Children at Play in Rural Thailand

There is something about children at play in Thailand that takes me back to when I was a kid.  Rural Thailand for children isn’t much different than when I was growing up in the States during the late sixties/early 70′s. There weren’t computers or cable TV and our parents didn’t have a lot of money to buy us all the toys we wanted, but we made do. We would spend hours playing with card board boxes, wrapping paper tubes and string that became forts, swords and bows. We had the best toy of them all, our imaginations.

All the kids I have seen playing n rural Thailand have pretty much the same imagination and can play for hours with some paper and a few small toys. Their counterparts in the west are already getting fat watching TV, playing on computers and their favorite gaming system.

It seems to me that the children of Thailand are quite a bit more healthy than their counterparts in the West in more than a few ways. It will be interesting to see where these children are in 20 years compared to the children of the West. The rural Thai children may not have all the advantages that a child growing up in the west does but they aren’t too bothered by what they don’t have.

It seems with all the new technology we are making our children lazier in the West while at the same time putting much more stress on them. The children of my generation had it good and did just fine without all the gadgets kids have today. We were more social, less careful and definitely more thoughtful. Sure, we did stupid things and have the scars to show for it but we were living or lives, not wasting time in front of a screen.

Hopefully their imaginations stay with them and they help to build a better Thailand one paper airplane at a time while considering the plight of those poor disadvantaged children in the West who are coming to the conclusion that one to many Twinkies and too many video games haven’t done much to help them in life. The bigger hope is that they can remain children as long as possible before having to take on the responsibility of family, as all Thai children do much sooner than they should.

Thai kids at play Thai kids at play (1) Thai kids at play (2)

Thai kids at play (3) Thai kids at play (4) Thai kids at play (5)

Thai kids at play (6) Thai kids at play (9) Thai kids at play (10)

Thai kids at play (13) Thai kids at play (14) Thai kids at play (18)


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12 Responses to Children at Play in Rural Thailand
  1. Mike
    April 7, 2010 | 6:59 pm

    Talen I totally agree with you. I often look at our local kids here and it reminds me of my very young days. We made things, like a cart with pram wheels and boards or building little tree houses. It was great fun.

    Also we did not fear pedophiles or the like and looking at rural Thailand it seems the same (except for the odd rough farang).

    Doy, unfortunately is getting too Westernised for my liking given that she has access to Cartoon Network and computer games, her peers are much more street wise.

    Its difficult to get the right balance.
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..Wat Huai Luk-??????????-Prachuap Khiri Khan =-.

    • Talen
      April 9, 2010 | 6:51 pm

      Mike, seems like we had it much better as kids. I’m sure there are a lot of rural Thai kids becoming more westernized with more and more farang living in rural Thailand.

  2. Catherine
    April 7, 2010 | 8:36 pm

    Kids in rural Thailand seem to have what I had growing up in several small towns. And like you mentioned, modern western life has changed a lot of that.

    I’m not sure why Mike brought up the fear of pedophiles as they are not new to the mix. The fear didn’t suddenly appear (just ask western and Thai grandparents).

    Parents kept a watch on pedophiles even back when I was a kid and before. The differences I’ve seen in my life is that the Internet has educated the watchers and put a magnifying glass on the offenders (and more, but in a different direction).
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Stuart (Stu) Jay Raj: Interview Part Two =-.

    • Talen
      April 9, 2010 | 6:40 pm

      Cat, I understand what Mike was getting at, even though pedophiles have always been around it wasn’t something we ever heard much of or ever worried about as kids. And while it is also present in rural Thailand today you don’t hear much about it except when the odd falang gets arrested for it.

  3. Mike
    April 8, 2010 | 8:47 am

    “I’m not sure why Mike brought up the fear of pedophiles as they are not new to the mix.”

    Catherine I brought it up because it seemed pertinent to the conversation. However I agree they are not new and that modern day communication makes it easier for them to operate.
    Coming from a small village we also knew all the families there, so anyone who was that way inclined would probably have stood out, unless of course it was the local Catholic priest perhaps :-)

    PS Please excuse the typo in the original post it should read “rogue” not rough.
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..Wat Huai Luk-??????????-Prachuap Khiri Khan =-.

  4. Catherine
    April 8, 2010 | 8:53 am

    Mike, have you read Kaewmala’s ‘Thai Sex Talk’? She lists more than a few dirty old men. Locals.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Stuart (Stu) Jay Raj: Interview Part Two =-.

  5. Martyn
    April 9, 2010 | 1:57 am

    First I must say I like the new header or are you going to tell me its been there a long time, if so I’ll put my ‘whoops’ in now.

    When you actually analyse what the village kids have materially to play with then the list wouldn’t be that long, but boy do they enjoy themselves. They do seem to expend a lot of energy running and exploring (fearless of snakes) wherever, without a care in the world.

