The Value of Play

My day begins something like this: I get up mid-morning and make my coffee. As I sip breakfast, I peruse social media and find out what’s going on in the world. Sometimes I find an article that tickles my brain. I let ideas percolate, then write on whatever subject comes to mind and let it sit for a while as I do other stuff.

The other day, a high-school friend (now a teacher) posted a great article on learning in children from ages 2 to 7. It made me realize that’s probably one of the main reasons I love kids in that age group. It also got my mind scrolling back through memories of my own life and the excitement I felt about various things I tried as a kid and how they shaped the adult me.

I have sketchy memories of my first few years. I remember bits and pieces of life before my father moved the family to Europe for a few years when I was about 5 or so. But some of my best childhood memories come from being about 7 or 8. My brother and I had the run of the base housing area, as long as we stayed in the fence and were home for lunch and supper. That’s not to say that we stayed where we were supposed to. We didn’t. I can’t tell you how many times our dad got a phone call from the MPs to get his kids.

Play was what we did in those days, mostly outdoors. I remember climbing—a lot. I climbed trees and fences. Heck, the housing area used coal heating with twin stacks close enough to shimmy up, so us kids would challenge each other to see who could get up the highest. The older kids always won. (They were taller, duh.)

My siblings and I also played games. Board games like Parcheesi®, Clue®, and Sorry!®. Card games like Go Fish, Hearts, and War. Pretend games like Army, space exploration, and ice fort wars (in the winter, of course). Outdoor games included tag, hide-n-seek, and kick the can. You name it, we played. As we got older, our games got more sophisticated like Chess, Stratego®, and Risk®. Eventually, my brother and I found Dungeons & Dragons®—separately, I might add.

Play is still a large part of my life, although my games have changed. These days I spend more time in online games that I can turn into stories, but the idea is the same. I still enjoy sitting at a table with family challenging each other at various board games—Munchkin®, Risk, and D&D top the list among adults. The kids are addicted to kicking my butt at Munchkin, and I don’t mind when they gang up on me. I tend to be a quiet, stealth player who waits until the end to move on anyone, so it’s not like I don’t deserve it. Besides, I look at it as an opportunity to show the kids how to lose gracefully.

I would rather play a game than watch television. I like my entertainment to be a little more interactive than just watching a screen. Even if I sit down to watch a movie or TV show, my hands are busy—folding laundry, coloring, something. I wonder if being an ex-smoker has anything to do with that. Hmm.

First Reader isn’t much for board games, so I get my fix when I visit my kids. I spend a ridiculous amount of time playing online MMORPGs, solitaire, and word games. It’s been something I’ve done all my life. Why stop now?

Which reminds me. I have a game to play.

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