Thursday, October 4, 2012

My Favorite Toys: Nails and Clothespins

A while ago, Etsy admin asked the readers to tell about their favorite toys. It was fun to remember; this is what I wrote.

"Wooden clothespins! I pretended them to be a pack of wolves and invented stories about them. I had about 20 wolves in the pack, and each one was different - I could tell one from another by the shade of wood, speckles and stains and such. I remember there was a she-wolf, light beige in color - almost white - she was young and beautiful. And then there was a pack leader who was a veteran of many fights; he was dark brown and covered with scars. And of course there was a romance, and many adventures, and cute wolf cubs later on. I was about 6 then. Thank you for asking, it made me smile".

(the clothespins were just like these, offered by vintiquesprims)

It is true that those clothespins gave me hours of happiness. I used to spend summers with my great grandparents in the Crimea; they did not have many toys at home, and I did not bring my own with me. They had many other interesting objects instead. 

A tabby colored cat Dina (live). 

Two porcelain figurines - a fawn bulldog and a white deer.

A chest full of crocheted doilies, yardage lace, embroidery and samplers; it smelt of camphor balls. I still love the smell. I know everyone hates it, but I love it. 

A cupboard with items like cookie cutters, pottery, silverware (could be played with, too, but great grandmother would not allow me) and a very old and thick book entitled "How to Be a Model Housewife", with pictures of new look style dresses,  recommendations on how to be a good wife and mother and lots of recipes. A bag full of buttons was also stored in the cupboard. 

(and these cookie cutters from vintagewall closely resemble ours. actually I need to buy a vintage set, and this one is very nice, but I will try finding one locally).

...I actually wanted to say something about the clothespins. That is right, we lived in the Soviet Union and were not spoiled with toys. We had some, but not nearly like the choice and quality of toys available to the US kids. However I believe a child does not really need a lot of bright expensive ready-made toys; to a certain extent, they can even be... not harmful, of course, but probably not very useful, because they leave so little to the imagination. A Barbie can only be a Barbie, even if you put a Scarlett O'Hara dress on her. She is too discrete. On the other hand, a very basic doll, with a primitive face (there can be no face at all), can be turned into anything. 

I also had several nails as toys (I was 6 or older so it was safe enough and they were not sharp). They were rather large iron nails; found them in great grandfather's toolbox. I would take a piece or rope, cut and untwist it, and make hair for them. Dresses and coats were made of leaves. I played with them in the garden - it was about half a mile from home and I was asked not to take the clothespins there so that not to lose them.  Of course, the garden was full of amazing things such as Colorado beetles, tiny frogs, worms etc., but sometimes I just wanted to sit and play with something so I found the nails and they were great. There were a princess (blond), a warrior (read haired) and a wizard (gray haired). 

(very nice old nails, even better than mine, by epochco)

Of course there were many more items I played with, which were not intended for play (I am not talking about knives now, although I loved them, too). Clothespins and nails are just very good examples of how a child can play with very simple things which cost nothing. 

I know that now there are wooden dolls available which can more or less serve the same purpose. They have very little details, and a child can turn them into anything: this is what I call a good play! (I only need to explain to my girl that she will have clothespins instead of new Liv dolls from now on. But in fact she has a very good imagination and often invents new uses for things which I like very much).

And what were your favorite toys? Please tell me! 

(basic wooden peg dolls by LaFiabaRussa)


  1. I know a small boy whose favorite toy shop is actually Lowes (home supplies store)! I'm all for creativity!

    1. So funny! I love home supplies stores, too - they are full of nice things and smell good, too.

  2. I remember we used to draw and then cut the figures from the paper, I had many paper dolls and huge box for all their cloths :)

    1. That is right! I meant to write about paper dolls but was already tired )) This is a perfect opportunity to make the ideal princess, witch or whoever, and plenty of clothes )

  3. What a wonderful post!!! Thank you for sharing all these lovely, happy memories! You were indeed a very creative child! I totally agree about toys... It is so beautiful to turn something ordinary into an extraordinary adventure! I love the idea that phantasy has to be in the foreground... and honestly I don't like toys which don't leave anything to imagination.
    As a little girl, I loved to draw "treasure maps"... the treasure was always hidden on some faraway island, or in some exotic or mysterious place... the North Pole or a desert. I remember turning a chair (which I had laid down on the back) into a sled, with which I would go explore the North Pole... other times it was a boat. I would load all my plushies on the upside-down chair and sail to unexplored, adventurous shores!
    Thank you for this great post! :)

    1. Anna, thank you for this wonderful response! Regarding maps - it is quite amazing; do you have at least one left, stored in the family archive? My mother used to store my drawings but then we somehow lost them when moving...

      Your sled/boat chair is lovely )) I had queens' stables on the chair. With beds and plates for all my horses.

    2. Eugenie, YES, I still have all my "treasure maps"! They are indeed a treasure to me, after so many years! You just made me want to take them out of the drawer and browse through them... Thank you for this lovely inspiration!! And you just inspired me to show one or two on my blog some day...
      What I forgot to mention is that I had a treasure map with me on my sled or boad, of course... :) Your queens' stables sound lovely too!

    3. Anna, I would be very interested to look at your maps and other drawings - please make sure to give me a shout, for sometimes I am so overloaded I might miss the post.

      Of course you are supposed to have a map on board when you are going for the treasures ))

  4. This is an interesting topic! My mom's sewing machine was my favourite "toy" - and lego of course! We didn't have a lot of store bought toys and if we did, they were hand me downs from cousins and neighbours. Growing up, we didn't mind at all. We could play for hours just using our imaginations.

    I don't buy toys for my children but they certainly get enough on birthdays and holidays. Lego is our favourite toy. There are so many stories you can make up by putting together some pieces of lego. I believe that fostering a creative mind is crucial for a child's development.

    1. My mom would never let me touch her sewing machine, especially after I sew a piece of fabric to my own nail... on the index finger of my right hand... I still cannot operate this monster )

      I agree with you on all points. However I do buy toys but that is because we have very few decent toys here so I have to order from US, and I try to choose those facilitating development.

  5. Thanks, Eugene, for the opportunity to go back to childhood.
    As always, a new interesting story!
    An interesting application of clothespins)
    until I was little I loved the brilliant fish, which for me made ​​out of paper, my older sister, she painted fish, beautifully colored, and then covered with silicone adhesive.
    it was the only glue kontselyarii.
    and yet it did for me dolls from yarn.
    and then I sewed myself a toy.
    but our favorite games was to build a house - from the cover, cook food from leaves, make treasure digging in secluded areas colored wrappers, covered with bits of glass
    it was a different life.
    Waldorf pedagogy encourages very creative activities of children.
    so to me it is very pretty.

    1. I loved reading about the brilliant fish ))) I would love to see one, too! And I made yarn dolls, too, but they were not too good. What I did really well were dolls made of cardboard, with articulated limbs. I painted them and made clothes for them, too.

      It was a different life, that is right. I am trying now to emulate it partially, for Madina to learn creating, not just buying things.

  6. A child's imagination is so amazing!
    I love watching my niece and nephews play...they come up with ideas I never would have thought of!

    1. That is right, and I also love to listen to her playing or telling stories or singing. The texts are quite extraordinary )

  7. What a great post! I have some cookie cutter that were made by my uncle and given to my grandmother. They have both passed on. The cookie cutter were probably made in the early 60's. Such a treasure I could never part with.


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