Folk Toys

Folk Toys, like other folk crafts, are produced in households where people make the things they need for work and play. Many folk toys actually train children for work. Clearly, the ox-and-wagon model and toy pirogues suggest that many children once grew up to use the real thing, just as children play with everything from toy bulldozers to computers.

Other traditional toys such as tops, balancing devices, and weight/string machines teach basic physics while puzzles encourage development of perception and problem-solving abilities. Of course, much traditional play, such as ring-clap games, tag, or riddle and joke telling sessions, takes place without toys. Ultimately, play is its own reward, whether a game with special roles, a toy that imitates work, or the contemplative spin of a top. Folk toys range from children's playthings to adult collectibles. As with other types of folk artifacts, the viewer must know the maker's intent to be able to know the object functions in the culture.

For example, some dolls such as Barbara Trevigne's baby doll or Marie Verret's moss doll are children's toys. But Barbara's large doll serves an educational function to teach people about African Americans in New Orleans during the eighteenth century by accurately representing the dress and headdress of that group. Most people would not give this doll to a child.

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