As technology becomes more pervasive in our lives and our children’s lives, it makes me wonder what the hell we all did as kids before technological devices? How did we all fill those long summer days without Minecraft, Facebook, Instagram, email, texting, Google and Twitter?
Oh I know, we had our 80s technology. We were the children of Nintendo and handheld NFL games.
We played arcade games like Pac-Man and Frogger.
We saw the birth of MTV and After School TV specials that kept us glued to the screen.
But today kids as young as a year old know how to swipe an i-device on and play it like it is innate. Toddlers have their own iPhones and iPads. It is part of our culture and it is not going away.
As a kid, I was not allowed to have a Nintendo (which I now think is commendable). Therefore my sister and I would have to get creative. We would spend our time outside making pizzas out of dirt with toppings made from tree droppings.
I recently put out a request to my Facebook friends to tell me what they did as children for entertainment before iPads and iPhones. Chris and I already reached into our memory banks and pulled out some childhood gems, but Facebook friends reminded me of some other great ways we filled our days before technology.
The one activity that almost everyone mentioned, bike riding, is timeless and will always be part of most kids’ lives. Bike riding seemed to be extra popular before technological devices. As kids of the 80s, we were permitted to ride our bikes all around town on our own or with our friends. Bike riding gave us freedom to go places and do things on our own You know, like how Elliot and his posse were riding around on their bikes at night and found an ailing E.T. in the bushes. That was us kids before technology, just out with our friends riding our bikes all around neighborhoods and busy streets, unsupervised.
The runner-up on most mentioned pre-technology activities we used to engage in as kids was choreographing plays and dances. I thought maybe it was just me and my friends in the small town we grew up in that would engage in this kind of creative play, but I had Facebook friends who grew up all over the country mention this one. We would come up with ridiculous plays and dance performances to all kinds of music from Pointer Sisters to The Cure, and then we would ruthlessly subject our families to our terrible performances.
Here is the list of things we did as kids before i-devices:
- Unsupervised exploration: riding our bike everywhere with our friends
- Putting on plays and dance performances
- Playing WAR – the card game
- Cowboys and Indians – role playing
- Making forts
- Sticker collecting and trading
- Playing basketball, baseball and kickball in the street
- Door bell ditch
- Young door to door sales pitching: car washing, selling mistletoe, lemonade stands
- Running in the sprinklers
Compiling this list was an awesome stroll down memory lane. I think technology is great and we are privileged to have it, but we must make sure our kids also get the proper time to explore the great outdoors and be encouraged to come up with creative play on their own.
Unsupervised exploration (#1 on the list) isn’t really a part of kids’ lives today. It is harder as parents in the 2000s to let our kids run free and be independent like our parents were able to do with us. Parents today have a much tighter grip on our children and their safety than our parents did. Not because we love our children more than our parents loved us, but because we live in a media culture where we know too much.
I definitely sensed from all the Facebook comments that those of us who are parenting right now loved our childhoods even though we didn’t get to play super cool iPads and iPhones. I wonder what our children will say they did in their free time when they are parents?
Until next time, the mothership is signing off.