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דף הבית >> The autonomous game of the child
The autonomous game of the child
This article is illuminating a perspective,
attached to the world of children games.
      The article was written by Shimon Henig, who had been working for many years in education and theatre, today, he is the owner of company ‘Bubima’ which is dealing with dolls theatre, and a net of shops for wooden toys and theatre dolls. In the last years, Shimon Henig is trying to promote culture of use in wooden toys and theatre dolls in the formal education, and private market.
Once in a while he is teaching seminars for inspectors, teacher and nursery governesses, which is dealing with the ‘study environment’ and the use of theatre dolls.   
      The concept of the autonomous play of the child has developed and has taken shape in the last years, after my long and profound acquaintance with children games all around the world.
      The purpose of this article is to create a different approach to the world of children games. My meaning is to let parents and teachers of these ages, and all those who are dealing with education to see the game as an important and significant in the design of inner special world of the child as a most important environmental factor in preparing for healthy creative satisfactory life.
Even though, the feeling that this article is giving the essence of the ideas that I have revealed in the last years, it is still just the beginning of a profound research on this issue. Just like it is, usually, in every theory.
      My wish is that people, which are working in education in, all levels, will invest a little thought in this article and open a zenith in them for deeper observation, more profound inspection to the world of the children games.  Remember the child in you above all words, beyond time and view.
In this place where your inner child is looking at the world, in a manner of amazement, wondering, of the first time, of this moment, as if the world just stand still, that’s the moment of the creation of a revelation,
The moment when the things are starting to sprout, this is the place where my attitude is coming from, to keep the inner child, so he can stay, curious, pure, and alive.
          The literally interpretation of the words ‘autonomous game’ is meant to emphasis the word autonomous of the person (of the player) as I see it, it’s the same for a person or a child, (and not meant to emphasis the rules or habits that are with in the player).
The autonomy which includes in the game is the possibility of the person who plays, to create a dynamic and complicated system of various creative activities in the game itself.
The playing activity in this kind of game is suppose to create progressive experience of research and revealing as a base to creating complicated system of products.
A good example of this kind of game is game of wooden cubes,
which enable the person who plays to creat endless structures with no limit of drawing or imitation of an existing building.
          The autonomous game is a game in which the game and the experience with it are challenging, the player, and opens up the zenith to a progressive experience of research and discovering.
The kind of game, which, enables the player to achieve a state of graded development, which is suitable to his personal ability in every grade he is at present.
          This is a game, which is not bent or captured by fixed rules. and others which are dictated by the manufacturer or by any dictation of an outside authority, they are decided by the point of view of the player, whether he is alone or a part of a group, these regulation or rules are with great mobility and flexibility and they can change from time to time.
These games are giving the player the freedom of activity and maximum creativity. These are games which, are clean from competition, unless if it is decided by the group that is playing.
These games are reducing to minimum the interference of any outside person or authority, (parent or teacher) it enables the child to bring the essence of his natural talents and ambitions to improve.
The base assumption is that the ambition to improve is a something built-in every living creature, this is the base assumption of every learning theory.
In this situation, the authority factor is the one that supplies the environment of the game and sometimes he or she gives the push for continuity of the game. For example, in this case of wooden cubes, the first example of the result of the game, can be such as: if the authority is building with the wooden cubes very simple tower, or he can give  pictures of very simple buildings, or in another case to just give the wooden cubes and let the child experience it as he sees fit.
The game is built upon simple principles, which are very clear, and possible to make it more and more complicated. The game is not limited to any age and children and adults can play with it just as well. Together or separately, everyone has its products-creations
Just as the professional painter is drawing in the same colors that the child is drawing, so does the player play.
Games, which are built upon these principles, are strengthening the imagination and curiosity. As far as I see this, these are the most dominant powers in the first stages of growing of the child.
These same powers are the main urge for development and deeper insight of the world.
The curiosity brings the child to investigate and know the world. To learn its rules, to eternalize the natural principals. The imagination enables to the child to act in the world where his abilities and talents are not yet mature to cope with the outside world.
With the power of the imagination, the child is able to build his world time after time and to learn to cope with powers and rules that sometimes there isn’t a way to understand in his mind.
The imagination is opening in front of him door to the play of different parts and the dramatic game, which, makes it possible to be any place any time, this is a journey of introduction to the world, a journey of self-acquaintance and defining the place of everyone in this world.
