There were a lot of kids on our street, Johnny and Chuckie Beale, Pheobe and John Azar, the Wieble girls, the Cozart boys, big John Sain who could run right over us smaller kids in a game of tackle football, little Thomas Ballentine who we could talk into doing things the rest of us were too timid to try. We spent our free time ranging up and down the street having pinecone wars, playing kick ball, making forts in piles of recently cut tree limbs that had been piled along the curb for the garbage truck.
As we got older and bikes made us mobile, we roamed the wider neighborhood, building damns in the roadside ditches, laying down skid marks on asphalt, and hunting in the woods on "Hampton's Land" for lizards, frogs, and turtles that we would then put in boxes or jars. We met the kids from Christopher and Winston Streets, quarreling with some of them and befriending others.
Some of our mothers had actual dinner bells they would stand on the porch and ring when it was time to come home. It didn’t really matter whose mother was ringing, we all went home when we heard the first bell.
Throughout all of this outdoor play I don’t remember many toys. There were balls and shovels and the various slides, swings, and jungle gyms we had in our backyards. And I suppose bikes could be classified as toys, although they were equally transportation.
Inside, in our bedrooms, we had toys like cars, blocks, stuffed animals, and later dangerous things like hot plates for melting lead (that we poured into molds to make figurines), bows and arrows, and wood burning sets. We had a pair of heavy cars called SSTs that looked like dragster rockets that could be made to travel at very high speeds by yanking a rip-cord. They left perfectly round bruises on ankles, and girls had to be careful not to get their long hair caught the flywheel or it would have to be cut off. We had a game called “Skittle Bowl” that involved swinging a hard wooden ball on a chain around a post. Duck!
One thing none of us ever owned was an “educational toy.”
This long introduction is by way of pointing you to a funny, insightful and very well-written post on the topic of educational toys, educational TV, and what that means. It’s by Woodland Park Pre-3 parent Toby Beth Jarman and appears on the website Offsprung where she writes a featured blog called Tykegeist.
I like this line:
. . . it’s curious to me why a culture that’s often so proudly and willfully ignorant would care whether their babies are smarter than other babies.
And this one:
At what age does intelligence lose its bragging rights, anyway?
I love Toby's prose and enjoy her thinking. Go read it.