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Life Hacks With Toby: Bring Back Outdoor Playing to Our Primary Schools



dreamstime_l_31734222My little brother who is also the last in our family is a bit fat. A lot of people usually ask him the annoying question, “what are you eating?” Other times, the question is targeted at us, “what are you guys feeding him?”

I have also wondered the same thing, because it’s not like he eats that much. Recently while I thought about it, I got my answer. The reason my brother is that plump (yeah, that’s what he is. None of that baby fat will escape puberty), is because he is missing out on most of the childhood games those of us that grew up in the 90s enjoyed.

You see, my brother was born in a period where almost every room in the house has its own television set and DVD player.

He was born when anyone can have access to DSTV even if all you have is #1000 per month.

He was born at the time when with #200 you can buy a DVD plate that contains more than four hours of Barney, Ben 10, Tom & Jerry, or any other cartoon.

He was born in a period when you can play games on your personal computer, and not at the gaming parlour where you pay #10 for each session. (Yeah, we used to pay #10 to play Sega and P.S 1 games per session back in those days.)

He was born at a time when one can easily put on the generator in the afternoon just to watch a TV program, a football match, or a movie.

My kid bro was born when you can open a laptop and get lost in it for three straight hours because there is a lot to keep you busy other than Solitaire and other card games.

He was born at a time where you can take your parents’ phones or your elder siblings’ Tabs and play games, or watch movies and pictures all night long.

He was born in a period where playing had been reduced to sitting down and pressing a couple of buttons on a particular machine, and watching a screen.

What things used to be like
Not like we didn’t have televisions back then o. But watching TV for us then, was just Tales by Moonlight, or funny programs like Masquerade and Papa Ajasco which was usually between 7:30-8 pm, once a week.

You see, I never had the ‘opportunity’ to be fat while growing up. (Now that I think about it, maybe fat just no dey my gene sha) No matter how much I ate, I just couldn’t get fat.

I still remember our primary school break sessions. Heck, I looked forward to hearing the bell for break ring. Who didn’t?

It was our opportunity to eat, but most especially, to play our hearts out. And for some of the stubborn ones, it was equally the chance to finish the fight that started brewing inside the classroom.

I had my own share of the fights, the plays, the laughter, and the cries. I played so much that I became a concern to my teacher, my parents, and some of my older cousins.

I still remember one of them scolding/advising me at a time and telling me something like, “Toby, what is wrong with you? I ma kwa n’obu nwa lecturer ka I bu?” (You no know say you be lecturer pikin?) I think that was the day I had played football so much that I was covered with sand, and my shorts even tore.

Yeah, I was a nuisance. But somehow, I still managed to do well in class. And honestly, I don’t know why. I mean, I can’t really remember going for extra lessons, or even studying my textbooks after school. (What I remember reading were novels like ‘Treasure Island’, ‘Pace Setter Series’, and all them ‘African Writers Series’.  Post for another day)

Reading my textbooks/notebooks during the long holiday was like a taboo for me. But somehow, “Edet Lives in Calabar”, and other Mr and Mrs Salami passages are still fresh in my mind.

So did playing make me dumb? Mba! No! Tufiakwa!

These things are gradually fading away
These days, primary schools don’t even have enough space for kids to play. Lots of primary schools have German floors instead of sandy floors. So our kids can’t really play, else they will sustain injuries. Break time has turned to time to eat and then do assignments.

I visited home one day, and I did a front and then a back spin in front of my kid brother. The amazement in his eyes was overwhelming. He kept begging me to teach him how to do it. I did my best though, but these are things he could have learnt easily if they were at least allowed to play during their break periods.

But the one wey pain me pass be say, em no dey play football. Football! If you stop a boy from playing football, what else should he do? I mean, I bought a football for my brother (among other things) when I visited during his last birthday. Unfortunately that football and the one before it just dey occupy space for that house o, nobody dey play am.

In all fairness, I must admit that my younger siblings are very intelligent. I am amazed at the kind of things they are taught in school. But is there no way to balance these things with physical education?

