Toys And Fun In My Generation

What did you play with when you were a kid? What did you and your friends do for fun? Didn’t it seem like, in earlier times, fun was made with more ingenuity and imagination, and not waited for to be delivered to us? Toys/fun today seem to lack the creativity and imagination as the toys/fun of my generation. Kids today seem to be entertained through devices with screens and buttons. There doesn’t seem to be the building, pretending or artistic nature of toys/fun of our day.

Girls of my day played with Barbie and Ken (or alikes), they entertained themselves with jump ropes and hula hoops, hopscotch, Easy Bake Ovens, and they colored, did drawings on their Etch-a-Sketch, and lit up dark rooms with designs on their Lite-Brites.

Boys played with Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, Kits that allowed you to create anywhere from 20 to 100 working electronic gadgets, electric football games, those green and brown army men, Tonka Trucks, Matchbox cars, cowboy sets, tool sets, electric race cars, electric trains, and assemble-it-yourself model cars, airplanes and ships to keep ourselves occupied.

Boys and girls both played with Silly Putty, The Slinky and Slinky Dog, Mr. Potato Head, yo-yos, pogo sticks and chemistry sets. We gave hair and beards/mustaches to bald heads and faces using the iron shavings boards with magnets, we played a smorgasbord of board games, and we met for a variety of neighborhood games to play when we wanted. Games included: Checkers, chess, Chinese checkers, Cootie, Monopoly, Sorry, Clue, and outdoor games like kick the can, hide and seek, red rover, kickball, tag and more.

Boys organized baseball and football games, with one highlight of the baseball games being when the ball would go down the sewer and we’d take the manhole cover off and someone climbed down to retrieve it, then climbed out and put the cover back on. The fun of the football games was playing after a rain so you could be covered in mud before you went home, or playing in snow where you could dive for thrown balls and the snow-covered ground would cushion you a bit.

Girls skipped and used those metal swing and slide sets (boys used these too) found on numerous local playgrounds (brutal on hot days). Boys and girls would roller skate, ride bikes, take hikes and climb trees. We’d go through Lakeview Cemetery looking for the “Glass Lady,” catch chipmunks in large coffee cans, only to release them after the thrill of catching one. We’d pack a lunch and go to the Hundred-Acre Lot, or Allen Park. We’d design and build jitneys, birdhouses and even our own skateboards using wheels from old metal roller skates (the ones with the skate key that we tied to a shoelace and wore around our necks)

Many of the things we played with in our day we made ourselves. Kids seemed to be a bit more “hands on” in our generation, maybe because our parents showed us how they did things and then supervised us as we tried things on a smaller scale. For the most part, boys were taught by their dads how to use tools and build and construct things, and girls were taught by their moms how to cook, sew, knit and decorate. I know those things might sound sexist, or gender assigned, and that was not the case exclusively, but my generation was a different time and role activities (both work and play) were more defined by gender back then than they are today. We did have boys who learned to cook from their mothers (myself included), and girls who were taught to build birdhouses and run power tools by their fathers here and there back in our day. Toys/fun and jobs are way less gender-grouped today, and I’m glad to see more women given opportunities to serve their country, to serve and protect as law enforcers, to perform surgery, run companies and schools, run heavy equipment and work as carpenters, electricians, mechanics, truck drivers, etc. I’m also just as happy to see men working as flight attendants, nurses, fashion designers, kindergarten teachers, etc., so please don’t get the idea I stereotype roles by gender. It’s just that I grew up in a time when jobs, roles, and toys/fun were more gender categorized. Okay, off that soapbox.

Going back to toys and fun, I think sometimes life would be better if we took lessons from toddlers, as they love playing more with the boxes in which toys were sent to them, rather than the toys contained in those boxes. Put a toddler in the big box and push them around the room making car noises, and watch their faces light up, and listen to the giggles, and see if that doesn’t put a smile on your face. (Younger children are far more innocently creative than older kids, and way more than adults. It seems the older we get the more we try to over plan and over think instead of cherishing the simplicity of something.)

It was definitely far more creative in our day regarding entertainment. If you told your parents there was nothing to do and protested that long enough, they’d give you something to do, like mow the lawn, pull weeds in the garden, clean the garage and/or basement, or clean your room. That forced us to come up with something more entertaining than having to do those chores. That’s when we decided to knock on our friends’ doors and get some kind of game together, or go on a bike ride, or build something, anything to keep our parents from giving us something to do from their list of “fun” activities. And, oh yeah, we read books too. (Great rainy day, sick day, or just downtime entertainment.)

It seems like there are many more choices for fun for kids today, but many of those require sitting in front of a television screen with video controller in hand, and some kind of communication device available so they can play games with friends anywhere in the country.

It was a different time and a different world back in “our” generation. We couldn’t ask our parents to keep buying us new things as that just wasn’t done back in our day. Money wasn’t what it is today, so our parents had to be careful to stay within their budgets. As a result, we had to find other things to give us entertainment, things other than a $50-$60 video game, or a video game system costing in access of $300, or a cellphone with all the bells and whistles, the apps and games, or the iPods, iPads, and any other i “whatevers” there are out there that entertain kids today.

Technology is a good thing, especially in education, medicine, engineering, etc., but it doesn’t seem to be a good thing at the expense of creativity, and self-entertainment. We had toys, but we used creativity with them to make our fun. If we played with the army men, we created situations. If we collected baseball cards, we invented games where we could use them and win more, or lose some too. If we played with small cars and trucks, we usually dug roads in the dirt and, again, created scenarios, and didn’t just roll them back and forth across the floor.

I know times have changed, and technology is amazing these days. I’m just not sure the technology hasn’t taken something away though. Even with the video gadgets and cellphones, I almost think I hear the words, “I’m bored,” way much more than I heard them when I was a kid. Food for thought?