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Toy Stories: Children around the world with their most prized possessions (gabrielegalimberti.com)
192 points by bookofjoe 37 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 68 comments

This is a beautiful project. I still remember the night before a "show and tell" event at my school when I was eight years old. I laid out all my toys on my bed and tried to choose which one to bring to school the next day. I felt such excitement at the prospect of telling my friends all about the games I played with them.

I remember having such love for my toys and when I think of them I can still feel the joy they brought me. I admit that scrolling through these pictures today has me feeling pretty emotional.

I have a kid, and I am broken on a daily basis as I see him grow to love, build relationships with, and then eventually outgrow cherished toys.

My own childhood sucked, and one of the constants I had in my life were my car toys. They were thrown away, out of spite. This article also hit me in a few different emotional places.

I hope and guess that one constant in your kid's life is you. And I hope his/her childhood doesn't resemble yours. Toys accompany you through childhood, parents through life. I lost the latter too early.

I’m happy mine are dead. They were horrible.

While I had not horrible yet very absent parents I believe in the next generation. There is room to makes better for your own. It usually is difficult but nontheless a good purpose in life.

This reminded me of an older series of "Daily Bread: What Kids Eat Around the World". I had to look it up and submitted it here [1]

Also, the author has more series on her website [2]. One is called "The Heavens" about tax havens. One is called "Fathers" it is about fathers (as a father myself, I enjoyed it). There's one about "couchsurfers" (does not interest me, YMMV) and there's the one already linked.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20903532

[2] https://www.gabrielegalimberti.com

Also similar to "Where Children Sleep", which is exactly that: http://jamesmollison.com/books/where-children-sleep/

Also similar (and a personal favorite): https://awards.visitcenter.org/awards2016/editors_choice/ind...


Photographer Melissa Kaseman did a series entitled "Preschool Pocket Treasures," documenting what she found stuffed in her sons pockets.

It's surprising how non unique the toys. The Switzerland boy had a Disney "cars" car, a batmobile, and a Spider-Man costume. The two girls from zanizabar had a skelator. The boy from Australia had Brio trains and Thomas the tank engine. I see barely any toys that are uniquely native to their home country. I don't know if this is good or bad, but globalization is real.

This is only partially true - you focused on the global and universal and missed the more local. For example, two kids have baseball bats, but except for America and Japan most kids in the world won't have bats, many haven't even seen one ever. The kid from Alaska with his snow sleds and the Italian girl with the cows are two prime examples of a local, native culture childhood style.

Cows are everywhere, and sleds are everywhere where there is lots of snow. Cows are not local or native to Italy, if anything it shows there is a larger divide between urban and rural areas then what country you live in.

To me it's interesting that kids are not only playing with similar toys, but the exact same brand of toy. Of course there are some differences, but compared to 50 years ago childhood around the world is starting to look the same.

Good point, though I'm not sure how important it is to have locally unique toys. Certainly not for the kids.

Probably, you could have said the same thing 50 years ago, how nation-wide toys are taking over stuff that was only available in your town.

I think the real differentiator is that 50 years ago kids didn't had that many toys at all. I'm not sure if that plentiness is always a good thing. AFAIK there's usually a very small subset of toys that are really important to them, anyways. So I wouldn't overestimate the importance each of the pictured toys holds.

Maybe todays "uniqueness" comes from which of the toys was acquired in this sea of ubiquity. Analogous to today's plentiness of great cloud-tv-series, each with an earned addicted fan-base, where it is impossible for one to view them all. But what is still unique to each child is which of these acquired toys are really important to them.

The first kid, with the Spider-Man bedspread, 11 dinosaurs on the floor, and five dragons on the wall baffles me.

The dragons are two Terrible Terrors, a Deadly Nadder, a Gronkle, and a Monstrous Nightmare. How can you put up pictures of assorted dragons and not include a Night Fury?

I'm surprised and pleased about how similar the toys are to those from when I was little. Lots of train sets and cars.

I suspected to see a series of iPads and games consoles. I flicked through 20 or so and barely a battery-powered toy in sight, never mind a computer.

I don't know why it should make me happy though... maybe I'm worried modern children's lives are too complicated and just idolise my own, without any evidence for that. Getting old, I suppose.