I used to think that the development of children involves not just their mental prowess but also their physical and physiological development. Should the focus be on one aspect of their development and not the other?

The last time I checked, some of these childhood plays are equally educational (correct me if I’m wrong). I mean, I wouldn’t be able to list the seven rivers in Africa today if not for the childhood chant, “Nile Niger Congo Senegal Orange Limpopo Zambezi. Azikiwe Awolowo Tafawa Balewa Onye ocha wepu aka n’okpu eze” (White man remove your hand from the crown)

I am not an activist o. But please someone should look into our primary school systems, and for what it’s worth let’s Bring Back Playing to our Primary Schools.

Okay enough of the seriousness. What can you remember about your primary school days that still make you smile today? Do you have kids or nephews/nieces who don’t play? What’s your opinion about it? Professionally speaking, is it wrong to allow kids to play? Does playing enhance mental development or retard it? Let’s discuss in the comment section.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Toby Nwazor is a free lance writer and motivational speaker who believes that life is meant to be lived and not just existed in. He is equally an entrepreneur with a lot of hands-on experience in business start-ups, marketing, and customer service. He passionately writes every Monday and Wednesday on about helping entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs build successful start-ups


  1. naya

    June 10, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    This article is on point. Ljke dis generation is boring,yes they are smarter but there is no balance. Then,we dem girls played “suwe” or “I call on” or tinko, dere was also “police and thief”??? d boys always let the girls play police, I even learnt how to play table tennis too. This outdoor games brought us together, the laughs were innocent, hearts pure and relationship btw friends lasted and yes most of us did very well in school.
    I just hope they bring all this stuff back, kids these days are losing touch and there is soo much bad blood between them, competing on instagram or facebook, it is sad.

    • Toby Nwazor

      June 10, 2016 at 3:14 pm

      Seriously, Facebook and Instagram? Is there no age limit for those things?

  2. Ada Nnewi

    June 10, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    Toby thanks for this article…I was like your twin sister oh in regards to your playtime utilization… from ten ten to soccer to hopscotch to fighting, all join… I put on weight as a child only during the period i ate huge pounded yam and eguisi every afternoon and night for almost 6 months (Pounded yam is resistant to even the toughest forms of physical activity)… My primary school had extensive space for “Play!” (God bless Corona).. Kids now are definitely not getting enough time outside and it’s making most of them very over weight and lazy…I think outdoor play should be enforced in all schools and every school should have extensive outdoor play space.

    • Toby Nwazor

      June 10, 2016 at 3:21 pm

      Ada Nnewi. U went to Corona? U be “big gehz o” (in Jenifa’s voice) Lol.

      My dear, u no play reach me o. I was both number one and number two sef. Even that pounded yam would not have had any effect on me, believe me. I remember how we used to play football so much after school must have dismissed, we would play for hours somehow wishing that our parents would come late sef. Lol

  3. Joan

    June 10, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    true talk o….my baby sister does not know ‘ten-ten’, suwe, tinko and all those fun games we played and it baffles me. In my primary school then we had a field big enough to contain another school building with space for playground join sef. its such a shame we moved and my baby sister had to attend all those are butter schools in Abuja. Though I no too play cause I was conscious of my appearance but I plan on making my children play…….. If God pick my call on time sef, I fit build school and a big playground with plenty sand for extra curricular activities and break go dey.

    • Toby Nwazor

      June 10, 2016 at 3:17 pm

      Gbam gbamer gbamest. My dear build that school o, I will like my kids to go to that kinda school jare.

  4. teeA

    June 10, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    Great post! Our kids do need to play more.
    By the way, the rivers of Africa song: It’s Benue, not Senegal.

    • Toby Nwazor

      June 10, 2016 at 3:15 pm

      Hello Tee A. Don’t mind me. I merely recited the whole thing the same way we used to do it back then.

