A journey through years of childhood

As a child I can still remember how I preferred certain toys. For example I loved to build houses and set them up, just the way I liked it to be. Re-designing scenarios from real life. And when I was finished, I built something new again. It started with wooden blocks, went into Duplo in combination with Playmobil and ended with Lego, K’Nex and Meccano. I was already playing for ‘designer’. – Not very surprising that I studied Spatial Design at the Art Academy. – In addition, I always loved to dance and play music. With groups I preferred playing boardgames, such as: Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary and Settlers of Catan.

Since my youth my parents have kept these toys. Somewhere in a room on the top floor of the house you find cabinets full of sorted boxes with all kind of toys, such as: barbies and doll clothes, books, boardgames, puzzles, wooden toys, lego, Playmobil, you name it. Secretly, when I visit my parents’ house I always like to take a look at it for a moment. I love to show my old toys to my own daughter.

Building of the V&A Museum of Childhood.

I’m glad that my parents kept the toys so neatly and that they are able to pass this on to their own grandchildren when they come to visit. Something my grandparents did aswell when we came to visit. We loved it as a child when my grandfather pulled out the big box full of toys from the 60s and 70s. Exactly as my daughter of three years now also plays with Duplo and Playmobil from the 90s, she even already has discovered the Polly Pockets. Maybe she is yet too young (pedagogically-wise), but she has fine motor skills and has stopped putting toys in her mouth for a long time. While playing with it she is telling lots of stories.

Lara playing with Duplo.

It’s great to see that ‘old’ toys often can carry a second round. And themes such as: shape, color, material, structure, counting and building are always taken as the basis for the little ones. Of course, there will be changed a lot in the choice of toys over the years: interests, gender, culture, and social and technical developments plays a major role in the design and selection of new toys. And even today it has of course not escaped anyone’s notice that a lot of kids are more likely to drop the toys next to them and prefer a computer or tablet. Something you can hardly deny in this society. They get easily in contact with it at school, on the street, but even at home.

Rachel Whiteread’s celebrated artwork Place (Village) (2006-2008) is a sculptural work featuring a ‘community’ of around 150 Dolls’ houses which were collected by Whiteread over 20 years.

With our toddler it’s not yet that far, occasionally a game or video on the iPad is allowed, but we encourage her as much as possible to play with physical toys. Sometimes my house seems to transform into a nursery classroom. For now fine. Hopefully we can keep the balance.

Showcases full of toys through the years.

Anyway: everyone knows toys, has experienced with it and will stay involved with it all their life. Whether for your own children, your friends ones, your nieces, nephews or grandchildren. You will forever be a consumer of this important phenomenon that contributes to understand the world better. Now that we live in London, I see the same toys coming back everywhere as we had in the Netherlands. Not only in the shops, but also in the V&A Museum of Childhood, it became clear that the children have had exactly the same in their hands over the years as we Dutch people had. Not very surprising, because our cultures are quite similar. Therefor I found it very special to see how toys worldwide relate to each other, there is indeed a difference. The museum paints a beautiful picture of it.

View of the main hall where you can also find a small shop and cafe.
Back in the days.

The mission of the museum is: “To enable everyone, especially the young, to explore and enjoy the designed world, especially objects that are made for children.” It has extensive collections of toys, children’s necessities and costumes and carries out a program of temporary exhibitions. The V&A Museum of Childhood has the largest collection of children’s objects in the United Kingdom. Very impressive how the museum takes you on a journey through years of childhood. From century-old toys where my great-grandparents played with till modern toys of this time.

Playing for ambulance driver.
Old play kitchen.

In addition to a permanent collection, the museum also has various exhibitions such as Dream on, Sister & Brother and Century of the Child: Nordic Design for Children 1900 to Today. This exhibition offers a beautiful display of toys and children’s furniture from our Northern neighbors. I loved it. I’m a big fan of Scandinavian Design when it comes to toys and furniture.

These foam blocks stimulates spatial insight, creativity and motor skills.
Scandinavian Design.

A visit to this museum in North-East London is definitely worth it when you are in the neighborhood. For the older people it’s beautiful to see what is left from the past, for the young people the new stuff is very recognizable. In addition to the exhibitions, the museum also organizes various activities and events for young and old. View the agenda here.

Lara standing in front of the museum.

Would you like to plan a visit and want to have more information? Then take a look at the website of the V&A Museum of Childhood.

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