Well I know this is anecdotal, and I can't say how widespread this behavior would be, but I'm certain my wife wouldn't let my 5 year old boy put his iPad on display out of embarrassment.

`out of embarrassment` - I'm getting shushed when I yell out loud for my boy to come in to watch some youtube. Not because she thinks putting him in front of apple tv is bad parenting, but because the neighbors shouldn't hear it.

What I like is when other parents open up about their experiences. There seems to be a big chasm between official and de-facto parenting.

When pressed, at least, the grandparents that just gave us the look because our three year old can pinch-swipe open up how they did the same with us back then, just with older tech.

This makes me believe these lists were 'curated'.

Photography always is.

This is heartwarming. The amazing thing about children is that they’re happy to just be there. If you go see a bunch of kids in a village in Bangladesh, they’re as happy as kids anywhere.

No iphones?

These kids are a little young, but with a sample size like this I'd expect at least a couple to pose with electronics. When I was that age there were no cellphones, but I did have some toys with batteries. The only electronic "toys" I see in this are musical instruments. Baseball bats in Japan? I think this is less what the kids value and what the adults dream that their kids value. It's nostalgia.

> Baseball bats in Japan?

Well, yeah. The Nippon Professional Baseball league is Japan's largest professional sports competition in terms of television ratings and spectators. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sport_in_Japan)

Also, I thought this was pretty funny: https://imgur.com/a/K5hktiY

Only one child had electronics. Perhaps things aren't so bad after all.

(I don't know which country he was from. The captions didn't work for me on iOS.)

Age 4. Buena Vista, Colombia.

slingshot boy is cool.

the young boys with the array of plastic guns is a bit disturbing*

* to a non north american at least

As a North American (Portland, OR) I can tell you me and all my friends and family kids of the 1970's had swords, shields, and guns. My uncle even made me, out of wood, a very authentic WW II M1 rifle and a .50 cal machine gun with tripod so we could play war more accurately in our numerous foxholes we'd dug around the farm. I loved those toys. I still have my childhood plywood shield. It's barely holding together.

None of those friends and family own guns (or swords, heh) as adults. I've never even fired a pistol in real life. We all skew fairly left and would favor a lot more gun control. I'm a supporter of the military and our troops, but I worry about us sending them all over the place for who knows what end. It takes a heavy toll on us and them.

I honestly don't think having weapons as toys has much affect on you as an adult. It's all fun and games until you're old enough to learn some history and actually comprehend the horrors of war, and then you can only look back fondly on those innocent days.

Ehh sometimes kids like guns. My aunt was telling me how she wasn't going to let her kids have toy guns or watch violent shows. One morning she made toast, and my cousin had bitten his toast into the shape of a gun. He's now a writer for wacky kids shows.

This is consistent with my experience.

Stick with right-angle found on the ground? Gun.

Inverted shoe? Gun.

Magnetic letter L? Gun.

Legos? Gun. Sometimes sword.

Sister's barbie held by arms with legs poiting at target? Gun.

Toast with bite out of it? Gun.

Weapons are basic, ancient tools. In fact, the oldest human artifacts ever found were weapons[0]. It should come as no surprise that they are popular children's toys, whether we like it or not.

To be clear -- I do not mind it, but the guns depicted here are realistic enough to potentially cause confusion for people with actual guns and should probably never be taken out of the house......

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schöningen_spears#targetText=T....

That's a very American view. In most places around the world, guns are so rare that nobody will mistake a realistic toy as a gun.

In India, it is somewhat common for kids to have toy guns which make a loud sound if you insert a 'cap' and pull the trigger. This is sold as a firework, and can be seen everywhere on the streets during festivals.

Cap guns are, or at least were, very common in the US.

When is the last time you have seen a child playing with one in a public space?

To add to this:

My mom hid all signs of guns (ads for outdoor/hunting etc).

We didn't have a TV then.

Still we somehow realized that guns were super exciting.

My father took it from there and taught us to be safe with guns, that war was cruel and not in any way cool but sometimes sadly necessary.

I still cringe when I see inexperienced people with guns :-/

IMO the question is why do children like guns?