    Last month I read a post on Thailand Blogs (Paknam Web) about an exhibition in Bangkok, part of which included Thai games which I assumed was from the past. That part of the exhib really appealed to me.

    On next month’s trip to Thailand I’m going to find out exactly what kind of games those village kids play because your post is one that interests me. I’ve seen the kids playing in the street outside our village house and they seem to be acting out games reminiscent of my childhood. Tag, chase etc although I’m sure there’s some interesting other ones they play. Most kids street games are from years way way back and like I said that interests me a lot.

    I have noticed a few tubbier Thai kids about but that’s probably the McDonald’s factor that has swept into Thailand. In general Thai village kids are bubbly energetic blighters who will I’m sure continue to stay that way. I have however noticed in the cities and towns it’s harder to get a seat in the internet cafe’s just after the schools close.
    .-= Martyn´s last blog ..Bed and Breakfast Udon Thani Style =-.

  6. Talen
    April 9, 2010 | 6:48 pm

    Martyn, That header has been around a while…I have about 15-20 headers in rotation but lately I’ve been letting them stay up longer than a day…so, there is a chance you never saw it.

    From what I’ve noticed watching the kids play in rural Thailand they seem to play a lot of the same games we did as kids…some with different twists and a few that are similar but new.

    I don’t think I saw one chubby kid in Mukdahan or Nakhon Phanom but there aren’t any fast food joints there…I sure saw a lot in Bangkok though.

    And the internet cafes are just as crowded.

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  8. kaewmala
    April 12, 2010 | 11:16 am

    Childhood experience is changing the world over. That is to be expected. And I would even say that, all things considered, it might even be a good thing – childhood obesity, lack of social interaction and other modern ills notwithstanding.

    I was born and grew up in a rural village without electricity; had no access to TV until the age of 12 and exactly one doll to play with. I don’t recall feeling in lack of toys, though I remember being unhappy a few times when my father forgot to buy me something I asked from the market in town; I made my own playthings from dirt, flowers, paper, or whatever at hand. But that’s neither here nor there. What struck me the most about the post and the comments above is not so much perspectives on toys or childhood experience, or even the somewhat odd comments on pedophilia, but the nostalgia tinged with romanticism of a culture (Thai).

    Growing up as a baan-nork girl, I believe I know and appreciate what rural life has to offer. There were many good things but, except for the love of my parents, I see nothing really to be nostalgic about.

    I empathize with foreigners’ appreciation and tendency to romanticize a local culture. I love going to India because I am fascinated by the people and local cultures – I love to see history being lived right there in front of me. At one level the preservation (often, lack of change) of the local culture is boon for travelers and tourists and conservationists of course, but see it from the perspective of the local people: Is “preservation” of the “wonderful” local culture what they want? Preserving for whom, wonderful in whose eyes? Even if wonderful and worthy of preservation for all – locals and outside cultural voyeurs alike – who’s to say new things aren’t better? Or wanted? Or needed? Societies usually don’t change or stop changing for the “better good.” They change because they just do, for better or worse.

    Sure, there are things old in any given culture that should be preserved, but traditions and customs and ways of life are not cultural artifacts that you can dig up, easily disconnect and conveniently transport to the nearest museum. All the “beautiful” things we remember fondly will disappear and be replaced by the unpalatable new which will become “beautiful” for the new generations to come. In the same process, to bad will as usual string along and transform to the new environment like mutating viruses.

    We tend to see the old through rosy lenses. Like all human beings, I do that too sometimes. But I believe, if we see the new as a challenge and a source of new learning and exciting, we are likely to fare a lot better in enjoying the good and controlling the bad.

    One of the most vivid memories of my late father – on one early morning, I was probably no more than 8 or 9, we were reading a newspaper together (our weekend ritual), and on the front page there was news about a (Thai) father arrested for rape of his daughter. I must have asked or said something about it to my father, I still remember vividly, he said: “My child, that is a very, very bad father. A father should never do that to his children. And you know that I would never, ever, do that to you.”

    Pedophiles are not just the ones lurking on the Internet or escaping from the laws in their home countries to find new fertile grounds of exploitation in the Third World. The most dangerous, and the majority, are the friends and families of the children. So, to suggest that it is possible to take caution for dangers of pedophiles out of childhood in this or last or future century is a wishful thinking.
    .-= kaewmala´s last blog ..How to say “Toy Boy” & “Toy Girl” in Thai =-.

  9. Mr Samui
    June 21, 2010 | 7:17 pm

    What a fabulous article. You are so correct. Thailand represents to many of the so called developed countries a memory of family values and simple pleasures. I have heard this so many times during my time as a travel consultant. It is then in the interests of Thailand to retain what is seen as a simple but enriched life.