The Art of Old-Time Handmade Toys

Recently I’ve been coming across articles on ways to entertain bored, home-bound children during these school closures. Games, coloring activities, crafts. In this era where virtually all toys are sold in brick-and-mortars or online, it’s easy to forget most playthings of long-ago were handmade. Handmade to last generations.

It reminded me of handmade items my late dad (born 1924) told me about. The earliest was a child’s desk his paternal grandfather made for him out of wooden cigar boxes. Dad loved that desk. His grandfather died when Dad was 4, so he was quite young when this desk was made. I never got to see this desk. During Dad’s childhood, when the family moved out of a rented farmhouse, he had to leave his desk behind. This was in Effingham County, Illinois. I’ve often wondered if that desk might still be in existence, inherited by a descendant of the next family that moved in.

Dad’s mom, a Loy before marriage who died when Dad was 17, had shown him how to make a whirligig “button on a string” and “crows feet.” In those days, most women had ample supply of buttons in their sewing basket. And a surplus of string as well. Meat not raised on home farm was purchased at town butcher shop, where meat purchases were wrapped in butcher paper and tied with string. Even as a child in 1970s, I had a good collection of thick, sturdy string from my own mother’s butcher shop purchases. When I was about 8, Dad showed me how to make these string toys that his mom had showed him long ago.

Antiques, old photos, and even family recipes are among treasures that might be passed down from our forebears. But what about handcrafted heirlooms? Has anyone “inherited” any ancestor-handmade toys?  Or inherited the know-how to make them? What are they? (These can be from any of your ancestors, not necessarily from the Loy line.)

While looking through old public domain books, I found several on how to make homemade toys. To view each book in new window and full screen, click dotted-line square to right of navigation arrows. In full screen mode you can also download each book.


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