Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bored Games Kids Play

 Sometimes the most exciting games require little more than space
School’s almost out for the summer.  I know that because the neighborhood grade school just held its field day at the park up the street.  For many of these kids, summer means computer camp, or summer school, or art camp, or circus camp, or 8 weeks of sleep-away camp in a place halfway across the country, or heading out of state to their family’s summer home someplace cooler and less humid.  The one thing that the kids in my community don’t do in the summer is get bored.  Are the only games they know digital and Hunger?

I remember summer boredom well when I was a kid.  As I recall, it didn’t kill me and didn’t cause my brain to deteriorate.  At least I think it didn’t.  Maybe I could have founded a multi-billion dollar technology start-up or had written a best-selling novel by age 25 if I had never been allowed to be bored.  But there it is.  My parents didn’t care enough for my future or safety because they left me to spend the summer sitting in a friend’s tree house reading Nancy Drew books or let me take off on my bike in the morning to ride all over town (without a helmet – egads!) and not return until dinner.  Or I just sat around playing solitaire all day.

Summer boredom was great.  During the day my friends and I would be so bored we’d start peeking in the windows of empty houses or climbing into the loft of the one remaining barn in the area and make up stories of murderers and ghosts and criminals on the Most Wanted lists who clearly had taken up residence as evidenced by an abandoned hammer in the corner or a light bulb burning at night.

We were bored enough to sit in the driveway past midnight telling ghost stories about the crazed killers who escaped from insane asylums and were out to get all young lovers parked on country roads or teenage girls babysitting alone on a Friday night.  We were bored enough to play 20 rounds of the card game Slap Jack in the breezeway of our unairconditioned 60s ranch homes.  We were bored enough to play kick ball in the street until the complete darkness set in and the porch lights failed to illuminate our game.

I went to a morning music camp a couple of weeks each summer.  And I went to a week of Bible school when younger.  But for all my friends, the summer was the same.  Morning was reserved for doing our household chores.  We ate hot dogs and Campbell’s soup for lunch.  Then we started knocking on each other’s doors saying, “What do you want to do?  I don’t know, what do you want to do?”

Everyone likes to let loose on a hot summer afternoon

We had a bottomless well of games to play.  Games with cards.  Games with balls of all sizes.  Games with ropes.  Games that required no equipment at all, like Freeze Tag.  Or games that didn’t require anything more than a piece of chalk and small stone – not even friends – like Hopscotch.

I don’t much remember my kids playing games during their summers.  They did play cards.  However, as much as I wanted to resist it, I became one of those parents who started scouring the local papers in March for suitable summer programs.  Why?  Not because I thought it was better than sitting around being bored.  I did it because everyone else was, which meant no kids were around for most of the day (or evening, because of organized sports) for my kids to play with.  They were kids when dodge ball was discouraged because someone’s body or feelings might get hurt.  They were kids during the rise of the video screen.

Are childhood games a thing of the past?  Canadian writer Marijke Vroomen Durning has asked that question on her website Games We Used To Play. It grew out of a question about whether we are losing the art of play.  The site is a way to relive the games we remember and see if they connect with someone else. She asks readers to submit the games and their rules to the site, so pop on over and see if one of your favorites is there. 

As a post-script, last week a flyer came attached to an e-mail from my neighborhood association president.  Apparently there will be a family kickball night soon up at the park.  All adults and children welcome.  Yep, that’s the way things go now.  It would never occur to the kids on my street today to grab a big, red rubber ball and kick it around until dark.  Yet the parents do fondly remember their days of running the makeshift bases.  So they decided to organize and manufacture “play” for their own children.

Something’s not right here.  Anyone for double-Dutch?

Do you think that the idea of play has disappeared from the youngest generation? What was your favorite game as a child? Share stories of your childhood summers in the comments box.


In addition to teaching teamwork, check out how your childhood games can save you when the Apocalypse hits at the end of 2012.


Haven on Hanover said...

My summers sound almost exactly like your did. My favorite thing was playing in the sand box with my friends - we made elaborate villages for our trolls. Every now again we come across something left by one of the neighborhood cats and we'd just dig it out and chuck it into the bushes. No big deal. If we were lucky one of our moms would make a pitcher of cherry koolaid. Peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and then hopefully a trip to the pool in the afternoon. I tried to recreate that for our kids but it wasn't easy.

Julie Farrar said...

Ah, cherry Kool-aid. A staple of every lunch. My troll had pink hair.

Unknown said...

I grew up in the early 70s and couldn't afford any camp that wasn't Church-related. We played shadow tag in the street, Ghost and the Graveyard up and down our street, and made rock bands using old tennis rackets and the concrete slab next door to my house where a house was under construction. We also played baseball, built forts, rode our bikes to the The Dairy Queen, and played in the neighbor's above-ground pool. Summers were long and carefree back then. No overscheduled days. They were just ours to figure out. I read a lot, and we played school, too. We drank Kool-aid, iced tea, bought popcicles from the Ice Cream Truck, or made popcicles out of frozen Kool-aid or lemonade with Tupperware. Remember those molds?

Julie Farrar said...

Mom didn't buy the molds. She just poured Kool-aid in ice trays and we'd hold the cubes in a napkin to eat them quickly before they melted. We went through the summer with red finger tips.

Astra said...

Oh how I wish I could have a whole boring summer again! Anyone have the joy of reading all afternoon in the hammock?
Part of the demise of the boring summer came about with dual career families. Young kids need to be supervised so put them in camps.
That being said, I am guilty of killing the boring summer too. My kids are way too attached to their electronics and forcing us all to 'de-plug' takes a great deal of strategy and effort.

Marijke Vroomen-Durning said...

Hi Julie, thanks so much for mentioning my project GamesWeUsedToPlay.CA

No such thing as "I'm bored" when we were kids. If we dared say that, something always needed cleaning!

Julie Farrar said...

Yes, Marijke, something always needed dusting or washing.

Anonymous said...

Our summer fun consisted of running through the cornfields playing hide-and-seek; making like medieval knights fighting with swords (giant zucchini too large to sell); riding the hay truck and getting all scratchy; squirting cow's milk right from the cow to the kittens...and lots more. You know, just a typical boring summer on the farm.

Anonymous said...

Martine said...Hello,
Right now, many older games back in France as "crazy doctor" as on your picture.
My little nephews love to play "Mille Bornes" and other society games which I also played.
The summer is like in the past, children always to play outdoor games with their cousins and neighbors (swing, bowling, fishing, hiding, swimming, bike ...). However, there are some children who only likes video games. It’s also the time to meet your family or meet new friends in a summer camp.
As for me, I played at games for boys, with glass balls, with little cars, in the battle. The girls hated me, except girls like me.
Sometimes I took risks and I was doing crazy stuff like climbing on a roof or in trees to impress small friends.
Sometimes solitary, I loved to ride ponies, draw, listen music, sing and read comics.
I often went fishing and to the movies with my father, he took me as his son rather than her daughter ☺
recently, A friend told me that I always had keep my child's soul because I still love to play video games, or play with my nephews, and also play cards with friends and I like to joke when it's possible.
I think it's good to keep some of his childhood because this helps the everyday.

Julie Farrar said...

Thanks for all these portraits of your youth. It reminds me to take more time to play each week (which is not the same as exercising).

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