On Friday a machine arrived at my desk for repair; this machine is quite large so has a really big box. When I opened it my retro alarm went off because it was festooned with “children’s artwork”.
I could just image a child sitting inside that box with a permanent marker and drawing all these strange stick figures and having a blast while doing it. There was even a flower cut out on one of the flaps.
There is no real way to positively say that it was done by a boy or a girl. Although the flower makes me think it was a girl. If it had been a boy the flower would have probably been a car or a gun!
So what am I trying to say here? it is simple really, when I was young a large box was a gold mine of fun for young children, your imagination could run riot and that box could become anything you wanted it to be: a car, a house, a fortress, the cockpit of a fast jet, or the bridge of a spaceship. You were only really limited by your imagination and the mutters of your mother about how that box was taking up space. In my case the box would have been associated with a ship or an aircraft, and I do recall the large box that the TV came in ended up providing me with many days of amusement until it was relegated to the dustbin. However, boxes are still fun, even 50 years later!
Cats understand this concept very well.
As children we were very tactile in our play, anything could become something as long as we allowed it to. Sticks became swords or assault rifles, sheets became ghost costumes and nets to trap tigers with, pieces of paper became a place to expand our drawing capability on, even though the houses that we drew all had windows in the top corners and chimneys with a spiral of smoke coming out of them. I know I always wrestled with how to draw wings on aircraft, and I am afraid my stick men all looked like stick men.
Play was something we indulged in at school and after school, and we ranged far and wide because we could. Close to where I lived was an industrial area and we used to pester the printers for paper off cuts, or root around in the dumpster at the local sweet manufacturers. A shopping trolley was something we really aspired to because it had wheels that could be used to make go-carts with, or pushed around at breakneck speed just for the heck of it. My brother and I had a go-cart that was purchased from some budding childhood entrepreneur and we used to laboriously push it up the hill close to where I lived and then hurtle down that hill until we were covered in bruises and scrapes from the numerous falls that we took.
As somebody that read a lot I was naturally drawn to the work of Enid Blyton and her “Secret Seven” and “Famous Five” books. I could not understand how we could not form something like that where I lived, it did seem a lot more interesting than playing rugby or shooting birds. The problem really came down to the fact that the society and era I was growing up in was very different from that in the UK where the books were being played out; there were no mysteries to be solved in my neighbourhood.
Somewhere along the line we stopped playing, and I suspect it was really when we entered high school. I remember standing with a group of primary school classmates on the rugby fields on the first day at our high school and seeing groups of boys, none of whom were playing. By the 3rd year of high school I was listening to pop music and reading even more than before, and doing endless amounts of homework that took up most of the hours between home time and bedtime. There was no more time to visit friends or engage in an impromptu battle with Germans or aliens. Long sums and compositions as well as reams of material to be summarised and illustrated left us with no time for anything else. Play was forgotten and school work became the norm.
Today tactile play has been replaced by a small screen with small buttons and imagination has been shunted to the side. Children spend way too much time clustered around visual stimulation instead of getting out there and doing stuff!
The point I am trying to make with this seemingly nonsensical post is that I really miss play. It is probably why I still have a lot of toys as an adult. I collect all manner of strange things and enjoy adding to my vast collection of stuff that I missed out on as a child. Many adults feel the same way and today colouring books are becoming very popular with adults, although given how anal we can be the pictures will all be coloured perfectly.
That box with its strange stick people drawn in it was fun to see, and I am hanging onto it as long as I can, for all you know it may be the portal to another dimension populated by strange stick people with stick dogs and houses with windows in the far corners. I know I shall have fun meeting them there.
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