      Thanks for the correction though, it’s noted (make i no go fall my hand one day for Who wants to be a millionaire) Lol

  5. spunky

    June 10, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    chai! the late 80s was fun sha, especially when we traveled to the village (often). Then, we’ll converge outside, under the moonlight and play all sorts. Other times, we were told moonlight tales. I agree with you. Kids of new are thoroughly missing out and i think the “it” parents should share the blame. Most parents forming tushed have the impression of such activities belonging to a certain kpako class.

  6. Adaeze Writes

    June 10, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    This is so true. You hit the nail on the head. I keep saying this!! Nowadays, kids are mostly locked up indoors. While growing up, we hardly go outside to play but our school compound was so large that you’d play and forget your name. Go to many primary schools now and you’ll be shocked at the small compound spaces (the kids can’t even stretch their legs), most primary schools that formerly had spaces have erected structures for a secondary school, so they have both primary and secondary in one compound,
    Growing up, during the holidays, there were no summer lessons so it was always fun to stay at home even though there were not many programs to watch on TV because kids programs started at 4. We looked forward to Kiddie Vision 101, Tales by Moonlight and a lot of other shows. It’s a pity to see that little kids don’t even need TVs anymore, many of them have tablets with movies already downloaded in them.
    I will say this here ‘none of my kids will attend summer lessons while in primary school, they are going to play, play and play…from football, to skipping, to riding bikes and to running about!’

    For thrilling stories, visit

  7. deedee

    June 10, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    Oh my days, @Toby, you just took me down memory lane, i was nicknamed “Chairlady of ten-ten” by my French teacher (Mr Bruno), i was such an expert that i could play it with my hands in class.I was a mini tom-boy back then, i loved climbing trees with my male cousins,playing football and volleyball.
    My kid brother’s primary school here in Kaduna have the most obese children i have ever seen in my life.Imagine a girl is Nursery 2 is so fat that she can’t walk on her own. The school had to stop the kids from bringing fruit juices and junk food to school because most of the kids were so fat and so couldn’t do physical activities. My kid brother’s best friend weighed 70kg at age 9. This is a boy that brings burgers and sausages for break time and takes ice cream after school regularly. It is so sad, because some parents think it is love, stuffing kids with junk + little or no physical activity.Some parents actually think Suwe, ten-ten etc is too razz for their kids.

  8. Just my 1 Cents

    June 10, 2016 at 4:07 pm

    Hello Toby. Nice post, although I agree with you 1000% regarding bringing back outdoor playing, diet is a huge factor in childhood obesity. In fact, diet is more relevant than exercise when it comes to health (research as shown this). Now, imagine if they bring back the playground, the child maybe a little less “fat”, but he/she will be unhealthy if the diet is not right. I still prefer the traditional Nigerian/African diet in moderation.

    I’ll advice people to watch the documentary, Sugar Coated. It’s on Netflix (don’t know if it’s on Netflix Nigeria). If you have children, this documentary is a must watch. It opened my eyes and gave a reason why we see soo much obesity/unhealthy “active” adults in this generation. A major factor is the amount of sugar that is in food we consume. Even the so called “active” adults who are skinny end up with chronic diseases, and they think they are healthy because they exercise regularly. If you give your child 1 glass of so called orange juice, you are just giving them processed sugar because all the juices sold are pasteurized. Even the so called “sugar free” and “fat free” foods are actually laden with so much sugar.

    Toby I noticed you said this about your brother: “because it’s not like he eats that much”. The amount doesn’t necessarily matter. Does he drink processed fruit juices, “healthy” snacks, “foreign” food, soda on a regular basis? My young teenage brothers are skinny, much they eat so much unhealthy foods, it’s alarming. In our generation, we only eat those things in moderation. Now this generation seems to rely on processed food and foreign food everyday. Exercise is very important, but if the food we consume is not right, we are all killing ourselves slowly anyways.

  9. Favour Abalogu

    June 10, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    #Hahahaha…Gone are the days when “Binta and friends” was still the rocking teenage soap opera. There was nothing like Jenifa’s diary, so wrong so wright, ben 10 and so on. I still remember following programs Like “everyday people” and “wetin dey”.

