DAVID SMITH: 'Bathtime encourages old-school play'

David Smith explains why he still keeps his childhood toys.
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I've kept quite a few of my old childhood toys – not because I still play with them, and not in an obsessive collector’s way either.

None of my old toys still have their original boxes and most are missing many of their original parts. They would be worth almost nothing on eBay, but I kept them because of a vague feeling that if I ever had children of my own, they might one day be interested in seeing what their dad used to play with.

In a fast-changing world of apps and electronic games, I realise that might seem like a long shot.

The tatty carrier bag, which for more than 20 years was home to a selection of toy soldiers, space men action figures (plus moon buggy) and a battered Action Man or two, would surely fail to grab the attention of a 21st Century boy.

And yet, when the first of my children showed up almost 11 years ago, my hopes were stirred.

It was a few years before I could start introducing my 1970s relics, but I was delighted when they proved to be as big a hit as any of the new stuff. I now have two boys, and although the Siren song of iPods, Minecraft and Xboxes is strong, they still occasionally manage to plug up their ears and indulge in a little old-school play.

One of the most common times for this is bathtime. My treasured British Eighth Army and German Afrika Korps soldiers are frequently found lined up along the edge of the bath, incongruously rubbing shoulders with cowboys and Indians and posing all sorts of questions about our notions of 19th Century standards of hygiene. We have a Wild West bank robber who takes a bath almost every night.

Actual custom-designed bathtime toys have come and gone, but the parade of 1:32 scale figures goes on.

It can’t last forever, of course, but I won’t be too upset when I notice that the soldiers around the bath have started to get dusty with neglect.I’ll just be happy that they brought so much pleasure to another generation.

Then I’ll pop them into another carrier bag and wait for my grandchildren to come along.

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