Tag Archives: games

Can Timmy Come Out and Play?

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I just made a batch of play dough. Green. With glitter. I’m 59. I don’t have kids. I can’t wait to play with it! For those of you worrying about my mental health, it’s not really for me. It’s for a group of kids I read to at our library. But I will not lie to you. I WILL be playing with it, right along with them.

So what is it about some of us that makes us still love to play when we are probably way too old to be considered a kid? For me, it’s not just play dough. It’s games, toys, crafts and using my imagination with abandon. I’ve always lusted after kids’ toys and games, and I’ve always encouraged creative play. Fortunately, I’ve spent most of my life working with kids, so I’ve been able to get away with lots of playing. But I’m sure there are others out there who may be closeted players.

But nothing is closeted at my house…when you come over, you will find shelves filled with games and toys in full view. I have quite the collection of antique games I’ve gotten from garage sales and thrift shops that bring back childhood memories, along with some of the new-fangled games and contraptions that kids play with. And some of my own toys and games from when I was a kid. Yes, I kept them all these years. And I dearly miss the ones that my parents gave away along the way.

And these things do not just sit on the shelves. I get tingly all over when someone comes over to play a game with me. And I find myself toying with puzzles and games on my own, whenever possible. Brain teasers, Sudoku, jigsaws, crosswords…puzzles of all kinds just thrill me and I can become quite addicted to them, given enough free time. I’ve branched out from the good old board or card games, and now also play electronically on my iPad or computer.

I really believe that play is healthy at any age. I know quite a few people who would benefit from a bit of play. Maybe some charades, a dress-up contest or a few rounds of Boggle! Because you can’t play a game and not smile or laugh at some point. And playing keeps your brain engaged. I’m sure there are studies somewhere that show that play makes you live longer, but I really don’t have time to research…I’ve got fresh play dough to squish!

Monopolized

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Just for fun…a challenge to use all of the Monopoly pieces in a story…

It was up to the dog to do everything. He ironed his shirt. He put on his top hat and drove to town in the race car, where he sold tickets to the re-enactment, where they shot off the cannon every Saturday. This was so he could earn a few bucks for gas for the race car. He had a summer job on the cruise ship, cleaning up spills and singing karaoke to entertain the passengers.

When he wasn’t out earning his keep, he ran around the neighborhood, peeing on everyone’s property. This is how the Marvin Gardens cul-de-sac became yellow. Boardwalk and Park Place have banned him from the property.

If he doesn’t get thrown in jail, and his luck holds out, he brings home $200 for passing GO on his way home. By the time he gets home, he’s so tired, he just plops in his shoe and falls fast asleep.

Monopoly on Boardwalk and Park Place

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I recently made a birthday card for my brother out of old Monopoly cards. It’s so shabby chic these days to use old game pieces to make things, I just had to give it a whirl. And I was fortunate enough to come across some bags of Monopoly cards at a yard sale not long ago. I didn’t do this just for the sake of making something shabby chic, because, believe me, my brother couldn’t care less about shabby chic. No, it was more because of the history of Monopoly that my brother and I share.

You see, we played a lot of Monopoly as young kids. I loved it, but my brother was WAY more serious about it than I was. He played for blood, and dragged the game out until I was begging to forfeit. He ALWAYS seemed to land on Boardwalk and Park Place first, and was ALWAYS able to afford them, along with a full set of houses, which then got traded in for hotels. Thus began his reign as Monopoly slumlord.

From there, it was all downhill for me. Even if I had accumulated some properties, he seemed to have an uncanny knack for collecting rent, receiving tax dividends, winning beauty contests, and passing GO. Meanwhile, I spent a lot of time in jail, paying taxes, paying rent, and mortgaging properties in order to pay the rent. His stack of colorful money grew, while mine dwindled down to ones and fives.

