The Games We Used to Play

What ever happened to down time? ~ unscheduled time when there were no camps, no scheduled activities, when there was time to be creative, sit and think, stare at the clouds?? Anna Quindlen, former Newsweek columnist, writes,

“I mourn hanging out in the backyard. I mourn playing wiffle ball in the street without a sponsor and matching shirts. I mourn drawing in the dirt with a stick.” She concludes, “We have deprived them of the gift of boredom.”

That started me thinking: what did I used to do with those long summer days? when I complained to my Mom that I was bored, and she told me to go out and play? I played with my friends, my neighbors, even my brother – because none of them were at camp either. I remember the games we used to play: simon says, red light green light, freeze tag and tv tag, 4-square, jump rope, hop scotch, hide and go seek, kick ball, dodge ball, spud, “500,” wiffle ball, capture the flag…the list goes on and on. The beauty of those games: very little or no equipment, very few rules, not much team choosing, almost no time constraints – the game ended when we were called in for dinner. No one kept score, recorded a win-loss record or awarded trophies.

Nearly all summer long, my kids tell me they’re bored. I suggest they go out to play one of these games. They look puzzled. My kids have never played them. I haven’t taken the time to show them. How could I have failed to pass along these pieces of childhood lore? These survival skills for the summer doldrums? Well, I rationalize, it’s hard to find time amid camps, trips to the pool and family travel. We’re too busy! Yes, busy!

Hmm, I wonder whether it’s worth my time (and theirs) since we are so busy. What did I learn from those games anyway? Well, there’s jumping, running, stopping and turning on a dime, throwing, catching, dodging, estimating the trajectory of a hopper, avoiding the tag. Oh, and there’s diplomacy and compromise, taking turns, friendship, fairness, rules, plays, teamwork and team spirit, sportsmanship, winning and losing. And, I never wore a knee brace, iced an injury or had a personal trainer.

As I write this, no adult at my church has come forward to lead the recreation period during Vacation Bible School this year. I wonder if we have forgotten how to play those games, how much fun they were, and how much we learned. Before they go back to school, I’m going to give my kids some time to be bored. Then, I’m gonna tell them to go out and play ~ and play with them!

About Wendy LeBolt

Since 2005, Fit2Finish has been working with parents, coaches, and athletes to keep youth sports healthy. Injuries and burnout should not be sidelining our kids, but young players need special care and handling to manage today’s demanding competitive schedules. Fit2Finish wants to put this know-how into your hands.

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