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Comedian Luke Toulson on the art of beating your kids at play time

Want more from Luke? Read his take on why school plays are excuriating.

When my son was about six, I asked him what his favourite subject at school was. He sat silently for a while, contemplating his answer, then he declared with absolute certainty, ‘play time.’

‘That’s not a subject,’ I said.

To which, he replied, ‘I know. But I’m good at it.’

Many parents choose to praise the academic achievements of their children, I think we should celebrate the players (NB: players not ‘playas’). I wonder how good Joseph Stalin or Peter Sutcliffe or Donald Trump were at play time. ‘I’m great at play time. One of my best features is how great I am at play time. All the dinner ladies love me. I’m great with dinner ladies. She’s fat. You’re ugly. I’m going to build a wall and Year Two is going to pay for it.’

It is not the hours I have spent helping my kids to read and write that I remember most fondly, it is the times we have spent playing together. Ten-Pin Bowling, Crazy Golf, Snakes n Ladders, you name it, I have beaten my kids at it. I have even beaten my then five-year-old daughter at ‘playing shop’.

This is how it happened:

I open politely with, ‘Please may I have…’

But straight away she cuts me down, ‘There’s a queue’.

I don’t say anything. Maybe her character has had a long day. Got kids of her own. Her mother’s sick. Not sure if she’s gonna be able to make the rent. So I don’t say anything. I go to the back of the queue and wait patiently as my daughter serves various dolls and teddy bears.

Four minutes go by and that is a lot of time in what is supposed to be a convenience store. Still I say nothing. But then Peppa Pig decides to pay with a cheque and I lose it.

‘This is ridiculous,’ I shout.

My daughter doesn’t even look up. I think with hindsight, that is what annoyed me the most, that she didn’t even look up as she just wafted with her hand, ‘Use the self-service.’

There had been a self-service till there the whole time! An invisible self-service till that my daughter had chosen not to tell me about. I’m furious. I scan my items moodily. She then has the gall to ask me if I have a loyalty card. All I do is mutter under my breath, ‘Not coming here again’ and she calls for security. There is a bit of a scuffle. Words are exchanged. But we manage to sort it out and she agrees not to call the police, if I leave her shop, which I duly do.

Then after she goes to bed I build a Tescos next to her shop, and she goes out of business.

No one beats me at shop.

Then one day something magical happened. I let my son win a game of one-on-one football and he was so happy. I had never seen him so happy. He had finally beaten his dad at football. He was desperate to play again, so we did and I let him win for a second time. At which point my son looked up at me and enquired, ‘Do you think you’re getting too old for this game?’ I demanded a re-match. My son was by now quite tired, but I insisted and my 10-0 victory was as conclusive as it was exuberantly celebrated.

So much of today’s play time is now technology-based. I remember the hours my siblings and I spent playing ‘Hunt The Thimble’ at my grandparents’ house. The rules were simple. One of my grandparents would hide a thimble (if you’re under 25, google it) in an impossible-to-find place and then settle into an armchair knowing that was the afternoon taken care of. We kids would then spend hours (literally hours) ‘hunting’ the thimble. Often not finding the thimble and losing a kid.

Try playing this game with your children today and they will return within two minutes declaring that they couldn’t find the thimble but that they have ordered a new one off Amazon.

Want more from Luke? Read his take on why school plays are excrutiating.


Lisa Tantrum
Such a funny piece. I'm famous for relentless beating my cousin at Tinkly Winks when I was 19 and he was six.