Baby boomer echoes - Creative play

by Teresa Zaverl

CREATIVE PLAY<BR><BR> There’s something about school on summer break and the longer and warmer days of the season that reminds me of a Boomer kid’s off time and all the creative play we packed into those three months of “freedom.” <BR><BR>Are kids creatively playing in the 21st century? I guess you could say so when you see them zooming around on their bikes, swimming, playing baseball or selling lemonade on the street. <BR><BR>Do they know all of the ideas we came up with to entertain ourselves? And those of us old enough to grow up without a computer loaded with games and TV channels, videos and an assorted plethora of options relied on the old noggin to satisfy kiddy pleasures. <BR><BR>Boomer parents knew kids needed fresh air and an airing out. The first activity planned for a preschool kid was a dirt pile or homemade sand box.<BR><BR>Do you see many sand boxes today? Boomer kids could tell you just about every yard had one. Dad with a few boards usually constructed them or it could get fancier complete with a tarp awning. Whatever style, kids enjoyed the dirt experience. There’s something synonymous with a kid and dirt. It’s meant to be. <BR><BR>I’ve read modern texts exclaiming kids should not be exposed to dirt play. Something to do with microorganisms and parasites. Really. We thought dirt was a great thing and I guess our parents condoned our mesmerized hours of play in that medium. <BR><BR>That’s where creativity came in. A kid could spend hours in a sandbox and pass the time of day. All one needed was a pail, coffee can, shovel, any kind of toy, sticks and a water source. <BR><BR>It was social to have neighborhood kids share your dirt space and you welcomed any paraphernalia they could drag over. That way creativity expanded. <BR><BR>Dirt allowed us to emulate adult occupations. One could be a road builder, an architect or a baker. And everyone remembers bakers creating chocolate treats. Any pan or can would do. A kid could create delicacies fit for a king’s court, molded and shaped (with a little water) and of course you needed a willing subject to taste-test your creation. <BR><BR>It seems there was always someone polite or enticed enough to devour a sample. And yes, the kid ate the dirt! No one known to me died from this activity and I’m sure one taste satisfied one’s crave and curiosity. And believe it or not, recent literature expounds the “goodness” of dirt. Supposedly it benefits the immune system. <BR><BR>Backyard swings were another summer pastime. Those were usually rigged up by dad and hung from a tree or the clothesline poles. They came in the form of a tire hung by heavy-duty rope or chained links connected to a leftover board. No matter the style, we could spend idle time swinging away, challenging ourselves to touch the sky with our toes. <BR><BR>Not many families invested in swing sets - that was for the park; besides going there meant you had to share your thrills with a bunch of other kids - and if you weren’t of an aggressive nature you’d probably wait all day for a turn. <BR><BR>If sandboxes, swinging and riding your bike around the neighborhood bored you there was nothing better than getting together with a few pals to concoct some other group activity. Kids have a denning instinct similar to the wolf and dog. Why not create a safe-haven? <BR><BR>Younger kids designed towel houses. Just ask mom for some old towels, blankets or sheets and clothespin it all to the clothesline. Move in a table and some chairs and comic books. You’re set for privacy and the smug thought of having your own dwelling. <BR><BR>Older kids constructed shacks and tree houses out of any scraps they could find. If they couldn’t come up with enough of dad’s nails, scrounging the alleys or rail yards might produce a couple of pockets full of needed building materials. <BR><BR>Tree houses and shacks were private dwellings. Only certain members were allowed, and unlike the little kid’s towel house parents didn’t have too much access to the uncertified address of such dwellings. <BR><BR>Of course that was subject to change if any trouble broke out in those undisclosed locals. What trouble? <BR><BR>That bit of freedom might have enticed tree and shack dwellers to celebrate their emancipation with experimenting with a little “chew” or lighting up some cigarette butts. A “girlie’ magazine might have floated around in lieu of comic books. A little Huck Finn in everyone-until Ma received a phone call telling her there was “trouble in River City.” End of tree house or shack. <BR><BR>The older kid ended up sticking around the neighborhood on his bike and maybe watching his dumb younger siblings get creative with puppet shows. Not every little kid owned a puppet but their appeal to young kids (especially after watching Captain Kangaroo and Shari Lewis) inspired productions only an audience of moms could applaud to. <BR><BR>Remember using one of dad’s old socks with some buttons sewn on as your puppet character? <BR><BR>And a young kid might try his/her hand in the business world by selling lemonade or Kool- Aid. That often came to a kabosh too, as most Boomer parents in Ely didn’t relish the fact their kid was begging for money on the street. <BR><BR>So what did I say here? Not that kids today do some of these things, but it appears their summer lives are more regulated and controlled by adult supervisors. They have umpteen things to participate in - from sports to theater productions to summer school and camps. <BR><BR>I just hope they have the chance to monkey with dirt, explore their surroundings, get a little independent and build a fort, swing on or roll a tire for entertainment, stay outdoors as much as possible and maybe make a couple of bucks selling lemonade. Let imagination guide unlimited and memorable childhood fun!