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Toys for role playing

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Format : Toy

Vintage mid-century tinplate stove donated to the Children's Literature Research Collection by a State Library staff member. The stove was played with by his older sister in the 1950s then passed down to the younger children. Our donor recalls being charmed by the detail of the stove, which once included tiny aluminium saucepans and also the hands of the clock on the back actually moved. He lamented the broken spring on the oven door - indeed such makeshift repairs are done with actual oven doors as well.

Role-play toys like this are much smaller replicas of items used by adults. Historically such toys were used to prepare children for their grown-up roles and children do also gravitate towards toys with which they can replicate their parent's activities. We do know however that adult conduct and career choices are not necessarily determined by childhood play. Despite any intention of the manufacturer or parent, a child's choice, agency and imagination play the main part in a child's response to and use of a toy.

The tin toy industry can be traced to mid-19th century America. As tin is a soft, malleable metal it can easily be rolled into sheets, stamped, cut and shaped. Millions of tinplate toys of all shapes and sizes were manufactured.

Plastic began to replace metal in toy manufacture from the 1950s and although tin toys were prone to rust, paint chips and other wear they were far more durable and palpable. Tinplate toy are sought-after collectors' items due to their appealing retro look and more permanent feel. There has been a manufacturing revival in recent years with tin rocket ships, aeroplanes and cars being sold as 'ornamental' toys for adults.

See more images link for:
Tin typewriter, 1950s
Cash register: a fully working model fitted with lock and key, Codeg, UK, c1940
Let's Play School, Metal-Wood Repetitions Co. Sydney, n.d. Copyright. Box 360 x 206mm. Inserted in the box is an 'Automatic Adding Board' of wood and cardboard. Five children including one in a Dunce's cap are shown with a blackboard with cut-outs; numbers slide across to make sums, and another gives the answer.


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