It’s that time of year and as I wander the toy aisles looking for that perfect gift for grandkids, I find myself feeling overwhelmed, not only by the sheer variety of toys, but also by the noise and flash of today’s toys. Dolls call out to me as I pass by, furry stuffed animals bark and meow and toy trucks honk and flash their lights. Times have certainly changed, but I wonder, have kids?

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Karl Witkowski-Game of Marbles
Wikimedia Commons 

While I am not sure if kids have changed, I can’t help but notice that when the grandkids come over, they choose the old board games from our shelves to play even though we actually do own a few video games. Is it possible that maybe they too see the value in some of the slower, simpler games?

When I was young we played board games such as Checkers and Life, in addition to games such as marbles, jacks, pick-up-sticks and hopscotch. Evenings with cousins often consisted of games of kick-the-can and red rover. The games we played required very little expense and could be played whether or not there was electricity or an internet connection.

The generation previous to mine also played very simple games. Among my most prized possessions are my dad’s marbles from his childhood. I can almost imagine Dad and his buddies bent over a circle drawn in the smooth dirt, shooting to win.

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Dad’s marble collection

I too played marbles when I was little. I remember having favorite marbles and that often there was a fair amount of marble trading that went on. While boys liked marbles that were good shooters, for me it was all about the color.

We live in a fast paced, noisy world so maybe it makes sense that the toys have become the same. Maybe simpler games were best suited for simpler times, but I can’t help but notice that there were certain advantages to playing the games from the “olden days.”

I don’t ever remember anyone having to go to counseling to deal with a marble or hopscotch addiction. There were no concerns that playing our simple games would result in antisocial tendencies, anxiety or an inability to function in day-to-day life. Families weren’t broken up because of anyone’s obsession with non-stop rounds of pick-up-sticks and no one feared that we would play endless hours of hide and seek. High tech they were not, but in many ways, I wonder if some of the simple games of yesterday were better. But then again, isn’t it typical of the older generation to think that the old ways were best?

While I seriously doubt Santa will get many requests for marbles or pick-up-sticks this year,  I am glad they were part of my childhood and equally glad they were part of my dad’s. I keep the treasured jar of my dad’s marbles sitting on a shelf in my office. There alongside some of my other genealogy treasures, they warm my heart and serve as a quiet reminder that in many ways, simple is good.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved

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5 thoughts on “What’s Under Your Christmas Tree?

  1. I had thought for a moment this year of giving my grandchildren pick up sticks, marbles, jacks etc. for Christmas. I stopped when I realized that I had missed that opportunity as they are all in Middle or High School. There are three babies. Maybe in a few years I'll get them jacks and tiddle winks.

    Had to laugh at your mention of being addicted to hopscotch. I don't remember anyone addicted to chess or checkers or Monopoly either. LOL

  2. I loved playing Checkers with my granddaddy after school — loved the sound of those plastic disks hopping across that slick cardboard field and loved the sound when one checker crowned another. I also loved jacks because I didn't need a friend for that — I could fight boredom alone.

  3. So true Kristin—those games just didn't do that to us! I have pick-up-sticks and Chinese checkers as well as checkers and chess. My husband taught some of the 4 year olds to play chess a few years ago and bought them a version where it shows the moves that piece can play on the back of the piece and those kids love that game. I am not sure I am quick enough for jacks anymore, but I sure did love that game when I was young.

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