Toys, Play schemes and the good old days of play

I don’t consider myself that old. But some of the toys I played with are now considered antique and at one point our local museum was asking for some of them. Going down memory lane forty years ago, these toys pop into my mind:
Slinky – we really did try to see if it could walk down the stairs   Marbles- my brother knew the ins and outs of the game, I just enjoyed looking through the glass balls and sorting them by design     Card games – mostly we played war and occasionally tried to build the ultimate card house    Shoots and Ladders- the slide down the middle was so big in my mind   Candyland – I just thought this game was pretty but also desired to get the candy cards- the gingerbread one to be exact . Memory – we loved making matches and the pictures on the cards and often enjoyed getting certain picture matches.  Cinnamon doll- she had long hair if you pushed her belly button and short hair if you turned the knob on her back  – her hair smelled like cinnamon –    Dollhouse – oh that was endless in decorating and story making  Easy bake oven- I didn’t actually own one but I sure do have fond memories of making cakes  Colored blocks- my brother who seemed to be a natural genius at everything made a house with a movie theater in it. . Matchbox cars- we used to use the outline of the living room rug design as a road . I had  pink shelf of animals and trinkets- I did drama and storytelling with them.

What made these toys and other play things “good” was that there were that while they were advertised with cool features, there were still many play schemes that could be developed with them. We didn’t bore of the toys because there was only one thing you could do with them.  The slinky didn’t just walk downstairs but it could be used as a telephone- you know the kind with the springy cord that attached to the wall, or it would serve as a great boing boing pony tail. They were simple enough to let your imagination flow. The play scheme  associated with them was not dictated to us through an advertisement.

 I learned recently that there is a website called They are non marketed toys unrelated to any movie, television show, advertisement,- basically no gimmick attached just some toys intended to stretch the play schema of the young child. A teacher sharing  knowledge of early Childhood presented these toys to a group of teachers. She shared that when playing with star wars, barbies, Bayblades, etc the play scheme is essentially limited and their imagination is shut down. So with these toys it opens up a whole new world of imagination for the child. But after I asked- “Do you find they easily play with them?” She responded with “It takes some time.”

 A star wars weapon can only be used for having laser fights. A barbie can only be used to find and date Ken. Even Legos can only be used to create the designs provided. ABbay blade can only be used to spin. Some of these other toys I have seen in the show and tell part of my teaching day. They do nothing but accumulate or get lost. In addition, I for some I can’t even pronounce their names. Some are so ugly and just plain stupid. The gimmick lures the child in and the pleasure of play lasts a time until the next gimmick comes along. So many times during a show and tell session in my classroom, I ask the kids what to they do with their toys. Sometimes the responses are absolutely nothing they just sit there. They are things just to have. Garage sale material for sure.

I am hoping that though these toys bombard the world of play that  even kids today will play and reflects on their play days as the “good old days” as well. I hope they do not bore of play too easily because there are too many things and not enough play schemes to invent along with them.  I hope that their play does not consist of “this is how” limiting the imagination to a shut down stage too early in the game so that the child becomes impatient for the next quick fix toy.

To bring the good old days of play back, buy the toys that fatten the brain – ( make it grow) and nurture the imagination. Toys are not limited to the store but things around the house too. Ever heard of Pinterest? There is enough there to keep my brain spinning until my death and many play ideas are not using a store bought toy.  Do the activities that are memorable, skill filled, and fun. Find the odds and ends around the house and model your imagination to your kids. Maybe even  bring out the slinky, easy bake oven, marbles, and jack n the box. They may be a foreign concept to some but there is truly some hidden fun in even those toys of yesterday.


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