In today’s technology-driven culture, it’s good to unplug and take the kids for an afternoon play date, at the park. Away from the allure of the fantasy worlds programmed into the Wii and X-Box game systems, children still manage to enjoy the simplicities of playground slides, merry-go-rounds, swings and monkey-bars. Swing sets inspire competitions, like “who can swing the highest,” or “who can jump the farthest”. Giant slides combination structures make the perfect setting for “king of the hill” and “king’s castle” games. Of course, what day would be complete without a game of “playground freeze-tag.”
“Daddy, can Miles and I walk around the block?” My 8 year-old son, Isaiah, asked.
“Nope,” I said. “But if you give me a minute, maybe I’ll take you guys to the park for a little while.”
My son, my nephew Miles, and their friend Lauryn had spent an hour playing the Wii as I busied myself creating music. I really didn’t want to stop what I was doing, but I needed to unplug after two hours of staring at musical software. I packed up my laptop intent on writing an article on the latest movie I’d seen, or a music review. As I sat and waited for the laptop to go through its startup and antivirus checks, I found myself intrigued watching my son, daughter, nephew and friend romp around the playground. They played imaginary games totally in synch with one another. They shared stories. They laughed. They helped one another onto swings and encouraged each other through a “pull-ups” competition. And even though my daughter Jordynn was the oldest, at 11, she played with the younger kids as if she were one of them; no elitism displayed.
I remembered my childhood days at the park. The slides were smaller. The merry-go-rounds were squeaky, and the terrain was either cracked asphalt or jagged concrete. But we played as if the playground were another world entirely. Today, the drab and rusted metal materials are replaced by brightly colored durable plastics and Rustolium-painted metal surfaces. Cedar wood chips and rubber-infused weather-proof flooring make up the terrain. But the experiences haven’t really changed. I sit here on a bench under a tree, diligently typing away as I watch the group of four create their own world out of the playground. And I’m amazed at how things change, yet remain the same.
It’s good to unplug and be entertained by the imaginations of children at the park. They remind me of the future. Someday, those imaginations will shape the technology and entertainment of tomorrow. Some of those future ideas will spawn right here, at the playground…today.