People throughout the ages have played games for amusement and diversion. In some cultures, games were a way for children to learn skills that would be useful to them in later life. In addition, games provided relief and relaxation from the routine of hard work in the home or the fields. Dice have been found in Egyptian tombs. The modern game of backgammon developed from a board game played in Mesopotamia, and chess probably was first played in India. More than 400 years ago, the Flemish artist Pieter Brueghel painted a very large picture The picture is almost an encyclopedia of the games played by children of Brueghel’s time.
Brueghel loved to show the activities of peasants and working people. This painting depicts at least 80 games, including everything from marbles to hockey to ring-around-the-rosy and hoop rolling. Many games are played by adults as well as by children. Baseball, for example, can be a pickup game in a neighborhood park or a schoolyard, or a competition among professional athletes. In recent years people of all ages have been fascinated by the new games and twists on old games that electronics and the computer have made possible. The wide appeal of games to people of all ages may account for a feature of Brueghel’s painting that has never been explained.
Some people think that all the people playing games in his paintings look like adults. Perhaps Brueghel wanted to suggest that adult activities are no different from the games that children play. However, we cannot know for sure. What we do know is that many of these games and activities are still amusements today, for children as well as for grownups throughout the world.