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Toys of Yesteryear – Are we turning into a Molly Coddled Nation?

Mamod Twin Stationary Engine with Dynamo I was recently cleaning out the attic when I came across an old toy of mine, and it made me think about children’s toys of today.  Equally by some strange coincidence, I was engaged in conversation with a customer (we’ll call John.) who recently thinking about the same, we got talking… During a recent trip to Bletchley Park John, his Father and Grand Father were standing in awe of some of the decoding machines of World War 2 and beyond.  At the site, a small museum of children’s toys are on display.  John tells me that one of the toys caught both his father and grandfather’s eye.

John described it simply as a metal guillotine.  The toy aimed at children 8yrs+ contained sheets of strip metal and a riveting machine.  The child was encouraged to cut the sheet metal with the guillotine and rivet the pieces together to make toy tractors, cars, tanks etc.  This turned out to be a toy owned by one of the during World War 2.  This toy was designed to teach basic metal working skills.

My Toy was a traction engine, which in the 70’s as a child I was able to purchase metholated spirit from the local chemist, pour into the burning chamber and set fire to it.  The traction engine would be filled with water and drive a wheel once steam pressure was enough.

Today, no one would dream of giving a child a machine that would take off their fingers, let alone give them the tools to be young arsonist of the year.  Does this make it right though? As we’ve progressed through the dark, middle ages, Victorian to the naughties, are we de-sensitising each generation to being wrapped up in cotton wool? Are we removing the basic requirement to understand consequence, responsibility & accountability as we move more into a blame culture than ever before?

30 years ago, if we fell at school and grazed our knee, we were patched up by the school nurse, given that awful yellow stinging stuff and we learnt not to do whatever it was again (or at least be more careful).  In today’s society it’s a question of ensuring the school has adequate insurance, and, not to dress the wound in the fear that any form of first aid could be seen as a compensation claim by the parents.

You can no longer get paracetamol from a first aider at work, in fear that you have a reaction and sue the company.

You can argue that it’s not safe to let children play with fire, or machinery that can remove your limbs, however, we learnt to respect our environment and lets face it 1000’s of years have progressed and were still here!

If we don’t start making adjustments now, the next generation will grow up more molly coddled than the last, with each child having their lawyers on speed dial…

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