Mischief Unimagined?

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Mischief Unimagined?

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

George Bernard Shaw

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Last week following a share of Suzi Tench’s post – Top 10 Free (or cheap) Things to Do in the Summer Holidays – l have further read a couple of interesting articles concerning how children no longer play anymore or even have imaginery friends – preferring to be self absorbed in devices.  This made me think back on my own childhood and what l ‘got up to’ that my parents both knew about and what they didn’t?

Children aged between 2 – 10 these days spend more time involved in screen activities  than they do outside or even indoors playing normal imagination games.  When you read the figures themselves you suddenly find yourself thinking back to your childhood, thinking we were luckier to have enjoyed our childhoods the way we were able to. We had more of a connection to the outside world than kids do these days.

On average, only 11 hours are spent outside each week in comparison to 15+ hours engaged in screen time?

It’s astonishing l feel that this is the way childhood seemingly is travelling. I know today that l was on the spectrum with my Asperger’s yesterday as a child, but l didn’t know that when l was a child. Sure l was geekier than most of my peers, l wargamed, l read books, l took photos, l drew, l wrote … but also l played outside with my friends.


I made dens and climbed trees and l went outside with my mates and we adventured on the canals and got up to mischief. At school with my friends l was involved in strange outdoor action imagined games when on breaktimes, that involved groups of us lining up and running towards the challenger who would pretend to fire a cannon, or a bow and arrow and we had to think of really creative ways to die and be the all time winner of ‘slow motion death scenes!’

I remember playing hide and seek and with girls too, marbles and sometimes losing my best ones to the all time clever sod, but winning them back next day! I remember the girls playing hopscotch on chalked outlines and jumping ropes and singing all sorts of made up songs whilst doing so, or playing jacks. A classic was ‘Simon Says’, plus also the game of Freeze, where if you were tagged you had to remain frozen in the position you were tagged in until someone else tagged you again!

When l was about 11 l used to play the hand clap games like Patty Cake and l was fast, like shit off a shovel. My friends used to laugh at me, and say it was a Girl’s Game, except when l challenged them and oh they how they laughed until they were beaten. So they would counter challenge to the boys version of the game which was to ensure your hands never got slapped … again they would lose.

Sure even then l was considered a little bit odd, but l still had friends and we still played games, and we were outside doing it. We got muddy and dirty just by playing, we literally drank water from the hose and we lived to tell the tales!! We sometimes stayed out late, and usually in the summer holidays we would all get together and talk, and occasionally l was allowed out on bike rides with my friends and we would go to town … l say occasionally, because l was always getting into scrapes with my clumsy behaviour – but my best mates made sure l wasn’t that accidental with them! They had to, they knew my mother would kill them – ha ha!

“Play is so integral to childhood that a child who does not have the opportunities to play is cut off from a major portion of childhood.”


But kids no longer engage in these kinds of activities anymore preferring to only look at a screen.

I read last year that childhood depression and anxiety levels are up to extraordinary levels, and this many say is due to the lack of creative playtime. I have to be honest and say that when young, l don’t recall hearing about depression and self harm amongst kids of my age.

“The opposite of play is not work. It’s depression.”

Brian Sutton-Smith

I was bullied quite a bit at school, and that made me low at times, but in comparison to what was meted out at home by my own father, school was seen as a blessing and a doddle! But l was outside more all the time. Despite everything and often a strict and disciplined home life – my mother thoroughly encouraged outside play – she wanted her children to enjoy their childhood, whilst we had it

Yet it seems the focus these days is not on raising and allowing creativity in children, but attempting to raise geniuses and hugely successful ones at that! Creativity and imagination almost have to take a back seat in favour of routines and structured organization when it comes to free time, and if not that – then the allowance is for unregulated screen times to stimulate the brain?

I am grateful for being a child when l was, as it allowed me to develop into a person, a free thinker, my creative imagination was allowed to roam and discover and l was able to find out what made me tick and what l enjoyed when allowed to be me.

My father well he was different, if he had his own way l would have been in military school somewhere or boarding school, but then he wasn’t really involved in my growing up as much as he believed. He liked to occasionally take part in some table top wargaming as this was strategy and a ‘thing that boys did!’

