Youngsters nowadays have tough choices when it comes to playing. For those of us who are living our second half of a century, the p word meant wandering outdoors to look for trees to climb, finding neighbor kids willing to put together a newly invented street game, or digging up some dirt suitable to build forts or create giant war zones for green plastic army men.
Fortunately or unfortunately depending on your point of view, modern children have to choose between suspenseful electronic games filled with animated action characters making crazy sound effects or digging deep into their imaginations. Often times, kids faced with such a choice don’t consider heading for fresh air playtime. The siren call of digital games are too strong. This concerns me. My mind was relieved one recent warm evening when I saw five little girls making up a crazy running game near a local golf course.
The recent time change that added an hour of sunlight at the end of the day, warm temperatures, and a light breeze set the stage for this group of lively four to ten-year-olds. Dressed for the weather in T-shirts, shorts, capris, tennis shoes, and sandals, they scampered over newly greening grass to play some unfamiliar version of tag. Based on their movement, they weren’t playing freeze, all in, or elbow tag. What they were playing engaged them and made them laugh.
They played best sort of childhood game, an evolving activity that didn’t have set rules. From the window-side dining table where I sat and observed, I couldn’t hear individual voices. However, every now and then, the entire group paused to listen politely to one of the participants. I never saw a vote of hands but heads nodded, and when action restarted, new guidelines drove their actions.
Various aged girls scampered around the green area and touched a variety of flags poking out of the ground. After contacting the target, they circled, and then ran full speed to the top of a nearby hill where they paused. They’d catch their breath, scan to see where everyone else was, and then shift into full tilt mode. No matter how pointless their movements appeared to snoopy adults, these kids were having a blast.
Remembering my own youth, I recalled how the first days of warm weather seemed like the very best part of the year. My friends and I were tired of wearing layers on layers of warm clothing before heading to a nearby field or yard to play. Sure, constructing snowmen, throwing snowballs, and lugging one another around on a sled was fun, but there is something special about playing outside until dark during the first balmy evenings after daylight saving time starts. I have to think memories made out of doors in early spring beat those made playing computer games in a dimly lit house.