An Homage to the Greatest Toys

Kottke provided a link to possibly one of the greatest articles I’ve read in a long time yesterday. Written by Jonathan Liu on on Wired, the article lists the “The 5 Best Toys of All Time.”

The article strikes me as lovely and wonderful for a number of reasons.  First off because my wife and I had recently been talking about how much kids love to play with sticks (the first toy on Mr. Liu’s list).  It is great because in all likeliness all of us can relate to these toys from having played with them ourselves at some point and also having watched our own children play with them.  Even more than that it is a wonderful article in its cleverness and ease of discussing these toys.  But most of all I think that it is a fantastic article because it is true, and we know it as we read it.

While the piece is about toys, wonderful versatile toys like boxes and dirt, it is really about something much more, and the truth I mention above is in that much more.  What it is really about is the sheer creative and capable genius of all children.  If we were to walk through a toy store today, undoubtedly we’d see all sorts of fancy and colorful contraptions, some of which are incredibly complex (and equally so pricy).  Sure thing that most kids would love to play with these toys, but they truly do not need them to enjoy the prospects of play.  Kids can pick up a stick or a box or some string, – simple, available, and cheap things – and be able to create as much enjoyment (if not more) from them than anything that can be bought in a toy store.

These are toys that are timeless in ways that something like blocks, or Barbies, or Legos can never really be. They are timeless because they are toys that have in someway (especially in regards to sticks and dirt) been around for the course of humanity.  Children will play with whatever they can find because playing is such an essentially part to learning to be human and interacting with the world.  Do we think that our ancestors who lived in caves didn’t play as children?  Of course they did.  Sure they didn’t have toy cars or doll houses, but they would certainly have found things to play with.

If I had to make one change to Mr. Liu’s article it would be to replace cardboard tubes with rocks.  While cardboard tubes are certainly a wonderful and versatile childhood tool, they are 1. unquestionably the newest tool on the list and 2. basically a hollow stick, which is repeating one of the other toys ont he list.  Rocks on the other hand are just as ancient as dirt and unquestionably versatile.  Sure rocks hove their risks as toys (see: smashed fingers; broken windows) but they can be used for some much constructive purpose.  Basically rocks are natures blocks.  As a child I loved playing with rocks and was lucky that my grandparents’ farm had tons and tons to find and use.

So the next time you see a child using a stick or a box for a bit of fun try to appreciate the wonder and greatness of it.  It is so human it is hard not to appreciate it.

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~ by Nathaniel on December 1, 2011.

One Response to “An Homage to the Greatest Toys”

  1. I had a fun stick once when I was a duckling. It was a great stick. I would also take branches and make a fort, until I started finding earwigs on the branches. Stupid earwigs.

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