YAEL building blocks

At a family event a mother builds together with her children a large structure with YAEL building blocks

At a family event a mother builds together with her children a large structure with YAEL building blocks


The bland appearance of these well made wooden blocks stimulate imaginative building.

The bland appearance of these well made wooden blocks stimulate imaginative building.

A family had a lot of fun making this figure.

A family had a lot of fun making this figure.

We had eight wheeled plastic containers to house the blocks. Having such a large amount available alloed for the ability to build a large structure.

We had eight wheeled plastic containers to house the blocks. Having such a large amount available allowed for the ability to build a large structure.

Some of the blocks in their original packaging were kept in the archives.

Some of the blocks in their original packaging were kept in the archives.

Heritage Centre? Museum of Play?

Heritage Centre?  Museum of Play?

I have had on my mind how to describe our Heritage Centre of Play.

Which aspects does it share with a Museum of Play, if at all?

An established Museum of Play or of Toys and Games or of Childhood or such stuff should have no difficulty in arranging a pop-up display of toys of the last one hundred years.

I took as a measuring stick the illustrated article by Allie Townsend that appeared in TIME magazine on February 16th. 2011. You may see it here – http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/0,28757,2049243,00.html

It covers the years from 1923 to 2011 and describes 100 toys and playthings which she claims to have been the most influential.  She did not say “in U.S.A.” which she should have.The original toys are illustrated and are presented according to their year of production.

I list here the toys that we could put on show. There are some originals though most are derivatives (meaning they are the outcome of the influence engendered by those originals) and many have been produced in Israel. Lots have been “previously loved”.

Chemistry set


Pop-up books

Stuffed Mickey Mouse

Finger paint

Microscope set

Beach Ball

Toy gun

Tiny plastic soldiers

Bubble solution

Little Golden Books


Lego Building Blocks

Silly Putty

Fisher-Price Little People

Vinyl Colourforms

Paint by numbers

Mr. Potato Head

Matchbox Car

Pez Dispenser

Bendy Action  Figure



Push Toy on Stick

Hula Hoop


Troll Doll

Toy Train

Etch A Sketch

Rocking Stacking Toy


Toy Telephone

Action Men

Audio Toy

Super Bouncy Ball

Barrel of Monkeys

Radio Controlled Car

Hot Wheels Model Cars


Foam Ball for Indoors


Paddington Bear

Shrinky Dinks

Rubik’s Cube

Electronic toys

Cabbage Patch Doll

Polly Pocket

Care Bear

My Little Pony


Plush Toys

Koosh Ball

Ninja Turtle

Skip It

Glow stick

Beanie Baby

Buzz Lightyear



Magnet Toys


Bears on the Ceiling

  Bears on the Ceiling

Ceilings should play their part in displaying toys.

This is a hammock of Famous Bears that constituted a quiz during our Family Events one Summer.


Who held up an airplane?
One of these bears made a family miss the boat to Israel. Which one?
One bear looks very sad. Which one? His owner left him behind in a hospital.
Which is the oldest bear?
The bear on the left was made to commemorate what event?
How many bears remind you of Coco-Cola?
Who was designed to make money?
Which bear is the most travelled?

What are Little Exhibitions Made of, Made of……?

What are Little Exhibitions Made of, Made of……?


What happens to the stuff of play?

Accumulation.                           Hey!

To hoard   and hoard   and hoard

More    and more    and more

Shall push us overboard

Into  clutter not known before.

What happens to the stuff of play?

It is what you do with it

That is the bit

And the way

I say.

Be able to show       What we know.

Pez Display in our Centre

Here is one of our displays, small, in keeping with our character of being a Heritage Centre of Play

 Pez Display ECGI

Most of our Pez containers are vintage and are considered to be collectibles. The heads that are on the bottom of the display were decapitated some forty years ago and were used as finger puppets. According to the prices in an ‘’antique’’ shop on Sheinkin Street each of our figures are worth from 60 to 90 shekels. The market stall holder in Jaffa’s flea market just sniffed at me and wouldn’t answer when I asked for prices. She knew I was not a buyer.

This larger display is in the Museum of the Patent Office in Georgetown, Washington . I was there when it was quite new and bought lots of stuff in its shop before eating a delicious dinner at the Inaugural Banquet in its vast atrium.

patent pez

Here I am at work after searching for Jefferson’s shoe boxes. He had big feet.

at work in patent office

 ‘Google’  Pez  and be amazed at the world of Pez collectors.

There is an online Museum to be enjoyed and unbelievable masses of Pez figures portrayed.

Toy of the Year 2015

Toy of the Year 2015

Toy of the Year?


