or competitively. Just divide players into two teams and have everyone place colorful socks from the elastic of their pants or shorts. Unlike a normal game of football, players must tackle offensive opponents by pulling the socks from their waists. The game can be played with a predetermined number of points or with a timer.

Hot Potato Football

Invite everyone to sit in a circle. Designate one player as the “caller” who must close his or her eyes while the others pass around a football a. k. a. hot potato. When the caller calls out “Stop!” whoever holds the football must leave the circle, which is why the players pass along the ball as fast as they can. The game continues until only one player is left. This player is the caller for the next round.

Wacky Football Race

Divide the players into two teams and have team members link their elbows. Hand a football to each team. When the whistle blows, the teams must make their way to the finish line without dropping the ball or unlinking elbows. If they do this, they must go back to the start line and begin the race all over again.

Football Relay

Split the family into two teams and give a football to each team. When the whistle blows, one player from each team must push the football with his feet from the start line to the finish line and pass it on to a waiting team mate. The first team to finish the relay successfully wins the game.

500

Invite everyone into the backyard and have one player stand about 20 feet away from the others, holding the ball. At the word “Go!” the player with the ball throws it towards the others. When it’s up in the air, he must call out a number between 50 and 500. This is the number of points earned by the player who catches the ball. But players lose points if they drop the ball. The first player to score 500 points wins the game.

My family loves playing these free football games so much, every single holiday is NFL season!

All About Games for Kids

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