The world is a place where every detail in it– in every aspect; emotional, social, economical, class, is a dynamic place, which is constantly changing, which is a result of progressive development.
 The will to improve, the desire for a better place motives the person to invest borderless efforts to achieve his desire.
Sometimes, the energy invested in promoting the person’s position in life, is exhausting his powers, and is not giving him the chance for positive development. For example, if we take the rejected boy in a group. The rejected place is not his desire, the possibility that he will break out of it is almost impossible.
One of the ways to this child to feel that he exists is the use of the weapon of ‘interfering’. The way that the society regards it the authorities; teacher-parent-educator is usually around the sentence: “the child is looking for attention”. According to my opinion, the child is not looking for attention, he has enough of it, the child is trying within his simple tools to ruin the emotional construction, which is around him, and it makes him feel as if he does not exist.
The destruction of the existing construction is the only way, as he sees it, to bring the change, this is survival urge, that motives him to promote him self in society. (More details about this you can read in the article: the theory of the dynamic place- Shimon Henig).
 The journey of the child to know the world is a significant component, in the object-subject relations, which change shape and create the corner stone, for every living creature in its relations to its surroundings. Without this journey, the child might feel himself as if he lives in a world when he is detached, alienated, without base, which he can develop from.
When the child is growing at the right environment, the journey of introduction to the world, is self-acquaintance and development. Therefore, the same ‘inner child’ will stay curious forever imaginative, creative, all these attributes will bring him to fuller self-manifestation, and will enable him to live fuller and healthier life.
Many have written about the ‘inner child’ Haim Nachman Bialick: “The person does not see or achieve more than once:
in his childhood, the first sights in their virginity, as the day they were under the hands of the creator, they are, and only they are the things’ body, the pure essence, present being, and all those later on are just the curtain call, old and wrinkled”
As adults we very often, want to dictate to our children the ways of behavior that according to our point of view they will cause the achieving or maybe the things we want to preserve, or to achieve but we did not do it. This is a kind of mending experience on their backs, the kids that are carrying our genes. Sometimes we want them to continue us, some kind of a genetic duplication of our self.
This situation is causing the opposite of what we truly desire for them, stepping and squashing their independency, their talents, ignoring their autonomous ambitions.
This situation might cause high levels of frustration, which will be expressed in dissatisfaction in life, and lack of inspiration.
According to my point of view, to be happy is to feel in peace with yourself and in one piece with yourself. To be open to your inner powers and to let them be expressed in any contact with your surroundings, the feeling of happiness is starting with the insight that life is a gap between the existing reality and the desired one. The way to close the gap is life itself, this is the essence of life. The life is not a target for itself, life is not only the climax of reaching the top of the mountain.
 And the journey to close the gap, between the person who sets a goal - until he reaches his goal. On the mountaintop standing a man that wants to reach the foot of the mountain, the gap between the existing reality to the wanted, desired one can cause frustration.
The insight, that the gap is the life itself is a motivating power to act, in purpose to close the gap. Even though, in a clear insight, he can never really close this gap. The moments of happiness can be once we see this insight –that the gap is the life itself.
Towards our kids, we would like them to achieve what we haven’t, or couldn’t afford have.
To understand the life inside this gap is a situation, which can happen only if you experience yourself as one who creates his own reality. To tell the story of your life and to let it happen, this is the ability to experience the reality in this manner; this is the foundations of your childhood. Your ability to open to your inner powers, to let them be expressed in any contact you have with your surroundings, to make a change in it, to see yourself as part of it.
This is the fountain of your imagination, curiosity, and the life in you.
If you turn it off, you turned off life itself.
As Maria Montessori, (1870-1952),  have said in the best way,
and I quote her: “We can never know the implication of stifling a spontaneous action in the childhood when he is just starting to be independent, we might be stifling life its self”
Spontaneous action, which means, ‘imagination and curiosity’.
No spontaneous action can happen without these powers working
Even though the need and understanding of these two important powers the world of education is finding it hard to creat and supply learning environment to keep these powers active as the child is growing up.
The question that arises: how to build the experience-learning environment, in which these powers will not be hurt or limited.
To my opinion, the best way is to supply environment of toys and games, objects that allow theses powers to develop. This doesn’t mean that we will go to the shops and buy every toy that within our reach.
This is what everybody does. They fill their houses with toys that usually, make more damage than any good. The idea is to find the games that the level of autonomy is maximal, and it lets the child grow with the game.
