Isn’t it odd, how we don’t really think about buying toys or games througout the year – only when it’s a birthday or Christmas. Yet our childhood is formed to a great extent by these marvellous inventions! I so well remember my trips into town with our grandmother – she used to take us regularly for new skipping ropes, bouncy balls, five jacks, hoola hoops. She was a great believer in fresh air in the lungs for children – and playing outdoors in all weathers. We were ushered outside into the enormous garden early every day and allowed to built camps, play make believe games – playing doctors and nurses with all our toys lined up in the ‘waiting room’. I went ot my local toy store to buy a 2 year old’s present – oh what fabulous fun I had. The staff were fantastic and showed me lots of nurturing and imagination games. I nearly camped there overnight!
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!
At this time of year the summer sun and warmth has started to slip away and become just another fab memory. Autmn slips in, quietly and without fuss and we start thinking seriously about Christmas and the New Year holidays. Those toys and pastimes that we so used to look forward to receiving. My sisters and I were always keen doll owners. The thought that we might just have another playmate to add to our family of dolls, especially if it came with a whole wardrobe of clothes and accessories. Our boy cousins used to sigh and eyes would go skywards at the very mention of such sissy, girly things. But they joined in eventually, especially if we were playing doctors and hospitals, or car mechanics if they had their garage and toy cars around. I now have several children in my extended family – I love toy buying for birthdays and Christmas!
I was reading a monthly magazine the other day when my eyes lit upon an article about the inventor of a particular brand of toy car from my youth. I had no idea this chap was local to where I have been iving for the last 40 or so years. The name of the toy is so well known, both here and overseas, that I naturally assumed it was a massive conglomerate from the US. This chap had started his toy empire many years ago after being injured when in his early twenties. In his frastration at not being able to carry on usual fun and sporting activities, he set about mending a few old toys of his own. He then produced some super duper fast track motor toys – based on the modern car of his day, these were fantastic working models – he had a ready market and never looked back. Folk stayed with a brand in those days!
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.
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.
We have just enjoyed another busy Christmas and new year period – this time though we had the joy of a toddler to spoil and be enthralled by. It was hearing about the tot’s exploits, working out how to unwrap the gifts, the shortest route to success, that was the most amusing. Of course, as is always the case, the actual contents of the boxes recovered from the ripping and shredding exercise were less interesting than the cartons – nothing new there then! the point though for all of us somewhat jaded adults, was seeing the innocent joy on the toddler’s face when encounraged to show us all what was inside each box. The vast selection of toys was impressive, only one minor duplication! What pleased me was that each giver had thoroughly enjoyed looking for their gift, really remembering their own very happy childhood christmas experiences. They even recalled some of the reasons for the celebration !
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!