It may sound ironic, but the answer to kids' addiction to technology is a new CD set created by Unesco _ "Traditional Children's Games in Southeast Asia". You might be able to put an end to (or at least, you could try) young children being glued to the screen with this computer learning tool. They'll probably insist on going outside to play _ willingly.
Interactive characters will speak when your mouse rolls over.
It is a two-CD set and its distribution is Unesco's attempt to preserve traditional games from the time of our gramps and grans, which is a form of local knowledge, by incorporating them into the life of today's children. This is part of the agency's scheme to conserve and improve what is termed Intangible Cultural Heritage, or ICH.
The compilation will also provide a resourceful archive for researchers and a teaching supplement for teachers in the classroom.
The project was made with the support of the Korean National Commission for Unesco and the city of Gangneung on South Korea's east coast.
The CDs are a pilot product that will be officially launched on Saturday at Museum Siam, which will feature video presentation, a toy exhibition, demonstrative activities and, best of all, freebie DIY toys.
Kindergarten students from Kasem Phitiya playing Ngoo Gin Hang .
Ninety games from 14 ethnic groups in four countries _ Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia _ were chosen for the CDs. The 14 different ethnic groups include Thai Buddhist, Thai Muslim, Mon (from Bangkok), Ahka, Tai Yai and Tai Yuan (from Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son), Malay, Chinese-Malaysian, Indian-Malaysian (from Penang), Lao, Hmong and Tai Lue (from Luang Prabang), Khmer and Cham (from Phnom Penh). The set includes two CDs, one is interactive and the other contains three video documentaries.
As a tool for teachers and students, players can click on demonstrative animations and watch videos of other children playing the game. Teachers can download PDF files that gives them guidelines on incorporating these games into different subjects taught at school, whether it is mathematic, languages, science, physical education, sociology, or history or arts and crafts.
Some of these vintage games are still quite popular even today. Banh Kli (marble shooting) is still played by young boys in Cambodia. "Hamburger", similar to O-wa Noi Ook of Thai kids, is an elimination game played by children of Chinese descent in Malaysia. Some like Ka Fug Khai ("crows hatching eggs") may be a little obscure to today's children but anybody over 30 should still recall it. In this game, children must put an item (shoes, plastic bottles, etc) in the middle of a circle formed by other players and try to regain it while the rest _ or the crows _ guard it tightly. The graphics are colourful and cutesy. The first page greets you with a mountain with different cultural landmarks, from a mosque to a temple. Fourteen little characters dressed in their traditional garb are scattered all around the mountain.
The animation also flows nicely and is far above all those tacky 3D cartoons that look like chunky blocks. For now, all text is in English. Hence, it's most important for now that teachers shape up and do their homework in order to maximise the benefits of the CDs.
On screen, the CDs seem nostalgic, but when you see the games put into action, the results are infectious. You might have doubts and think that these games are probably too old-fashioned for today's children raised on digital playthings, but a recent visit to the Kasem Phitiya School proved otherwise.
This school has been selected for an experimental session and while watching the children play the games, you might find tears welling up in your eyes _ no sarcasm. The sheer joy they express is so palpable, like positive germs that you can't help but catch.
As the children play Ngoo Gin Hang (tail-eating snake), it looks like they're actually having a lot of fun. They're all laughing with glee from getting chased by their classmates _ and it's hard to imagine that kids these days don't know how to play this way anymore. It clearly shows that playing outdoors with friends is a fundamental and crucial part of a child's social development.
The visit also confirms the belief that you don't need any grand material to have fun, which is quite contrary to the way parents seem to raise their kids these days. Things like coconuts, banana stalks and rubber bands alone can be enough to entertain a child for hours.
So take a trip down memory lane this Saturday and visit Museum Siam for the launch of the CDs and a demonstration.
Linger on memories of the days and show your children how to have fun like in yesteryear. It's not that difficult, because having fun never gets old.