A history of toys and games
Children have long been known to play with objects they find. For example pebbles and sticks. Toys and games have been found from the archaeological sites of ancient civilizations. Toys brought up to the surface from the Indus valley civilization (3000-1500 BCE) included whistles shaped like birds and toy monkeys which could slide down a string.
Because there were no man made materials or parts to piece together, materials were taken from nature, such as sticks, clay and rocks. Thousands of years ago, children from Egypt would play with human like toys which had movable limbs that they could manipulate. They were made using materials such as stone, pottery and wood. In Ancient Rome and Greece children played with toys that were made out of wax, terracotta or wood such as yo-yos. On the eve of a young womans wedding in Greece, they would offer their dolls in a Greek temple as a rite of passage into adulthood.
Over the past one hundred years, childrens toys have changed a great deal. Children can now enjoy listening to the sound of their favourite action hero talk to them and make their limbs move with the touch of a button. Now that toys are more immersive, children have a more personalized experience. Although some would argue that the simplicity of earlier toys was better because children playing with them would have to use their own imagination, rather than being fed information by the toy itself. The materials used have changed dramatically, to include plastics and other man made materials, which are used to save money on production and give the child a more life like toy. Barbie dolls and Action man are still the most popular dolls sold in the UK and around the world. Because many things have been commercially exploited, advertisers have almost brainwash children into wanting certain toys. Guides like this and other sources such as books and documentaries can encourage a child to make their own mind up about whether they want a toy that everybody else has. This allows the child to be more creative and make one of his or her own.
The change in the creation of toy making and the realization that children wanted to play with a friend rather than an inanimate object made humans realize that they should be focusing more time on making dolls. Original dolls from thousands of years ago were made out of materials such as wood, grass and straw. Today toys have grown dramatically in complexity and versatility which can make the product even more enjoyable for the user. Robots are popular and because of recent technological advancements in robotics some toys can even talk to the user as though having a conversation. Although some of these toys are quite creepy we will have to get use to technology becoming more of a part of our lives. The materials have changed but one thing that has never changed, is that children will continue to play with toys.
Ludwig Wittgenstien was the first academic philosopher to understand and express the definition of the word game. In his Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein demonstrated that the elements of games, such as play, rules, and competition, all fail to define what games actually are. Wittgenstein concluded that people apply the term game to a range of disparate human activities that bear to one another only what one might call family resemblances.
Tools of the toys and games trade
Depending on the type of material you use the tools will differ but as a simple example we will talk about the different tools used to make a simple chess set.
You could begin by making a mock up design. This way its cheaper than creating the actual thing to start with. For this you will need simple tools such as metal rulers, glues and masking tape. This way you can create a simple cardboard or paper mock up that is sturdy and fun to play with.
For the actual creation of your chess set be as creative as possible. The rules are already set and they cant be changed, but the surrounding layer of the board can. For example you might want to be able to hide the pieces in a draw underneath the board, you may want led light shining around the edge of your board or you might want your pieces to resemble famous monuments or people. Whatever you want to do your going to need the appropriate tools to help you achieve your goal.
Wood glue will probably be the most used on a project such as this and it will help to firmly stick pieces of wood to each other for a sturdy finished product. Along with this you will need an array of saws such as junior hack saws and for ease an electric sander. These tools will help you get a polished design and that on lookers will appreciate. Power tools will also be needed when screwing parts together, so you may want to use a normal sized drill and for a more curved cut you may want to use a band saw or a scroll saw. You do have to remember these are extremely dangerous pieces of machinery, so should be used by a professional or under the supervision of somebody with experience. The use of power tools will increase productivity and help to ensure you get a good end result. This will also help when you are trying to get those smooth curves and edges.
Materials used in toys and games
Making the board game pieces and base can be quite a simple task. It is inventing the game itself that is the tricky part. But whether you are creating your own game or not, here are a few easy to manipulate materials that are commonly used in creating a simple well known board game.
Balsa wood is an easy to manipulate and light weight wood that you can easily carve and cut through. For example if you wanted to create chess pieces the balsa wood pieces would be a good way to start. For the base you would most likely use a more expensive wood like oak or pine to give it a more glazed and professional look.
Even simple materials such as cardboard or paper can be used to create fun games of toys. As children, most of us played popular games such as naughts and crosses or boxes and these games usually resided on a simple plain piece of paper. This proves that even if your material is the strongest and most expensive it doesnt mean that players will enjoy the game any more or less.
Techniques of toys and games
Here are the main techniques used in the crafting of toys and games, complete with specific examples tailored to a UK context:
1. Woodwork: A method where toys are carved or assembled using wood. Example: Hand-carved Wooden Yo-yos or Oakwood Spinning Tops.
