A Catalogue of Play Equipment Part 4

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[Ill.u.s.tration: Small wooden toy.]*


The "Do-with Toys" shown in the accompanying cuts were designed by Miss Caroline Pratt some years ago to meet the need generally felt by devotees of the play laboratory of a consistent series of toys to be used with floor blocks. For if the market of the present day can offer something more adequate in the way of blocks than was generally available in Mr. Wells' boyhood, the same is not true when it comes to facilities for peopling and stocking the resulting farms and communities that develop.

Mr. Wells tells us that for his floor games he used tin soldiers and such animals as he could get--we know the kind, the lion smaller than the lamb, and barnyard fowl doubtless overtopping the commanding officer. Such combinations have been known to children of all generations and play of the kind Mr. Wells describes goes on in spite of the inconsistency of the materials supplied.

[Ill.u.s.tration: Small wooden toy.]*

But when we consider fostering such play, and developing its possibilities for educational ends, the question arises whether this is the best provision that can be made, or if the traditional material could be improved, just as the traditions concerning blocks are being improved.

[Ill.u.s.tration: Small wooden toy.]*

A few pioneers have been experimenting in this field for some years past. No one of them is ready with final conclusions but among them opinion is unanimous that constructive play is stimulated by an initial supply of consistent play material calculated to suggest supplementary play material of a kind children can manufacture for themselves.

[Ill.u.s.tration: Small wooden toy.]*

Blocks are of course the most important type of initial material to be provided; beyond this the generally accepted hypothesis is embodied in the "Do-with" series which provides, first a doll family of proportions suited to block houses, then a set of farm animals and carts, then a set of wild animals, all designed on the same size scale, of construction simple enough to be copied at the bench, and suggesting, each set after its kind, a host of supplementary toys, limited in variety and in numbers only by the experience of the child concerned and by his ability to construct them.

[Ill.u.s.tration: Small wooden toy.]*

[Ill.u.s.tration: Small wooden toy.]*

[Ill.u.s.tration: Small wooden toy.]*

This working hypothesis for the selection of toys is as yet but little understood either by those who buy or those who sell play materials.

The commercial dealer declares with truth that there is too little demand to justify placing such a series on the market. Not only does he refuse to make "Do-withs" but he provides no adequate subst.i.tutes.

His wooden toys are merely wooden ornaments without relation to any series and without playability, immobile, reasonless, for the philosophy of the play laboratory is quite unknown to the makers of play materials, while those who buy are guided almost entirely by convention and have no better standard by which to estimate what const.i.tutes their money's worth.

[Ill.u.s.tration: Small wooden toy.]*

On the other hand enthusiasts raise the question, why supply any toys?

Is it not better for children to make all their toys? And as Miss Pratt says, "getting ready for play is mistaken for play itself."

[Ill.u.s.tration: Small wooden toy.]*

[Ill.u.s.tration: Small wooden toy.]*

Too much "getting ready" kills real play, and if our purpose is to foster and enrich the actual activity, we must understand the subtle value of initial play materials, of having at hand ready for the promptings of play impulse the necessary foundation stones on which a superstructure of improvisation can be reared.

[Ill.u.s.tration: Transportation Toys]

[Ill.u.s.tration: A trunk line]

When by hook or crook the devotees of floor games have secured a population and live stock for their block communities, then, as Mr.

Wells reminds us, comes commerce and in her wake transportation problems to tax the inventive genius of the laboratory.

Simple transportation toys are the next need, and suitable ones can generally, though not always, be obtained in the shops. A few well-chosen pieces for initial material will soon be supplemented by "Peg-lock" or bench-made contrivances.

For railroad tracks the block supply offers possibilities better adapted to the ages we are considering than any of the elaborate rail systems that are sold with the high-priced mechanical toys so fascinating to adult minds. Additional curved blocks corresponding to the unit block in width and thickness are a great boon to engineers, for what is a railroad without curves!

