Esta página es una versión traducida de la página LA NATURALEZA COMO ESPACIO LUDICO. La traducción está completa al 100 %.

Otros idiomas:
Inglés • ‎Español • ‎Euskera • ‎Francés

Much of children’s playing in traditional society took place in what today, with a certain encyclopaedic tone, we call nature. Yet it was easier for children in the past. Nature was the river brimming with fish or at least frogs and tadpoles, the fields where crickets sang in summer and flowers grew in spring, the stone walls where the lizards hid, the porches with its bats, the blackberry-laden paths, the arcades to shelter from the rain, the upland for long walks, the coastal rocks covered in winkles and limpets, and the trees where birds built their nests.

This setting was not exclusive to children living in rural communities. Any charter town or city had natural settings inside or nearby that encouraged children, who had less school commitments than now, to spend their time gathering, hunting or at least exploring.

During those activities, the children had very different types of relationships with animals. They were respectful to some of them, such as the ladybird and swallows, but most of the time their activities led to the death, mutilation or injury of the animal.

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Relationship with animals

Ladybird. Marigorringoa

Children who find a ladybird, catch it and let it run over the palm, back or fingers of their hands. When the ladybird reaches the edge of the hand or the end of a finger, it usually flies away. So if children want to play with the insect as long as possible, they have to turn their hands so the ladybird always has a surface to walk on.

Catching crickets. Txirtxiletara

Going on a cricket hunt is a typical spring and summer activity, in which mainly boys take part, even though girls are not excluded.

First of all, the children have to follow the sound of the cricket’s song to locate its hideaway. Once the children find the cave in which the crickets are hiding, they catch them.

Slugs and snails

Catching snails is a game for children of both sexes. The best time to do so is after a summer storm. They are caught to take them home and eat them or often just to use them as toys.

When they find a snail hidden in its shell, the children sing a song over and over again that is the same song in many places and quite uniform in its structure:

Caracol, miricol/biricol,
Caracol, col, col
saca los cuernos al sol
que tu madre y tu padre
también los sacó.
[Snail, Snail/ Let your tentacles see the sun/ Just like your mother and father did]


Fishing in rivers is basically for entertainment, though sometimes the fish caught is taken home to eat it.

Looking for nests. Txori-ikasten

There is one that stands out for its complexity among the hunting activities or games related to the animal world: looking for nests.

Birds begin to breed with the arrival of spring. In the villages and rural areas, nature stimulated the inner hunting instincts of children in the past, who did not have to spend as much time studying as children do today. However, that quest was far more for entertainment than to hunt for food, although sometimes the birds would be used for that purpose.

Plant-related activities

Another important set of children’s play activities are related to the plant world. If the animal-related activities are more typical of boys, the plants ones are more likely to involve girls, but that is not always the case. Collecting and stealing fruit is carried out in mixed groups, the use of certain plants to use as tobacco was more typical of young boys, even though girls would try it at these early ages.

Gathering activity

Collecting wild fruit is a common childhood activity. The children often eat and play with them right away; however, the fruit is taken home to be used there.

Making decorations

In summer, girls have spent their time making necklaces, bracelets, ear-rings, floral wreaths and garments decorated with different plants. The most commonly used ones have been daisies and rosehips.

Fortune telling using flowers and fruits

A very frequent and common custom is to pull the petals off a daisy and ask “he loves me?”, “he loves me not?” with each petal until they have all been pulled off. The last one provides the right answer.