I walked into a toy store at Bangalore Airport and began browsing. I love to do this. Looking at things new and colourful.
The courteous staff approached me with a smile and straight asked me a question – ‘You are looking for which age group sir?’
This set me thinking about the appropriate punctuation ending for the title of this blog post.
Last weekend, we at home, my elder brother, sister in law, my niece and nephew spent a whole afternoon playing monopoly.
A few weeks ago, my mom, dad, cousins, elder brother were all awestruck by a new version of snake and ladder board game created by Pratima from Mumbai. This version starts in the middle and we have to traverse in spirals to reach 100. Ladders placed at prime numbers and snake mouths at squares and snake tails ending at square roots.
Tiger and goat – a traditional game in a few Indian homes is both engaging andchallenging for both my nephew and his grandfather.
To label, categorise and sell games by age group is to assume that all children broadly grow alike. It assumes a certain average age period for which the child will have interest around a particular game concept/idea.
To enquire and buy like this by parents and well wishers is to forget and fall trap to the law of averages. Children come with their own and unique potential and somehow our constant endeavour is to align them to predictable patterns of society.
We seem to expect a child to think, behave and respond in a certain manner. We seem to expect a child to find merry and joy in certain aspects. We largely see a child in the lens of our own limited understanding of childhood.
The question by the staff member at the store is a reflection of the product design. The producer is creating the games on certain assumptions. The biggest fallacy is that the age group marking on the games is the same in the store at Blore Airport, Singapore Airport, and every other airport in India, Europe and America. Weird isn’t it ! What a dumb way to assume the potential of children across the world to be largely same when its crearly not true for me and you.
Such unconscious stereotyping is possibly dangerously reiterating an assumption and lending it the status of normality.
A parent is worried for his/her son who is age 7 is not enjoying the Lego or Building blocks categories for age group 6-9. She worries of it as a variance to an assumed normal. The assumption becomes a reference point.
You may now ask me as to how else to do it.
I say. Its simple. Sell them for it stimulates. For the skills it can foster. For the creativity it can trigger. For the ideas it can encourage. For the values it can inculcate. And let the parents choose for themselves and their children the right game for the right purpose.
Lets not be grouped, groomed and promoted by age. Lets be understood, nurtured and given wings basis our dreams, interests and potential.
Clearly. The apt punctuation for the title of the post is !