A Mere Bagatelle: From Marbles to Pinball and Beyond

A Mere Bagatelle: From Marbles to Pinball and Beyond

What does it take to play a game? Historic outdoor games like Duck on a Rock only require found stones. Other traditional outdoor games such as lawn bowls, bocce, and croquet used wooden balls. Early table versions of these games employed smaller ivory or wood balls or clay marbles. All these games have one thing…

Born to Laugh: The Element of Humor in Play

Born to Laugh: The Element of Humor in Play

Holiday time is a good occasion to think about humor and play since it’s filled with reflection, rest, and relaxation with relatives and friends—a time to play again. Like vacation time, holidays let us back off a bit, lighten up, and try to laugh a lot more, for our own good. I firmly believe that…

Playing for “Keepsies”: Marble Play

Playing for “Keepsies”: Marble Play

Night after summer night, my friends and I would gather under the one streetlamp in our small hamlet to shoot marbles, devising our own simple games with the materials at hand. We didn’t know that the game of marbles, in one form or another, has endured for centuries. Even the Romans played marbles. In 1560,…

Transitional Objects of Play: A Man and his Motorcycle

Transitional Objects of Play: A Man and his Motorcycle

Summer weather has again brought an influx of motorcycles onto roads and highways. Seeing men and women enjoying a ride on everything from a small scooter to a big Harley V-Twin inspired me to think about when I graduated from my old Columbia to something with more oomph. Growing up in the 1960s, when motorcycle…

A Boy and His Bike

A Boy and His Bike

Most of us recall our first bike with great fondness. We remember how long we waited for it, how difficult it was to first master, and how much fun we had with it. The day we received that bike was one to be remembered—a milestone, whether it was Christmas, the first day of spring, a…

Game Time! Play: Lighting the Way

Game Time! Play: Lighting the Way

Renowned Scottish dramatist James M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, wrote, “The secret of happiness is not in doing what one likes, but in liking what one does.” Taking the notion a step further, 19th-century art critic and social thinker John Ruskin proffered that “mixing enough play with the work” helps ensure that each of…

It’s Snow Fun Again!

It’s Snow Fun Again!

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, it used to snow a lot more that it does today; or at least it seems that way. Without getting into a debate about climate change, let me say that during my childhood there always seemed to be plenty of snow to play in all winter…

Thankful for the Memories

Thankful for the Memories

The importance of memory and its preservation comes to mind every time I see The Big Broadcast of 1938 or its sister film of the following year, Thanks for the Memory. It was then that Bob Hope first encountered the song that would stick with him for the remainder of his long life in show…

Go Play with the Dog!

Go Play with the Dog!

When I came across a 100-year-old paper dining room play set in the National Museum of Play’s collections recently, the paper dog begging beside the table got me to thinking about the dogs in my life. When I was a child, there always seemed to be a dog waiting patiently every night a few steps…

The Old Fishing (and Swimming) Hole

The Old Fishing (and Swimming) Hole

The late Thomas Kinkade said of his 2003 rendering The Old Fishing Hole, “Perhaps the best thing about childhood is what we make of it in our memories. I suppose that in the living there were good times and bad, but in the memory, it’s the good times that live on with a certain radiance.”…