Playground Games--Changed and Same

Do you want to go to the Tank Playground, the Rocket Playground, or the Ninja Turtle Playground over by Schimelpfenig Library? That used to be the question for my young sons on a nice afternoon like this. The City of Plano Recreation Department had different names for the parks--Liberty, Copper Creek, and Memorial--but the boys knew them by their favorite games on each playground's equipment.

Burning off energy was the main goal of playground outings. Put a check by each outing objective:

Gross motor skills--Coordination, balance, strength.

Social skills--Coexisting with other groups, collaborating with your group, giving every child a role.

Imaginative play--Designating the play space, developing the characters, considering conflict, sequence, and consequence. Assigning specific abilities to each character. Respecting each character's ability.

Sensory awareness--Rocks in shoes, splinters in fingers, sunshine on shoulders, chilly breeze on ears, rhythmic swinging, watching tadpoles, throwing rocks into the pond...

Game skills--Taking turns, following rules, persevering from start to finish.

Bodily functions--Learning to use the bathroom in a preventive preemptive practical way. Go now so you don't have to go then. Maybe this was cruel psychological repressive inhibiting bladder tyranny that will require years in therapy, but I suspect it is just learning to plan for future contingencies.

Delaying gratification--Finishing the juice box and sandwich before playing. Eating the candy and chips after the sandwich, placing trash in can.

Handling disappointment--Accepting that thunder, rain, lightning, bees, and fire ants are facts of life. Learning to brush off minor injuries and get on with life. Most boo-boos do not require band-aids. Most bumps don't require tattling.

Getting really tired before naptime.

Twenty years ago when my sons were small, the main playground games involved becoming one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and making the right mouth sound effects for that Turtle's favorite weapon.

Main article: List of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles characters

Leonardo - The de facto leader of the Turtles, Leonardo is courageous, decisive, and a disciplined student of martial arts. As a strict adherent to Bushido, he has a very strong sense of honor and justice. He wears a blue mask and wields a pair of katana. He is named after Leonardo da Vinci.

Raphael - The team "anti-hero", Raphael has an aggressive nature and seldom hesitates to throw the first punch. His personality can be alternately fierce, sarcastic, and full of angst. He wears a red mask and wields a pair of sai. He is named after Raphael Sanzio.

Michelangelo - The easy-going and free-spirited Michelangelo provides much of the comic relief. While he loves to read comics and eat pizza, this Turtle also has an adventurous side. He wears an orange mask and wields the nunchaku. He is named after Michelangelo Buonarroti.

Donatello - The brilliant scientist, inventor, and technology geek, Donatello has a reputation as something of a smart aleck. He is perhaps the most non-violent Turtle, preferring to use his intellect to solve conflicts. He wears a purple mask and wields the bo. He is named after Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi.

This week I've been on playground duty. I've watched elementary school girls trying to jump rope. Bet it's been forty years since I jumped rope or twirled. Had to travel way, way, way back in Mr. Peabody's Way Back Machine to find the long-term memory for jump rope. Once I got there, I remembered how we "choked up" on a rope to make it the correct length for our height.

The girls who weren't jumping rope were playing "avatars"! The leader of the girls was assigning the avatar roles--earth, air, fire, and water. Good grief! Whatever happened to playing Beatles' Stewardesses?! John, Paul, George, and Ringo?

According to Urban Dictionary, there are "elemental television series" out there somewhere--

... series where the central characters have the ability to manipulate the classical elements (water, fire, earth, air/wind, and aether/metal depending on the culture). Some series include extra elements, such as ice, spirit, darkness, light, thunder, metal, etc. in the series, the elementalists must battle an evil, and when one element is absent, they usually cannot carry out their objective. They are strongest when united. Also, each character's personality is usually reflected on their element. ex: fire is rash and impulsive; water is calm and collective; earth is nurturing and loyal; air is inquisitive and curious.

Some examples of elemental television series are:
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Sailor Moon
Captain Planet
Xiaolin Showdown

Thank heaven I don't have to watch the shows! Joseph Campbell would be able to find the connections between avatars, Ninja Turtles, and Beatles stewardesses. For now, though, I'm going over to the playground patio to try mastering jacks. Please don't ask me to hula hoop, no matter how holistic it is for the "circle of life"! I think the sound of the bouncing golf ball doing "pigs in the pigpen" on the concrete will be very rhythmic and therapeutic.

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