As far as I am concerned, adults are ‘children in custom’.
the will to play is in everyone, sometimes we ignore this desire and guided by the thought that we might look childish. Then will take it to another place which might be gambling or even, I may say, I‘ll take the risk, even, to violent.
There is need to stop relating to the game in its functional level, and to emphasis its functional-technical details.  For kids the game is not expresses through motor skills, such as: sorting, inclusion, coordination of hand and eyes, and others. In this context, I would like to quote: the words of the French philosopher,
 Michel Mountain 1533-1592: “Children games are not a game, they have to be seen as the most serious activities they make”.
The motor-functional skills, they are survival skills, no need to teach them, unless the child is has defective development in some way, any baby is capable of holding an object and putting it into his mouth, with no special learning such as coordination of hand and mouth. Every child is sorting things from his day of birth, through the known images and objects in his surroundings, tastes and the hearing sense.
The natural environment will supply all the need of the practice of these psychomotor functions.
The ‘enriching games’ or ‘developmental games’, as some call them, enrich only their creators, producers. The don’t add anything to a child that has healthy natural development.
Look around in the child’s room see how many developmental games, they receive each birthday, that you really want to pass them over to someone else who will be willing to take.
I suggest looking at the game as another aspect of through the experience of learning. Which means, what is the meaning that the game is absorbing in the child? In other words, on which game ground the child is growing. And which experiences, he learns to have in him, that they are the result of the game as the child sees it, as the most serious world he have.
In this context, I would like to quote Mahatma Gandy (1869-1948), as he used to say: ”the truth is that the child is not learning anything new,  if he haven’t learned it in his first five years”.
Even in the Jewish traditional educational world, it was known as a fact the long distance affect of the education in the first years.
Most psychologists speak about the first years in life as the critical age that later on it is almost impossible to change the way that a person grasp the world and his perspective, as it had been in the first years in his life. These are the experiences that the person will internalize, and will adopt this perception to all areas in his life. In fact, they are the foundations to build his personality in the future.
The term ‘learning experience’ is taking more and more its place of honor in the educational perception of the ministry of education.
In a special document that was published by the ministry of education, there was this quote: “it is up to the school community to
raise also the perceptions of the world that are too contradicting and collusive. The school has to take the responsibility and to initiate educational learning experiences that make the contradicting one-sided opinions for more flexibility, in purpose to make the cooperation in life possible.”
‘Learning experience’ which the game suppose to supply to the child is creating the foundations of his personality.
The ‘Learning experience that he experience through the game will build his future attitude to the life. Every thing that the child touches, tastes, (or any use of other sense) activates manipulation, from them he builds his attitude to the world.
Incase that the experiences he feels will be copying or imitation of the world, the child will internalize the reality as static, deterministic, or uncontrollable. The implications of this grasp of reality might be disastrous, for the child when he is adult.
I might risk in saying that the culture where the child is always the tool to help the adult, as a result, it makes the world of the child fixed on the outside, deterministic, unchangeable. This will creat a child that know only to serve the world, to be a part of it and to continue the existing situation. Almost in every situation, there is a place that requires independent thinking, flexible thinking, or another point of view on the reality he will prefer to cancel himself, and to accept the opinions of others that, as far as he thinks, determine the way and attitude to life.
This situation is good for economical companies, or religious groups, which, will do all they can to make the infant realize that they only have the ability to supply the experiences of reality.
These things are happening in all the channels of communication, sometimes by scaring, punishing, or other aggressive ways of tapping on a daily basis ideas and interests, which are serving their power and establish their position. This is probably the best brainwash that was ever made and that the human society is exposed to constantly. This brainwash is meant to preserve position and rule which are enable the rich to stay rich, and in control usually for a selected group of hedonists.
Every game that the child is playing with the possibility of change and manipulation that is very limited or hardly possible to change, will creat in the child learning experience of reality that can not be changed, or can not be rebuilt. A good example we can see in all the motor plastic toys, the noisy ones. They create for the child a closed world he does not understand, he does not know how he should act. There fore, all he can do is to adjust himself to the dictated game, that with in the product that the manufacturer had built.
To give the child a game that all he can do is to stare at it,
 is meaning to cause him damage without doing a thing.
it is to poison his brain, to reduce his survival in the modern world.
To give the child to play with a doll that every time he touches it makes a sound, this means, to struggle his creative ability.
This means to tell him that he has no ability to influence the world.
