“There is nothing to do.”
These comments are heard way too often from children today. In our world with small nuclear families, where we likely live far away from extended family, don’t know our neighbors, and worry about protecting our children from threats of society, the spontaneity of childhood is diminished. Play dates have to be scheduled. Children expect adults to provide activities to entertain them. Contrast this with an agrarian society where children were first expected to do their chores and free time was easily filled with a diverse number of activities and interests. Even if they felt bored they were not likely to admit it lest they be assigned another chore.
Today kid’s lives are frequently too structured. Children at times are scheduled very heavily into different adult-driven activities. They are too often given unlimited access to TV and electronic games. While these might have a place in a child’s life, the right balance needs to be developed. Children need to be able to explore and figure out things on their own and to be spontaneous without being directed by an adult.
Children’s play is their work. Children learn problem-solving skills, how to cooperate, how to get along with others and about their environment. They develop creativity and reasoning skills. They benefit when they make their own choices within boundaries of safety. Kids are not “just playing.” They are developing emotionally, intellectually, socially and physically through their play.
I am not advocating that we go back to the ’50’s although I have a feeling of nostalgia for having grown up then. I don’t want to give up my GPS which for this directionally challenged person is the single greatest development of recent years. But certain facets of today’s lifestyle do negatively affect children.
What did kids do in previous days with their unstructured time?
There might have been dramatic role-playing imitating people or places they were familiar with: playing dress-up; playing house; playing store or office or farming or library or gardening or school (my personal favorite). There might be spontaneous art projects. Bike riding. Going for walks. Exploring. Making nature “pies” from assorted objects found on walks. Reading. Collecting bugs or rocks or flowers or leaves. Skipping rocks. Jumping rope. Cops and robbers. Blowing dandelions. Looking for a 4 leaf clover. Catching tadpoles in a jar. Or ladybugs. Climbing trees.
Then there were more organized games which still could be rather spontaneous. Do these sound familiar? Follow the leader. Hide and seek. Farmer in the dell. Marbles. Hop scotch. 4 square. Tag. Hot potato. Red light green light. Kick the can. Jacks. Mother may I? (or Captain, may I?). Statues. Duck, duck, goose. Button, button, who has the button? Simon says. Ring around the rosy. London bridge is falling down. Leap frog. There were spontaneous games of baseball, touch football, kickball.
There were some popular recess games. A few from the ’50’s were Annie, Annie Over, Fox and Geese, and Red Rover. [Directions for these games follow this post.]
Do these activities sound familiar? What other childhood activities of yours could be added to this list? What additional things can we encourage today’s children to try? Let us help children to regain some of the spontaneity that is lost.
More child’s play, just another thread of my life.
[This post is a continuation of last week’s post Child’s Play and a previous post Childhood Memories. It was partially inspired by comments made by these bloggers: Walking My Path, Amie Writes, Susieshy45, Noms Blog in a Teacup, Faraday’s Candle, Storm’s Stitches, Your Invisible Touch, Badfish out of Water, Day by Day, and Mind Master Jedi. I thank them for their inspiration. Read their comments on the link provided above and check out their websites.]
Directions for a few games:
Annie, Annie Over. Sometimes called Andy, Andy Over. In this game there would be two teams. The only equipment required was a ball and a building with a gable roof–a country school-house, a shed, a garage. One team was stationed on each side of the building. A player from one side would try to throw the ball over the building yelling, “Annie, Annie Over.” If the ball didn’t make it over the roof, they would yell “Pigtail.” If the ball made it over, someone on the other side would catch it. The team that had thrown the ball had to run around the building and attempt to return to its own side. Meanwhile the team that had received the ball tried to throw it at the other team’s players as they passed. If a player was hit they were “captured” by the other team and had to stay on that team. The game would continue with the opposite team throwing the ball. The game was over when all players were on the same team.
Fox and Geese. This game required snow. The children first stomped through the snow making a path that was a round circle with a hub in the center and four spokes. Most of the children were “geese” and start in the hub in the center of the circle. One player was the “fox”. The fox wandered around the the spokes and the outer rim of the wheel. The geese had to run out on one spoke and around part or all of the rim and run back in another spoke to the hub, trying to avoid being caught by the fox who would try to catch the geese. The hub was safe and a goose could not be captured while he was in the hub. When the fox caught a goose, the goose became a fox and then helped catch other geese.
Red Rover. Players were divided into two teams who form two lines facing each other. Each team holds hands or links elbows. One team starts by saying, “Red Rover, Red Rover send Junior right over.” They would name a child from the other team. The child who was selected runs full speed and tries to break through the other line. If he successfully breaks through he picks a member of the other team to join his team. If he fails to break through he is captured by the other team and remains with them. Each team takes turns calling someone over until everyone ends up on one team.