For those of you who lived on Mars and never played Monopoly, the way you win the game is when the other players go broke. But this standard of victory was not good enough for my brother. Oh, no! He had to force me to write out IOU’s long after I’d run out of money, and mortgaged all of my properties, making it impossible for me to make any money. From there on out, it was just me going through the motion of writing IOU’s until he finally gave in and let me lose, with a sinister chortle.

This pattern went on throughout our childhood years. He was a winner – I was a loser. Plain and simple. But, over the years, I kept that Monopoly game, along with many of the handwritten IOU’s, complete with it’s orange soda stain right in the middle of the board. I used it at a child care program I ran, and then it sat in the closet for years. But one time, several years ago, my brother came to Minnesota to visit. And I had to ask him the big question. Would he want to have a Monopoly rematch, as adults? Of course, he went for it.

Being older and wiser, I maneuvered my purchases wisely, acquiring enough properties to collect some rent of my own, even if he were to get Boardwalk and Park Place, as usual. Let’s just say that things didn’t go as they used to go, many years earlier. We were neck and neck for quite some time, but eventually HE started losing money, and I started collecting quite a stack of colorful bills. When he got to that point where he was mortgaging properties to pay his bills, I started smiling. I was WINNING at Monopoly…against my BROTHER! He did not choose to write out any IOU’s. He just gave up. I even took pictures to have proof of this monumental event. It was priceless!

So, now you know why that card was so significant. He got a kick out of it, too. On the front were the deeds for Boardwalk and Park Place, and inside were a Get Out Of Jail Free card and a You Won the Beauty Contest card. I even enclosed two golden $500 bills for spending money for his birthday.

 

Player

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When I was a kid, play meant do fun things. It really was that simple. You ran around outside with your friends, or used your imagination to invent complex situations using simple objects you had around the house. You had simple, straightforward toys, or made everyday objects into your toys. Today, play can mean many things, but rarely means just do fun things. You need expensive equipment, a fancy destination, and a master’s degree to figure out the rules.

Usually, modern-day play involves having access to, and knowing how to use a computer, smart phone, Wii, X-Box, or some other electronic device. Or it might involve a play date at which you usually travel several miles to an amusement park or water park, and pay a lot of money to brave the crowds and wait in lines in order to do fun things. At the age of 3 or 4, kids are riding around on their own 4-wheelers or snowmobiles! And even the simpler toys of today are expensive and really don’t allow for much creativity. You buy a Lego kit that makes one character, you build it, and you play with it, until you get bored with that one character.

When we were kids, we had things like jump ropes, rubber bouncy balls, jacks, marbles, tea sets, army men, Legos, cars, and dolls. Inside, we used measuring cups, pots, pans, glasses, and spoons to play in the water in the kitchen sink. We filled our tea sets with water and had a tea party with no one else in attendance. We put our dolls to sleep in a cardboard box with one of our old blankets. We built forts out of blankets and chairs, or between our beds. We played store, or restaurant. We played marbles on the rug, or raced our cars around on the floor. We played board games like Monopoly or Pachisi, or played solitaire or rummy. In the summer we would swing on the swing set, go down the slide, or ride our bikes. We played jump rope until the rope wore out from hitting the pavement. We roller skated, pogo sticked, turned cartwheels, did handstands and backbends, played tag, hide and seek, red light/green light, and Red Rover. We went outside and ran around until we couldn’t run any more. If it was hot, we’d play with the hose, or the sprinkler. In the winter we’d go sledding, have snowball fights, and build snow forts.

One of my favorite play “inventions” was making “salad” out of grass and various bits of plant life outside, and pretending to serve it. And I remember when I was very young, my mom would wrap one of her aprons around me (on me it was up high under my armpits, like a dress), and stand me on a kitchen chair so I could reach to play in the sink. My brother and I each had a collection of marbles. Mom sewed us each a drawstring bag to keep them in. We didn’t just play marbles with them. I remember we had a coffee table that had a little rim around the top edge, so you could roll your marbles around on it without them rolling off the table. We would put out a bunch of marbles, and then tip the table around to make them “skate” as we hummed The Skater’s Waltz. If I was invited to play with my brother’s Legos, it was a big deal. We would build elaborate buildings, or castles with motes. And if I was really lucky, he’d let me play with his Erector Set with him, which involved true engineering skills. We made gears that turned, and moved the machines we’d invent. There were even batteries to connect power to these inventions. But I could also play jacks for a good portion of the day, and be quite happy.

