Happy day, I’ve just bought Grandbaby her first train set for her first birthday on Monday; one may be considered a little young perhaps but, hey, her mum and day will have a lot of fun putting it together and (since the pieces are not too small) I am sure she will like it too. And the first train set is such an important rite of passage, I’m proud to be (with Grandpa) able to give such a meaningful present. There are lots of pieces of wooden track so they can do all sorts of layouts. And it’s not fiddly so I’ll like it too. Furthermore, sensibly, it comes in a substantial plastic box for storage.
I was browsing through books and a helpful assistant suggested various volumes – “this series is nice, here’s one about dolls and another about fairies, they would suit your little granddaughter.” “Yes, thank you. Very nice” I replied reaching for one on tractors in the same series. It’s not that I’m against femininity but I don’t appreciate such rigid targeting. When I was a child I didn’t, on the whole, have ‘gender related’ toys, mostly books, jigsaws and board games (I only ever had one doll and that was a birthday present from a schoolfriend; I liked it but didn’t know quite what to do with it) but the highlight of my year was a boy friend’s birthday party where I could play with his trains and cars. It wasn’t that my parents wouldn’t have bought me such things but they didn’t know I wanted them. I wasn’t a demanding child. Equally, when boys came to play with me they liked getting my soft toys out and having pretend tea parties and similarly ‘girlish’ things.
I think I’m becoming a grumpily reactionary old woman, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m not right – how is it that so many toys are so noisy? When my children were little they loved a toy telephone, pretending to phone friends and chatting to it. Of course now a similar phone would be hopelessly out of date, but all the phones I’ve seen make noises and play tunes. Quite apart from it being the most awful jangly muzak or tuneless clanging, it’s self-limiting for the child’s imagination.