    Back to play, If I dare forget all d fun stuffs I did as a kid, I won’t forget d game called “mummy and daddy” in a short while. When kids paired as couples and also had Children – fellow classmates – whom they gave instructions (we were all FOOLS then :p …every instruction seemed Right)

    After exams (during Christmas period), we would tear our note books and make round shapes then add glue to make it form a pattern. Then hang it across the classroom as decoration.

    Boards are now White. In my time, we grinded battery (cells) then used it in darkening our already blackened chalk boards.

    Though, all these may seems as stress now, back then in primary school, they were all fun!

    I enjoyed this piece sir. #Keep_Writing


    I almost forgot to mention the game “Police and Thief” … 🙂 …I always loved being on the “thieves” side.

    It’s getting dark now, let me gather my neighbors… for hide and seek (booju booju)….#hahaha

    I’m off jaree 🙂

  10. Moi

    June 10, 2016 at 5:52 pm

    The way schools are built these days baffles me oh. A school with 100+ kids in one duplex. What ever happened to l shape and E shape structures on at least 1 acre of land ? In some schools kids now go for break in batches- were all they do is compare tech gadgets, colour of intl pp,parents jeep, mom’s hair and hand bags. No physical exercise except ballet, swimming or judo at extra cost to parents. No inter-house sports, marching during childrens’ day, inter school competition, browny, girl-guide and scouts, inter school debates and quizzes.. These were opportunities to develop interpersonal skills, healthy spirit of competition and a solid value system.

  11. Odion

    June 10, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    Thanks for this article. I am a Year 2 teacher. My school management does not joke with outdoor play. We had to teach 6 & 7 years old how to play “suwe” or is hopscotch as they call it these days. It was a very difficult thing to do. We have not even talk about skipping, that one was an impossible mission or even “ten ten”.

  12. Odion

    June 10, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    Please permission to share this on Facebook. Pretty please!

  13. Arinze

    June 10, 2016 at 8:27 pm

    Toby, this is nice and I’m impressed. I expect nothing less from you sha and I can relate to everything you wrote. Keep it up bro, and by the way, you were right about the seven rivers in Africa. Always trust your knowledge, and remember, Google is your friend and ally. Tee A, take note.

  14. Moi

    June 10, 2016 at 10:51 pm

    Toby, your sense of humor is always refreshing, no comment gets you annoyed. Keep it up bro. And your write-ups are always worth reading. Cheers

  15. gbemie.o

    June 10, 2016 at 11:16 pm

    O my goodness this is scary, I am 22 and weight close to this and I am seriously cutting down on a lot of junk, how much more a 7 year old child
    Bring Back our Play ooo

    • Valerie

      June 11, 2016 at 11:49 am

      Are you me? Lol
      My mouth was also agape when I saw that.

  16. The real dee

    June 11, 2016 at 1:32 am

    Please who remembers how to play ten ten. I want to teach this Nigerian American children that think Nigeria is a jungle ?

  17. Nunulicious

    June 13, 2016 at 4:08 am

    I once attended a lecture in university college hospital ibadan titled where have all the man gone? It was a very interesting eye opener linking the decline in physical activity with the depreciation of masculinity. I came out of that lecture with these action points:
    My kids would be encouraged to play their heart’s content every holiday and even on specific days during school.
    They will attend school with large playing grounds
    They will read books as against playing video games. So help me God

    Meanwhile, don’t we have a regulatory body in Nigeria? How do converted homes get license as schools? How is it possible to NOT to have a play ground in a school? That ain’t right mehn.

  18. meelikey

    June 15, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    Hmmmm,to think that our children are missing out of the outdoor play of our time is sad,the likes of “ten-ten”, hide and seek,suwe, running in the rain(if my mama catch person eh!)and cooking using empty tins of milk and bottle cover as plates ( oh my favourite ) was fun, couldn’t have had a better childhood experience.

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