Transportation toys can be perfectly satisfactory when not made strictly to scale. Indeed, the exigencies of the situation generally demand that realists be satisfied with rather wide departures from the general rule. Train service, however, should accommodate at least one pa.s.senger to a car.

[Ill.u.s.tration: Play area.]*


The floor scheme pictured here is a good ill.u.s.tration of our principles of selection applied to toys of larger scale. The dolls, the tea set, the chairs are from the toy shop. The little table in the foreground, and the bed are bench made. The bedding is of home manufacture, the jardiniere too, is of modelling clay, gaily painted with water colors. The tea table and stove are improvised from blocks as is the bath room, through the door of which a block "tub" may be seen. The screen used as a part.i.tion at the back is one of the Play School "properties" with large sheets of paper as panels. (See cut p.


There are some important differences, however, between the content of a play scheme like this and one of the kind we have been considering (see cut page 30). These result from the size and character of the initial play material, for dolls like these invite an entirely different type of treatment. One cannot build villages, or provide extensive railroad facilities for them, nor does one regard them in the impersonal way that the "Do-with" family, or Mr. Wells' soldiers, are regarded, as incidentals in a general scheme of things.

These beings hold the centre of their little stage. They call for affection and solicitude, and the kind of play into which they fit is more limited in scope, less stirring to the imagination, but more usual in the experience of children, because play material of this type is more plentifully provided than is any other and, centering attention as it does on the furnishings and utensils of the home, requires less contact with or information about, the world outside and its activities to provide the mental content for interesting play.

[Ill.u.s.tration: A "Furnished Apartment" at the Ethical Culture School]

In the epochs of play development interest in these larger scale toys precedes that in more complicated schemes with smaller ones. Mr.

Wells' stress on the desirability of a toy soldier population really reflects an adult view. For play on the toy soldier and paper doll scale develops latest of all, and because of the opportunities it affords for schemes of correspondingly greater mental content makes special appeal to the adult imagination.

Play material smaller than the "Do-with" models and better adapted to this latest period than are either soldiers or paper dolls remains one of the unexplored possibilities for the toy trade of the future.

[Ill.u.s.tration: Supplementary (A small toy train.)]

[Ill.u.s.tration: A play laundry.]*


Materials for housekeeping play are of two general kinds, according to size--those intended for the convenience of dolls, and those of larger scale for children's use. The larger kind should be strong enough and well enough made to permit of actual processes.

Plentiful as such materials are in the shops, it is difficult to a.s.semble anything approaching a complete outfit on the same size scale. One may spend days in the attempt to get together one as satisfactory as that pictured here. The reason seems to be that for considerations of trade such toys are made and sold in sets of a few pieces each. If dealers would go a step further and plan their sets in series, made to scale and supplementing each other, they would better serve the requirements of play, and, it would seem, their own interests as well.


From housekeeping play to storekeeping play is a logical step and one abounding in possibilities for leading interest beyond the horizon line of home environment.

Better than any toy equipment and within reach of every household budget is a "store" like the one pictured here where real cartons, boxes, tins and jars are used.

[Ill.u.s.tration: A "Grocery Store" at the Ethical Culture School]

Schools can often obtain new unfilled cartons from manufacturers. The Fels-Naphtha and National Biscuit companies are especially cordial to requests of this kind, and cartons from the latter firm are good for beginners, as prices are plainly marked and involve only dime and nickel computation. The magazine "Educational Foundations" maintains a department which collects such equipment and furnishes it to public schools on their subscribers' list.

Sample packages add to interest and a small supply of actual staples in bulk, or of sand, sawdust, chaff, etc., for weighing and measuring should be provided as well as paper, string, and paper bags of a.s.sorted sizes.

Small scales, and inexpensive sets of standard measures, dry and liquid, can be obtained of Milton Bradley and other school supply houses. A toy telephone and toy money will add "content," and for older children a "price and sign marker" (Milton Bradley) is a valuable addition.

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A Catalogue of Play Equipment Part 4 summary

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