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Establishing an exhaustive list of the toys that children currently use when playing or those that are a game in themselves would be a complex and challenging task. Those have progressively diversified during the century. That complication has often led to lower participation and creativity among children, but it must not be forgotten that there has been a boom in other types of games, including board and educational ones. Neither can they be blamed for having impaired the manual skills of children as they currently have sophisticated Meccano and construction games.

This chapter does not consider today’s games or those that while having been in use for several decades, even if in rather primitive versions, have such an important mechanical component that cannot be put down to children. We will only therefore consider those that have been part of traditional culture of childhood, preferably those made by the children themselves.

Toy developments: decline in their craft production

Children in the traditional society, both in towns and in countryside, only really had the toys that they made themselves. The fundamental reasons for that lack of toys were mainly down to tight family budgets and that the range of toys available was much more limited both in number and variety than today.

Toys as we know them today were something exceptional. There are increasingly now more toys that are games as such. In that society, there were more games than toys and that was in any case a solid basis for it.

In that barely mechanised society, the manufacturing of things to play with was part of the entertainment provided. This activity carried out by the children themselves was therefore a game in itself. They enjoyed making the instrument as much or even more than using it.

This very craft culture of children also reflected an artisanal world. The subsequent emergence of a more mechanised culture meant that the toys of children’s society today have also been machined and the greater influence of the world of electronics has become increasingly clear in recent times.

It is particularly in the rural world where certain craft techniques from the pastoral culture have lived on in the world of children, which can be seen in the making of slingshots, traps, etc.

The manufacturing of instruments sometimes included more complex elements that were beyond the children’s skills and therefore required help from grown-ups. Adults also needed to get involved to make simple toys for small children who were too young and did not have the manual skills to build them.

In Apodaca (A), for example, they remembered that the majority of homes had someone who had spent time with the carpenter, either to help him or to learn the trade, or to repair the wagon or make other repairs. Therefore, every house had a carpenter’s bench and tools for woodwork. On the days spent mending tools, they would use the surplus boards and nails to make a horse, cart, skate or other toy for children.

The items that children at that time used to play with were often not toys as such, but often tethers, stakes, stones, cans, etc., i.e. waste material or which could no longer be used for its original purpose. Nowadays, they entertain themselves with much more sophisticated gadgets, but children have not lost their ability to turn anything into a toy.

The children themselves were therefore in charge of collecting the aforementioned materials and many others that they used for their games, either in the state in which they were found or after being slightly transformed. Those objects could be bottle tops, knucklebones, matchboxes, a simple cardboard or tin box and even corn cobs. These were called carollos in Carranza (B), garuchos in Galdames (B), txorokil in Zeanuri (B) and they were used by children to build towers and other structures.

At that time, a penknife, kanabeta, was a magnificent gift for young boys as they could use it made anything outside of a piece of wood.

With the passing of time, purchased toys began to become more important. The Three Kings festivity (Epiphany) was when parents did their best to give their children a simple toy as a present. They would have only received some sweets in earlier times.

In recent times, any event is an appropriate time to give children a toy; however, those gifts continue to be mainly at Christmas, only now they are given on more days. Up to a few years ago, the children mainly received their gifts on the morning of 6 January, Christmas Eve has now become more popular due to the Olentzero and, to a lesser extent, to the influence of traditions from the English-speaking world. Being given the toys at the start of the Christmas period allows children to enjoy them throughout their holidays. However, as regards the part of the Basque Country falling within Spain, it seems that children receive gifts on the two dates rather than the Three Kings having been replaced.

The increase in the purchase of industrially manufactured toys started in the 1960s.

The range of toys has diversified and extended since that decade. As the toys began to be modernised, the influence of fashion began to be felt so that there is always new toy that is all the rage each year and which nearly totally disappears when the latest appears.

Despite the large market that has emerged around toys, the amount of them that each child has continues to basically depend, in the same way as in the past, on what the family could afford.