Thursday, 14 August 2014
I am just returned from a trip to London with my daughter and after quite some time in the Hamleys toy store today, I feel the need to blog about modern day toys versus those which would have belonged to our ancestors!
Don't get me wrong, we had a lot of fun in London. And Hamleys is quite an experience in itself, regardless of whether you buy anything - although leaving without doing so is near impossible. However, my sister and I were musing about how toys and marketing work these days. For example, the whole floor dedicated to "girl stuff", in Hamleys, is pink. Not just the stuff it sells but the décor as well. A really worrying thing in Hamleys was that you only seemed able to get a toy hoover or washing machine or toaster (etc!) on the "girls' floor". Actually the manufacturers had produced the items in black and red but small boys would have been unlikely to see the items where they were unless they had a sister who went to that floor.
I have never been one for the whole toy debate for little children. I have "one of each" and they have both enjoyed all sorts of toys if given the chance. However, it does seem that it is a vicious circle and marketing pushes people in certain directions for girls and certain directions for boys and it takes a strong parent to properly resist these directions as children naturally want to blend in with their friends and acquaintances and be "into" the same things. My daughter was perfectly happy to use her brother's Nerf guns (polystyrene bullets, lots of fun) which are blue and orange until Nerf brought out Rebelle Nerf - pink guns!!
Loom bands have, this summer, proved to be a fantastic leveller when it comes to toys. Every child I know - male or female - has loved the creativity provided by loom bands. My children have spent many happy hours actually playing together for once to learn new techniques and create amazing designs.
But don't even get me started on the quantity of toys that children of today have. Even the average child has more consumer items than whole families did in Victorian times. Again, we were musing about this today. As children of the 1970s. we were trying to work out if we had more or less stuff and came to the conclusion that so much more is available to children today. They are a marketing department's dream audience. Impressionable, pliable, they have nag power...! Disney have made the marketing into an art form, unfortunately.
The picture above shows a couple of Victorian items which might have belonged to quite poor children. But haven't children in themselves always been the same? So much more is available to them now and income levels are so different, to say the least. Yet those nineteenth century children must have had free time so what did they do? Maybe, as I have posted before, they were all working at early ages. I am sure that in a poor home, my ancestors would have had many household chores as well as possibly paid work. And they would have known that money was not available for toys. Plus their expectations would have been lower because of the lack of advertising and availability too.
What about the wealthy children though? From trip to toy museums and stately homes over the years, it seems that even for these children, the quantity was not like it is today. The wealthy would have seemed to have had a lot but I am sure that even those children would be amazed by what is on offer in this day and age.
I guess this blog post could go on for ages and link to my post about Scouting and getting kids outdoors and then link to the nature/nurture debate about how children are born into this world and whether toys condition them and then carry on further to discussions on whether children these days have too much, grow up to fast... but this is not a parenting blog.
I just wanted to ponder on what I had seen today really. An amazing toy store, a fabulous time was had but wouldn't it be fantastic to be able to show a Victorian child ancestor around our modern homes and see what they would make of it all?
By the way, in the week that I chose to write about Cliff Richard (see my last post), it seems that he has hit the news for rather worrying reasons. I do hope that he is not going to prove to be another ex-hero. I do pick my moments to write, don't I?!