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How did you play?
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All of us will have played as children, some more than others and we will all have had a different range of play experiences. 
It is important that we allow our children to play freely and with as little adult intervention as possible, in order that they can discover and make sense of their world, make decisions for themselves and learn to assess risk.
In order for us as adults to understand why and how children play, think back to your own childhood and how you played. Please e-mail us one or two of your own most vivid childhood play memories....what you played, how you played, the feelings you had and how much adults were involved. This will obviously differ not only from country to country, but even within local regions. (We will post your replies. You will be able to see the play experiences of others)
As you start to think back to your own childhood, you should begin to remember (if you haven't already) those feelings of freedom, excitement, even scariness. Think about how you can allow your child to experience this freedom to play.
Don't expect you child to play in exactly the ways you may have played. It is their experience, and they should be allowed to develop in whatever way they want to. Your job is to facilitate the play and ensure your child is not in danger, but allowing them to take some risks.
Below are some of our readers favourite play memories.


A Play Memory.
  • Summertime was the best—we’d be out for hours playing Kick the Can, twenty or thirty of us kids on the same block. There was never any question of staying in. Night after night we’d gather and play until dark fell. We’d run through the yards and hide in gardens throughout the neighbourhood—there were no boundaries, and everyone knew every one. No grownup was ever surprised to look out their window and see 5 kids tearing through his garden!

Melissa B. Vancouver, B.C, Canada. (


  • Playing in the rain.

    When it rains now we have “inside days”. As an elementary student growing up, this whole idea would have incensed me; rainy days were some of the most enjoyable on the playground. Perhaps I should explain: my former school-ground sloped gently below towering old-growth Douglas Firs. The ground was covered by a mixture of decomposing needles, loam and gravel. Wonderfully, when it rained, this mixture kept water on the surface, forming pools and puddles in the dimples under swing sets, monkeybars and teeter-totters.

    On these dull gray days my friends and I would gear up in our hats, coats (usually left open to our mothers’ chagrin) and big rubber boots. We would trudge out to the drippingly unused equipment and using heels, sticks and toes begin complex and incredibly satisfying hydrologic engineering.

    Linking together the pools and puddles with boot-wide canals incised into the substrate, we would see how far we could move water, how deep a canal would have to be before linking two deep depressions. Then, wet and uncomfortable but curiously satisfied we would return to our classes with the ringing of the bell.
    The pinnacle of our efforts came in grade five, after a particularly fantastic few days of rain that replenished our earthen reservoirs on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. This allowed us to expand our efforts to ever-wider parts of the playground. By Wednesday or Thursday we had linked all the puddles in the playground and were draining the result through the fence into a neighbor’s yard.

    In that vague way of kids everywhere we decided together to create a master reservoir to see just how much water we were collecting. We quickly realised we would need more than the small depression and rudimentary dams we set up. We started reinforcing, thickening and widening, and as our structure grew so did the passing interest. As our workforce grew, so did our reservoir.

    I can remember it was with more than normal regret we left the playground that Friday. Our reservoir was now approximately eight inches tall, ten inches thick and approximately twenty meters in diameter. The fir needles, mud and gravel for tens of meters around had been scoured by a veritable army of eager builders, cooperating with common vision and goals. Walking in the deeper sections of the reservoir now ran the risk of overflowing boots and spending a squelchy, wrinkly-toed afternoon back in class. This however paled in comparison to the thrill of striding through our very own personal lake.

    In the years since I have always looked back on the Great Reservoir with a sense of pride. From nothing but rain-gear we derived days of non-stop entertainment and a bench-mark to strive for the next time a really great storm system came through. Although we never did get the opportunity to build the reservoir again we often thought back to it as a point of personal reference. In the years since it has brought a smile to my face when I see kids playing in puddles, always wondering just how far their enthusiastic enjoyment of the medium might take them. In the end the question that always comes back though is… How soggy did the neighbors get when all that water disappeared over the weekend?

    This article written by elementary school teacher Sean Aldcroft, serves to demonstrate just how much play value kids can get whilst left to their own devices, with a minimum of props. The description shows kids involved with their friends, (no adult involvement), engaged with their environment, and problem solving. Research shows that kids now spend only half an hour per day playing freely outside, compared with four hours per day for previous generations. This is having a profound effect on the health of our kids.

    Play types

    * imaginative play

    *creative play

    *mastery play

    *social play

  • When it rained in California it came down in great big elephant tears that flooded the gutters and pooled on lawns. We used to beg to go out and play, sopping wet after one minute, sending up rooster tail spray from our bike wheels, damming the gutters. A favorite memory comes from the week we saw Gene Kelly playing in the California rain in “Singing in the Rain” and there’s an 8 mm film somewhere of my sister and me swinging umbrellas and sloshing madly in the puddles in our pink gumboots.
MA -Memory from Uplands, California 6th November 2007

Two of the most vivid memories from a play packed childhood:
  • Playing on a construction site, in the days before they were fenced off. At the age of about 7, the half built brick and timber houses seemed huge and somewhat eerie. Creeping through the rubble on the ground floor with a group of friends, we would work our way up the stairs to the next level. Sometimes there would be no floor, so we would walk along the beams to the next room. This was very scary. Not only could we fall some 7 or 8 feet, but the risk of being caught was probably more worrying. I remember one house that had a pile of sand below the front porch...we would climb up to the front bedroom, through the window space on to the porch and then jump off into the sand. This activity kept us occupied for days. 
  • During the summer holidays when I was 10, I with a number of friends built a go cart from a length of 2 by 6 and six pram (buggy) wheels. This contraption was held together with bolts and nails and had no brakes. We had weeks of fun with this machine, racing around the neighborhood. It was exciting and again a little scary. The big thing was that this was all our own work, not a adult in sight.
27th September 2007. MH from the UK.

Please add your play memory here.

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