Friday, November 6, 2009


Only 48 shopping days until Christmas, a day intended to celebrate Christ’s birth but usually spent ripping wrapping paper, untying ribbons, and removing bows from the mountain of gifts under the tree. If you have small children, you watch them open the latest and greatest must-have toys you bought them -- sometimes at great sacrifice to your bank account. Then while you're busy refilling Grandma’s eggnog, the kids are ignoring their presents and playing with the recycling pile!

I asked my Nigerian friend Maria what she played with as a child, and she had to think. Did she have a doll? No. Games? No. She and her siblings didn’t HAVE them, but they PLAYED them. They dug small holes in the ground, got handfuls of tree seeds, and played a version of Mancala (or Ncho) – what I know as a wooden board with deep spaces to drop marbles or stones. Part of me felt bad they didn’t have toys, but an even stronger part is in awe of their resourcefulness and imagination.

Turns out children (and adults!) in any country don’t need a lot of fancy schmancy store-bought things to have fun. (Check out my September 26 post: Plastic Chairs and Checkers.)


  1. Erika,
    When I was young, my dad made us a game board which he said was from Africa. Instead of stones or seeds, we used marbles. Dad called the game Wari.


  2. Same game -- I think I even have the one he made.