Toys represent a microcosm of man’s world and dreams. They exhibit fantasy, imagination, humor and love. They are an invaluable record and expression of man’s ingenious unsophisticated imagination. -Alexander Girard
I traveled recently in New Mexico, where there is an abundance of inspiration both indoors and out. In Santa Fe, I visited the Museum of International Folk Art. It houses designer Alexander Girard’s collection of toys, nativities, and miniatures and encompasses more than 100,000 works from 100 cultures worldwide.
There is a ton of material available about the importance of play for child development. In fact, research has shown that children’s learning mainly happens through play. SInce children learn mainly through doing, toys are important hands-on materials for learning and development.
But visiting this enormous collection, the toy story for me was not only about children, but about the artists who produced these spectacular works. The imagination, scope of self-expression, enormous variety of materials, and level of skill that is evident in the works is dizzying.
The nature of play might change throughout the life span, but this vast collection of work demonstrates that play is important throughout our lives. The imagination and creativity of these artists was passed down to the next generation through the toys they were given to play with. And as the children grew, the elders passed on techniques and skills so that creativity was cultivated in future generations.