Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

More on the mythical(?) toy divide

Yesterday’s post on toys was triggered by the news that the inventer of Slinky had died. Is Slinky a toy? More of an engineering exercise to prove a principle in mechanics. Similar to that wooden bird that dipped its beak into a glass of water, stopped, then resumed. That proved something or other but nobody ever told me what.

My elder daughter, a teacher’s assistant specialising in science, admits to playing with Slinkies and adds, somewhat dubiously, “they are good for demonstrating waves”. Remembering she was greatly attached in her youth to a shapeless, knitted creature called Fub I asked her what her favourite toy was. She responded: “I loved that garden thing that I had - you would never be able to market it now because the little tool thing was lethal.” I have no idea what this could have been.

In raising the girls’ toys/boys’ toys bifurcation it now occurs to me that small children do not initially demand toys, but are given what seems appropriate by their parents. Obviously this is not the moment for handing over a 00-gauge model of The Flying Scotsman. Suckability rather than realism is likely to be the overriding parameter.

More soft toys may go to young girls rather than young boys but something odd happens as the years go by. Men of all ages admit to an attachment to teddy bears. In the case of Sebastian in Brideshead Revisited the attachment is perhaps self-explanatory. In other instances less so. A late life reaction to being given an air-gun at a vulnerable age?

As far as I know I have no latent teddy tendencies but I must confess to enjoying a walk round Hamlyn’s on visits to London.


Lucy said...

As a small child I loathed dolls, vandalised those I had rather horribly and got into big trouble - perhaps I shouldn't confess to that as it makes me look like some sinister little antichrist. Very small I won a raffle where one prize was a toy red London bus which I wanted with a passion, and remember my mother saying rather proudly 'she walked past all the dolls and teddies and chocolate and put her hand straight on it!'. A very happy moment.

However, I did love soft toys and while I enjoyed messing about with lego, following blueprints and making anything sophisticated such as turned my brother on held no interest. So I think I just liked the solid block of colour of the red bus, and the stickability and pattern of the lego. Plus ca change, give me a puppy over a baby still, and I still love blocks of colour. Most kinds of procedural, engineering or mathematical thinking leave me bewildered. But so do many other things.

I've given up trying not to be gender specific with gifts, cards etc, for children and adults alike, I'll seldom send a picture of flowers to a man. I wouldn't seek to give guns to a boy or a toy kitchen sink or other Little Drudge Set to a girl, but I accept that very small boys of my acquaintance, who are gentle, sensitive, imaginative and thoughtful in ways that put their sisters to shame, are rendered ecstatic at the sight of big shiny tractors as said sisters rarely are.

Slinkies are great, and would do for anyone regardless of age, gender or sexual orientation.

Barrett Bonden said...

Tell you one thing: if ever you decide to close the Box Elder blog because of the burdens of success, I shall keep my eye open for a new one called Sinister Little Antichrist. A fabulous phrase.

The important thing about your first para is you were allowed the bus; your mother didn't force you you into dolls so the girl's thing/boy's thing became - happily, I think - a dead issue.

As to "give me a puppy over a baby" I can only add my own variant: "But after the passage of a seemly period of time, give me neither".

I query your bewilderment over techno-stuff. You appear to handle your computer.

Finally, thanks for another gem: Little Drudge Set. I see these mind-confining toys as shockingly insensitive. After all a model vacuum cleaner has only one function and that's as stepping stone to the real thing. Girls get a rotten deal here. Given that many lads end up doing anonymous work in offices, they too should have their futures starkly outlined with gifts of cheap ball-points, mouse mats and coffee mugs carrying such messages as "I'd rather be vomiting in a pub".

Sarah said...

Fub belonged to my sisiter!

Sarah said...

Belford was mine