Understanding how the concept of play fosters emotional and social growth in children has been a subject of study for some of the world’s most astute scholars, but one professor in Japan believes he has unlocked an important door that leads to fresh insight on the subject.

Hikaru dorodango are shiny balls of mud that have created quite a sensation in kindergartens, pre-schools and elementary schools all across Japan. The promotion of these shiny mud balls is due to the singular efforts of Professor Fumio Kayo of the Kyoto University of Education who first discovered the magnetic power of the mud balls in action a decade ago at a nursery school in Kyoto.

Kayo was so impressed by the children’s preoccupation with these balls that he devised a method that made it easy for children to make them for their own enjoyment. At first, their total focus was on forming a sphere and then polishing it until it shines. For the children the dorodango became a most prized possession, and for professor Kayo it translated into an understanding of the meaning of play for children.

Kayo sees in this phenomenon the essence of children’s play, and he has written academic papers on the subject. The mud balls could also offer fresh insights into how play enhances children’s growth. The good professor keeps an amber-colored dorodango, which is about 3 inches in diameter in a wooden box in his office at the university. On his own personal “luster scale,” this one measures a “4” with the highest being a rating of five.

Up until now, experts in developmental psychology considered role-playing and drawing as two of the most important aspects in nurturing a child’s creativity and imagination. Professor Kayo, however, feels one element has been grossly overlooked; namely, the process of experimentation, which children demonstrate every day in activities such as eating and  getting dressed.

If you feel so inclined, contact Dr Kayo to get in touch with that child that lives within us all. Some people see life through a rose and others through a ball of mud.

Who’s to say which one holds the key to the mysteries of the human imagination?




M Dee Dubroff is the penname of this freelance writer and former teacher originally from Brooklyn, New York. A writer of ghostly and horror fiction, she has branched out into the world of humorous non fiction writing and maintains eight web sites covering a wide variety of topics. She also writes feature articles for several local newspapers. Her book entitled: A Taste of Funny, and her website, Eat, Drink And Really Be Merry (http://www.ingestandimbibe.com) feature many well researched and humorous articles on the subject of food and drink.