I gave an airing to our box of Ugly Toys and Baddies because a Dinosaur toy won the overall Toy of the Year award at this year’s Toy Fair in New York. This toy rolls along by remote control on balls under its front legs. It has a friendly look. Dinosaurs are, once again, the “in” toy, thanks to the recently made film “Jurassic World”, the sequel to “Jurassic Park”. Besides some other technologically based dinos, herds of the plastic creatures that you will see in the film shall flood the market. They are designated collectibles.  https://www.yahoo.com/tech/the-7-coolest-toys-of-toy-fair-2015-the-111515103729.html

From 2000 to 2010 I made monster toys available for play when we had Family Events. Very few children chose to play with them.

These are from our collection of “Ugly Toys” and what I call “The Baddies”. (Except for the picture from e-bay all of the Dinos that you see in this episode are in our collection).


A herd of Dinosaur Toys from the 1980s

A herd of Dinosaur Toys from the 1980s

            Dino Toys of the 50s and 60s.

Dinosaur toy figures go back to the 50s and 60s. You can see how they looked here http://www.ebay.com/itm/1950s-1960s-Vintage-Marx-MPC-Sinclair-Nabisco-Prehistoric-Dinosaurs-Play-Set-/221301990837?&_trksid=p2056016.l4276


Cereal manufacturers copied them as premium toys to be found in their boxed breakfast foods. We learned paleontology at the breakfast table. Kellogg’s, in children’s minds, was connected with the collecting of small plastic dinosaurs each of which had its name engraved under its legs.

          The Other Kellogg and his Dinos

There was another Kellogg connected to dinos, one that few children would have heard of, Dr. Remington Kellogg. No discussion of vertebrate paleontology in the 1960s would be complete without acknowledging his contributions to that science. In 1962 he retired as Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Many years later the Smithsonian produced its own dinosaur figures. With a stretch of the imagination we may link breakfast cereal with a famous museum.

The 1980s. The Years of the Monsters

Monsters invaded toy shops in the 1980s. http://www.buzzfeed.com/briangalindo/the-14-ultimate-toy-lines-of-the-80s-for-boys#.ermXgmjok  is a nicely put account of those horrible  toys of the 1980s



Somehow they look less menacing in the pictures than in real life.

            Successful Toy Marketing Using Knowledge of Myths

Some of us can see the elements of those myths and fantasies, which have always been in the rudiments of play and storytelling, in the monster figures. It was the success of the Cabbage Patch dolls and other miserably faced dolls, so ugly that they were cute(!), which gave impetus to the marketing of the “monster” toys. We are still seeing the effect of the wide research and successful marketing of that era.

A True Story of a Young Psychologist’s Triumph using Dinos

My personal connection with dino toys began with Patrick, a ten year old who never did well in school tests. I had a project in the school in Marylebone, London, which he attended. On Fridays all the classes in the school had written spelling tests. One day it was my job to give the spelling test to his class. I knew he had a large collection of those dinos from cereal boxes and knew all their names so the words I gave were the names of the dinosaurs. Few of the other children in the class spelled “dinosaur” correctly. Not one of them could spell the names of the dinosaurs though they all ate cereals for breakfast. It was a marvelous experience for Patrick to achieve the best mark in a school test. Yes, it did affect his future school career for the good.

How I came close to a Bolt of Lightning. Another True Story

Whilst I was at that school a thunderbolt came through an open window near where I was sitting during a storm. A near-death escape. Other windows were smashed as well as a stained glass window in the church next do

Just so that you may know how to talk about dinosaurs a group of herbivorous dinosaurs are called  a herd and a group of predators a pack. The naming of animals is according to whether humans were hunting them, being hunted by them, or just watching.


I made this collection of words from descriptions of Dinosaur and of Monster figures that were either on the toy boxes or in reviews.

cute/ugly              crude           dark and deadly

myths            mystical images           symbols of evil

grotesque                                    ugly                                                gross

horror inducing                             putrid playthings

morbid                               mutants                                  monstrous

gruesome creatures           cruel events             repugnant


Brian Sutton-Smith 1924 – 2015

Brian Sutton-Smith

1924 – 2015

Saturday March 7th. 2015

 Displaying Brian  Jeffery-Alicante-ITRA.jpg

Brian died this morning.

I was lucky enough to have met him and to have enjoyed his company at some of the Congresses of I.T.R.A. The International Toy Research Association. Brian was one of its founding members and I was the Secretariat for many years.

His books are old friends of mine and I see them whenever I enter the Library of E.C.G.I. The Educational Centre for Games in Israel. I dip into them frequently and meet up with old friends of mine who were his colleagues or his students.

