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Poison Ball (Penang)

Marble Shooting (Northern Thailand)

To be Trapped between Arches (Bangkok)

Traditional Children’s Games as the ICH

Traditional games are a precious intangible cultural heritage inseparable from community life. Their forms and patterns are as diverse as the cultural and geographical environment in which children are living and growing up.

Traditional children’s games of each region and community are shaped by local culture and the local environment. The physical space, materials available and seasons may determine where and when they are played, the props that are used and the form a game takes. Social and cultural norms, expressions and attitude may be reflected in who plays, the way the game is played or in the goals of the game. Traditional children’s games often incorporate cultural knowledge, values and skills that have emerged over time from the reciprocity between a particular society and its given environment.

Children’s games develop and evolve through improvisation and are transmitted through the process of mentoring by members of the community. Mentoring by elders and older peers is one of the means by which cultural knowledge, values and skills that are relevant to a particular society and its context are transmitted to the younger generation. Cultural content is often embedded in the songs and chants, gestures and movements, roles assigned and goals of the game.

The form and content of children’s games, the process of play and the method of transmission are effectively an integrated and holistic form of education and socialization. The form and content of the game can be perceived as a locally improvised curriculum, the process of play as natural student-centered learning and the mentors in the community as local teachers.

Many traditional children’s games are at risk of disappearing. Globalisation, growing urbanisation and accelerated economic development are a threat to the perpetuation of these games. Modern forms of entertainment such as video games are increasingly changing the way children interact with each other and risk undermining the very existence of traditional form of games which are an integral part of their cultural heritage.