Kids and Their Toys Around the World
Just yesterday, I found myself driving home from a big box toy store with a trunk full of plastic junk for my toddler.
I was feeling mostly okay about it, since it was the first time in almost two years that I’d bought brand-new. Just being in that store made me dizzy, and it wasn’t only the profusion of pink and plastic, it was the intentional disposability of nearly every item there.
I thought about the gnawed-on plastic toys of my own childhood and how they made a reappearance when my much-younger siblings came along — and how every time my mum visits she has unearthed another forgotten toy of our childhood. She’s erred perhaps in the other direction, of never letting go of these once-loved objects, but seeing them appear in a suitcase or stumbling across them when home for Thanksgiving conjures childhood memories out of thin air.
We moved more than 15 times as I was growing up, but the last of the farm animals I acquired at about age 4 still hide among our plants and bookshelves. I can’t give them up.
Our house now is about the right size for us, but we tend to congregate in the same two rooms; to make more living space we hide about half our son’s toys away and then rotate them. I enjoy the sight of his face when he rediscovers a silly noisy toy he forgot about during its sabbatical in the basement. Maybe I do this because I remember my own delight in opening my ‘best box’ of toys after each of our moves.
My daughter’s teddy bear entered her life as a grimy and unrecognizable Pooh bear she pulled down from a garage sale table when she was about 14 months old. Something in that bear called to her. Three or four wash cycles later, he was a brighter shade of yellow — though still nubby rather than soft and fluffy. He’s lived beside her pillow ever since.
I think often about how kids seem naturally drawn to toys that are visibly loved, while their parents are drawn to toys that say something about them. And that’s as true of me with my basket of second-hand Plan toys scored on Kijiji as it is of anyone else.
The photos here are from and exhibition called “Toy Stories” by Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti. He traveled the world for a year and a half, making these portraits of children with their toys, and observing more similarities than differences in what toys they were drawn too. But he also noticed that the wealthier children were more possessive about their toys, and less enthusiastic about showing them to him.
He also noticed the ways their parents hopes and ambitions for their children were often reflected in the toys they gave them: the taxi-driving mother in Latvia whose son has a collection of cars, the daughter of an Italian farmer pictured with her shovels, hoes and rakes.
And everyone everywhere, it seems, has a stuffed animal.