Toys and Communication: An Introduction
This chapter is an overview of Toys and Communication and introduces some of the themes raised in the book’s additional 15 chapters. The first section borrows from Sutton-Smith’s (Ambiguity of play‚ Harvard University Press‚ Cambridge MA‚ 1997) ‘rhetorics of play’ to position toys in the global media market, in institutions including school and family, and in relation to other forms of play, such as games and videogames. Toys and their meanings in play can be seen as aspects of communication and the transmission of culture. Giving and receiving toys reflects and imparts cultural practices and beliefs. Some forms of play, such as parent–child play or block play, are directly related to language and communication skills. Amanda Gummer reviews theory and research on toys, play and language development. Particular toys are homologous with particular types of speech and action. Miniature toy versions of everyday objects stimulate related play themes and the scaffolding of language skills. Musical toys appear to promote spatial reasoning, memory, math, and language. Miniature cooking sets develop a child’s sense of comfort, home, and set the stage for lifelong food preferences. Four anthropological chapters show the interplay between culture, toy-making, and play in rural India, Morocco, 1930s pre-war Germany, and Greece during the German occupation. Three chapters describe ways in which play influences toy design and design influences play.
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