a peek inside the fishbowl

24 May, 2007

The play we used to play

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Archive of playground games

I’ve been thinking a lot about that list of simple pleasures I posted the other day, and how they affect my sense of happiness in general.

One of the things I forced myself to do that day was strip the bed and hang the sheets outside for a few hours before bedtime. When I got into bed I dropped my face into the pillow and inhaled it. Deeply. Ahhh. Love it.

So if these things are so simple, why am I not trying to do them more often?

I’m also wondering exactly why I picked the things that I did when I first wrote that post. How and why do those things on my list make me happy? And how does my list compare to others?

Let’s look at what Lex wrote, as well as the comments of the previous post. Interestingly, there is overlap. Certain things that we can smell and touch make us happy. Many are outdoorsy things: sun, wind, rain, nature. Many are uncomplicated and inexpensive.

So where do our lists come from? Are our simple pleasures based on something in our childhoods?

The other day I was lying on a small hill, looking up at the clouds while the girls played a short distance away at the playground. As I stared I realized that the clouds were actually layered. Some were farther away than others and were drifting in a slightly different direction. You wouldn’t notice this on first glance, only if you took an extra moment to notice.

They drifted. I drifted. The sounds of the playground blurred together. From time to time one voice rose over the others, but overall it was a very steady mix of shouting and laughter.

I got to thinking. Clearly all the kids were having a fabulous time just doing what kids do, that is, playing. I wondered, when do we stop playing? When we were young we all did it, but at what point did it become less cool (or less appealing?) to goof around like kids do?

There isn’t one standard age at which kids ditch the slide and the sand toys, but I couldn’t help but notice the cutoff age at this playground was about 13. Where were they, and what were they doing instead? Should our parks be geared to older kids as well? Perhaps this is a failing of modern playground planning. What would a pre-teen enjoy at a playground? Ropes and walls for climbing? Perching on tall platforms? Zip lines? Perhaps this is the subject for a whole other post, but obviously the loss of our desire to play is a gradual process and the games we play change as we get older.

Experts tell us that play is a critical part of a child’s development – both physically and mentally. But I don’t doubt that play is good for adults too.

Do I play? I’m not exactly sure. I do know that I don’t play like I used to. So what is adult play supposed to be? What is play exactly?

– to exercise or employ oneself in diversion, amusement, or recreation.
– to do something in sport that is not to be taken seriously.
– to amuse oneself; toy; trifle
– to take part or engage in a game.

(from here)

For me, play is something fun, totally superfluous, and seemingly without aim or purpose.

I think it is interesting to look back on the kind of playing we did as kids and see what it may have evolved into.

Physical play
When we were kids: playground antics, hopscotch, skipping, tag, hide and seek etc.
What did it change into when we grew up? Exercise?

Creative Play
When we were kids: arts and crafts, cutting and pasting, drawing, painting.
What did it change into when we grew up? Scrapbooking? Knitting? Jewelry-making?

Dramatic Play
When we were kids: toys, cars, dolls.
What did it change into? Hmmm. Not sure.

Outdoor Play
When we were kids: sandcastles, mud pies etc.
What did it become when we grew up? Gardening?

I would really like to rekindle my relationship with my younger self and incorporate more play (that is, my own play, not my children’s idea of play) into my life. Perhaps if we all played more we’d be happier people.

After much thought and deliberation I’ve realized I like to:

1) Play with my camera, and take experimental-type photos (that’s gotta count, right?)

2) Ride my bike. Funny, but the joy is sucked out of cycling if I think of it as exercise. If I don’t think about how many calories I’m burning or push myself too hard it’s actually more fun for me.

3) Play catch. Frisbee, ball or boomerang. Doesn’t matter.

4) Play with air/sky related toys – kites, parachuting toys, air rockets etc).

5) Swing on the swings.

6) Collect rocks, shells, beach glass.

7) Swim. When I was a kid, pool-time used to be about splashing around aimlessly until my fingers were pruny. But as I grew older it became more about actual swimming. I like to stretch my muscles in the water, do a few laps and then sit by the side of the pool. The ultimate for me: distance lake swimming. Now that’s fun.

I’ve really had to think long and hard about this list. Phew. Here’s my big question, can I focus and try to incorporate more of this stuff into my everyday life?

Well, I’m going to try. I started by buying myself a really good pair of swim goggles. And I intend on using them. I’m starting tomorrow morning at 6:30, that’s A.M. (Wish me luck!)

Care to play? Use the comments to list one thing you like to play, and promise that you’re going to do it. Over to you…

3 Responses to "The play we used to play"

1 | Jenn

May 24th, 2007 at 2:51 pm


I was looking into things that preteens would enjoy doing in Ottawa and discovered that that Lefleche Caves have an adventure forest with zip lines and tarzan ropes. Surely a stop we will have to plan on making (both caves and trees) next time we visit.
I love geocaching with my son (13). It is amazing the things you can discover with a few coordinates and a GPS. Sounds like your family would really enjoy doing it too! We’ve climbed trees and tip toed down ravines anll for the thrill of finding the cache. Great fun.

2 | BeachMama

May 24th, 2007 at 7:01 pm


I wonder how your list would change if you had written this post in the middle of winter. I know that my list would be full of summery things right now, but in the middle of winter it would consist of a few more wintery things too.

Your list is very inspiring and leads to thinking about what we do for fun as adults. I know that somedays I don’t do enough fun things for me and I really should try to add a little more fun or playtime for me, it is important.

3 | PrettyInTheCity

May 25th, 2007 at 3:11 am



I just found your blog accidently. I love it.
I’ll visit later and drop a comment. If you don’t mind… Cheers

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