Play Connections

“The opposite of play is not work. It’s depression.”

Brian Sutton-Smith (American Folklorist)

My childhood was filled with play. I was one of four children. We lived in several different houses growing up, but we always had a decent piece of land with a variety of animals. My dad was a gear head. He had race cars, a motorcycle, and worked as a mechanic. He brought home go-carts and min-motorcycles for us. We spent our summer afternoons roller skating through the neighborhood and picking wild mulberries and stuffing ourselves until our lips and fingers were soaked purple with the gluttony of simple summer sweetness. We roamed in packs, hopping rocks in creeks and crushing cattail heads at the shore of a pond.

My yard had swings, a slide, a teeter totter, and a trampoline with no nets or pads and the bounciest mat I’ve ever encountered. I also had parents that tended to assume that we likely wouldn’t kill ourselves and, therefore, rarely checked on us or supervised our activities. They were mostly right, except for the time my brother put a hole in the back of his head on one of the springs, or the time I cracked my tailbone, or the time my little brother crashed the motorcycle and got pinned underneath it until he was found there asleep several hours later, or the time my little brother pushed my sister over and she impaled her thigh on the too-sharp corner of the foot of our slide, leaving a scar that is to this day nothing short of gnarly. But it was worth it, because we were free. Our friends loved coming to our house. Plus, we were allowed to say words that would have gotten our friends slapped at home. They liked that a lot too!

kids in a creek

In the winter, I had to be more creative. Although I was born and raised in Colorado, I have never been able to enjoy playing in the snow. For what it’s worth, I also despise camping. I’m a Colorado girl, through and through, just not a stereotypical one I guess. For me, reading books was play. I read voraciously through my whole childhood. I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend a day. My daughter has picked up the same habit and it makes me so happy to see that she understands the irreplaceable pleasure of reading great books. I hope that she continues to choose this as a preferred activity because it has so much to offer her. She is currently six-years-old and reading at a third grade level. I know that choosing reading as a play activity is reaping huge benefits for her brain. Because my father was a mechanic and race car driver, we had a lot of toy cars around. He also made us a huge set of unit blocks. We would construct drag racing events centers and run races with our Matchbox cars. I don’t think that it ever actually mattered who won.

The four of us played together a lot. My siblings were my best friends in childhood. They were my worst enemies too, to be fair. We built huge forts and had huge fights. In the end, we learned a lot from each other. Together we learned to solve disputes, explore our curiosities, be persistent, laugh, be flexible and open to other people’s ideas. Today we are all happy, successful people. We are a school administrator, accountant, social researcher, and mechanical engineer. We have good relationships with our significant others and with our extended family. The time we spent playing without being supervised by our parents was the formative development of our creative selves and the foundation of our success today.

“Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent, and independent with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play.”

Henri Matisse (French Painter)

unit blocks

My goal as a parent and as an administrator is to ensure that I am fostering play and creating environments where children can construct themselves without unnecessary adult impediments. Not only do I want to develop optimal work/play environments for children, I want to remember that play is important for me too. Today I spent most of my time with my daughter doing things she suggested. We made caramel apples and then pizzas. We colored and we had a dance party to Florence and the Machine. She reminds me that play is still joyful and worthwhile. I am committed to remembering that I am not too good for play. In fact, I need it.


~ by vegucationmama on September 28, 2013.

3 Responses to “Play Connections”

  1. Thanks for another great blog post! I love that you included reading in play. I loved reading as a child and now I’m the “weird” adult who never goes anywhere without a book. In childhood, books served as a springboard to my play. I would read about pirates, then play pirates. The other way around was also true: sometimes I would use books as a resource when I wanted to look something up based on the play I was engaged in.

    • Books were very much both an inspiration and a resource for me as well! My mother saved many of my favorite books from childhood, including the complete Little House on the Prairie series, and now my daughter is reading the exact same books I read and acting out her interpretations of the stories! Books are one of the best toys out there.

  2. Your childhood sound like something pretty amazing. I kind of wish I was there. It is every childs drem to have a trampoling. Pretty amazing story.

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