Toys! examines the ways in which children learn about themselves and their world through toys and play. More than 200 of the best-loved and most fondly remembered toys of the 19th and 20th centuries are featured to illustrate that toys have long been tools for learning about life, work and family. Antique train sets, vintage toys soldiers, dolls and dollhouses, board games and building blocks are all included in the exhibition.
A Punch and Judy puppet set from the late 19th century is on display to show how playing together has taught children about social interaction and standards for acceptable behavior. Puppet theaters were popular during the 1800s. Children learned how to work together when they put on a puppet show.
Hands-on toys, such as a Yo-Yo and a Slinky from circa 1960 helped sharpen children's coordination and dexterity much the same as a Wooden Peg Top did for children of the early 1900s.
Toys have often guided children in learning about society's differing expectations of boys and girls. A child-size tool chest gave boys the opportunity to learn carpentry skills, while a toy sewing machine was presented as appropriate for girls. Similarly, the exhibition illustrates more recent examples of gender specific toys such as a 1992 GI Joe action figure and a Jr. Miss Beauty Set from 1960.
Throughout the exhibition hands-on learning stations allow visitors to consider toys in new and different ways while experiencing the timeless joy of fun and games.