When younger, he didn’t really play, at his own concession he would say he had very little ‘creative imagination’, but my mother was always actively involved with me as a youngster in helping me read and write, and discover things in the garden or just outside. She was the one who would help with the building of forts and castles with the furniture of the house – she allowed me more to enjoy less formality when playtime and having my friends around.

“Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity.”

Kay Redfield Jamison

She encouraged me to use my voice when l was even younger and playing with my best friends, Henry Bear and Mickey Mouse and whilst l never had an imaginery friend per se, l was allowed to be thoroughly creative in other ways. [Might explain why l talk to myself more these days than real people haha!!]

But these days, it appears many a time that children are encouraged to NOT allow freedom of imagination and creative thought to be part of their playtimes. Now entertainment arrives only in the forms of tablets, computers and television screens and that children are no longer being given the rights to exercise their own minds into solving boredom issues by themselves? Everything can be solved with screen time. Digital technology is now the prime go to for children to stimulate their brains … such a strange world we live in.


So, two questions for you …

Did you have an imaginery friend when younger and what kind of playtime activity did you get up to?

Do you think that ‘classic playtime’ over ‘modern playtime’ is essential or detrimental to children today?

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct.”

Carl Jung

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23 thoughts on “Mischief Unimagined?

  1. Not only are children anxious and depressed, they are losing their spacial recognition and literally falling out of their desk chairs from lack of moving their bodies. I’ll see if I can find the post from a fellow blogger about this.

    My girls played outside. We wouldn’t buy them the gaming systems. They played at friends houses but funnily, most of their friends wanted to be at our house. We allowed them to “run wild” We lived in a duplex that faced another duplex with a driveway between and a huge open area in the back. It was safe, so we gave them freedom to do what they wanted.

    Even with Ben we encourage outside play. There’s a huge hole in the backyard that he dug. Things are always rearranged for whatever he’s doing. Even indoors he is developing imaginative play. He’s behind his non autistic peers in that area, but he’s getting there.

    No imaginary friends for me, the girls or Ben. Voices were given to stuffed animals or other toys, but no invisible other children.

  2. I never had an imaginary friend but we did play out whenever we had a chance. Kids now do play with friends outside but less. They don’t like the sun or the inconvenience of insects. Screens are good if used with time bars. Using too much tach all the time makes kids loose their people skills.

    1. Aye, totally agree, l think some screen time is great, but not all day every day – because there are so many benefits to playtime and they are not gained by sitting in front of the screen at that age. At a younger age, the sponges that are children need to see way more.

  3. Did you have an imaginery friend when younger and what kind of playtime activity did you get up to?

    -I’m old, so I had lots of TV time since no one thought it was bad back then. I also read a lot, drew, wrote, and did crafts. I didn’t exercise enough and still don’t. I did have an imaginary friend and still do. They’re the best kind because they’re loyal and true, plus never too busy for you. We mostly chatted & sometimes plotted out a few world dom strategies tho were too lazy to get on with those. Mostly we liked to shit-talk others, which is pretty much what we do now.

    Do you think that ‘classic playtime’ over ‘modern playtime’ is essential or detrimental to children today?

    -Idk what kids are doing today except for my granddaughter who isn’t allowed to watch normal TV. She plays all day with hands-on toys and has lots of playdates with her little friends. Since she lives in the middle of Los Angeles, she doesn’t exactly frolic in the meadows, but they do go for a daily walk or two. I doubt she will be allowed a phone for a long long time.

    1. Hey Paula, is World Dom what l think it is as in world domination and not some kind of Google research l should be doing? 🙂

      I am asking for a friend …. 🙂

      Thanks for answering the questions 🙂

  4. Hay Rory, nice post my friend.

    As for your first question that’s a little hard to answer as I still have surpresed memories of my childhood, I don’t know if I had a imaginary friend or not, as for play time it was everything and anything you can think of doing living out in the country on a big farm as I can remember my mother pushing us out side to play all the time saying ” it’s unhealthy for kids to be indoors “.

    Classic playtime is essential for good phisicale health for sure, sitting around all day isn’t good for anyone regardless of age.


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