Our entertainment was simple and free


Not long ago, I heard an interview which discussed the dollar figure which this professional felt parents should set aside for a child’s entertainment on a monthly basis.

Some of the financial facts shared made my jaw drop. How many times did a game from childhood cost money to play?

For many of us, that answer would be zero.

Our rag-tag sidewalk games came to mind again this week when I read an account of a child who unknowingly racked up nearly $7,000 in charges on his mother’s computer while playing a game.

Later that same day, a friend shared a picture of two long-ago friends playing jacks, something that we once played by the hour.

I was enough younger than all my competition that I don’t think I ever won a single round.

Keeping it simple

One outdoor game that we don’t see anymore was tetherball. We felt like we’d reached the big time of outdoor play when our parents purchased a pole, placed it in the ground and strung a tetherball for us.

We spent hours upon hours knocking that ball around. The trick was hitting it low to make it reach heights unreachable by the time it spun around to your opponent.

For me, this particular game beat jacks all to heck. Winning once in awhile has that power, doesn’t it? It was amazing the number of games kids of our generation created with only an active imagination and not much else.

We climbed trees, played endlessly in the creek, rode our bikes, made up challenges and chose teams for all kinds of ball games. We made up rules on the fly, and no whiners were going to last long.

Getting along

There was no adult intervening, which forced us to figure out how to get along.

Rainy days forced us in to the barns, where we either created a new barn ball game or we explored the hay and straw mows.

We built tunnels in the hay, we swung from an old scratchy rope from one side of our hay castle to the servant’s quarters on the opposite side. A bonus came when we discovered a hidden litter of kittens.

A quick trip to the house to gather up a sleeve of saltines and a thermos of Kool-Aid, and we could hole up in that pretend castle until evening milking time drew us out. That sugary drink became high tea, and the saltines seemed to taste better than a fancy meal taken at a linen-covered table.


If any one of us misbehaved, there were going to be consequences. I can honestly say it felt like punishment to be sent to your room, for there was absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing, to do there.

No telephone, no television, no such thing as computers or the games that have come with them.

There was a bed, and we were reminded to be grateful for even that, for many poor children all over the world would have counted themselves lucky to have what we had. It says a lot that the times I remember being sent to my room found me looking forward to milking time.

The boredom was the punishment, giving a kid time to think.

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