We all love to have a good old moan about how iPads are stealing our kids’ creativity and television is turning their brains to mush.
I love getting out of the usual toy stores and heading into the ye olde speciality toy stores with good old-fashioned vintage toys. The bright colours and solid shapes seem to represent durability and the innocent pleasures of play from simpler times gone by.
But how much do you really know about where these toys came from? I’ve done some digging and what I’ve found might surprise you.
Of course we all know that marionettes have been around since old Pinocchio was a boy with a growing nose, around the 1880s in Italy. But did you know that the ancient greeks had these dancing string puppets down thousands of years earlier?
2. Matryoshka dolls
I think it’s safe to assume we all had a set of Russian matryoshka dolls when we were kids. We bought our boys a set when they were a little too young and lost most of the bits.
It’s unlikely you realised, however, that the first set of matroyshka dolls, while carved in Russia in 1890, were actually inspired by nesting dolls from Japan.
3. Pull along toys
My Dad bought Son #2 a pull along duck for his second Christmas. He LOVES it. We call it the ‘no-no-no’ duck because its head jerks from side to side as it rolls across the floor.
Pull along toys have quite literally been around since we invented the wheel. Here’s a surviving example from Ancient Greece!
4. Wind up music boxes
Artisan watchmakers around 1800 in Switzerland were the original makers of wind up music boxes. Gentleman used them as musical snuff boxes. This way they could snort their evening dose of tobacco up their noses while listening to Haydn and Mozart.
Our local kids’ cafe has a wind up music box which our boys fight over endlessly every time we go. I’m pretty sure I’d be rather horrified to find nicotine stains inside it.
The humble abacus has been booting around the tracks for something like 4000 years. We’ve since invented the calculator, the computer, spreadsheets and MYOB. But for some reason our kids still love to play with them, though it probably has more to do with smashing the brightly coloured beads together rather than any intention of tallying up the day’s profits.