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What is your favorite toy?

The current issue of ID (International Design) magazine has an article in which famous designers describe their favorite toy. Most picked items from their childhood.  The write-ups are priceless.  (Sorry, not available online yet.  They are overhauling their website.)  Who knew that Paul Budnitz (Kidrobot founder) rode his Big Wheel until he was so big that he had to have his dad nail a  plywood extension on the seat area?  Or that Michael Bierut was into Matchbox cars?  And John Maeda, author of "The Laws of Simplcity"  and president of RISD, somewhat predictably picked Naef Toys.

A typically beautiful and uber-simple luxury wooden toy, by Naef
A typically beautiful and uber-simple luxury wooden toy, by Naef


This got me pondering my own favorite toy:  Jumbo Cardboard Blocks.


I first met these Jumbo Cardboard Blocks  in Kindergarten.  I was four, and like most of the kids in my neighborhood, I hadn't been to preschool.  It was a brave new world. I loved those blocks and I simply couldn't believe our classroom had so many of them.  Oh, the possibilities!  I passed many happy hours making cities and castles and school rooms, where I tripped in and out of the "doors" directing imaginary citizenry.  It was great, absorbing fun.   But the real reason these blocks are my childhood favorite is they created a shining moment of childhood.  It was the day my teacher "Mrs. Affleck" singled me out.

I was surprised to recently learn that  a fellow student hated Mrs. Affleck.  I thought she was a dream, with a melodious voice, an old-fashioned (even then) brown bob, and a colorful array of slim, friendly-looking shirt-dresses.

On the big day, I'd had one of my usual free time sessions with the blocks.  Nothing unusual, yet Mrs. Affleck called the class over and said,

Children, just look at the wonderful creation Julie Knittel (my maiden name) and Roy Stufflebean made!  They worked so nicely together.  What a great job!

That was literally the first time I realized I could do a "job."  And that someone might notice.  And that I could get credit for it.  And it was good to "work" on a team.  The rest is history, I guess.  (But I still wonder what happened to Roy Stufflebean.)

So...I am asking what childhood toys might be the favorite for other people.  No slightly sappy psychological dramas (like mine)  need be attached.  Sometimes Play-doh is just Play-doh.  But it's still great.WhatWh


  • Sara Says:

    OK, I don't want to sound pathetic, but I didn't have many "toys" growing up. Or at least the toys we did have didn't last very long in our house. Being the youngest in a very large family, my "toys" got pillaged by my older siblings for their escapades. The die and play money for my boardgames always got grabbed by my teenaged brothers for their closed door gambling nights.
    Now that I think about it, perhaps that is why I did have a fondness for the game Trouble. My brothers couldn't get the dice out of the Pop-o-matic bubble dice holder and there was something sweet about the sound of the popping. It was a quick game and involved both luck and a fair degree of strategy as you raced around the board. I liked that there were real numbers on the die rather than the dots (maybe that was what thwarted my brothers from cracking open my cherished Pop-o-matic!).
    I did love the Spirograph too, but the pens and papers were always missing.

  • Marianne Says:

    When my daughter was little, about 3, someone asked her what her favorite toy was. She replied, "My Mom!" She's a sophomore in college now.

  • julespieri Says:

    I love that Pop-O-Matic sound story, and can so picture those brothers cavalierly stealing whatever they needed from the younger set. Missing game pieces, and a frequent lack of basic supplies to do my homework, are a strong childhood memory of mine. Should have made me relaxed about that kind of stuff, but I am the opposite. Get unglued in a particularly ridiculous way when I can't find a pair of scissors "that I keep in this drawer."

  • Dane Says:

    I guess maybe Lego?

    Or maybe Big Frank. Although I don't remember ever playing with that thing, just wanting it.

  • julespieri Says:

    Oh Marianne. I am glowing just to read your comment.

  • julespieri Says:

    Dane...we used your college tuition savings to buy all that Lego. And if you ever knew what I did to get that Big Frank under the tree...the toy that you never touched. It was a terrible product.

  • Marianne Says:

    Big Frank was the coolest toy ever! My son loved it ! I don't know whatever became of his and I'm trying to find another one. Why do you think it was terrible!?


  • Jules Pieri, CEO Daily Grommet Says:

    @Marianne, I thought it was terrible because it could only do three things. You know with those plastic tools that made him say something. He seemed to big and blocky to really play with the things you could do got old so fast. Why did your son love Big Frank so much?

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