The evolution of toys

My granddaughter, Annika, left a little plastic horse on the table at my house the other day and I was fascinated by the detail on that little toy. As a child, I had a love for horses and would play for hours with the little plastic cowboy and indian figures. Some of the people were equipped with bowed legs to ride on the horses. I had to use my imagination to help them gallop off into the sunset, but it was fun. The horse I looked at the other day had a mane of what appeared to be real hair, it’s tail moved and so did it’s head. Plastic horses aren’t what they used to be.

My 81 year old father, Marlin, came for a visit this past weekend and we had a chance to get caught up on all the latest family news. Dad now lives in an apartment and has a relatively simple lifestyle. He really enjoys watching ball games on tv and my sister Brenda, who helps him with his finances, finally convinced him to spend some of his retirement money on a 37 inch flat screen tv. He was telling me what a great picture he gets and how good the color is.

After he left, I had a flashback to about 1954 or 1955. My family lived in a small two bedroom house. There were only five in our family back then. Dad and mom invested in their first tv and it looked like a big rectangular box. I think it had a 12 inch picture screen. Each Friday night our little living room was filled with my uncles, (my dad had six brothers) who came over to our house to watch the Friday night fights. I’m not sure how much detail they could even see on such a small screen and the reception wasn’t really very good either, but maybe they were like me with the little horses and used their imagination to fill in the blanks.

As I was doing some research about old televisions I came across a prediction from 1955. It was an illustration of people sitting in a living room watching a large tv mounted on the wall. They called it a “picture frame television” and the ad said that in 1975 people would be enjoying this amazing device. A television control unit (remote) was also illustrated, but it appeared pretty cumbersome. (If remotes really looked like that maybe we wouldn’t be so apt to lose them).

Over the course of the past 50 years toys have certainly changed. The hand-held games of yesteryear have been replaced with a computer contraption called a DS. Don’t remember the old-fashioned hand-held games? I do, they had names like Slinky, Pick Up Sticks, Silly-Putty, Pop-Beads, paper dolls and Tiddly-Winks.

The old transistor radio which was high-tech in its day has been replaced with MP3 players.

Amazingly, a carry over toy from the 50s and 60s is making a comeback. Those who remember the Hula Hoop can now relive those childhood days through the Wii version of the famous toy. The imaginary Hula Hoop will have you swinging and swaying and let you know when you’ve fizzled out.

I remember that my little sisters and I had hours of fun with the Give-A-Show Projector, we could make the picture as big or small as we wanted and it was always more fun to take it into a dark closet and watch the slides. For a change of pace we would put the slides in backwards or upside down. Maybe it was one of the first interactive toys.

Little Annika and I spent some time over the weekend blowing bubbles in my back yard. She chased them and popped them and I remembered doing the same thing more than 50 years ago. We both had fun and there is just something relaxing about blowing bubbles. For a short time all the cares of the world are forgotten and the only important thing is watching the next bubble float in the air.

It is important that kids be taught from an early age to use their imagination and be given toys that aid in the use of manual dexterity, hand to eye coordination and large motor skills. I have been fearful that we will raise a generation of couch potatoes who only have muscles in their fingers and thumbs. It’s good to see that some of the old toys are still considered okay for kids today. What was fun 50 years ago can still be considered fun today and that is encouraging.