Whenever I am asked for a definition of “play” I hear his voice saying: “only an unprofessional person asks for a definition of play”.

As a young teacher he wrote a book for his pupils. It began:

“Once upon a time there was a middle sized boy named Brian and he was called “Brin.” Now there was nothing unusual in this because very few boys are called by their own name. Sometimes they are called “Snowy,” and sometimes they are just called “Stinker,” but they are hardly ever called what they really are. So Brian was quite an ordinary sort of boy.”

Feisty.    Joyful.    Playful.    Wise.    Warm.    Friendly.

Unique storyteller.        Academic.         Educator.

 Beloved.        Respected.

We should all be that ordinary.


Displaying Brian  Jeffery-Alicante-ITRA.jpg

Shirley Temple and Toys

Hearing about the demise of Shirley Temple this week was sad. She certainly had had a full and eventful life.


I was in Boston for a fortnight six years ago and one of the highlights of my stay was visiting The Boston Children’s Museum. I am grateful to my old friend  Prof. Edgar Klugman for taking me there and introducing me to the staff.  His former student , Jeri Robinson,   gave generously of her time and expertise as she walked us around. The original Shirley Temple dolls are housed in the museum but were not on display at that time which was a disappointment for me as I had hoped to see them.  These dolls were used to produce a Dover paper doll publication that gives a social and fashion statement of the 1930’s as well as being dolls with which children may play.  I bought a copy many years ago. It was expensive, not in the tradition of paper dolls being cheap for poor children but part of the trend in expensive reproductions for collectors and scholars. It is an enjoyable book and amusingly includes toys and playthings of the period reminding me of the great classical portraits of children where the artist has unobtrusively included a scattering of toys and pets.                                                                                     Image                                                          

Shirley Temple dolls were still manufactured, decades after her career ended, and have long been sought by collectors. I have not seen any modern ones on sale but would not be surprised to find out that they are out there waiting to be bought.  Her face appeared on clothing, cereal boxes, playing cards, soap and hundreds of other items that are now  traded as memorabilia.. I have seen a non-alcoholic, cherry-garnished drink named in her honour on menus and guess it was originally intended for children.

As a young adult, she persuaded the Ideal Toy Co. to manufacture a new version of the 1930s Shirley Temple doll. She made personal appearances at stores that attracted thousands of fans  and in six months the company sold more than 300,000 dolls.

I downloaded the following information about the two people I mentioned. 

Edgar Klugman, Ed.D. is a Professor Emeritus of Early Childhood Education and Care at Wheelock College in Boston, MA, one of the nation’s premier training institutions for early childhood and elementary educators. A policy development specialist, Professor Klugman is a charter member of the Play, Policy, and Practice Interest Forum within the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). In addition, he has served in national, regional, and local roles and as a member of the NAEYC Governing Board. Professor Klugman is a co-founder and vice president of Playing for Keeps, a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving outcomes and quality of life for all children through increasing their access to healthy, constructive, developmental play. In that role, he has developed or collaborated on several national conferences on play, and is leading efforts to document the knowledge base about play. Professor Klugman is the author or editor of several influential publications about early childhood and play, including Children’s Play and Learning: Perspectives and Policy Implications (with Sara Smilansky, published in 1990) and Play, Policy & Practice (1995). He is a frequent contributor of articles on play to Child Care Information Exchange. He has been a member of the Early Childhood Advisory Council to the Commissioner of Education in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, helping to craft successful policies to form community collaboration on behalf of children and families. Professor Klugman has also appeared as an expert witness on child and family issues before state legislatures.

Jeri Robinson is Vice President, Education & Family Learning at the Boston Children’s Museum which she joined in 1973. Ms. Robinson has over 35 years of experience in teaching and consulting in the field of early childhood education.She is the developer of the PlaySpace exhibit, (one of the earliest prototypes for early learning family spaces in children’s and other museums), founder of the Boston Cultural Collaborative for Early Learning and co-founder of both Families First Parenting programs and “CountDown to Kindergarten”. For many years, she has provided early childhood training and consultation to museums and other organizations. Robinson received her B.S., M.S. Ed. and an honorary Doctorate in Education from Wheelock College. She serves on numerous boards dealing with family, community, multicultural, and early childhood education issues. In recognition of her work, Robinson has received awards such as the Wheelock Centennial Award, the Boston Parents Paper Family Advocate Award, the Women Who Care Award, and the Lucy Wheelock Award. She was a 2004 participant in the Schott Fellowship in Early Care and Education (Public Policy), a program of the Schott Center for Public and Early Education, Cambridge MA. In 2005, she was named to the American Association of Museums, Centennial Honor Roll, in recognition of her contributions to the museum field in the past century