Because if you didn't have a "pick up the spear and defend the tribe" attitude, your group was less likely to make it.

Guns, swords, chase, hunt are all major staples of boy play. It's primal, gendered, cross cultural and immediately obvious.

You're not wrong but this is a pretty heavy "nature" argument vs. "nurture".

No kid is being raised in isolation of their culture. I'd assume there would be strong correlation to being exposed to movies and TV with people using guns to you gun purchases/affinity.

Children love anything that is remotely a symbol of power in their cultures.

For boys is ofter guns or superheros, for girls is a doll as long as is clear that it represents an alpha female. Girls and boys earn social power by beging linked with "powerful people" and toys simbolize this association.


The two with an array of guns were from China and Ukraine, so I don't know what "North American" has to do with it.

I would blame the media, Hollywood and video games for the popularity of toy guns though I am not saying this is a real problem since here in Europe there are no guns anyway and there is no evidence that movies or games have effects on children or adults, I never seen one and I don't know people that have guns.

I know the guns topic is a sensitive one and I am not having here an opinion about that topic, just mentioning that the gun culture is exported around the world with the US media.

You can immediately tell who has had kids (or spent a lot of time around kids) and who hasn't by their answers.

You don't have any kids and don't spend any time with kids if you think Hollywood is exporting "defend the tribe".

I am referring to guns, not about defending the tribe, so maybe you can make your point clear, are you from Europe and as a child you seen guns outside movies and video games?

I could be wrong, I can't perform an experiment where I remove games and movies with guns and then measure if children will play more with cars and airplanes then guns.

I grew up in Norway without TV and with no guns in the house. Was still interested in guns. Don't know how I became interested, it happened before I can remember.

(and no, I'm no gun nut but I was very interested in guns as a kid - as many other kids.)

Thank you for your perspective, it is interesting, can you recall maybe stories involving guns? In my case I was told stories involving swords and bows and as children we were creating swords and bows, we were also making guns but I think we saw those in american police movies that were very popular at that time.

I guess I might have picked up the idea from other kids somehow - but

- I don't have older siblings

- I didn't go to kindergarten

- and I generally can't recall playing much with other kids except for my younger brothers before I started in school

There must be an explanation - I don't think this was a miracle and I also think guns hasn't existed mong enough to make an impression on our genes - but I don't know it.

If you remove guns, children (boys) will use sticks as swords and hit each other with them.

If they have no knowledge of swords, they'll hit each other with sticks. Can't get much more primitive than a stick.

What would that relative measurement tell you? Nothing. The mixture is different for each kid. But I can tell you the play fight, with whatever tools they think are appropriate, is 100% universal.

In fact if a boy didn't do that at all, I'd honestly have him tested for a developmental delay.

I have a picture of me at age 4 on the wall behind my computer, out camping. I've got a stick. To this day, when walking through the woods, I see a stick and think, "Hmm, that's a pretty good one, might pick that up."

I have always just assumed, once being boys, that other men understood that the allure of a weapon, even just a stick, is so instinctive that we all understood it intrinsically.

Whenever we go hiking the kids pick up tons of sticks (both boys and girls). Not just one or two, but so many that their pockets and hands are stuffed and they are trying to get me to carry some for them. They insist on taking them home, but fortunately quickly lose interest in them once we are home so we can quietly get rid of them.

it is true, and I was not trying to blame anyone , if you try to re-read again where my comments started, I was trying(and probably failing) to explain why some gun related images will be shocking for someone is Europe where for someone in US is natural and I was trying to explain how are guns so popular even if there are no guns that you can actually see(again there is no blame since I don't think there is something bad that someone plays with a toy gun or with a gun in a video game).

Other example of shocking image/video for someone like me , a father sending his 10(or younger son in the house to bring his shotgun outside, or a different father training his 10 years old daughter to shoot a shotgun (or maybe are rifles I don't know exactly what the guns were)

You’re absolutely right, it’s cultural. I’m a youth firearms instructor and it’s been interesting to learn the parents’ reasons for encouraging their children.

And who would you blame for the popularity of wooden toy swords?


That I would blame for the oral (and written) stories we hear as children about our ancestors that were heroes and fought in great battles.

