4 Stages of Play All Parents of Boys Will Understand

Image via Shutterstock

Image via Shutterstock

It’s summer vacation and I’m a work-at-home dad in charge of two boys, ages Nine and Nearly Five.  They’re good kids, provided you remember — and develop the patience for — the Four Stages of Play.

They are:

• Every idea becomes a game

• Every game becomes a contest

• Every contest becomes a bloodsport

• Every bloodsport ends in bloodshed

The only exception to these Four Stages is when boys spend too long in close proximity to one another, and skip directly from Stage One to Stage Four.

In Stage One, I use the word “idea” loosely — looser than a noose tied of loose yarn draped loosely around the neck of a loose goose.  A small boy gets an “idea” when a random synapse fires under the stimulation of a third bowl of Cookie Crisp, and consists only of the words, “Let’s do that!”

“That” being something you told them not to do is a direct function of how many times you’ve told them not to do that.  The other possibility — really the only other possibility — is that they come up with something so bizarre that you, as a grown adult-type person, could never have imagined to forbid it in advance.  But we’ll get to Trampoline Lego in a moment.

The other boy(s), whose synapses are also under the influence of various sucrose-based breakfast foods, and who have also been told repeatedly that doing “that” would be a bad idea, immediately and invariably agree that “that” would be an excellent idea.

“That” is how Trampoline Lego was invented, and if you think bare feet are the best way to find missing Lego pieces in the living room, just wait until you’ve tried the lawnmower.  I’m not particularly upset about the Lego brick lodged at Lawnmower Blade Speed into the stucco exterior of Casa Verde for the simple reason that it isn’t lodged into one of the dogs.


This brings us to Stage Two, or as I now think of it: How High Can We Make the Legos Bounce?

In their little boy minds, I’m certain they pictured something like one of those bouncy ball rooms, except on a trampoline.  But instead of soft, round bouncy balls, they had pointy, stabby Lego bricks.  So instead of paddling their way through soft, round bouncy balls, they were flying through the air with pointy, stabby Lego bricks — and seeing who could go the highest with the mostest.  Nine was going for height, I was told, but Nearly Five was going for numbers.

The International Olympic Committee has yet to devise universally accepted rules for judging Trampoline Lego, so naturally an argument ensued over who had indeed gone the highest with the mostest.  Other arguments involved the merits of hang time versus height, and whether Duplo bricks were “too immature” for Trampoline Lego.

I should add that there were no arguments over the merits of Trampoline Lego itself.

There was also no discussion about what might happen when an airborne little boy, surrounded by airborne pointy, stabby Lego and/or Duplo bricks, inevitably becomes un-airborne.

Image via Shutterstock

Image via Shutterstock

Stage Three: Bloodsport.  The argument could be settled in only one way, with small boys and the pointy, stabby bricks flying higher and higher and landing harder and harder.  The first thing I knew of it, sitting here at my desk during the genesis of Trampoline Lego, is that my children seemed to be under banshee attack.

A banshee attack would have been simpler to deal with — let the hellspawn eat my hellspawn while I try and get some work done over all this noise.  But instead of a banshee, in ran Nearly Five, wailing over nasty scrapes to one toe, one knee, one elbow, and with a long and even nastier cut on the heel of one hand.


Stage Four is bloodshed.  Stage Four is always bloodshed.

The scrapes got sprays of Bactine and a trembling lip and promises to be brave.  The cut on the heel of Nearly Five’s hand was trickier, since there’s no way to keep a regular Band-Aid on that spot, especially not when that spot is on a not-quite-five-year-old getting into mischief like Trampoline Lego.  So I improvised with a custom-tailored piece of gauze, and enough medical tape to costume the next reboot of The Mummy franchise.

Nearly Five couldn’t have been prouder of that Tough Guy-looking bandage, and before I could offer him a mini ice cream bar to make him feel all better, he was scurrying away to show off his war wounds to Nine and their friends — the trembling lip already a thing of the past.  I overheard one of them saying, “Let’s see how far we can jump off the swings!”

I forgot to mention Stage Five: Return to Stage One.


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