Good resolutions and the New Year

Long resolution lists don’t work for me. I inevitably get lost thinking about the list and all the things I have not done – leaves me stressed and unhappy. Instead in the last two years, I take up a simple thing that I can change in my life.

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Young men playing in the Park by alobos Life

Over the years the time I spend on play has decreased. Last year I made two resolutions – to play more and to start a blog. Both were open ended resolutions, which I could achieve. This year I am going to extend my resolution – play more with my kids and spend more time on the blog.

The resolution translates to playing more games appealing to kids. Kids play fewer organized sports and more of free play which is great for their development. Via games they learn sharing, integrity and a good sportsmanlike spirit. These things are great to build a good attitude which help kids through their lives.

5 great things kids learn from play:

  1. Everybody has strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Different players bring in different strengths into a team which all together help a team to win.
  3. A hard fought game, even if the team loses gives the players a great sense of achievement.
  4. Practice does make perfect – repeated play improves skill.
  5. It teaches kids that some can be better than others at certain skills.

Play has a very important role in the lives of kids. Let’s see if I can stay true to my resolution and play with my kids!

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4 Things That Work Well in the Penguins of Madagascar Movie

Blame it on the Holiday Season, but I decided to write about something different – a movie we watched in the last few days.

One of the most eagerly awaited animated movies of this year for us was unarguably Penguins of Madagascar! From being just supporting cast members in the Madagascar series, the adorable penguins – Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private – have been upgraded to playing the protagonists in this latest offering by DreamWorks. Their cuteness and cuddliness was evident in the trailers and the teasers had set the stage for a perfect Christmas! When we finally headed to the movie hall, kids in tow, to watch the Penguins on the big screen, it was easy to see that the kids had a lot of expectations, and fortunately, we weren’t let down. Needless to say, my kids loved the movie and so did we. Here are 4 reasons why I think everybody must watch it!

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Image Credit: http://www.jumpstart.com/penguins-of-madagascar/mobile-apps/dibble-dash

The Penguins

Never before have penguins looked so swashbuckling as in Penguins of Madagascar. The movie starts with little Skipper, Kowalski, and Rico who take it upon themselves to look after the little bird that hatched from a stray egg, and name it Private. With this simple act, the flightless birds steal our hearts immediately, gearing us up for all the unconventional choices and thrilling adventures they have in store for us. With their characteristic charisma, they team up with the elite spy agency – the North Wind – and outwit Dr. Octavius Brine, an octopus in the guise of a man, who is out to turn lovable penguins the world over into ugly monsters. Their antics and never-say-die attitude is a definite show stealer!

The North Wind

Not even the world’s greatest spy, James Bond, is as arrogant and elite as the North Wind! Comprising a pretty little female owl named Eva, a witty harp seal named Short Fuse, a mammoth white polar bear named Corporal, and led by a wolf named Agent Classified (because, you see, his name is classified), the North Wind’s objective is to “help the animals that can’t help themselves”. Their state-of-the-art gadgets and machines would put any contemporary sci-fi thriller to shame. Don’t forget to check out their simulation device which projects 3D images with the snap of two fingers!

Octavius Brine/Dave

The beauty of the Penguins of Madagascar movie is that there is a human element and emotion even in the evil Dr Octavius Brine. The audience feels his pain when when he reveals the reason behind his actions – The octopus was kept in a zoo where he used to be the center of attraction for a long time. Kids and adults would throng the park only to have a look at its celebrity octopus who would keep the visitors mesmerized with its clever tricks. His monopoly was soon toppled when the park had new entertainers – the Penguins! There on started Dave’s downfall. He was soon moved to a corner in the park that didn’t witness much footfall, and then eventually he was removed from the park to another place. That day onwards he ate and lived to only avenge his downfall!

There are comic elements added to his nature as well, making the moments he is on screen as entertaining as when the penguins are on.

The Messaging – Looks are deceptive, and everybody is capable of big things

There’s a strong message that my little ones came home with, after watching the movie – looks are deceptive. It’s little Private (the youngest penguin) whose wit and presence of minds save the penguins all over the world and lend the movie a befitting climax. The small and puny Private plays a plot-turning role in the Penguins of Madagascar movie and makes us fall in love with him!

With the kids liking it a lot, I guess we’ll watching it again sometime soon!

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!

All About Games for Kids

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