Toys and Tales came out of a workshop on folk toymaking with children of different ages, organized by Tara Publishing and The School, KFI in July 1997. it was conducted by Prof. Sudarshan Khanna of the National Institute of Design, who has worked in this area for the past twenty-five years.
"When I looked around for examples of the creative and intelligent use of everyday materials, the perfect example seemed to be folk toys made by artisans and sold at fairs all over India. As a child I used to make ten to fifteen different types of toys, but these simple ideas are not known today. In 1972, at a fair in Ahmedabad, there were over a hundred action toymakers. Each year the number is decreasing. After several years of research, I developed and documented more than 150 toys. To create awareness about this vanishing craft, I conduct workshops with children, teachers and toymakers. At these workshops we recreate and redesign the toys I have collected over twenty years."
Anushka Ravidhankar and I documented the process of the workshop for this book. Gradually, a concept for it began to emerge, based on our observations at the workshop. We noticed that children of different age groups, as well as adults who were part of the group, experienced toymaking in distinctly different ways. We have turned that experience into a multi-level book.
How to Use This Book
All the toys in this book were made by children. They are not like the ones you can buy in most shops. These toys are made of simple everyday materials, based on folk toys created by toymakers from different parts of India.
When we made the toys, different age groups reacted differently. The younger children were happy just making and playing with their toys. The older ones were much more curious to find out how they worked. And some of the adults wanted to know more about the toys and how children played.
So we designed this book to be used by different age groups. This does not mean that the divisions have to be followed strictly. You may belong to a particular age group and find yourself interested in other sections as well. If so, go ahead and dip into the book in any order you choose.
If You are Below 12
For each toy, these are the sections meant for you, which will tell you how to make the toy and play with it. The other sections are for older children and adults. Of course, if you find them interesting, feel free to read them.
This is how we have divided your section.
What it is made of
Under this heading, you will find a list of the materials you need to make the toy. If you cannot find the material we have used, try using something similar instead. For instance, if you do not have chart paper, you can use thin cardboard. Just make sure it has similar qualities, like thickness or the way it bends.
How it is made
Here, we explain how to make the toy, step by step. Each step is illustrated. The first time you do it, try to follow the instructions exactly. Later, you can try out variations. For example, you can turn a Break-dancer into a bird, or a Jitter-bug into a monkey.
What is does
This tells you how to make your toy work.
When it doesn't
Sometimes a toy does not do what it is supposed to Maybe there is nothing wrong with the way you made it, you may just need some practice to get it to work. Or you may need to pay special attention to a particular step in making it. Here we tell you where you might have gone wrong in making the toy
Games, Jokes, Stories and Tricks
After we made the toys, some of the children were content just to play with them. Others came up with all kinds of other ways of using the toys. We have included them in this section, to give you ideas on what you can invent.
If you are 13-16
Many of the principles that you have learnt in science can be seen actually at work in these toys. This section explains some complex scientific phenomena using the toys.
A Scientific Principle
Here we explain the main principles on which the toy works. Sometimes, if there are too many different physical laws at work, we have only talked about the most significant of them, to avoid making it too complicated. You will find that some of the toys, but not all, have diagrams that show the forces that are acting on the toy. We have drawn diagrams only if they help in clearly illustrating the principle.
Here, we have suggested variations that you could try with the toy. Some of the variations give the toy a different look, others use the basic principle to make new toys. We have suggested experimenting with different dimensions, proportions and materials. Observe the changes in the way the toy works with these variations, and try to figure out why this happens.
Once you know how the toy works, it is interesting to connect these principles to phenomena we find around us. For instance, the Screech works just like our vocal chords do.
You might also be able to connect the way a toy works to what you are learning in class, either directly or indirectly. We have asked some questions to help you to think about these things.
Hint: here we do not give you the answers, but leave you with a clue.
If you are an adult
The experience of making these toys with children led us to reflect on toys and play in today's world. This is something we rarely think about-after all, children have always played, with our without adult encouragement. Do we really need to spend time on something, which comes so naturally to children? Should not we, in fact, concentrate on getting them interested in more productive activities?
On the contrary. Play is essential for children, it is the business of life. It enables them to be creative in unstructured, imaginative and individual ways. Our observations also convinced us that parents and educators today need to be concerned about the ways in which their children play, and the toys they play with. Because the quality of play-which we have always considered as innate in children-has changed in our times, particularly in affluent urban areas. Although we are led to believe that children today have it far better than a generation ago, we need to find out if this is really so.
For one, many have too little time and space to play. Secondly, active play has been increasingly taken over by entertainment. And thirdly, a lot of play these days centers around expensive toys and games, with the media and the toy industry pressurizing children into believing that they need all these commodities. We cannot expect young children to deal with these pressures on their own. They need adult guidance
This section of the book is intended to enable the concerned adult to make such informed choices. It discusses a number of current issues related to toys and play, in the context of larger pedagogical and social concerns.
Our effort in this book is to bring back the now forgotten quality of play which arises from making and playing with folk toys, using everyday materials.
We do not suggest that this is the only answer to today's consumerist culture that would be both romantic and impractical. As the section on the decline of traditional toy making demonstrates, a genuine revitalizing of this dying tradition is possible only with concerted action at many levels.
Yet we do believe that these wonderful toys are a potent symbol of the direction we need to take. They revive many qualities we do not value today: simplicity, ingenuity and a sheer delight in play which is not tied up with expensive products.
In the final analysis, we would like the reader to look at what is valuable and living in such traditions, and examine contemporary choices in that light.
Back of the Book
Toys and Tales shows you how to make a range of dynamic toys with everyday materials, based on traditional folk toys from different parts of India. All the toys in the book have been made by children Designed to be used by different age groups, Toys and Tales goes beyond just instructing the reader on how to make the toy.
For Children Between 8 And 12 Years It gives step-by-step instructions on how to make each toy. Games, stories, jokes and tricks open up imaginative ways of playing with these toys.
For Children Between 13 And 16 Years It brings alive science through toy making, by examining the physical laws behind the working of these toys. It also suggests connections to other phenomena, variations and further experiments with material.
It addresses a number of complex issues related to toys and play in today's world, in a clear and accessible way. By placing toys and the value of play in a larger social context, Toys and Tales enables a concerned adult to make informed choices.
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