China isn’t that influenced by Hollywood. There are plenty of kids in China that have never seen a Hollywood film before. Chinese media on the other hand has no problem exposing kids to guns even if guns are completely illegal in the PRC.

May need to be more specific. Maybe in Europe it’s not like that? I had a ton of toy guns as a kid in Bangladesh. The kind of shit you can’t even get in America. Realistic pistols (with jagged metal edges) made in Pakistan. I had a realistic military uniform, with jagged metal buckles. (Kids’ costumes in America are plastic crap, I assume because metal and stitching is some sort of safety hazard).

> Realistic pistols (with jagged metal edges) made in Pakistan. I had a realistic military uniform, with jagged metal buckles. (Kids’ costumes in America are plastic crap, I assume because metal and stitching is some sort of safety hazard).

I disagree with that generalization. I grew up in the 1980s playing with quasi-realistic metal toy pistols (revolvers) and so did pretty much every other boy that I knew. Maybe that has changed a lot in the last ~15-20 years, however the majority of adults today that grew up playing with toy guns in the US would have at some point come across metal guns as well the plastic fare. Until more recently it was a very common type of toy. As recently as the mid 1990s, it would not have been strange at all to see metal pistols played with in kindergartens across the US. And then further it varies heavily by location, you're still going to commonly see metal toy guns in places like Texas and surrounding states, the midwest and the southern states.

You can go to yard sales all over the US and buy toy metal guns. Or just take a look at Amazon or eBay, they're still commonly sold in new form (search for toy metal guns and variations). Metal toy cap guns in particular remain popular in the US.

Is this not a generational divide?

I had a wide array of weapons. I don't think the same would be acceptable for my kids, in fact my (much) younger brothers weren't allowed guns, but as another commenter pointed out, every stick and piece of Lego became a gun for them anyway.

When LotR came out they did persuade their grandad to make them smoking pipes, I found that disturbing!

Why do you bring up North America? That boy lives in China.

Snow sled boy cool too

This really brought into sharp focus how underdeveloped most of Africa is.

Really? There were a couple who looked like their families were dealing with poverty, but most seemed to be happy, healthy, living in comfortable surroundings and with a handful of nice toys. What I didn't see was excess.

Now what surprised me was the Alaskan kid whose toys are apparently sleds and, um, a hanging rope?

Maybe the rope is to stay in place while getting on the sled.

Several museums of egyptology and ancient cultures have significant examples of toys from times in the deep past, and the continuity with modern day toys is remarkably clear. There have always been toys which allow children to play at real life, and reflect the everyday nature of real life.

A play kitchen has always been a part of human culture, since kitchens exist.

Old forms of huggable relatable toys also exist. Games of chance, ball-games, balancing games, threading games, toy birds, toy animals, toy weapons...

I would love to see pictures of the same kids 20 years later with their favorite adult toys. I wonder how many of them would still have similar interests.

The Utah girl and the Tokyo boy seem like they'd make good playmates. All 'bout hittin' those balls.

This is a real art project!

Some day I should sit down and publish my art project: "abandoned toys".

(Since I got my first camera phone around 2005 I have been taking images of toys that were abandoned on playgrounds etc.)

Delightful. And refreshingly realistic - I was bracing myself for a slew of girls with cars and boys with tea sets.

My 3 year old boy will happily push his pram and doll around, and has a tea set, vacuum and oven.

He also has a train set, likes playing 'diy', etc, etc.

I was slightly surprised there weren't any boxes or other random none toys in these images.

From my own personal observations, its more a difference of how kids play, not what they play with. My sons doll isnt mothered, the vacuum is 'plugged in' and 'repaired' more often than its used for vacuuming.

My 3-year-old grandson, visiting last weekend, ignored the Tinker Toy set I bought for him in favor of playing with two battery-powered mice my cat likes.

I completely agree, although will happily play with is a lot broader than most prized possessions. In that category I'd say this exhibition is just what I'd expect to see in the real world, but world-weary of agenda driven art as I must be, it was not what I expected to see in an exhibition.

This is so beautiful

Would like to see more projects like this that make you appreciate what you have

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