Thursday, May 06, 2010

Devil Duckies

To date, 44 classic toys have been inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, NY. It's hard to quibble with any of them from an historical perspective, although I'd like to give a raspberry to the Nintendo Game Boy and the Atari 2600 Game System, not because they weren't great toys, per se, but because of the type of sendentary, mind-numbing play they have ultimately wrought. And I have a hard time categorizing a bicycle as a toy -- that's just fun transportation.

I'll put my special star by the stick and the cardboard box.

What I love about this list of toys is that I doubt there are many Americans my age who haven't played with every one of them. They are the common stuff of our childhood, and I wonder if they don't somehow represent the very things that make us Americans. I'd be curious to know how this list is different in other parts of the world.

Well over half of these toys at least occasionally show up in the Woodland Park classroom, even if only in the context of the bottom of the toy box where View-Masters, Sinkeys, Etch-A-Sketches, Yo-yos, and  Silly Putty live.

Now if you asked me to pull together a list of 44 toys for my own personal hall of fame, it would be a different list for sure. I simply didn't like those kids who had Big Wheels (possibly jealousy) and I'm a little ashamed to admit that I never really cared for Legos. I was a standard unit wooden block builder myself, an item that is conspicuously absent from the National Hall of Fame. And where are those little toy soldiers -- you know, bayonet guy, marching guy, belly crawling guy -- who tended to populate my structures? And my own list would be incomplete without the pine cone, one of the most ubiquitous play-things found in my neighborhood in South Carolina. We were forever collecting baskets of the things to use as everything from currency to missiles in the pine cone fights that raged up and down our cul-de-sac. (To this day, I'm shocked that no adults tried to stop us, even when we were pelting their cars.)

But those days are long gone. Get with the times Teacher Tom! The kids of today will have none of your nostalgia. What have you done for me lately?

My dark horse candidate for one day making "The Hall" is one that has populated the Woodland Park classroom for as long as I have. The Devil Ducky!

Our collection of 50 Devil Duckys are always in the classroom and rarely a day goes by that they remain untouched. They are used for all kind of sequencing and sorting, they are the centerpieces of dramatic play, they swim in the sensory table, form families, or get wrapped up in play dough. I find them hidden in nooks and squirreled away in crannies. Children build with them, make up games with them, and covet their favorite. I've watched even very young children come up with the idea of trading them with an idea toward possessing, for instance, all the purple ones.

Even our Fisher-Price popper (another toy that really should be in the hall of fame) . . .

. . . has been populated by tiny pencil topper Devil Duckies.

If you want a Devil Ducky of your own, but lack an authorized retailer in your area, no worries. They are always in season over on the Archie McPhee website.

There is something about those angry faces, expressions that connote power to so many young children, combined with those cute little bodies, a perfect blend of naughty and nice, that does it, I think. Who can't identify with that?

I once had a Pre-K class that wanted to change the name of our school to The Devil Ducky School a suggestion I would totally support. I would enjoy introducing myself as a teacher at the Devil Ducky Cooperative Preschool.

So now, my questions: What toy tops your hall of fame list?

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Scott said...

I certainly agree with most of their hall of fame choices. But one thing that is missing that would be at the top of my list - Matchbox/Hot Wheels/generic small cars. I would play with cars for hours (especially in the dirt - another great for the hall of fame list!)I didn't collect them as collectibles but as "wear 'em out" toys. I still buy them (whatever the brand) for my kids - and cars are wildly popular whenever we use them.

Unknown said...

I agree with the above - Hot Wheels need to be on the list. My younger brother had quite a collection, as well as that carpet that has roads, and he and I would play for hours.

Another staple of my childhood was Playmobile people. There's a great parent-teacher store near me that sells them at reasonable prices. I was always sorting the little girls from the little boys, and creating new families.

Kelly said...

Being a fellow Seattle-area colleague, my middle school students LOVE my Archie McPhee's collection. I keep asking for a teacher's discount, but Mr. McPhee has yet to tap into that market.

Anonymous said...

I urge any of you passing through the northeast to plan a stop at the Strong Museum of Play. It is a fascinating experience for anyone with a young heart! It was created initially from the personal collection of Margaret Woodbury Strong, one of Rochester’s more colorful community members, and has grown over the years into an interactive delight. (You'd enjoy our beaches, parks and amusement parksas well!)

