When I was a kid, way back in the 1940s and ‘50s, Kids could just go out and play.

We weren’t allowed to leave our neighborhood without permission from parents, but no adults watched us while we played.

We were free to use our imaginations and spent most of our time doing that.

The boys usually wanted to play “Cowboys and Indians” or have wars with their cap pistols and squirt guns. Girls preferred dressing up like princesses or playing “House” with toy dishes, dolls, and whatever we could use for furniture.

Often we’d figure out ways to compromise so boys and girls who lived near each other could all use our imaginations together.

We could climb trees and pretend those were forts or castles, and go back and forth between each others’ yards freely.

Sometimes we’d do things like jump rope, play “Catch” with balls, or play games with rules, like “Tag.” 

But usually we pretended.

Sadly, recent generations of children haven’t been able to play outside without adult supervision because it’s not considered safe for them to do that. And it’s no fun to use your imagination with adults watching and judging you if you’re a kid.

Today most kids play video games, and those do involve imaginary characters and situations. They have limits, so they aren’t as creative as our free play used to be, and any interaction with other players is at a distance. Even kids sitting next to each other and playing the same game aren’t watching each other’s expressions and body language.

But at least they do allow kids to do some pretending.

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Janet Ann Collins

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