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Shakespeare Didn’t Have Vtech: Classic Toys for Kids

Updated on September 12, 2012

Battery-operated gadgets that read, spell, count, sing and even dance are great. These devices, often sold in educational sections of toy stores, do encourage learning. Vtech and Leapfrog are two top-sellers in the electronic toy field. However, despite all the bells and whistles, many classic toys offer great potential that can help stimulate a child’s learning capabilities. The following article discusses how classic toys may help a child to learn and may even (often) be better at doing it than the more expensive electronic alternatives.

One can’t help thinking about past masters of art, thought, or science and questioning today’s learning environment. Parents aren’t alone with these questions either. The makers of Baby Einstein videos knew they had a great marketing scheme with their line of Baby-greats of this or that. Yet, the great minds of the past did not get great through videos, battery-operated toys or elaborate marketing schemes. Likely as not, Shakespeare probably played with tops and might even have written his first words with a piece of chalk. While few would argue the role technology plays in today’s world, it may also be beneficial to remember the items that still work without a battery or a plug.

Spinning Top
Spinning Top | Source
Set of toy soldiers.
Set of toy soldiers. | Source
The Tinker Toy Windmill in Downtown Disney.
The Tinker Toy Windmill in Downtown Disney. | Source
Building blocks
Building blocks | Source

A spinning top is a mystery to a twelve-month old child. Watching a child of this age struggle with the mechanics of this old-time apparatus is a delight. Coordination, timing, balance—these are the qualities it takes for a child to operate a toy such as this by himself. This classic toy is still made by makers like Bolz who specialize in spinning tops.

Toy soldiers demand more from the imagination than video games, but may also steer a child’s mind away from the more unpleasant violent associations of the more graphic games. Some toy companies specialize in toy soldiers from various periods of history and offer sets based on World War II or Civil War soldiers. Sets like these might even encourage research into an historical era. Pair one of these sets with a book about the military conflict in question.

Tinker Toys allow children to combine both motor and mental skills to imagine all sorts of designs. These sets force children to create the toy they may then play with. Although they weren’t available in Shakespeare’s time (they date from 1914), they are modern age classics that stimulate children’s inventive powers.

Similarly, building blocks allow children to create the world in which they play. Castles, forts, towers—building blocks encourage children to formulate design plans and then force them to implement the plan. When outfitted with letters of the alphabets, these toys double as wonderful learning gear whereby children may learn their alphabetical letters. Lincoln Logs are also marvelous toys for building that are loved by both girls and boys.

Books—real paper and board items and not the e-book or electronic toy variety--should not be overlooked in the fun department. Books convey important early concepts for children. Children will learn how to hold a book, the direction the pages turn, and the way sentences are read. Books help build a child’s vocabulary and stimulate their own imaginings. Electronic books that light up or beep are not necessarily encouraging the simple delights of reading.

The Rainbow Fish Felt Board Story
The Rainbow Fish Felt Board Story | Source
Chalk Artist :)
Chalk Artist :) | Source

Felt boards and Color Forms sets encourage children to make believe and organize their thoughts into scenes using the prescribed items that come with these sets. Allow children to create settings using these sets that are wonderful tools for initiating discussions between parents and kids.

A wagon is one of those all-around items that parents can bring to the zoo or simply around the block. Perfect for hauling baby and loads of baby gear, the wagon is also ideal for children who are able to walk freely. Encourage the children to take the wagon to the park on an autumn leaf-picking expedition or simply to haul sandbox toys.

Art supplies from sidewalk chalk to paint encourage children to use their imagination to create anything they like. Oversized pads of paper and chalk boards are other great tools that have the potential to release a child’s imaginings. They are terrific learning devices for covering basic school subjects like math or phonics.

In an increasingly technology-based world it is good to return to the basics whenever possible, not only because these things tend to be inexpensive, but because they work. And often as not, they work best. Balls, jump ropes, marbles, chess sets—these items have stood the test of time. Encourage your child to revisit these toys today for fun that can encourage motor skill development and stimulate mental development too!

2011 Moira G Gallaga©


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    • moiragallaga profile imageAUTHOR

      Moira Garcia Gallaga 

      6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you for your comments Derdriu, those pre 20th century Appalachian toys and games sound interesting. A hub from you perhaps on that subject?

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Moira, What a charming, intelligent, timely summary of "alternative" toys! In particular, I love tinker toy because there are so many developmental skills which its playtime encourages. Additionally, a couple of summers ago I had access to a collection of Appalachian games and toys from before the 20th century. It was absolutely fascinating to engage in all the great learning fun with hoops, etc.,

      Thank you for sharing, etc.,


    • moiragallaga profile imageAUTHOR

      Moira Garcia Gallaga 

      6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      I totally agree with you bethperry. It's all mostly packaged nowadays, plug and play. As you mention, children need the opportunity to tap into their imagination, create worlds, develop a story and make the surroundings come alive with their minds. That's a point I was aiming to drive at but somehow was not able to articulate fully in the article. Thank you for bringing that up and stressing that important point through your comment.

    • bethperry profile image

      Beth Perry 

      6 years ago from Tennesee

      You're so right; too often and in so many ways today's little ones have imaginary worlds created for them instead of being allowed to imagine for themselves. The modern gadgets might thrill but they sure don't compel inspiration. Thanks for the great article!

    • moiragallaga profile imageAUTHOR

      Moira Garcia Gallaga 

      6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you for your comments asmaiftikhar and venki_indiain. I'm glad you both found the information on the hub helpful and valuable.

    • venki_indiain profile image


      6 years ago from Chennai

      Hai moiragallaga,

      Thanks for the valuable information. As my daughter is struggling from Autism, it is valuable information for me.

    • asmaiftikhar profile image


      6 years ago from Pakistan

      A very very useful ,interesting and unique hub.Thanks for sharing this.


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