Toys are Important, by W J Bassett-Lowke (WomansMagazine 1932-10)
"Toys are Important" is an article written by W.J. Bassett-Lowke for Woman's Magazine and published in the October 1932 issue. The article appears to start out as a piece about children's development, but by the last third it has metamorphosed into a fairly bald piece of promotional material for Bassett-Lowke Ltd.'s Nuways range of dollhouse furniture, which had just been launched, in 1932.
Toys are Important, by W.J. Bassett-Lowke
A correct sense of proportion is a most necessary and vital quality for which to look and foster in our children. School helps to a certain extent, but we must supplement its teaching with our own efforts, and to do this we must carefully study the best methods.
Why are mathematics taught in schools? Not merely because two and two are four. All branches of this subject, arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, conic sections, which treat of the science of quantity, or magnitude and number, develop the reasoning and selecting powers of a child's brain and help him, or her, to grasp the true relations of one thing to another.
Boys certainly seem to have more opportunities for developing this facility; for carpentry, fret-work, commercial art, diagrams to scale – subjects mainly devoted to boys – have a decided preference in schools in proportion to needlework, barbola work, knitting and all those feminine hobbies in which girls take so much interest.
Therefore, it is most necessary that we should not neglect the girls, for lack of proportion is a most undesirable attribute, which manifests itself in many ways, such as unreasonableness, impracticability, ill-temper, attributes which I am sure we should not like our girls to possess.
See, therefore, that your girls to not suffer from distorted proportion, which is almost as bad as distorted eyesight. True proportion breeds a quick, alert brain, and an eye that can rapidly select and detect, both qualities which our citizens of tomorrow will need.
And how can we instil this vital quality in our children? By teaching them to cultivate it from their earliest childhood. Show them where things are wrong. We know how unpardonable a drawing out of scale is, but how much worse is it when the mirror of life itself reflects a misrepresentation.
We must overcome this difficulty with our children and give them a free, open outlook on life. Help them to grade their thoughts, for organised action is the outcome of thought only. Let your children's minds be like well-kept gardens and not overgrown weed patches.
Work and play should be correctly proportioned. No healthy child would want to play all the while, and, on the other hand, we do not want "a dull boy" in the family. Now what are the essentials fo play? The time, the place, the mood and the materials. As our children grow older, the first three items, of necessity, appear less frequently, but it is nevertheless the materials which make the game realistic.
What are Red Indians without feathers? Could the pirate exist without his cutlass? And what would the little mistress of the house do without her dolls' house?
Toys, therefore, are rather an important item on the infant agenda. Children have queer fancies and their parents generally endeavour to satisfy them. But try to give your children toys of realistic appearance, more or less in correct proportion.
We know that youthful imagination can move mountains, but let it centre in things which will never suffer disillusionment. Do not leave too many of the everyday things to the imagination, they are useful to the youngster in their real form.
Your son probably has his scale model railway. If you carefully examine it, you will see that each thing is reduced correctly to scale from its natural size. All his model railway equipment, track, trains, stations, points, coaches and wagons, especially if they are of Bassett-Lowke design, are not exactly like the real thing, but are correct in the scale sizes and in every detail.
Now look at your daughter's dolls' house. In very few cases will you find that it looks like a real miniature home. There is something awkward, clumsy, and unreal about the fittings and furniture of the ordinary toy dolls' house, which is thoroughly distasteful to the evenly proportioned eye.
The scale, as a general rule, is one inch to the foot, each room being about eight inches high, with a floor area of eighteen by twelve inches. Some of the furniture, the table for instance, may be tolerably correct to scale, about four inches by six, but when we come to the clock, the cups and saucers, vases and pictures, we are sure to find that these are hopelessly out of scale, being sometimes three or four times too large.
It is not unusual to find a coal-scuttle rivalling the chairs in size, nor a sewing machine taking up as much space as the dresser, and these monstrosities cannot give that correct and realistic appearance, which is so necessary for the safety of a child's sense of proportion. Your child wants a dolls' house, which looks and is a real home for her dollies.
But how and where can we obtain scale model fittings? This has not been possible until quite recently, when Messrs Bassett-Lowke Ltd., of Northampton, thinking perhaps that while providing so amply for the boys the girls had been rather neglected, have introduced on the market quite a large selection of Dolls' House Furniture, all of the correct scale of one inch to the foot.
This scale has only been determined upon after serious consideration, and is, incidentally, the one which was used in the marvellous dolls' house of Her Majesty the Queen, which is a masterpiece of its kind.
I have just been examining the Scale Model Furniture Catalogue, and it is really a fascinating booklet which any child, or grown-up, too, would love to see. It contains a complete outfit of lifelike furniture for dining-room, drawing-room and kitchen.
There are carpets and hearth rugs, the first attempts at producing scale model Persian designs, and a whole collection of interesting accessories, such as vacuum cleaners, carpet sweepers, O'Cedar mops, plant and flower stands, pictures, book-cases, complete with books, a tea-wagon, dinner gong, fireside companion, in fact everything which an up-to-date dolls' house is likely to need.
The Bell grate, electric radiator, lamp-shade fittings and gas stove, are all fitted with miniature electric bulbs and flex, and can be worked from a small pocket battery.
I understand that, later, bedroom and bathroom furniture will be brought out, but at present everything is completed for the dining-room and kitchen.
Those of you, who have children who are just going to "set up house," will surely want the best and most modern appliances in it. And could there be anything more jolly than to fit up your kiddie's dolls' house complete with electric light, and scale model furniture?
— W.J. Bassett-Lowke, Woman's Magazine, October 1932