Playing House

Eliza Heward

The following is a student submission from Mrs. Reichenbach’s Dual Credit English 102 class:

Mother and father, son and daughter, newborn and pet; these are the typical roles of a nuclear family. Props or dolls may be added and houses built… with pure imagination. Hopefully, you’ve caught on as I am referring to the game of ‘playing house’. It is difficult to trace when this game first came about, but children over thousands of years have spent countless hours imitating a family and home. Children around the world play this game, calling it “Mutter, Vater, Kind” (mother, father, child in German),  “vadertje en moedertje” (little father and little mother in Dutch), and countless other names. Several of my ancestors left personal histories of crossing the plains, and playing house under wagons with bags of flour and simple fabric dolls. The imagination is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? Today, there is a wide variety of toys and ‘appliances’ for children to play ‘house’. Plastic kitchens with toys and foods, mini tents as houses, all packaged for your little one’s to play ‘house’ leaving little to the imagination. (Personally, we never had much more than a few plastic chicken legs and plates.) It’s fascinating that a game that is played by ‘instinct’ has been around for all of human history. I have fond memories of playing ‘house’ under slides and swing sets on the playground, or building fort houses at home. I remember one time when I was under the slide and I convinced my friends to be my dogs rather than my children for this game. Let’s just say I had plenty of dogfood and my “dogs” were well fed. 

My Grandma Heward is an absolutely wonderful woman; I could go on and on about her. I have fond memories of her farm, the games and food, and adventures with my cousins. Her house was THE place, and everyone was always excited to go to her house. You know you are in for lots of fun when you go to grandma’s house. 

Her house is quite large with the upstairs being an add-on. The upstairs has several rooms and a large gathering area with diverse couches of all shapes and sizes. Nothing in that room is coordinated in any way; this room became our world. The cushions were removed for our pretend bedding and blankets were draped over chairs for our houses. There were cops and villains, shopkeepers and bankers, lonely hermits and homeless individuals, we even had natural disasters; we had it ALL! Those hours of ‘house’ seem all pretend, but it was real to us. No one was ever truly a villain, just misunderstood. The hermits forged friendships and the homeless always found a home. Our selfless little hearts went out to each other and we wanted to make our world good. Many look at these games and our silly imitations as childish. I find it rather fascinating and wholesome. 

Finding comfort in pillows, making car noises, escaping the imaginary basement monster are all childish things, right? Yet most adults do these things. As a society it seems we try to shut out the childish behaviors and instincts because we need to grow up. For most, that’s what maturity is. I disagree. I know that since I was young people have said I was very mature for my age, but at what cost? It’s a loss I will never forgive myself for. I once heard this quote that said, “retracing your past is the key to moving forward”. Getting to know our inner child. The term “inner child” is a concept that is traced back to Carl Jung, a psychiatrist. He linked his inner child to memories and experiences of playfulness, innocence, and imagination. Many experts have also noted that expressing one’s inner child can lead to better development as an adult; this idea contrasts starkly with society’s opinion. Mental health writer, Crystal Raypole, puts it best this way, “finding your inner child doesn’t mean you’re immature or don’t want to grow up. Rather, it can help make it easier to understand your adult experience, and handle any future challenges with self-compassion.” You may not be able to understand or hear your inner child very clearly, but building that connection will bring a stronger and renewed sense of self. The brilliance of that connection will shine through and reflect on those around you. Why should we suppress something so human as our inner child: the person inside of us who is selfless and creative? I think we can all agree we need more of that in our world today, as it can become so tedious and melancholy. A bit of laughter and color to our ever duller world, would make all the difference. I rate playing ‘house’ a four out of five stars. 

Works Cited

“House (game).” Wikipedia, Accessed 24 February 2023.

Legg, Timothy J. “Inner Child: 6 Ways to Find Yours.” Healthline, 26 June 2020, Accessed 24 February 2023.

“10 incredibly childish things people do even though they’re adults.” Irish News, 9 November 2018, Accessed 24 February 2023.