2. Moulding and Casting: The technique of shaping material within a mould. Example: Resin-cast Chess Pieces themed on the Battle of Hastings or Plaster of Paris Miniature English Castles.
3. Textile Crafting: Using fabrics to sew or knit toys. Example: Fabric Jack-in-the-Box with a jester resembling Punch from the Punch and Judy show or Hand-knitted Robin Rattles for infants.
4. Assembly: Joining various components to complete a toy or game. Example: Modular Wooden Train Sets featuring landmarks from the UK or Puzzle Boards of British Counties.
5. Painting and Finishing: Applying colour or finishes to toys. Example: Hand-painted Beefeater Dolls or Gloss-finished London Bus Pull-Along Toys.
6. Felting: Compressing wool fibres to create a dense fabric. Example: Felted Highland Cow Plushies or Felt English Garden Play Mats.
7. Embroidery: Decorating fabric with needle and thread. Example: Embroidered Welsh Dragon Soft Books for toddlers or Stitched Maps of the British Isles for wall play.
8. Printing: Applying designs onto surfaces. Example: Screen-printed Memory Card Games featuring British birds or Linocut Puzzle Blocks of Stonehenge.
9. Electronics Integration: Incorporating electronic elements for interactivity. Example: Electronic Quiz Games on British Monarchs or Interactive Maps of the River Thames.
10. Engraving: Etching designs into surfaces. Example: Laser-engraved Cribbage Boards featuring the Scottish Highlands or Etched Wooden Dominoes with British Wildlife Icons.
11. Lamination: Layering materials for durability or effect. Example: Laminated British Flora and Fauna Flashcards or Layered Cardboard Stacking Blocks of UK Cities.
Using these techniques, artisans can craft a diverse range of toys and games that not only entertain but also pay homage to the rich cultural, historical, and natural tapestry of the UK.
Tips and tricks of toys and games
If you are creating a toy or game, understand who you are creating it for. Also dont try to be like every other toy out there. Although some toys and games will have technically advanced features it doesnt mean that your toy or game wont stand out amongst others.
Like any project make sure you have confidence in your designs and ideas. Dont just jump right into the project or you will find it difficult when things dont go to plan. Your first step is planning and you should not miss it out. Designing is also a fun part of any project, as it allows you to share ideas with close friends and family and make what could be the next must have game.
When you have completed the design you could create a mock up version. So rather than spending all your time and money on expensive materials and tools (if you dont have them already) you could create a simple cardboard or paper design and play around with it. In this way you can see it in front of you and work out what you could improve on and what what works and what does not.
Ideas and inspiration for toys and games
Heres a list of toy and game ideas for UK-based makers to craft and sell at local craft fairs:
1. Wooden Castle Sets: Reflecting the rich history of castles in the UK, such as a Warwick Castle Siege Set or Tower of London Playset complete with miniature Beefeaters.
2. Historical Peg Dolls: Hand-painted wooden peg dolls representing figures from British history, like a William Shakespeare Doll or Boudicca, the Celtic Queen Doll.
3. Fairy Door Kits: Inspired by folklore, miniature doors and accompanying accessories for children to create magical fairy settings, such as Cotswolds Cottage Fairy Door or Sherwood Forest Fairy Door.
4. British Wildlife Puzzles: Wooden or cardboard puzzles showcasing native species, like a Red Squirrel Jigsaw or Puffin of the Isles Puzzle.
5. Mini Croquet Sets: A nod to British garden games, with sets including mallets, hoops, and balls, scaled down for indoor play or younger players.
6. Literary Board Games: Games based on British literary classics, for instance, a Journey Through Middle Earth game inspired by Tolkien or Pride and Prejudice Matchmaking.
7. Hand-Knitted Puppets: Reflecting UK folklore or nursery rhymes, such as a Jack and Jill Puppet Set or St. George and the Dragon Puppets.
8. DIY Bead Kits: Kits allowing children to create jewellery or artwork inspired by British themes, like Union Jack Bracelet Kit or Rose of England Necklace Set.
9. Themed Draughts (Checkers) Sets: Traditional draughts sets with a twist, such as Red Bus vs Black Cab or Lancashire Rose vs Yorkshire White Rose.
10. Wooden Toy Soldiers: Hand-painted figures reminiscent of historical battles, such as Battle of Hastings Soldiers or Waterloo Infantrymen.
11. Felted Landscape Play Mats: Textured mats depicting iconic British landscapes or settings for imaginative play, like Lake District Adventure Mat or Cornish Seaside Village Mat.
Crafting toys and games that resonate with the cultural, historical, and imaginative facets of British life can provide makers with unique and captivating items to attract a wide range of craft fair attendees, from tourists seeking a memento to locals looking for a nostalgic plaything.