I’ve been on a nostalgia kick lately. I blame all those social media posts showcasing our favourite toys from the 80s and 90s. Remember Popples? Those were the days. When I look at my own kids, I see a lot of myself as a child, but only a few of the things I did as a child.
Then my son started talking about clapping games. Remember them? Miss Mary Mack, Cee Cee My Playmate, Poor Pinocchio? I have spent hundreds of hours smashing my hands against the hands of other children, singing these rhymes. I was beyond thrilled to hear this schoolyard tradition had continued. It made me start to think about other things we did as kids that we should bring back.
Making Mix Tapes from the Radio
Yes, we have digital devices that make playlists super easy now, but it just isn’t the same. Our kids don’t know the thrill of waking up out of a sound sleep to un-pause the tape sitting on record because even while unconscious you heard that song you have been waiting to capture for a week. Forget Pokémon Go, we had catching that elusive Boyz II Men song.
Cats Cradle is sort of self-limiting. At some point, you get stuck in an endless loop. But beyond the traditional Cats Cradle, there is a whole host of neat string games. I had an entire book of them. I could probably still make “The Broom” if I tried hard enough.
Calling on People
This one is hard for me to include, because of my abject horror of people showing up to my house unexpectedly. But my own introverted issues aside, it was awesome being able to ring on your friend’s doorbell and go off on an adventure. Admittedly, it makes much more practical sense to text first, but we have lost some of that excitement of hearing the doorbell.
And I’m not talking about store-bought, collector’s items stuff. I mean rock collections, shell collections, that abandoned bird’s nest you kept in a box (okay, I kept in a box). I mean scratch and sniff stickers traded on your friend’s bedspread, and decorative thimbles collected from places you visited. Things that meant something more than just their dollar value.
Doing Dangerous Things
No, I don’t mean running into traffic or eating Tide Pods. I don’t mean doing stupid things, I mean taking reasonable risks. I am the first the defend updated safety practices like extended rear-facing car seats, and staying up to date on all vaccines – but I also let my kids jump off the play structure at the park, even if I can’t watch while they do it. Taking reasonable risks helps kids learn, and actually keeps them safer when it comes time to make choices about bigger risks.
I don’t know if it had an official name, but that’s what we called it. I even named the ball I used for Wall Ball. His name was Pinky. He was awesome – at least until my friend roofed him.
Neighbourhood-Wide Outdoor Games
Anyone remember all the kids on the block getting together to play one big game of something? Sometimes Hide and Go Seek, sometimes Tag, sometimes Red Rover or JailBreak, but always as a mob of mixed-age kids. Or, sometimes we just all piled into the backyard of the one kid who had a swing set. That was awesome.
Friendship Bracelets and Pins
I know this still exists to some extent, but it used to be the thing. They were great for anxious hands and didn’t require a lot of materials like the Rainbow Loom does. Just some string or plastic gimp, etc. I had a whole arm full of them, and I loved to exchange them with my friends. Not only were they fun, but they were fabulous for a kid who worried a lot and needed something to keep her mind busy.
No, I’m serious. If ever there was a nerdy toy, it was the yo-yo, but hear me out. Yo-yos took practice and patience. It didn’t come easily to anyone. Consequently, the yo-yo seems to have gone the way of the dodo. But once you mastered that first Walk the Dog, or Around the World, the sense of pride and accomplishment was immeasurable. Bring back the yo-yo and working hard to accomplish something.
The things kids have and do today are valid and important. When they grow older, they will look back fondly on them as we do our own. But wouldn’t it be lovely if we could sneak some of these things in there for them too?