Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Back Then, I Had to Walk Ten Miles to School, In The Snow, Uphill Both Ways...

First off - Congratulations Ellie! You won the purse prize! Please contact me at and I'll ship it off to you!

During break, we took our kids to Chicago for a few days with friends and their kids to see the Star Wars exhibit at the Museum of Science & Industry, the Sears Tower, etc. It was blisteringly cold in the Windy City, but a good time was had by all. Well, the kids had a good time. The adults were sleep-deprived and sore, but that's just splitting hairs, really.

Anyway, one of the exhibits in the Sears Tower (the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, thank you very much) really caught my eye. You can see from the photo above (click on it to make it larger): It says, "Interactive toys of 1793," and it features a stick, some frogs (badly photoshopped in, by the way) and a leaf or two.

Of course, the four worldly children, aged 7 to 9 were NOT impressed. They couldn't figure out why I was even taking a picture of it. They just went back to using my cell phone to call their friends and using their digital cameras to take pictures of the skyline. But I stood there and stared at that for several minutes. In fact, I was there so long my husband thought I was having a stroke - but that's beside the point.

On the way home, as my children texted each other from their Nintendo DS (while sitting next to each other) and talked about playing Guitar Hero III when they got home, it really hit me that A)My kids didn't appreciate history or B) I appreciated it a little too much.

Now, I didn't grow up with sticks and frogs as my only interactive toys (although there was that one time with the grasshopper that kept me amused for say, oh, minutes). We had Simon, Intellivision and Atari, Baby Alive (a very, creepy Terminator version where the metal skull seemed to press against the rubber skin and make mechanical gnashing sounds while she ate), banana-seat bicycles, etc. But toys were still dramatically different.

My mom's gonna read this and tell me how she just had a jumprope, and I'll bet you someone will e-mail me about being excited to get an orange and a lard sandwhich for Christmas, but I'm trying to put this all into perspective.

Of course toys change with technology and things are different than they were 200+ years ago. But all I can think about is some child back then getting as much joy out of that stick as my daughter got out of her Hannah Montana stage - complete with real light shows and music. It just made me wonder how my kids would fare in a third world country where they still play with those kinds of things. Then I realized that I would also have to be in that third world country with them and that kind of cancelled the idea out.

I don't really have any answers - just observations at this point. I think I'm gonna start dvr-ing National Geographic Channel's Tribal Life and forcing the kids ala-Clockwork Orange-style to watch it.

What do you think?
"The Assassin"


Christie Craig said...

Great post, Leslie!

I think we used our imaginations more when we were kids, don't you?

Crime Scene Christie

Keri Ford said...

Some of the new toys are great. They can keep your kids entertained for hours…while they sit inside, in front of the tv, working their thumbs only. A decidedly major down fall from all the good ‘ol day toys that forced you outside because you’d break something if you played indoors.

Nothing else can work that imagination like running around outside poking a frog in the backside with a stick!

Tori Lennox said...

Dare I admit I used to play with a stick all the time when I was a kid? In our home movies, nine times out of ten I had a stick in my hand. *g*

Anonymous said...

Ever read HARRIET THE SPY? The book, not the movie. She wanted to be a writer when she grew up, so she carried a notebook everywhere she went and wrote observations about her friends. Her favorte game was "town". She took a stick and drew a community on the ground, with roads, houses, buildings, farms...and made up names of the people and their life stories to go along with them. I like that use of a stick.
I was born in 1946. Grew up in the 50's and 60's. Saw Elvis Presley and The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Watched Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald in the stomach on live TV on the noon news. Interactive toys of my generation involved the pin ball machines, pool tables, ping pong tables, roller skates for cement sidewalks.... Roller skates can be very interactive, if you cannot skate. Reel to reel tape recorders... The kid show "Captain Kangeroo"--you had to send off for a little piece of plastic to attach to the tv screen and there were 4 magic crayons. During the story, we were asked to take our yellow crayons and draw a rope so that Tom Terrific could use it to climb out of a well, etc. Saving Tom's life was a daily committment, Monday-Friday.
Healthy kids of my generation stayed outside more than my grandkids do. All they want to do is play computer games inside. They are afraid of bugs.
I don't envy them their technology. I believe I grew up in a better time and place.

Estella said...

I was born in the early forties and toys were scarce. The ones I had my Father made.
Kids should get outside more these days, away from the tv and maybe there wouldn't be so many obese children.

Heather said...

Kids today definitely don't use their imagine enough, and I have to agree about the need to get off the couch or away from the computer and get outside more. I swear moms today hear "I'm bored" a lot more than our parents did. We were always outside sledding or ice skating in winter, riding bikes or playing kick the can in summer - or just hanging around with friends, no toys or electronics necessary. Even when Pong and Atari debuted, we were not allowed to sit inside and play video games all day.

Jenyfer Matthews said...

My kids have plenty of nice toys but still play with sticks and rocks most of the time. But then again, we live in (practically) a third world country too! ha ha

Leslie Langtry said...

I LOVE these comments! There are times when I love having the kids distracted so I can work, then there are times I want to throttle them. My son, Jack, LOVES sticks. He could play with them all day. I found 13 of them under my seat in the van the other day. Sometimes I have to just shut them down and hand them plain paper and crayons. Wish I could do that more often ;) I love crayons. Oh, and "Bored" is called the "b" word in our house - worse than any swear word. Sigh. They still say it though. I wonder if I should jack up the voltage on the cattle prod? (Just kidding - please don't report me!)

The Assassin

Dru said...

I remember playing with blocks and had a world of imagination and fun at the same time.

Gemma Halliday said...

Count me out of your third world experiment, Leslie. I just discovered the world of Nintendo Wii Sports. It's amazing. I am never going back to those primitive sports with REAL balls again. Nuh uh. ;)