In praise of toys, and things

There’s no place like home…

It’s been a grey, rainy week, which has forced us to spend more time than is healthy indoors. Consequently, our house is sort of starting to resemble a toy shop after a whirlwind has whipped through it, sucked up its entire contents and spewed them all out again. There are toys, and small tiny child things everywhere. I thought, well, if you can’t beat ’em… and so decided to start photographing the mess.

It got me thinking.

My daughter has a fetish for lining things up. Her eclectic collection of sea creatures, ponies, Barbie dolls, sparkly things and mini beasts are constantly being ordered and organised. They accompany her everywhere: in the car, to the shops, at the dinner table, on the sofa. She also recently acquired a small coconut which Alex had bought to use in our dinner one evening. Her wide, innocent eyes looked on that little brown hairy thing with a pointy nose and two eyes and a mouth (who knew coconuts had faces?) as a new plaything. She immediately consolidated it into her growing entourage with great enthusiasm, much to our surprise and amusement, naming him ‘Nutty’ (Nutty had a friend too, but he, erm, has now sadly departed us to join his small hairy coconut friends in the sky… and yes, there were A LOT of tears shed when daddy got the axe out).

Children are collectors. They are magpies. They like things. Their things are important to them: through them they are informed about their material surroundings; they learn about possession and play; they form part of their identity and they feed their imagination. Their toys are their imaginary friends, their sensory feedback, and their comfort in their small worlds.

Throughout childhood toys are chosen and chewed, cuddled and crushed, traded and trusted, pampered and petted, forgotten and found…. and forgotten again. Attachments are made which will last a whole lifetime; a sugar-sweet honeypot of memories to dip into as we grow older and perhaps we need that extra splash of colour in our lives that children just seem to radiate naturally. Those are times when nostalgia makes us yearn for that familiar feeling of security which childhood provides like a soft, worn blanket.

Toys, for children are wonderful, colourful, comforting, safe, tactile players on the stage of their imaginations.

Childhood is saturated in glorious Technicolor. Remember that scene from the wizard of Oz when Dorothy first opens the door onto munchkinland? Oh the assault on the senses of that too-rich, too-vibrant, blinding colour! These are the colours of the yellow brick road and the ruby-red slippers, the sky blue of her dress against the chestnut brown of her hair, and the emerald-green of the emerald city and, of course, of the rainbow…. These, I imagine, are the colours of a child’s dreams.

As we grow older our urge to collect and acquire is focussed into more ‘grown-up’ pursuits. We buy houses, cars, technology, jewellery; ‘accessories’ to enhance our lives.

It’s sad although inevitable, perhaps, that as we grow up into adulthood we start to lose that sense of wonder and excitement about the world that a child has, but I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to re-live that now through my own children. My own childhood wasn’t always idyllic of course, but, I like to sometimes look back through a vignette frame and re-capture those golden-hazed childhood memories.

There’s no place like home

*click, click, click*

(yep, I still really really want those ruby slippers…)

© Emily Hughes and searchingtosee, 2012

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4 Comments on “In praise of toys, and things

  1. Your house looks a lot like ours, and we even have that Child Story cowboy, but we can’t find the hat. It rained heavily for days last week and I nearly lost my mind, with warmer weather comes the chance for the kids to burn off some of the energy they’ve borrowed from me.

    • yes we have lost the hat many times! He doesn’t get played with much anymore, really, I think he was tossed aside whilst they were looking for something more exciting. We really need some sunshine here – it’s been weeks and tempers are starting to fray….

  2. Thank you for expressing so beautifully my thoughts exactly. I know minimalism is all the rage, but one look at my son’s Lego-filled room (used to be Playmobil filled), and I know he’s created his own little universe of color and creation in there. My house will be clean when he’s grown – and I’m sure I’ll miss the toys underfoot and bits of art and sticks lying around (I think we have at least four sticks in the house at a time).

    How old is your daughter? From about 2-4 my son was obsessed with lining things up, grouping them…then when he turned 4 and a half or so he started making ‘scenes’ out of everything. Playmobil pharoahs brandishing swords to challenge plastic dinosaurs. Complete plots and worlds fabricated. I loved those days!

  3. She is 4 (going on 14). My son is 6 and he used to love lego, but hasn’t played with it so much recently. I love watching them play together though. They get so immersed in their little fantasy worlds. Oh yeah and sticks – what is it with boys and sticks?!

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