Tuesday repost: Secret ingredient

Here’s a wee post I did a while back that got some nice responses, hope you enjoy it.

There’s an item which we don’t stock in either of our shops which is essential for any child to get the most out of their toys (no not batteries, we’ve got them): imagination. There’s a general consensus idea that adults lose their imaginations as they get older and perhaps statistically this might be true but it’s not a necessary truth. We don’t have to lose our imaginations (or see them shrink). All you need to do is sit down with a child and play with some toys to see just how easy it is to switch that capacity back on. To be honest most of us can manage this ourselves, we don’t really need hints from kids but sometimes the imagination gets so weak through lack of use that people genuinely struggle to get it back up and running.

When you tell someone you work in a toy shop most people say something along the lines that must be a really fun job. Well yes, yes it is. However after that adults can have a hard time making conversation, you see we all use banks so if you work in a bank someone has common ground to have a conversation about the same goes for a whole host of jobs. The unique thing about toys is that they’re culturally seen as ‘for kids’ (see my other post on this to see my opinion of this common mistake). As a result conversation can get a little strained at times but sometimes it can get really interesting (please bear with me I will get back on topic).

This happened a couple of years ago when I was talking to someone who had been on therapist’s training course to look at the advantages of therapy through play. The general idea is something akin to regression mixed with role play will allow people to become more aware of their view of themselves and how they fit into the world. Anyway all the therapists were to grab a toy and get on with it (to see what it was like) and one woman got really upset, she thought it was a futile exercise but when they asked her about why it turned out she really had forgotten how to play, her imagination had diminished so much that she could no longer pretend.

Even as adults the notion of the full loss of this faculty sounds horrific, we recognise the role of this kind of imagining in coming up with new ideas and thinking outside the box and a common dystopia theme in science fiction is a world where people just do what they’re told (e.g. Orwell’s 1984). What keeps the imaginative fires burning is use and one of the best ways to use your imagination is play. Of course books, movies and video games can stimulate the imagination but really pretending involves making your own world, using the resources at hand. I think this is why there’s a new movement of so called ‘kidults’.

Many people call this the ‘information age’ (I think the order is supposed to go stone-> bronze-> iron-> industrial-> information), not sure about the title but it seems slightly right. If you want your business/enterprise/venture/whatever you call it to succeed nowadays you need presence, for that you need information about it to stand out and to stand out you need imagination. I can only imagine that this situation will get more pronounced as more of our lives go virtual so if our children can’t imagine (and I’m not trying to be funny here) they will be at a serious disadvantage. My point is simple then, though we can’t sell imagination in the toy shop we can sell the tools/equipment to make imaginations flourish. Just sport products can’t in themselves make you fit (you need to use them), the products we sell can’t instantly make you imaginative, once you get your product it’s down to you to get to the serious work of playing (of course we’re more than happy to lend a hand and help people learn to play with things, it means we get to play more).

One really good starting point is a product called ‘Rory’s story cubes‘, where you throw nine pictured dice and make a story out of the pictures (any order you like but you have to use all the pictures). For a while we posted a new picture (a kind of free sample) of a story cube roll every Saturday night to let people have a go over the weekend, sadly people didn’t use them as much as we’d hoped but they’re still there so if you feel inclined log in and go to our page to have a go, here’s a link have fun, don’t let your imagination down.

story cube

Here’s the story cube roll featured on twitter, feel free to add a story below, go on exercise that imagination!

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