Looking at Play Through the Eyes of Rohingya Children in Cox’s Bazar
As part of preparatory research for the Play to Learn (PtL) program, NYU Global TIES for Children (NYU-TIES) and PtL partners developed and implemented a qualitative approach for assessing playful learning in humanitarian settings in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, home to over 450,000 children under the age of 18. Despite the extensive consideration of children’s play in cultural anthropology, very few studies have examined play from a cultural perspective in refugee or humanitarian contexts. As such, the research was not intended to take a comparative or cross-cultural perspective to play, but instead aims to capture the point of view of young Rohingya children themselves in order to provide context to how they may be “mediating between their world of origin and the host society” through play.
Our data show that Rohingya children demonstrate a tremendous amount of spontaneous and creative activity in their everyday lives, despite the many challenges in the Cox’s Bazar camps. This brief provides fresh perspectives into the remarkable resilience and creativity these young children possess. The four key themes that emerge from the data, explored in more detail below, include how Rohingya children 1) learn and play through song and rhyme; 2) self-organize their play in groups with other children of various ages; 3) use space flexibly and fluidly during play and; 4) use their imaginations to create toys and games.
In reviewing these findings, we explore potential ways to harness this creativity to strengthen the capacity of children to cope, develop, and play in this humanitarian setting. In trying to understand these points of view, our hope is that the data collected may also serve to give Rohingya children a voice in shaping the programming and policies that are developed to help them learn and heal.