A Reflection on Childhood Activities

A few months ago I came across a video online that was collection of interviews across three generations of families from various locations. The question for each interviewee was the same idea — What did you most enjoy from your childhood? The interviews started with the oldest participants. As you can imagine, the grandparents of the group reminisced on memories that involved individual memories or past-times with siblings, playing outdoors in nature or among animals, making up games indoors, etc. Next, the parents of the group grew nostalgic as they looked back fondly on memories of hanging out with neighborhood kids, staying outside from sun up to sun down, riding bikes, spending time with friends at playgrounds, group sports, community pools, etc. Finally, the interviews showcased the youngest participants. These respondents were most animated about spending their time online, inside with electronic devices, interacting with technology, relatively inactive, laying or lounging around. The adults interviewed previously are watching the childrens’ responses and are floored by the kids’ interests in playing video games all day, or scrolling through social media rather than interacting with people in the same room, or taking thousands of photos with filters/special effects, or watching people play video games online or watching other kids play with toys online. 

The point of the video was obvious. The older generations couldn’t relate to kids these days and were worried about what their kids/grandkids would be missing out on because of the reliance / addiction to technology, a lack of social interaction in-person, the disinterest in physical activity, going outside, learning about nature, etc. All of this reminded my of my own bad-habits and preferences today to lay in bed and watch Netflix for as long as possible and reminded me of the movie Wall-E.
I used this time to think back about how I spent my time as a child and the activities I most enjoyed. In no specific order they include:

Days upon days at my Grandma and Grandpa’s house with my brother Bobby and cousin Josh, swimming and jumping into the pool for hours upon hours, playing two square in the driveway, jumping off various pieces of furniture strategically arranged throughout the basement with the goal of ending up hanging from a chinup bar bolted to the ceiling (so many injuries), playing board games, piecing together thousand-piece puzzles, setting up intricate patterns with Domino Rally, and building with Legos. On the weekends, the three of us played in the grass in sprinklers, on the slip and slide and played running bases with my uncles (also a lot of injuries).

The majority of time I spent with my Grandpa was inside watching Cubs games, and with my Grandma, we’d visit bingo halls (get sweets from the bingo halls), go to bakeries and pick out treats, and watch gameshows on tv at their house.

At my Aunt Jacquie and Uncle Denny’s house, Bobby, Josh and I would spend our days playing at the park across the street, especially at the huge jungle gym, playing tag while not being allowed to step on the playground floor (which were little rocks back then). We built sand castles in the volleyball sand pit and chased each other on bikes throughout the park. Sleepovers involved movie nights, playing Genesis (Tommy LaSorda Baseball and Barcelona ’92 Summer Olympics), eating waffles and bacon for breakfast along with a Hi-C Ecto Cooler juicebox.

Favorite memories at Aunt Jacquie and Uncle Denny’s house are rounded out by bike ride adventures throughout the suburb with my Uncle along with all-day/all-night festivities on the Fourth of July. We’d eat and eat and check out all the events in the park, park our blankets and chairs in the sandpit to watch fireworks from the park, laying on the comfy sand, then go back to my Aunt and Uncle’s house to watch fireworks get set off and spin in circles in the lawn with sparklers. Needless to say the Fourth of July is still my favorite holiday. 

At my Aunt Jeanne and Uncle Jesse’s house, we swam in their lake, went for paddleboat rides, went roller blading throughout forest preserve trails, played board games, played Atari, shot a lot of hoops in the driveway, and went to a lot of my older cousins’ volleyball games.

My favorite memories with my parents include “going to church” with my Dad on Sundays. “Going to church” really meant dropping off the collection envelope at the church and then heading to the lake to go fishing. We usually had Dunkin Donuts or tons of fruit snacks. While my Dad and brother fished, I read as much as I could in the grass or in the car. I don’t “fish” but I loved “going fishing”. With my Mom, I loved when she let me stay up late and watch NYPD Blue with her, or 20/20 on Fridays. Weekends with my family were happily predictable — my parents ordered Chinese food or fish from somewhere and Bobby and I got Little Caesar’s pizza. We’d get movies from the video store for the weekend, watch TGIF Friday nights, eat our leftover pizza on Saturday for lunch and watch our rented movies Saturday nights.

How did I spend time on my own? Reading. A lot of reading. We lived a block away from the library and I would try to go everyday to get new books and turn in the ones I just finished. I loved riding my bike as well and rearranging the furniture in my room. I loved doing cartwheels everywhere, doing handstands against fences and garage doors, and laying in the grass with a blanket and a book. 

Sigh. Memories. These were the good old days. The days of my childhood. 
How do my favorite childhood activities compare to your favorite past times? I’ve asked my oldest son to send me a list of his favorite activities from as early as he can remember to age 12 and hopefully his list makes me smile rather than makes me feel like I didn’t do enough to steer him away from activities too focused on technology and being indoors.

If anyone saw the video I referenced at the start of this post and can share the link that would be great. 


Katie Helgesen

Katie Helgesen is the Senior Director of Business Intelligence at Dealer Inspire, a fast-growing and award winning technology company near Chicago. Katie and her husband, Todd, have 4 awesome kids and love living in a small community centered on a lake in northwest Indiana. Baseball, t-ball, and soccer schedules are just a few pieces of Katie’s Mom Hustle. Her daydreams revolve around finding more “me time” and traveling. In real life, Katie keeps herself sane with naps, Netflix and eating out as often as she can.