Monday, April 17, 2017

The Best Toys, Ever

No, the Wi-Fi-enabled dildos we discussed the other day are not on the list.

I think I might have written about this before, but I'm not sure. In any case, my daughter sent me a link a while back to this interesting article from Wired - The 5 Best Toys of All Time.

At a time when every child over the age of three has a tablet computer and large numbers of toys with flashing lights, noises, Wi-Fi connections, and other high-tech bells and whistles, there are a lot of traditional toys that many of us grew up with and found wonderful ... even in the absence of power and an Internet connection. Here are the five classic toys:

1. Sticks.

2. Cardboard Boxes.

3. String.

4. Cardboard Tubes.

5. Dirt.

There are a few more items that I could add to this list, based on my own childhood:

6. Empty thread spools.

7. Buttons.

8. Empty film cans.

9. Paper plates.

My young childhood was spent in the 1950s and early 60s, and I can tell you that I spent countless hours at play with all five of the items on the list. They didn't need batteries, cables, or an Internet connection. They were always available. And they could be combined in endless ways to facilitate imaginative play. Sticks became guns, swords, spears, and any number of other, less violent things. Cardboard boxes became cars, aircraft, tanks, space ships, treasure chests, and other things. We used string to make snares and booby traps, and cardboard tubes made excellent rifles, rocket launchers, and castle turrets.

Dirt ... real dirt ... was great fun, too. I was lucky enough to grow up in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that was at the time not yet heavily developed. Houses were not built on postage-stamp sized lots, and so there was plenty of space to play. There were large stands of trees, vacant lots, and an abandoned stone quarry across the street. We climbed trees, investigated bugs, and got very dirty picking berries, splashing around in the creeks, and digging forts and tunnels in the acres of available dirt.

And none of it cost a thing. Well, except for the amount of soap and laundry detergent our parents had to buy to keep us presentable.

Nowadays, we don't like our children to get dirty. Clothes and shoes are too expensive, and we're always worried about the toxins and insects that are lurking in the soil. We don't believe it's safe to get dirty any more.

As for my own additions to the list, my mother and grandmother were both seamstresses, and as a result we always had lots of empty thread spools. Nowadays, they're all made of plastic, but back then they were made of wood, and were useful for making all sorts of things, from necklaces to small turrets on cardboard castles. And buttons were neat, too ... they were colorful and came in all sorts of shapes and sizes suitable for stringing together or gluing on to other things. We made "button trees" at Christmas and four-leafed button clovers for St Patrick's Day, and my father was still making them in his last years of assisted living.

Because my father was a professional photographer, we always had lots of empty film canisters, too. The older ones were metal and had screw-on caps; newer ones were plastic with snap-on lids. They were great for storing our other small treasures, like neat rocks, bugs, or whatever.

And let's not forget those paper plates! Before the plastic Frisbee, we sailed paper plates around the yard, or stapled them together to make flying saucers that would land threateningly on the cities we'd carved out of the dirt in the yard.

A while back, I used a cardboard box, cardboard tubes, and string to make a castle with a working drawbridge for my granddaughter. It wasn't as elegant as the huge plastic castles you can find at the big-box toy stores, but because we worked together to build it, it was special. And it took me back to a time when I wasn't worried about mortgages and car payments and what Mr Trump was going to do next.

The best toys really are the ones that unleash our childrens' imaginations and let them be creative. They don't need to have proprietary wires to hook them up, and they'll work even when the power is out. I was reminded of the tag line from the 1992 movie Radio Flyer - powered by imagination.

Probably the best power there is.

Have a good day. Enjoy simple things.

More thoughts tomorrow.



Duckbutt said...

Those were givens in my childhood, too. Very versatile, always available. And a baseball. Pristine white in April, it got brown by September from heavy use.

Gonzo Dave said...

Great post this morning! Thank you!

Mike said...

I'm sitting in a cardboard box right now!

allenwoodhaven said...

The best power, indeed. Those are 5 of the best toys. I still enjoy them all. Excellent post!

From my childhood, I'd add a numerous set of wooden building blocks and matchbox cars.