Playful children are healthy children

Posted on February 22, 2011

Playful children are happy children:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king's horses and all the king's men
couldn't put Humpty together again!

I do hope that when you read this nursery rhyme that your thoughts took you on a journey; a journey through your childhood. A journey filled with innocent laughter. A journey filled with memories of hours of play.

A couple of months ago I was given the task to write down a list of games I played as a child. My initial reaction was “How on earth am I going to remember that?” Amazingly the memories came back and wouldn’t stop coming for a while. We all have baskets full of stories of how we kept ourselves busy as children. Come to think of it, most of our time was spent on playing. This is exactly why it is so important for the children of today to also engage in play. As already mentioned, play forms an integral part of a child’s life. Through play, a child explores and orientates himself to the actual world of time and space, animals, structures, people and things. Play is how a child learns.

It is therefore important to take into consideration how a lack of play experiences, affects a child. Children with disabilities fall under this group who is deprived of play experiences. When they experience problems with movement or they lack the mental ability to interact and engage efficiently in play, they will ultimately lack the exploration which occurs during play. Thus, minimal skills are acquired and they fall further behind with regard to their development.

Occupational Therapy uses a variety of techniques to enable children with disabilities to experience quality of life. Play is only one aspect which is addressed during therapy. Occupational therapists also look at their mobility, feeding, communication and positioning, etc.

The Occupational Therapy Department of the University of Pretoria (UP) thought it well to develop the Mamelodi Occupational Therapy Clinic at the UP Mamelodi Campus. The clinic will provide services to paediatric clients of all ages. It will also be a site for learning opportunities for occupational therapy students.

The clinic was officially opened on Friday 18 February 2011. This was also “Healthy Lifestyle Awareness Day”. Our focus on that day was the health of children. It was therefore also fitting to launch the clinic so that Mamelodi community members can have access to free clinic services. The occupational therapy students, along with some of their lecturers, went into the community of Mamelodi that day to distribute T-shirts to teachers and caregivers, give brochures and also bring home the importance of play in children, especially children with disabilities. This will aid in the marketing of the clinic. Our theme for that day was: “Playful children are happy children.” The day was filled with a tangible excitement because of the improvement the clinic can bring about in the lives of hundreds of children in Mamelodi.


If you would like to become involved at the clinic in any way, feel free to contact Lené Wessels at 012 354 1324 or email her at [email protected]. Also follow us on our blog at


May we develop sensitivity to those who do not have the opportunities to create amazing childhood memories because of a lack of play. I would like to include us all in this new mission by changing the nursery rhyme at the beginning of the article in the following way:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the world’s women and all the world's men
helped to put Humpty together again!



Michélle van der Merwe

(4th year Occupational Therapy student 2011)


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