We used to put our arms out and spin. We'd get so dizzy we'd fall down and couldn’t stand up again without wobbling and staggering, often running into our playmates and making them fall down too. Or, sometimes they’d push us so we wobbled more. We laughed a lot because it was all so silly. We used to hold our breath and hope to faint too. I’m not sure if we caused brain damage.
Most of my childhood lacked toys. I know this sounds impossible for today’s young’uns, but we often just played with our bodies. Tag, Crack the Whip, Mother May I? It was kind of a big deal when we got a Frisbee or a Hula Hoop. Now that I’m thinking about it, a lot of our play involved rotation.
I was expected to go outside to play, without bothering adults, but Grandpa had actual toys. There was a mechanical tin top, a cast iron truck that escaped WWII recycling, games, cards, wooden enigma puzzles… Grandpa liked playing all sorts of things, especially Jarts when they came out. Flying, lethal weapons were great. You just wouldn’t suspect it from him since he was so quiet, gentlemanly, and civilized.
I kind of wish I’d kept more of Grandpa’s toys, but there’s only so much stuff I really need to keep. My plumbing disaster a few years ago went a long ways towards curing me of some of my hoarding tendencies. There’s nothing like looking at blooming mold on something to break my sentimental attachments to it. (You know when mold is “blooming” when it gets colorful and lethal.)
I talked of teeter totters a couple of weeks ago. On the same school playground we also had a merry-go-round. I loved it. You push it in circles and then jump on to delight in the momentum. If you have a group of kids, a designated kid(s) pushes while the others enjoy the ride.
|Not my merry-go-round, but close enough|
Sometimes I remember myself as a solitary kid. I felt alone too often -- then I think of swings and teeter totters and merry-go-rounds and know that I played with the other kids often enough to have a world of happy memories.
Mom threatened to keep me home from school if I didn’t cooperate with her. "NOoooooo!!!” I’d eat lumpy oatmeal on my deathbed to "get to" go to school. One time I had to walk, which was miles of pretty much vertical climbing since I lived in the deep river valley. School was half over by the time I got there, but I still took my turn pushing the merry-go-round with my tired, rubbery legs even though I was criticized by my peers for a lackluster effort that day.
When I substitute taught, I was surprised to see that most kids don’t play on the playground. They cluster in 2s or 3s and text. They do that in gym too. They don’t look happy, and I’m sure they’re missing important life lessons. Our society says “safe” is more important than play, and I think that’s dead wrong. Okay, maybe padding under the playground equipment is a good idea, or teeter totters that aren’t quite so high, but take away the cell phones and push kids into the cold to play. Running will warm them up.