At the coffee morning yesterday, friend W and I sat drinking our coffee and chatting about things. Usually there are a lot of people there and we tend to circulate, but at least seven regulars were away so folk were a bit thin on the ground.
We were watching two little brothers, aged about two and three. The village hall is used for Mother and Toddler Groups during the week and there is a goodly stock of very smart toys - large plastic lorries, diggers, trains etc., little bikes with pedals on the wheels, sets of bricks - all kinds of things. They must come to the Mother and Toddler group because they knew exactly where to go to get access to the toys and in no time at all they had the big plastic boxes dragged out and all the toys laid out on the floor. They completely emptied the box before deciding which one to choose - then scooted round the hall playing with it before coming back and choosing a different one.
We began to reminisce about when we were children and how few toys we had then. Not that we missed them - all our contemporaries were the same - maybe two presents at Christmas and maybe one at birthday. But my goodness me, did we enjoy our pressies.
Friend W made me laugh when telling me about her presents and the favourite games she played with her brother and sister. They usually had a stock of marbles, with at least one large one. They also had a set of wooden building blocks. They would lay the blocks out on the table and put a small marble at each block - these were the pupils; then they would sit the large marble at a large block at the front of the 'class' and then they could play schools!
Another favourite game was to 'borrow' their Dad's date stamp and ink pad and play Libraries, using their books - so that all their books ended up with a series of dates stamped in the front.
The only present I remember was an orange coloured Tansad doll's pram one Christmas - I do remember pushing it up and down the main street on Christmas morning, hoping that someone would ask to see my doll. (I don't think anyone else was up and about at that time).
By the time my son came along children had far more presents and I seem to remember he had a great pile every year. But I do also remember when he was very small - around two maybe - that he would take his presents out of their wrappers/boxes and then play with those rather than the presents. And there was a long time when his favourite toys were the baking tins I kept in the bottom oven of the Rayburn cooker!.
But the point I wanted to make about all these things (apart from my pram, which I remember I rapidly went off and returned to my pencil and paper) is that they were inventive.
Are today's toys as inventive? I am not suggesting they are not - I don't know enough about them to make a judgement - but perhaps someone could enlighten me. Do today's electronic things (which are largely a mystery to me) encourage that inventive spirit?
On a closing note, my mother, who was a child at the turn of the 19th century and who came from a poor family, used to speak of how her mother would make each of the girls (she was one of eight - three boys and five girls) a new doll from a clothes peg, dressed in scraps of fabric she had kept all year. The dolls would have dresses, knickers and little hats and they would just about last up to the next Christmas. The boys would have little wooden boats made by their father. And that was it apart from an orange and a brazil nut.