The highlight of our six-week project on toys was a trip to Tobi Lane Designs. The shop is unusual because attached to it is a workshop, where craftsmen make wooden toys using traditional tools and methods.
We started the project by talking to the 16 children, aged three to four years, about different toys, the materials used to make them and how children's toys had changed over the years.
Next we visited our local Early Learning Centre to do some research before setting up our very own toy shop in the nursery. While at the centre, we took some photos and made a video.
We tried to ask the children questions about the shop, but it was a bit hard to get their attention when they were surrounded by hundreds of toys. We drew their attention to the wooden toys, so that they would be able to relate them to what they would be seeing in the workshop the following week.
Back at the nursery we set up our own toy shop by making signs and posters, collecting various toys, pricing them and setting up a till. The children were very enthusiastic and loved re-arranging the counter and putting new toys out on display.
The visit to Tobi Lane Designs allowed the children to see what happens behind the scenes. There are a variety of wooden toys available in the shop, including wooden trains, doll's houses, wooden castles, jigsaws and rocking horses and sheep. While half the group played with these toys, the other half watched the craftsmen at work.
The children were fascinated by the machinery used, and it was good for them to see how the toys were actually put together. They were also inquisitive about the style and origin of some of the toys they were not familiar with. They were probably most thrilled with the spinning tops they were able to buy and take home.
I think the visit to the workshop gave the children an appreciation of how toys are made. It made them realise that a lot of work goes into them and it is not just a case of going to a shop and picking them off the shelf.
Helen Connolly talked to Mahrukh Choughtai
* Tobi Lane Designs, tel: 01931 712 077 n Bethnal Green Toy Museum, tel: 0208 980 2415 n Edinburgh Museum of Childhood, tel: 0131 529 4142 n For a more comprehensive list of British Toy Museums visit www.toy.co.uk/museums