“When I was down beside the sea
A wooden spade they gave to me.
To dig the sandy shore.”
Robert Louis Stevenson, A Child’s Garden of Verses

They–whoever they were–clearly did this child a good turn. They brought him to a good place, and they gave him a good ‘toy’–if we call it a toy.

The best ‘play’ is a kind of first exercise in the deeper things of life: such as playing house, or playing army. Or digging in the earth.

Children have a kind of natural fascination with many things, some of them good, some of them not. How they play, what they play and with whom they play will either bring out or pare back these fascinations.

Current customs, particularly because of the technologies involved, have taken an alarming turn toward replacing play with entertainment. Real play might be entertaining, but it is not simply entertainment. Watching a screen, or even pushing buttons on a screen–even though they be called ‘games’–fall short of being real play. Such is not how to have a first exercise in real life.

Plato insisted that we must be attentive to what and how children play. It might not be feasible completely to sidestep current technology-driven practices.

But it is still within our power to cultivate children’s good natural proclivities. In summer recreation and summer vacation we can good opportunity to minimize the technology, and to emphasize natural contexts for play. They are often right at hand. Our children’s response might surprise us. And one day, they might thank us.

R.L Stevenson (1850-1894) is the great Scottish author of Treasure Island, Kidnapped, A Child’s Garden of Verses, and other classics.

Image: Ruth Mary Hallock

NOTE: Next Wednesday I will be finishing a retreat at a Benedictine monastery in Oklahoma. I must skip that week’s Wednesday quote; please excuse my first skip in almost four years.
ALS0, BETHANY WEEKEND: We are happy and grateful that the first Bethany Weekend is full. We will let you know when the next weekend is scheduled.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE:

In Praise of Hand Work

“The hand is a tool of tools.” Aristotle, On the Soul Recently I was watching a blacksmith work. I was mesmerized. There is something so satisfying and so fitting—indeed, so human—about the ability to do that kind of work. What most struck me is how glad he must be to...

read more

Giving More Praise

“Some men are thought to be obsequious, namely, those who to give pleasure praise everything and never oppose.” “And while for its own sake he [the man virtuous in social interaction] chooses to contribute pleasure, and avoids the giving of pain, he will be guided...

read more

Dealing with Life-Fatigue

“All these things are interconnected.” Xenophon, The Estate Manager Being intentional about life can be exhausting. Sometimes you just feel like saying: “I’m sick of worrying about this stuff. Can’t I just go with the flow, rather than weighing every little thing in...

read more

Pin It on Pinterest