Play Before Playgrounds, Kinderspel, Jacob Cats, 1618

Going waaay back for Throwback Thursday, to a pre-playground era and the emblem book of Jacob Cats, (1577-1660), a Dutch poet, lawyer, and statesman.  Children are at play in a city square (yay!  play in the city center!) at blindman’s buff and leap frog,  somersaults and bubble-blowing.  No “equipment”, but there are jumpropes, kites,  hoops, whirligigs, stilts, plus dolls and kitchen implements (for the girls) and lots of stick-swords and military band instruments for the boys.  In keeping with the values of the time period, gendered play was seen as preparing the children for their adult roles, and the imagery bears a hidden moral message (all emblem books do)…the stilts represent ‘ego’ because they are higher than others, the bubbles represent the brevity of life.

Play, even if it appears without sense,
Contains a whole world therein;
The world and its complete structure,
Is nothing but a children’s game;
Thus, after the frost thaws
When you look at all that foolish youth does,
You will understand on the street
How the whole world goes;
You will find there, I know it well
Your own folly in children’s games.

[via the Library of Congress.  See also Children’s Games by Breughel, one of the very first posts on Playscapes way back in 2008.]

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