Small Talk / Inspiration

Trash or Treasure? Update

Just Colcord

Last year, the museum featured the work of toy artist Just Colcord in Trash or Treasure? So we thought it was high time to check in with Colcord in his studio to see what he’s been creating since the exhibit. Inspired by a lecture given by Wichita, Kansas artist Randy Regier, Colcord began crafting packaging to display his found object toys while they are at rest. The packaging highlights the individuality of each piece, allowing the viewer to focus on the intricacies of each creature without the distractions of the surrounding environment. Colcord mused that the toys enjoy having their own “room” to inhabit as much as men enjoy their man caves and women their craft rooms.

After looking at one too many vacation photos that featured the beautiful scenery, but not the people experiencing it, Colcord decided to play with the idea of space in his work. Colcord documents his toys adventures in the real world, such as an excursion to Ripley’s Museum, and is narrating these trips in albums on Facebook. Next up is “mobile interactive play sets,” that allow viewers to play with his creations. Colcord hopes these sets will inspire participants to explore their environments with the same spirit and gusto as his creations.

The Secret Story of Toys Revealed

Secret Story of Toys

Much of T/m’s toy collection was produced by hand, whether in a cottage industry or on an assembly line. Workers in the 19th and early 20th centuries (some of them children themselves) painstakingly carved wooden animals, painted dollhouse roofs, or sewed doll clothing. But times have changed and so have toys and production methods. In an age where you can 3D print just about anything, we were surprised to learn about a group of toy artists that sculpt everything by hand, right here in Kansas City!

Local filmmaker Anthony Ladesich recently introduced us to the artists in his short documentary The Secret Story of Toys. The piece, selected for the Kansas City Film Festival last month, spotlights Kansas City toy makers Jason Frailey, Adam Smith, and Adrienne Smith. The team’s toy making process involves sculpting clay and casting from molds with an intense attention to detail… and we thought working here was cool!

Roominate Illuminates STEM Skills

Roominate Dollhouse

As Stanford Engineering graduate students, friends Alice Brooks and Bettina Chen saw firsthand the lack of women interested in STEM fields. With only 11% of engineers being women, they knew something had to be done to get girls interested in science, technology, engineering and math at a young age. They realized that the toys they played with as girls were instrumental in developing the basic skills that built their interest in engineering as adults.  After consulting with professors, middle school teachers, and parents, the idea for a new toy was born: Roominate.

Roominate is a colorful building kit, similar to Erector Sets, Legos, or TinkerToys, that includes electrical circuitry, motors, and decorative elements like craft paper and pipe cleaners. The toy appeals to girls age 8 to 12 by combining construction elements with classic dollhouse play, allowing them to creatively build, while developing problem solving and spatial skills. Brooks and Chen developed a prototype and posted the project on the crowd funding website Kickstarter.com.  After just a month, the project earned over $85,000, more than three times their goal of $25,000. Roominate is now being sold in stores nationwide… furthering the company’s mission of “empowering the next generation of STEM women by changing the way girls play.” You go, girls!

Toy Libraries: Lending a Smile

Toypedia Toy Library

You can rent just about anything these days: books, cars, videos (ok, well, maybe not so much anymore)… but how about toys? While toy libraries haven’t quite caught on yet in America, they’re all the rage in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Here’s how it works: parents buy a yearly membership to their local toy library to check out a toy for a period of time, similar to a book from a library. Once the time period is up, the toy is returned to the library, cleaned, and put back on the shelf for the next child. Pretty cool, huh? Not only do toy libraries promote learning and cognitive development through play, they also keep unwanted toys out of landfills and save parents tons of money!

Here in America, folks seem to be warming up to the toy lending concept. A librarian at the Ottendorfer branch of the New York Public Library in the East Village decided to loan out an American Girl doll, Kirsten Larson, along with her corresponding storybook. The unofficial doll lending program became immensely popular and has since expanded to include several other American Girls, which normally retail for upwards of $100. Offering children the opportunity to play with a toy their parents might not be able to afford is yet another reason toy libraries are catching on. Click here to find a toy library near you!

Photo: Toypedia, a toy library with branches in Gurgaon and South Delhi, India.

Comfort Objects

Theo and Beau

It might have been a blankie, a doll, or a stuffed animal… children find comfort in objects like these and they just can’t let go. The more ragged it becomes, the more it’s loved, from a ratty piece of silky ribbon barely hanging on to the blanket edge to a pink cow that has lost almost all of its stuffing.

Last month, blogger Jessica Shyba wrote a post about her son’s most unusual comfort object and it’s just too cute not to share! Every day when her son Beau falls asleep for his afternoon nap, the family’s new puppy Theo snuggles up with him. Jessica has been sharing photos of the cuddling pair on her blog and on Instagram under the hashtag #TheoandBeau. If you can handle the adorableness, then check it out!

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