Encouraging freedom and adventure, physical skills and independence, fun, games and sport… and also: mending bikes and outdoor toys, telling stories and firing the imagination, or simply allowing children to go out and play. These are just some of the memories and experiences of how dads have helped to play out that we’ve gathered in for Father’s Day.
Not everyone grows up with a dad, and not all dads can or want to get involved in outside play. It’s only one aspect of life and parenting after all, and memories might be more of other family members, if even that. But where dads and other father figures (uncles, grandpas, family friends..) are part of playing out, there is much to celebrate.
Interestingly, the further back you go, the less actual need there was for ANY adult involvement in playing outside And yet, dads are often still important in memories. As one contributor said:
“Looking back, the ways my dad played out with me were the things he loved when he was young. It was like he re-found some fun and freedom by doing them with me, in what was a life of very hard work and responsibility.”
Here are some of our other responses, from sons and daughters all over the UK, aged six to eighty two, with dads from many different decades and even eras. We’d love to hear more!
“Dad’s always smashing it”
“Kicking a ball around in the park for hours. Giving me tips to get better. Later when I was in a local team, he took me to all the matches and encouraged me.” Sam, 21.
“Playing out with Dad is playing cricket. It’s fun, fun fun. Dad’s always smashing it. Cycling and building a tree house with Dad. That was really fun. I learned to carve (bash) wood with Dad. Dad is adventurous and he’s really good at things.” Dylan, 11, The Wirral.
“Playing garden games, building jumps for bikes, chasing around, space hopper races, sledging, fixing stuff like bikes or gardening, which was also a kind of play for us. All of these were moments where we were together in a kind of joyful escapism or bubble … and where my Dad and me felt a freedom I think from everyday life. These were some of the times where I learned about and connected with my Dad the most.” Karen, 53, London.
Spirit of adventure
“When my sister and I were small, dad told us about fairies in the woods and invented brilliant stories about children going off on adventures. He gave us magic and ignited our imaginations around the idea of being free.” Ingrid, 53 (Playing Out), Bristol.
“I’m forever grateful that my Dad taught me to be curious and brave plus how to ride a bike. Cycling still gives me a sense of independence and freedom to this day, as it did practicing back and forth on my street. He has many stories (and a scar or two!) from his youth about hurtling down the street on a makeshift go kart, and cycling to school, and he helped inspire that same adventurous spirit in me.” Ceilidh, 37, (Playing Out), Bristol.
“My dad takes me to the big park and the little park.” Amelie, 6.
“We always go on holiday to these beach huts. Dad packs up the car full to the brim of bikes, tennis rackets, footballs ready for two weeks jammed packed with outdoor play. He used to hit the tennis ball as high in the air as possible and we would all have to catch it. He’d always be the one to set up games of French cricket on the grass with all the children. It was two weeks full of fun, games and outdoor play. It gave me a break from screens and home life and it made my childhood last longer. I joined lots of sports teams from when I was young and I am still active as a teenager.” Eve, 19, Leeds.
“I only have one but very distinctive memory of playing out with my dad and that was when he taught me to ride a bike without stabilisers. I bet that’s a memory for many people. As I first wobbled along the pavement, it was dad’s hands that kept me balanced and stable, and that finally let me go.” Cate, 53, Peterborough.
“My dad gave me my sense of adventure. I grew up exploring the parks, church gardens and building sites near to where we lived, and going out on my bike to explore further afield, all with his encouragement. He taught me the excitement of following your nose and seeing what’s around the corner, and this has translated into my general spirit of adventure and love of the outdoors when I go travelling.” Joe. 22, Birmingham.
Grateful for dads!
“My dad was a quiet, behind-the-scenes kind of man so didn’t really participate in our rowdy outdoor games but was totally essential as the ‘repair man’. In his shed, he would fix our toys as quickly as we broke them; mending punctures, putting Action Man back together, unknotting kite strings, servicing go-karts and generally bodging everything. He even taught me how to change a bike tyre using a spoon! He was never happier than watching us recklessly tear about outside, just waiting for the next repair job to come his way!” Dik, 58, Abergavenny.
“After the war, play with my father was usually indoors, talking and playing cards. But we were also quite capable of leading our own lives and following our own interests. We lived on a fairly busy road in north London but I would announce ‘I’m going round the corner’ and disappear into the side streets to find other children until I grew hungry. Siddie Brown was my best friend. If you were seven or eight, why would you be escorted by an adult? And organised ‘playing out’ was unheard of. I don’t recall dad giving permission, or me asking for it. He was not a sportsman urging me to kick or throw balls, for which I am very grateful. He did not enable me to play out. I did not need enabling.” Ben, 82, Bristol.
What are your memories of playing out with the father figures in your life?
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