Why not to let the child make the sound him self through the doll, if it’s a dog doll he, himself, can bark. His voice will be different according to the situation he creates. According to his mode, this will give him the control of the reality. this will make him experience the reality as depended on him, with in his powers, this will give him the force of believing that he can changethe reality, to believe that he is capable to act in the world as a thinking person, as someone(himself) who has the ability to change. This will cause him to believe in himself,
  It all starts from the first doll. In his infant days, and with the faith we are giving him in his own powers. And we can’t end the issue without the quote of the anthropologist, Margaret mead (1901-1978) : “Never doubt it, that a small group of concerned and worried citizens can change the world, this is the only thing that ever brought change”
The concerned and worried citizens are the same kids that believed they have the power to change. They are the same kids that replace a doll that makes mechanic sounds, They are the ones that had spoken in their own voice.   
Now, as sadults, they speak out …their own voice.
‘Learning experience’ in the game where the child can creat
a new reality, that depends only upon his imagination, and curiosity, is an experience that can be a creative powerful factor for the child.
A child that will experience these kind of ‘learning experiences’ will become a creative person, a person that truly believe he can influence his surroundings.
Let’s take for example the game of simple wooden cubes, where the child is building the structures he never saw any where, and they all are depended on him. The creation of these structures will internalize in him the reality as a thing that can be changed, can be rebuild, and the most important thing of all that the reality is depended on him. The implications of this to his future is tremendous, the same child that learned to play in this kind of games that stimulated the experience of the autonomous game. the child will become as a mature person, with flexible thinking, with powers to creat and power to see that the reality is a dynamic thing. His relations with the surroundings will be filled with life, creativity, in not dictated by the out side.
  The reality will be in the eyes of the viewer. Therefore, his eyes will be flexible enough to look on the reality in different perspective. On the contrary, the child that absorbed ‘learning experience’ in a fixed world, will see the reality in only one perspective, as if there is nothing possible to change.
On the other hand, the child that sees the reality as depended on him. Will never say: ”there is no work”, and wait for someone else to supply it. He himself will provide it. And since, the reality is depended upon his own perspective. The sentence: “there is no work” does not exist in him.
I think that the ability of a person to find his place in the world and to be happy, and to find appropriate occupation which bring out the best of him. Will be easier for a person who, as a child, had ‘learning experiences’ which, were designed in the surroundings he created,   where the games he played were those that their products depended on him.
In the term - products, I mean every aim that the child had in a game and he is doing his best to achieve it, this can be a solid item, or idea, words, riddles, or making up words, they all are, as far as I’m see it, just the same as building in cubes.
I suggest that the educational institutes and educational systems in Israel will start looking at the learning environment in which the child is, in more concern, and will take it in worried serious perspective, and that the system of the education on all its branches will start, directing the factors attached. Such as: inspectors, teachers, and especially nursery governess, to see the game something more than just the developing of motoric skills.
Furthermore, I suggest investing efforts in directing and education of the nurseries in the critical ages, between 0 to 5 years old, to emphasis to the nursery governess of the infant age to supply learning environment. Where the experience of learning will establish the foundations to create a creative, curious personality with flexible thinking, that will see reality as an object that can be changed, and the sooner the better.
I want to conclude with little story that emphasis all the above:
Father and son are sitting in the circus, we can see the elephant tamer is leading a huge elephant. On the elephant’s foot there is a thin rope, later, the elephant is standing in one place and the rope is tying him at one place to a small wedge in the ground.
The child is asking his father: “why doesn’t the elephant break free, he is so huge, and strong, to tare this rope is not an effort for him”,
    The father: “Listen well, when the elephant was really small,
he was brought here, he was so small he could hardly stand up, at the same time the rope was tied to the elephant and kept him in the same place. The elephant tried to release himself, as much as he could, but didn’t succeed. As a baby elephant he was very small, he had less strength than you have now, he kept on trying for many days”.
    The child: “and then, what happened?”
The father: “since he didn’t succeed for so long,
Today he doesn’t believe he can break free, although he is much bigger and stronger”.
Creative Drama - Miriam Golan
The Process of Education - G.S. Bruner
The Bible of the Education - Moshe Caspi, Tzvi Lam
Democraty and Education –John D.
Passage - the ministry of education. http://www.education.gov.il/moe/pedagogy/mediniyut.htm
To the Good and Bad - Fridrich Nitshe
The strange theory of light and materials - the Quante machanics- Richard Pynyamin

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