Thu | Jun 24, 2021

Time for fun and games

Published:Wednesday | March 14, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Dennie Quill, Contributor

THE VISION of a paper plane sailing menacingly in the air is something most students can associate with their early school days. I, certainly, recall more than one crafty classmate tearing a leaf from an exercise book, deftly folding it into a plane and sending it sailing across the classroom. Usually the launch would be perfectly timed to coincide with the moment the teacher turns his back to write something on the blackboard or is otherwise distracted. Out of nowhere this object would dart across the room, swiftly and accurately landing on the intended target.

This image came back forcefully to me this week as I digested news of the national paper plane competition now in full swing in Jamaica. The winners chosen from the 27 finalists hope to pass muster in order to compete in the international competition in Austria later this year. The first such international competition was held in San Francisco in the United States in 1967, which suggests that there are enthusiasts who take this activity seriously.

I am transported back to a time when children used their creativity and imagination to make their own toys. Nothing was ever discarded, drink boxes, bottle stoppers, foil paper, motor-oil cans, were all put to use as the creative manifestations of children's abilities were allowed to shine. Back in those days, parents were never pressured into acquiring expensive gadgets for their children. In any event, many could not afford to buy them.

Learning valuable lessons

Instead, parents would stand back and marvel at their children's creativity as they explored nature and the environment around them in search for play materials. Innovators that they are, these children learnt the importance of coordination, patience and understood the pride that accompanied accomplishment. They were, in fact, absorbing early lessons in how to create and achieve goals.

It is somewhat disappointing that the country has not really advanced in the area of toy design and development. The skeptics may say that with the global marketing hype associated with television advertising of myriad products children are apt to reject local stuff. True, the local toy may not be as shiny, and the finish may not be as fine. But that is where education comes in. Our young children and their parents need to be reminded of the heritage and cultural value of our indigenous products. There needs to be an appreciation of how an artist can bring clever concepts to life by using local, sustainable materials.

Time to step up

Our local artisans should be encouraged to design and produce suitable toys and play equipment and material from harmless, local components. Over the years, we have seen some of the world's top manufacturers recalling toys because they have been found to be contaminated with harmful materials such as recycled plastics.

Historians tell us that the kite was the earliest flying object created by man. It was believed to be introduced in China more than 2,000 years ago when a wooden kite was built. After that, paper was used to make kites.

What can outdo the beauty of a colourful kite soaring gracefully overhead? The value of kite-flying and such outdoor activities is often underestimated. But there is no denying that they can be fun outlets for the kind of pent-up aggression that we see so often in many of our young students. For the health and well-being of the next generation, let us find ways of getting them involved in safe and environmentally friendly activities. Instead of delving into the mysteries of porn and sexual deviance, let us encourage our children to spend more time with nature and be enthralled by the wide expanse of the sky and the beauty of the flora and fauna, and allow them to explore the complexity of our environment.