Sitting watching the television recently, I felt both amazement and sadness when I saw a 2-year-old using an iPad for entertainment. Yes, technology is a wonderful thing, and I’m a slave to it as much as the next person, but there are so many fun play options for a 2-year-old. What do you reckon? Are kids still getting the full childhood experience, or are they dipping out on all the fun stuff that used to keep us entertained?
It seems to me life was so much simpler and much more rich for my generation of kids. The words ‘child’s play’ bring back so many great memories for me – and none of them involve technology – except perhaps television, but that’s another story!
Dolls and a doll’s house, play dough, bubble blowers, colouring in, dress ups, swing sets, slippery slides, knuckles, hide and seek, chasey, tea parties, doctor and nurses (I had my own nurse’s uniform and first aid kit), and marbles all helped to fill in those carefree days. Does anyone remember the paper dolls and their wardrobes that you would pop out of a book and attach to the dolls with paper tabs? They were a real favourite of mine and something Mum would produce when I was sick. She also gave me paper doilies to colour in and they kept my mind off my sore throat, sniffy nose or whatever for ages. And how about the Spirograph? All those beautiful designs!
There were, however, accidents! I remember my friend, Tony, and I thinking it’d be fun to build a cubby out of some corrugated iron advertising boards. We did indeed make a great cubby house, until the sheet that was the roof slipped and, in falling, sliced Tony’s head open! From then on our cubbies were made with the kitchen table, sheets and blankets! Then there was the day when my friend and I were happily swinging away on our Hills double swing. Suddenly my cousin appeared and in her rush to say hello walked right behind one end of the swing and copped an awful whack! Not long after that one of the neighbourhood kids was climbing up a pine tree in the back yard to get to the treehouse when an irate magpie swooped at her, causing her to tumble out of that tree and break her arm! On another occasion my brother was go-karting down our driveway, forgot about the brake and smashed into a blue metal retaining wall. He sliced his tongue open (not sure how that happened!) and had to be rushed off to the doctors where he had the ugly split diathermied.
Now this all sounds horrible but did these kids all survive? YES! And did they go back to doing the same thing? YES! Because it was simply too much fun to miss out on! I know it’s silly to take unnecessary risks but, honestly, I think we wrap our kids in cotton wool these days.
Of course, not all our childhood activities ended at a doctor’s surgery. There were plenty of more tame options available to us. I remember going to visit my Grandma and looking forward to doing scrapbooking with her. Not the sort of scrapbooking we do these days. I had a fair dinkum scrapbook at Grandmas, and when I visited we sat and flipped through the pages of old magazines. Anything that took our fancy was cut out – very meticulously – and pasted onto those blank pages. No glue sticks were used, Grandma made her own glue from cornflour and water and it worked a treat. I always thought she was so clever to be able to make her own glue! Another treat at Grandma’s was to help her do the baking. I loved to help her roll out pastry and cut out scones or biscuits and then wait patiently until the goodies came out of the oven. When these grandparents moved to Scarborough, it was even more special to spend time with them, and the big treat was going to the beachfront where a row of trampolines covered holes in the ground and we bounced and flipped until we were exhausted!
My other Grandma had a beautiful big mango tree in her back yard and my brother and I loved to get down there and climb as high as we could. The only drawback about the mango tree was that it was full of mosquitoes so we emerged covered in mozzie bites and we scratched like dogs! Grandma also had a pianola that I loved to play. I remember feeling like a very talented pianist back then, but when I started taking piano lessons I soon learnt that my musical talents were somewhat limited. Unfortunately my piano teacher was my neighbour so she knew when I did and didn’t practise!
With school came a whole new world of ‘play’. Yo-yos, hoopla hoops, hopscotch, elastic (which I loved but was hopeless at – only the long-legged girls were good at that!), skipping, and red rover became firm favourites. Then, in grade 6, we discovered Danish rounders which was all the more special because we were allowed to play it before school with the grade 7 boys! Of course softball, netball and basketball were also on the agenda, along with jazz ballet, tap dancing and classical ballet. We walked to and from school, dodging swooping magpies and kicking stones along the way. In grade 5 I was given my very first push-bike and my friends and I would spend after school hours riding around the local park and looking for penny turtles and tadpoles in the creek.
Yes, they were carefree days. I think the kids of today are missing out. See-saws, slippery slides and whirly gigs seem to have disappeared from parks. And don’t even get me started on the reasoning behind putting the beautiful big steam engine at New Farm Park behind fencing. As kids we spent many hours clambering over that beauty. Such a shame that we now live in such a litigious world where everyone is afraid of being sued!
I’m so glad I grew up in the ’50s and ’60s when fun was just so easy!
What do you reckon? Are kids still getting the full childhood experience, or are they dipping out on all the fun stuff that used to keep us entertained?