One of the more exciting things about Christmas is the packaging on the toys! We used to love ripping open the wrappings, all pictures of Father Christmas and little animals. Then inside would be a tantalising sight. A carton of some sort – brightly coloured and made very robustly. There would always be te explanation of how to work the beast inside too. We used to be told endlessly to keep the cartons to put the toys back in – being careful with our toys ensured we got bought more the following year. As it happens of course, anyone who has watched any antique programmes lately will know that the most critical part about taking a toy in for valuation is the state of the packaging – if it still exists. It’s rather too late for most post war children now – but generally the better the box, the more valuable and interesting the contents will prove to be!
There’s a brilliant programme that I sometimes catch on a daytime lifestyle channel – one of those easy to watch little numbers that shows off the talents of artisans and skilled craftsmen and women. The idea is that folk bring their dead and dying old pocessions such as toys, pictures, clocks etc. to the ‘Repair Shop’ and any one of the many specialist repairers and restorers is given the opportunity to show off their immense talent in bringing the article back to life. I’ve seen some amazing transformations from seriously battered and mishapen items. We see some of the processes and progress as the camera shifts from one expert job to another. The expressions of gratitude and incredulity from the owers when they come to collect are priceless! The programme is useful also for reminding everyone that new toys and future heirlooms are also available and out there in the best shops!
There’s something wonderful about sharing a coach trip with several folk you’ve never met before but you find you have a lot in common with. this happens to everyone at some time or another when they go abroad for a short holiday. We all seem to go into over drive with the polite niceness. This definitely happened to me recently on a coach trip to germany, I knew no one when I got on the first of 3 feeder coaches . . . . . but after the first day of heavy travelling was over, and we wer on our first true excursion, I bonded with one couple who’s enthusiasm for life and anything new was utterly infectious. They had me trolling around looking at toy trains and model kits galore. Neither have I done much of before but with these new buddies, it opened my eyes to the fantastic world of model railways and everything that they encompass.
There are times throughout a year when playing near water is safer than at others. Now is just when youngsters and teenage men should not go near it. Why, year after year, do young adult men think it’s ok to jump into a largebody of water – to go for a free cooling swim? We are warned every single year about the dangers of unexpectedly deep water pockets, it makes the swimmer suddenly panic and they take in water with each breath. Very often cramp will get them aswell – the sheer cold and panic together make them move in unnatural ways, thus causing the muscles to move oddly. There are usually a lot by this time of the year. Swimming needs to be in safe public pools or lidos – never gravel pits, ponds, lagoons or lakes unless there are signs saying it is safe and legal to swim there. Get swimming lessons. If you can’t swim, don’t dump in anything!
The way babies and toddlers develop has changed little over the years. Inf act there isn’t a grat deal that can change apart from the speed with thich babies graduate from blobby gurgling little lumps in a pram or cot and now seem to be expected to sit up and converse with the world at 6 months! I have connections with a relatively small number of children on a regular basis. My own have flown the nest and I see grandchildren – now teenagers and a couple of next generation great nieces. I luckily have neighbours with children aged between 6 and 12. This is a great joy to me because otherwise it can be very quiet once all your own throng have buzzed off! I love hearing the chatter of voices outside when they all come home from after school activities. The games have gone back to my youth – hopscotch, tag, british bulldog. they even do double dutch skipping – the curret phase.
I have spent a gloriously happy easter weekend away from home staying with relatives. There were no children around and although it was busy, it did seem to be missing this essential element. We made up for it though, happily joking and playing around as grown up kiddies might! The amount of chocolate scoffed was much less than in the day when my siblings and I managed to eat our way through 3 eggs before lunch! The children today seem less likely to be demanding of the chocolate egg – they seem perfectly happy with a new toy or a game that can be shared with pals. Outside my house beyond the normal driveway, there is plenty of safe area and children the other side of us really love this. Perfect for playing black jack, skipping and hopscotch. All these fabulously old fashioned games have come back into fashion big time.
Oh how playing games can be the most wonderful way of spending any spare time. Of course, as a child, there is no need for spare time. A child has to go to nursery, so play time is essential in their daily routine. Not necessarily to just make the child happy, but to help development and to bring a touch of social awareness into their lives. For some children, life at home can be a sorrowful experience and often the atmosphere at nursery school or child minder is their only escape. To playt a really close competitive game though would be absolutely out of the question. A child under stress will never be able to cope with that kind of pressure. Board games, gently explained can also present rather a challenge. Whenever a specific kind of toy or game is needed, it is worth speaking to a really good established retailer – they can advice best ideas.
There is a young neice in my extended family – and much fun is being had by all of us older folk who no longer have kiddies around to buy any presents or toys for. We have just had Christmas and of course, there were piles of presents to be shared around the gaggle of relatives. Needless to say, the largest pile by miles was for the smallest member. Many different kinds of toys were ripped open and looked at briefly, disgarded and left by the wayside in favour the of the cardboard cartons they came in. I’m ignoring any dictates on not buying girly toys. Every toy is worthy of its place and lots of life lessons start early – getting into the swing of laundry day with a toy kitchen set up that includes the washer and dryer, instilling picking up of clothes to wash them can work with boys as well as girls.
Oh the joys of playing with proper toys when you get the chance! There are some great kids that live in my neighbourhood – all ages from late teens down to the tiny tots. Most of the time I don’t see them at all – they get ferried to and from school in the family taxi, scurrying in from car to house. Weekends are much the same, not very much evidence of childhood existence. But lately there has been a very obvious shift away from the electronic gizmo entertainment that keeps them so silently hidden. We have enjoyed belated cricket on the village green – someone was obviously bought two sets of bails during the summer! I have enjoyed watching the various dads collectively rying to remind themselves of their own happy teen years – showing off their bowling skills. I hope this theme continues, it’s wonderful to hear and see families really enjoying quality playtime!
Having just returned from a family jauant down to the wet country, where we were housed in two small cottages with walls ten inches thick and low rooflines, it was momentarily fab to get back to normal communiations and use of phones. Although the holiday was tremendous fun, there were times when one of our number needed daily business dealings.
But all was not lost – in the cabinet next to the quaint old fireplace was a brilliant selection of jigsaws and board games. Yeah – salvation. This made us realise how much fun it is when you can’t sit just staring down at a screen on a lap. We had such a laugh, playing strategic games needing thought, guile and not a small amount of complete bare faced cheek. We played ludo, snakes and ladders, Salem (bizarre role play game taking its toll on our limited acting skills). We also had skittles, footballs, tennis raquets etc. A truly exhiliarating few days!