When I was growing up, I loved to play. I think that most kids do. I grew up in the country and had lots of long days playing outside. I have three brothers and although we didn’t always get along, playing together would eventually teach us how to get along with, take care of, and protect each other.
One activity I really enjoyed was Scouting. We played often at Scouting meetings and camp outs—while also learning a lot. Baden Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts, spoke of Scouting as a game with a purpose, and I have to admit I grew as a person even without knowing I was learning or developing character. I feel that like Scouting, play lets my son grow and learn to adapt to the world around him.
We took our son to play at the park and at a mall play area. It is so much fun watching him move around and choose where to go, what to do and who to play with. It is wonderful watching him explore with sand and water, although he is a mess when he is finished. He and I don’t seem to mind being messy.
He enjoys everything and everyone. He has a character and spirit that reminds me of my grandpa, who never met a stranger. He says hello and acknowledges everyone that he comes across. I wonder what he is thinking. Maybe “Wow, what should I do first?” Or, “Those kids look like new friends.” He tries keeping up with the big kids running and zooming down the slide, and then goes to greet every new parent and child that comes to play.
Many young children don’t seem to care who they play with—which is great! Thinking about recent events, it makes me wonder when society lost this open, non-judgmental friendliness. As children age, they sometimes begin not playing with others for a specific reason, and become exclusionary in who they play with. I can only guess that the reason this happens comes from experiences and what we learn from our parents. Young children of all nations, colors, and religions look past everything and seem to find the positive possibility of a play partner, new friend, or buddy even if just for a few moments. I hope to be able to foster openness to playing with anyone in my child as he grows up.
I’ve been accused of being a big kid even as an adult, and I hope that I can help shape my children’s learning through play like Scouting did for me. I wish my son never loses his character and continues to play, have fun, and enjoy learning from all of the people that he encounters in his life journey. Differences are something that make us special, and being friends with those who are different from us brings new experiences and learning so that we can all grow.