Our biggest leaps into technology were watching Looney Tunes cartoons on TV, listening to our transistor radio, playing records on our record player, and eventually, recording goofy stuff on our reel to reel tape recorder. We didn’t have child-sized 4-wheelers, or snowmobiles. We didn’t have to master the computer games, and couldn’t experience a “real” drive-by shooting, either, and that was just fine by us. We were busy coming up with the next maneuvers for the little plastic army men perched on the hill next to our house.

I have to wonder how these very different modes of “creative play” affect us as we become adults. I think my brother and I, and those of our generation turned out just fine. We went to school, got good jobs, made friends, and learned all the new technologies as they came along. We became problem-solvers, collaborators, and inventors. And today’s kids? Are they less able to be problem-solvers and team players? I don’t think so…they just might approach it using different technologies and strategies.

But when it comes to creativity, I’m not sure it’s the same. Maybe not any worse or better for one generation or the other, but definitely different. I can still brainstorm and come up with creative ideas like crazy. I’ve found some of the younger generation have trouble with this “free thinking” creativity. I remember when I was teaching, thinking it was so great to let my students have a “free choice” day in their writing journals. They thought it sucked. Some of them sat there the entire time, unable to think of anything to write about. They needed me to tell them a topic…give them a specific assignment. They couldn’t just write about anything they were thinking about.

I hope that there are still kids out there running around, just playing, with no fancy equipment, from time to time. I hope that sometimes the computer games are set aside for a good round of gin rummy with the family. I hope that the violence in the simulation games isn’t rubbing off on the kids of today. I hope that some kids still want to run through the sprinkler with their siblings rather than go to the fancy water park. 

The Card Party

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Last night I went to a card party with some of my friends. We found ourselves scrounging for decks of cards. Only two of us owned cards. I’m talking about regular decks of playing cards. You know, the kind with 4 suits, 52 cards, and Jokers, right? Discovering the age of the decks I owned, and the fact that some of my friends didn’t even own any decks of cards, I started thinking about card playing.

 

Two of my decks had a graphic of my high school on the front, and I remember buying them when I was in high school. That was many moons ago, but I still have them, in their fuzzy, flocked box that slides open. Our school sold cards because people played cards back then. Even young people knew how to play. We even had a student “lounge” where we would spend our study hall hours playing cards. Crazy Eights, Spades, Hearts…the harmless kinds of card games.

 

As we were playing last night, we started talking about our card-playing histories. All of us played cards as kids with our families, and then with friends, as we grew older. I learned to play poker with my grandma, and remember on my first win (at the ripe old age of around 5) reaching to collect my winning pot, saying, “Come to papa!” because that’s what I’d heard her say. I didn’t understand why all of the adults were laughing so hard at my win. It made for a hilarious story she used to tell everyone as I got older. She also taught us to play Canasta, and my brother and I would play with her for hours. My mom taught me to play solitaire, and I was addicted within minutes. I still have the 150 Ways to Play Soiltaire book I bought from my school book order way back then.

 

Everyone else had their stories of playing various card games with family and friends, and we started to wonder about kids growing up today. Do you think they even know what a deck of cards looks like? You can play all manner of “card” games on your iPad, computer, or phone, but have many of them ever actually had their hands on a deck of REAL cards? Do they have time to play card games? There is so much for them to do these days…watch YouTube videos, text their friends who are in the same room as they are, cruise Facebook, send Snapchats to each other, snap selfies. I really doubt Spoons or Bridge is “in the cards” for any of today’s kids. But I will hang onto my flocked box of cards for the next opportunity to play a round of Tic, and be glad that I still have the skills to play engaging card games with friends, where we actually touch the cards.