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Things I have learned: The lost adventures of children

Today’s Wisdom: “It is a happy talent to know how to play.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I was a young kid, I grew up in a world of rich experiences. I was a bomber pilot in the war, with a complete group of fellow crew members. Our airplane was a big tree in my friend’s grove. I was also a major league baseball player. I was unique in that my and my friends’ talents allowed us to play every position with our baseball cards on the ball field we’d made out of a big flattened packing box. That was on the rainy days when we couldn’t be at the real one in the park.

I was a race car driver, bravely weaving through traffic at high speed, oblivious to the danger around me. I was also oblivious to the exhaustion of my engine, my friend pushing from behind against the rear of the car we had made out of scrap wood. I became painfully aware of that exhaustion when it was my turn to be the engine.

Children playing with Campbell Kid dolls in March 1912. Photo from the Library of Congress

I was a world explorer, carefully navigating the dangerous terrain of the outback, a mysterious pasture and creek a block from my house. We conquered enemies, discovered exotic wildlife, even planted the flag for America on a few hills. And the hurt, although there were a few arguments over who actually won the battles. Every day brought new adventures, discoveries and new ways to create a fun world for kids.

Neither I nor my friends had any great toys. About the best it got was if we happened to be the first owner of the bike we rode. (I wasn’t.) But we had a great time.

One of the things I have noticed is that kids today seem to have lost the ability to create their own adventures with their own ingenuity. I suppose that has something to do with capitalism. Certainly no one was making any money on us back then. We may have become very different people if we had been bombarded daily with advertising for every conceivable electronic game and device.

I’ve noticed that today’s toy market seems to be for “alone” toys. In my day, we created our own “group” adventures, and if we needed hardware, we created most of that ourselves too. When we finally got old enough to want some of the cool stuff, we all got jobs and bought the stuff ourselves.

I don’t know if today’s kids will turn out any differently. Most people seem to have a way of figuring life out eventually regardless of upbringing. I just know if I had it to do over again, I would do it the same. I’m just sayin.’

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