Observations from the Mall Play Area

I spend a lot of time at our local mall’s play area. Anna gets to play with other kids in a safe environment while I work on my laptop and keep an eye on her. It’s become my second office, and in all the time I’ve spent here I’ve noticed a few things (in no particular order):

1) Toddlers are fascinated with my computer. The babies don’t notice and the older kids don’t care, but if there’s an eighteen month old in the play area, that kid will be drawn to my laptop like it was a big bucket of candy.

2) Anna is one of the best-behaved kids I’ve seen. Sure, she has a temper and she’s stubborn (not sure where she gets those qualities from), but all it takes is a trip to the mall to remind me how good she is most of the time. Yesterday, for example, one of the younger boys was grabbing a lot, and he pulled Anna’s hair a couple of times. She yelled because it hurt, but she didn’t hit back or shout at him. She just walked away.

3) Boys and girls play differently. Girls run, girls climb, and girls play “Ring Around the Rosie.” Boys are crash test dummies in training.

4) Moms still outnumber dads, but not as much as they did a few years ago. I don’t get as many looks either. I guess a dad and his kid on a weekday afternoon isn’t such a strange sight anymore. Or we’re here a lot and everyone recognizes us.

5) Kids can entertain themselves for hours by running in circles. Chasing each other makes this activity even more fun. It starts with a couple of kids—Anna often gets it going—then in no time five or six kids are running laps and laughing. When I see them I understand why Jesus said that “unless you . . . become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3 NRSV) He was talking about joy. Kids get joy.

Watch them play for a few minutes and you’ll start to get it too.


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