What Happened to Children’s Games?

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It was the 1970s the last time I heard children playing a real children’s game. Red Rover, as it happened. I last heard children skipping rope to rhymes in the 1980s.

Is this just something in Honolulu, or has the children’s game vanished? I hate to think of a world where all entertainment has to come from adults, in organized sports, computer games, things on a screen, even board games. About the closest thing left is riding skateboards. I don’t even see hopscotch diagrams at the elementary school.

No one buys them jump ropes. I haven’t heard a ball being bounced in decades, that didn’t involve dribbling and shooting a basketball. Yoyos, paddleball, jacks — all gone, it seems.

Of course, in today’s cities a game of Hide and Seek seems very unsafe. Too many children go missing as it is. Too many have been raised lacking what we used to call common sense and would go hide someplace they would get stuck or injured. That’s a game for a large landscape.

Children’s games didn’t involve adults, simply. Young children learned them from slightly older ones, watching or being taught. Some, like London Bridge or Ring Around the Rosey, were early and quickly outgrown. Others, like Simon Says or Mother, May I?, could be played by a fairly wide age range. The equipment was simple or non-existent. Parents knew them, but they didn’t participate.

Was this too much independence for the last generation or so of controlling “helicopter” parents? You don’t schedule a game like this, and you pick one or adapt one for the number of kids loose on the block. They were simple-minded, often silly, and just great for a young mind. There was no way to become a champion at most of them, and that wasn’t the point. Fun and a kind of co-operation were the goals. They learned to form their own groups, set their own parameters, and enforce them, all without adult interference. They socialized us in ways that are kind of obviously missing from many young adults I meet.

Please tell me this is a local problem, and these survive mainland.

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