Long before there were scientific studies touting the value of physical activity, and preceding the apparent epidemic of childhood obesity, there was a very plain-Jane activity that all children participated in every June.
It didn’t matter if you were a wallflower, or even a bully. It didn’t matter if you were the tallest in your class, the smallest, the smartest or the cutest. On one Friday afternoon in June, you didn’t go back to school after lunch; you went to a local park, where teachers had set up all sorts of playful non-competitive (and competitive) games. There was traditional tag, hula hoops, hopscotch, Mother May I? and Red Rover, Red Rover. Red Light, Green Light, horseshoes, jump-rope and relays were all part of the fun. Even kids were were usually shy and unathletic looked forward to Play Day. Even kids without friends looked forward to Play Day, so that they could take part in structured play activities with their classmates that they might otherwise be shunned from.
You went home from Play Day all hot and sweaty. You probably had a few dimes for a freezie or two, or a glass of lemonade, but you still needed to replenish your fluids that night. Play Day was done for another year – and you knew the end of school, the hopefully-good report card, and the start of summer was right around the corner.
Play Day was invaluable in building confidence in children who would otherwise not have had that chance. I think I miss Play Day. Forty year is too long!