Most childrens toys are very ephemeral things, and slavish followers of fashion. Fortunately there are some classic items that continue to amuse.

My son Max has a number of toy telephones. One looks almost exactly like my cellphone, and this seems to be the current standard. Five years ago they all looked like portable phones, and five years before that they were all standard desk phones.

When we visit my parents Max still recognises a toy telephone from my childhood though. The rotary dial is a bit of a mystery, but the handset and base still clearly represent the same objects in today's telephones. He even plays with it the same way. In fact, since it doesn't try and talk back to him, he plays even more with it, and more creatively too.

This perpetual parade of fashion can be quite annoying. One of the most successful toys in our arsenal of amusements is a pile of railway track. We would love to buy more but it appears to be unobtainable. Nobody is marketing it any longer, so nobody is selling it, it seems.

Many modern toys do seem almost designed to frustrate though, at least in a lot of cases: verisimilitude without reality, form without function: fashion, without style.

Fortunately there are good toys:

But the best toys are the ones your child likes. Try as we might, we just can't predict it. We are all individuals, and we started out that way, and we will all have our idiosyncratic favourites that end up falling apart, not because of bad construction, but because of their perpetual attention.

2001-10-17 - Max is four years old next week, Fraser will be ten months on wednesday. I will revise this node as my experience expands.

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