During my elementary grade school years in Connecticut, my neighborhood friends and I would play all kinds of outdoor games. Living in a wooded setting, we loved to run, hide, and tag each other. Kids have been playing such games for centuries. I’m not talking about a card game, board game, or even a computer game, just simple human interaction which we found exhilarating. Interestingly, I never knew these were all designed to be political in nature, but now we are hearing such games are affecting young egos and, consequently, are being banned in schools.
We did a lot of things outdoors, regardless of the season, but we were very keen on summer and autumn as we could run through the forests, play in a river, stay up late, and explore our world. I’m not sure children today play such games as they are probably perceived as archaic. I liked it because it gave us a chance to get some exercise, and use your imagination for competitive purposes.
Here are the games I remember:
TAG – was one of the easiest games to play. Someone is appointed “it,” who must then touch another person who becomes “it.” You, of course, tried to avoid becoming “it.” Remarkably, I have heard stories of adults playing this game today in the corporate world. I also remember watching my son playing it with his friends as well. The version I played included a “home base,” usually consisting of a tree, where a contestant could rest and be free of becoming “it.” The only problem here though, the “it” person stood near you to assure you didn’t get away. You had to time your escape carefully to elude being tagged.
According to “experts,” the game of tag promotes a predatory experience, thereby causing school districts in Alabama, California, South Carolina, and Washington to ban the game. Not surprising, some people today view the game as promoting sexual harassment and bullying. I never thought of the game this way, it was just a great way to learn to sprint, dodge around objects and, if captured, learn to defend “home base.” I never saw it as a game of intimidation, nor did my friends or my son’s generation. If you didn’t want to play, nobody forced you, but if you elected to play, you better be fast on your feet and know how to use your head.
HIDE AND SEEK – another old favorite, particularly being in a wooded setting which afforded some great places to hide. Here, the “it” person would have to close his eyes and count to ten (or higher), after which he would declare, “Ready or not, here I come!” and try to locate everyone who was concealed. Here, the “it” person didn’t wander too far from “home base” as the other contestants would race to the base and yell, “Home free” (meaning safe from capture). If the “it” person discovered a concealed contestant, the race was on for home base where the “it” person declared “Tap, tap, tap, I see Joe, 1, 2, 3.” Joe would then become the next “it” person.
I’m sure Hide and Seek is another game frowned on by some people as they see this it as another way to mentally scar children. If anything, the game taught the “it” person to be more cunning and protect home base. We used to play this for hours, and at night.
RED ROVER – originated in England and migrated around the world. The contestants are split into two teams. Each team holds hands and forms a line. The two teams, East and West, take turns calling for someone from the other team to try and break their human chain, “Red Rove, Red Rover, can Billie come over?” If they cannot break the chain, they join the other side. If the person breaks through, he takes two players back to his team. This goes on until one person is left on a team.
Some would say this somehow promotes discrimination, which, of course, is not so. It is a strategy game to build up your line, promote teamwork, and to find “the weakest link.”
RED LIGHT/GREEN LIGHT – was a favorite of mine. The “it” person would be separated from the rest of the contestants by approximately fifty feet. The objective was for the others to cross the distance as fast as possible to tag the “it” person. However, they had to observe the commands of the “it” person who would hide his face and yell, “Green Light” (meaning to go), and “Red Light” (meaning to stop). If the person yells “Red Light” and turns his head and finds someone moving, the offender must return to the starting line. Again, this was a game of strategy as you had to out-think the “it” person’s cadence.
This is somewhat like tag in that you had to act and think fast. Critics claim it is not fair as the fastest person typically wins. Not true. Quite often, the fast person would be spotted moving and caused to return to the starting line. The winner would be the person who would avoid the line of sight of the “it” person and steadily advance.
COPS AND ROBBERS – was another variation of tag, except this version was played as a team. The cops were “it” and had to find the robbers who would hide out and try to sneak back to home base to spring one of their fellow robbers.
In this age of political incorrectness, I suspect kids want to be “robbers” as opposed to “cops,” just the antithesis of my day.
SCAVENGER HUNT – was a rare game of seeking clues around the neighborhood until we discovered the end. If parents wanted to occupy our time at considerable length, they would have an adult design a hunt that would run us around the neighborhood, and even to our nearby school. Frankly, it was diabolical, but we had a ball chasing our tails around town.
Scavenger Hunts are still common today, particularly by the homeless in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
We also did such things as collecting lightning bugs (fireflies) in jars. Back in the 1950’s there was an infestation of Japanese beetles on the eastern seaboard. I can vividly remember using similar jars to catch the beetles before they ate everything in site. I’m sure someone will say this is cruel treatment for such insects. The lightning bugs we would eventually let go, but we killed the Japanese beetles as they were obnoxious little critters.
And finally, we spent considerable time spinning tops and yo-yos. I still have my top from grade school and know how to tie the string to spin it. I’m sure, those imbued in political correctness would say we were creating a hazard on sidewalks, or worse, we would strangle the blood flow to the finger, thereby causing amputation. Get real.
Again, if you didn’t want to play these games, nobody was holding a gun to your head to do so. If you didn’t want to play, you didn’t play, but if you did, you knew the rules and used your head.
I deeply resent these games being politicized and banned by public schools. Liberals typically object to these games as they feel they are unfair and, as such, accuse them of being abusive. On the other hand, conservatives understand and accepts the rules of the game and participates accordingly.
As far as I am concerned, let kids be kids. Let’s not inhibit their playtime as this is important for developing their socialization skills. Then again, maybe this is what the opposition is trying to control. By the way, in my neighborhood, boys and girls played these games together with no thought of one sex being superior to the other, but I’m sure someone will say it is harmful to equal rights.
One last thing. No, this is not about everyone needing to win a trophy or ribbon for playing such games. It was a simple matter of going out and having some fun.
Keep the Faith!
P.S. – Don’t forget my new book, “Tim’s Senior Moments” now available in Printed and eBook form.
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]
For Tim’s columns, see: timbryce.com
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