When I was a kid we played every day. We had recess. We had PE and we played with our friends and we played alone. This led us to have adventures and to solve problems even if the problem was how not to get caught by our parents doing something we shouldn’t. It was considered a healthy childhood.
We played on playground equipment and tried to swing to the moon or the stars. We climbed the mountains around our houses pretending to be hunters and explorers. We played Indian princesses defeating the invading colonists. One of the few times I ever played at being a princess. We sent our much hated Barbies down the drainage ditch Amazon River).
We explored the local park that had a cemetery and a stream and waterfall. We invaded on some kids involved in nookie where they shouldn’t have been. Still remember how we laughed at their naked butts.
When someone was given a Flexie Flyer basically a sled on wheels, we figured out that the more people on it the faster we went and actually stopped traffic on a cross street so we could go two very long blocks at very high speed and we were lucky we weren’t killed because we didn’t count on the brakes not stopping us at the dead end. I have no idea how fast we got but it was probably 200 lbs or more of small girl on that sled and it was a fairly steep hill. We managed to get 5 of us on it and it was the most exhilarating things I had ever done at age 12. Kids need to do things like that. It helps them learn. We saw it as a challenge and something we could do, of course at age 12 you are fearless and I’m glad we were but if our mothers’ had known they would have killed us first The first law of every kid adventure, “Don’t ask. Don’t tell”.
We had a 2 story playhouse and a 2 story tree house in our backyard in a tall carob tree, a small pond and a bamboo grove and a huge redwood and our garage was 2 stories tall too. We went all around the world and never left the yard. We explored Africa, South America and the Old West. We had colossal night time games of hide and seek that covered the whole neighborhood on summer nights and every kid on the block was there. We were Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. We were Lewis and Clark. We fought the Revolutionary War. We played Wizard of Oz and Dorothy and millions of other games that we made up on the spur of the moment. We explored the moon with the astronauts. We were pirates on the Spanish Main out to bring down the English and the French.
We played board games and we read but we also climbed trees and waged war on our siblings. We ran in the sunlight and wind and occasionally the rain. We turned cartwheel across the lawn and had wheel barrow races with our friends. After Mom read us Midsummer Night’s Dream we were Puck and the faeries peeping from the garden shrubs. We played in the sprinklers, danced under the full moon and howled. We were free kids.
I used to teach Arts & Crafts at camp and the difference between a group of Girl Scouts or public school kids and the kids that went to Catholic camp was creativity and play. I never had to tell the Girl Scouts what to create and the Catholic girls always asked me what they were supposed to do because the nuns usually tell them what to draw or make, now it seems most kids have to be told and that is so sad.
When was the last time your kid played with no structure and decided themselves with no help what they were going to be? When was the last time you played?