We do celebrate rubber duckies here every year with a Duck Race on the Erie Canal. I fear that the students of Woodland Park would be disappointed that none of them have horns and a leer! (Juli)

Unknown said...

Growing up in the forests of Minnesota, my favorite thing to do was dig in the dirt and make forts! Even after leaving the forest for the desert...I still made forts. Fort building is a staple for every child to learn how to make. Hmm...I think I just gave myself an idea for summer camp... :)

Barbara Zaborowski said...

Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, rather than the Minnesota woods, I'm pleased to second Ms. Jessi's fort building...but with sheets and towels and pieces of fabric. We had a very indulgent mom who tolerated leaving our elaborate forts up for days. They had secret doorways, hidden rooms and tunnels and small hidey-holes.

Teacher Tom said...

@Scott & Amy . . . Matchboxes, of course! Hot Wheels were the "new kids on the block" when I was a boy and I was already committed to the Matchbox cars. Actually, I took my collection into school today for the kids to play with.

@Juli . . . That museum (home of the Hall of Fame) is on my list!

@Jessi and Barbara . . . I was in a suburb. We made our forts out of the piles of limbs people would cut from their trees and leave along the curb for the garbage truck. Sometimes they would set there for weeks and we got pretty settled in.

Anonymous said...

There are so many ways to make a fort. Every child finds a way, even if it's just a space behind a chair. I've been thinking about how ingrained this must be in childhood--the desire to create your own space--and how we can support that desire in our already crowded preschool rooms. Sheets covering tables to create a room underneath? Big boxes outside? Re-arranging cabinets and bookcases to create private spaces?

Floor Pie said...

My list would have to include those old-school Fisher Price playsets, with all that beautiful detail. Like the hospital with its x-ray machine (the figure stands on it and an actual x-ray appears!)and the garden outside with the little walkway and goldfish pond. Or the airport with the snack counter, complete with a little cup of strawberry ice cream at someone's place. And that Fisher Price Sesame Street set! I know, I know, product placement. But it was still so much fun. I still have my Fisher Price Mr. Hooper.

Kat said...

I loved paper dolls. I probably had at least 40. I thought it was great fun to sort them into families and decide who was best friends with who. I tried to get my daughter interested in paper dolls when she was small but she didn't share my fascination with them.

My little brother had the little plastic army man thing going on. I have a tub of little plastic firefighters in my classroom that remind me of those army men.

Anonymous said...

I had a large wooden dollhouse and a smaller metal one, but neither was my favorite. My passion was reserved for a box of rooms cut from magazines and a collection of heads from catalogs and magazines. The rooms were infinitely arrangeable into cottages, ranch houses and mansions. The heads were constantly re-arranged into different families and friendships. The open-endedness of this toy was wonderful and it all came from a suggestion by my mother one afternoon all those years ago.

Anonymous said...

I have never heard of Devil Duckies. How interesting!

Unknown said...

oh my.
I have never seen one of those.
I am not a huge fan of anything devel-ish except of course for the deviled egg : )
I think a box would be a wonderful addition. Kaishon still gets excited about a big cardboard box. A world of possibilities!

chaosftw said...

loved the cars as a kid! And forts, we always found somewhere to build one. We have a small 2x3x2 pup tent the girls use in the basement as a fort - also a giant fort building kit (kind of like tinker toys - also a huge fav as a kid) that we use to build forts/castles/tunnels as the mood strikes. They also turn into golf, swords, torpedos (I really do ahve girls if you can't tell : )

I'll also second the playmobil toys - loved em as a kid and am currently spending a fortune buying the doll house, farm, pony farm, and dinosaurs piece by piece for everyone we know.

The little people are also good - but I love how the playmobil toys are great for little kids just to push around and use for small imaginative play, but then the older the child the more possibilities.

Though right now, a needle, thread, and some fabric is the biggest hit - it's amazing how many things a 3yr old can make on her own : ) including a curtain for her cardboard box house.

Anonymous said...

Scott - I totally agree with you there, dinky cars deserve a mention! Tom: "because of the type of sendentary, mind-numbing play they have ultimately wrought"... I love it!! Those "toys" belong in a landfill site! :)