Friday, January 30, 2015

My Connections to Play

Play builds the kind of free-and-easy, try-it-out,
do-it-yourself character that our future needs. - James L. Hymes, Jr.
Play is the highest form of research. – Albert Einstein.

I have been thinking about my own childhood. I think Hymes’ quote would describe my childhood the best. When my father would not be available when he was working at his factory job, my three sisters and I would always be engaged in totally free play. We played with neighborhood kids, or go over friends’ houses in the neighborhood. We rode bikes to visit my father at work and grandparents and to the library to get books. We played hide-n-seek in cornfields. We played pretend office. We played cards in the winter. With neighborhood kids, we played Red Rover, Red Rover. We had bike races, and that’s when I would have skinned knees. We went to the local lake or to the local swimming club.

One of my sisters is the most adventuresome. She’s always – even to this day – thinking of ways to have fun. She would create games to play. On long road trips, she would make up hysterical Seussian stories – stories I told my own children!

My father would play sports with us, never mind we were all four girls. He taught us how to throw footballs, hit balls, and, most importantly, sportsmanship. He would not allow us to show poor sportsmanship. He never lectured at us but showed us how to be good sports.

I don’t like to compare my childhood with my children’s because it is really sad to think about what our children today are missing. It is difficult for me to qualitatively evaluate the importance of play from my childhood. Frankly, I’d rather be reading than playing, and we played because that’s what we did during the late 50s.

Our play was not as supervised except at the lake or at the pool where we had lifeguards. Our parents would frequently drop us off there and return a couple of hours later. In the summer, we would also attend afternoon movie matinees all by ourselves while our parents went shopping.

I would bring my children to the park and sit back and read a book. My children would go down to the school playground down the street, but they did not do that often because there would not be anyone else. We would need to set up playdates for my children to have someone to play with. Everything was structured except in our own home.

I do think our people today is yearning for a better sense of community and trying to set up more community-based activities.

Albert Einstein’s quote sums up all the reasons for the importance of play.

Toys that I had and which I also bought for my children:

I checkedwho James L. Hymes was. He was a national authority on early education who was a member of the National Planning Committee for Head Start during President Lyndon B. Johnson’s tenure. Check out his storied professional life in his obituary in the New York Times.

Saxon, Wolfgang. (March30, 1998) James L. Hymes, Jr., 84, author and specialist on child-rearing. The New York Times. Retrieved January 2015 from:


  1. Great post Marla,
    I find it interesting that you do not like to compare your childhood with your own children's childhood. I, on the other hand, find myself comparing the two all of the time. Sometimes I wish my children knew more about how I grew up. I think that it would make them appreciate more. I also think that it would prompt them to be more responsible with the luxuries that their life affords them.

  2. Marla,
    I agree, I think children are missing out on the fun. I too, enjoyed unstructured play. My mom did not supervise outdoor play. I played in the street, over friends house, skates, riding bikes and no one was concerned until it was time to come in. I think times have changed and parents are afraid to allow children to play outside. Some neighborhoods have high crime and parents do not allow children to go outside much. But, times were different for me growing up in the early 70's and 80's. I believe things started to change in the 90's. Great post.