The Childhood Joy of Childhood Toys

I was lucky. I had multiple toys as a child, the privilege of being an only child, and, for the longest time, the only grandchild on my mother’s side. I don’t remember having a single favorite toy; my mother might disagree, but I do remember having favorite toys.

My love of horses meant I got Breyer horse figurines frequently. I do remember asking for them anytime a new one came out. Those horses went everywhere. My friends and I pretended they galloped around yards, up and down sidewalks, over to the neighbors, down the driveway. I had a friend who had several Barbie dolls, who, of course, became the riders for the horses.

Another favorite toy was handmade and a hand-me-down from my mother and aunt. My grandfather had built my mother and my aunt a beautiful, two-story wooden dollhouse wired for electricity. By the time I got it, some 30 years later, the wiring was suspect, so we never plugged it in. It provided endless fun for my friends and me. And, of course, we built a cardboard stable for the Breyer horses. The dollhouse dolls would visit “their” horses, never mind that the horses were about three times too big for the dollhouse dolls.

I had friends that weren’t so well off, though. When we would play at their house, the horses and the dollhouse dolls, my other friend’s Barbie dolls, would all visit, and we’d build massive forts from blankets, cardboard boxes, and chairs.

The best thing about all the toys was they opened a gateway to a make-believe world of OUR creation. They were props in the stories we created. It wasn’t so much about the toys themselves, the cardboard boxes and chairs; it was what prompted my friends and me to do with them in the world we collaborated to build. I wonder if, in the insistence of trying to teach children things with “educational toys,” “smart toys,” and “experiential toys,” that we haven’t taken away the seriousness of play and imagination and potentially have done our children a huge disservice.

What were your favorite childhood toys? Did you share them with others?

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