Toy touts

Here are some simple fun things for kids to do with their parents and or siblings. Ask a child to draw a favorite toy twice. Once by memory and then with the object in sight. Take a picture of the toy. Use the three images and the toy itself to trigger a conversation about handmade versus mechanical and industrial goods. Plan a visit to a local craft fair along with your next shopping trip.

Another activity provides a precious life experience. With the child, identify a toy that was stored away, is still in good conditions and had not been used for some time. Discuss the possibility of disposing of it and make a plan together. The first step should be to draw the toy and keep the drawing as a souvenir. List the pros and cons of two alternatives: 1) Donate the toy and learn about philanthropy and the feelings of loss and empathy; 2) Sale the toy and learn about commerce, publicity, savings and talk about values.

Celebrate the benefits toys bring to us all, by discovering artists who do that so well. Our four favorites are Derrick Hickman, Jimmy Lucero, Josh Talbott and John Padlo. Did you know that Andy Warhol made a series of toy paintings? Some are currently on display at the Gmurzinska Gallery in Zürich. Many more artists are celebrating toys. See the works by Kelley Bochman Smith, Joyce K. Jensen, Margaret Morrison and Linda Apple.

Child with a teetotum, by Jean-Siméon Chardin. Musée du Louvre / A. Dequier, M. Bard. Source: Louvre.fr, 29 August 2020.

Toy museums: What’s at play?

Much could be said about toy museums, as a contemporary phenomenon. Their very existence sparks reflection about nostalgia, fast changing societies and consumerism. Without dwelling on those issues, we note the diversity of toy museums and how they might evolve in the future.

We find toy museums on every continents. See a list, along with links, in this Wikipedia article. As summer holidays come to a close and lockdowns are being lifted, visiting one makes for a fun family excursion. Many of them are small and grew out of personal collections. Probably by grownups who could not bare to see these cute objects collecting dust, in the attic or at the local antique fair. See the one in Hamilton (CA), or the charming one in Helsinki (FI).

Others have impressive collections, be it by their size, historical or specialized content. The Farm Toy Museum (Dyersville, IA), the Shankar’s International Doll Museum (New Dehli, IN) and the Ore Mountain Toy Museum (Seiffen, GE) are three examples. A few have full-time curators and collect not only rare items, but tourism awards too. Interestingly, the state of Missouri has two, both founded in 1982. Spain also has more than one such museums.

We found two institutions of special interest, each for a couple of reasons. First, they do not call themselves toy museums. The Strong National Museum of Play (Buffalo, NY) is one of the largest in the world. Its pinball online collection caught our attention. The Museum of Childhood (Edindurgh, UK) is another one. Its collection includes books of children literature, published before 1850, and they are presented in the informative blog.

Parallel to toy museums, the so called children’s museums have also proliferated in recent years. They are usually more playrooms than museums, even when located in fine art or history museums. The museums in Buffalo and Edinburgh bring these two concepts together most effectively and their names appropriately reflect it. In their facilities, nostalgia and popular brands co-exist hand in hand with the ever relevant crayons, paper, glue stick, and scissors. Toys are about play, play is about learning. Toys are for kids, toys are for the family. Toy s are about experiencing childhood in play. That is what this type of museum is about. It goes far beyond the toy itself

Logos, Toy Museum of Helsinki, FI and Tartu Toy Museum, EE. Sources: lelumuseo.fi ; mm.ee, 23 August 2020.

Chalk it up

We’ve all seen chalk drawings on the sidewalk during the recent confinement. One young artist and her younger brother muse took it to an unparalleled level. What fourteen year old Macaire has achieved is just so impressive, full of magic and love. Please someone give those two an award, a scholarship, a thumbs up. As far as we are concerned, they have already made pandemic history. These ephemeral and monumental images cannot be preserved in their original state. Luckily, we have social media. Visit @macairesmuse on Instagram. Let us know what you think.

Detail of Macaire’s Muse Instagram page. Source: Instagram, 15 August 2020.

A good blog is good

We have much respect for child psychologists. We love them when they collect and share children drawings. That is exactly what Dr. Emily Edlynn, does on her must-follow blog, The Art and Science of Mom. So, we invite you to check it out, and to share your thoughts about mental health during the pandemic. A good blog is good, a good blog with children drawings, even better.

Logo, Emily Edlynn PhD. Source: emilyedlynnphd.com, 3 August 2020.