The Various parent organizations which, under the leadership of modern child psychologists and educators, do such splendid work in cooperating with school and teacher to further the intellectual and ethical development of our children have issued recently an appeal to mothers to provide for their children “vital toys.”
Many of you may have asked yourself: What is a vital toy? Is it just another fad? Some new-fangled notion of a pedagogic theorist who in his study or laboratory has only the vaguest ideas as to the possibilities of the average home, the capabilities of the average mother No. by no means. In fact, the more modest a home, the busier a mother, the greater is the chance that she will, quite instinctively, choose for her children vital toys. For a vital toy is a toy that evokes the imaginative cooperation of the child, that enlists the creative instinct of the youngsters. In short, a toy which only with the help of the child itself becomes a real amusement. Thus, for instance, an expensive French doll, with a complete, perfect trousseau is far less a vital toy than a set of cheap building blocks out of which the child can form all possible and beautiful things.
Perhaps the ideal vital toy for every boy and girl from, let us say, five or six years to fourteen and older, is a toy theatre. A toy theatre for which the children themselves can make the puppets, cut out the decorations, andâ€”after a short coaching by an interested mother or sympathetic teacherâ€”compose the plays. Especially the Jewish mother should find in the toy theatre the opportunity to make the biblical and historical records of her race alive and interesting to her children. For the Bible as well as Jewish legends abound in a wealth of possible dramatic subjects which can easily be presented by the youngsters. The story of Esther, King Ahasuerus and Haman is, of course, so obviously fitted for theatrical entertainment that it has been done over and over again. Children delight in it as actors as well as spectators and the downfall of Haman is always greeted with thunderous applause. No wonder that out of those so-called “Purim Plays” the modern Jewish stage with its typical Jewish plays has developed. But there are other incidents which would be equally successful on a toy stage. Take the story of Samson. With the simplest means an effective drama can be created. I have seen a presentation given by two little boys, eight and nine years old, who made a truly moving figure out of the blinded and betrayed hero. They had built the temple of the Philistines in the last act out of anchor blocks which at the proper moment came tumbling down with a really dramatic crash, and I am certain that for those boys the story of Samson and other Biblical tales will be forever a vivid possession of heart and soul instead of a mere lesson learned for Sunday school.
Other topics will easily suggest themselves, and to those mothers who want some help in the matter we can offer various simple outlines for suitable Biblical plays. In any case, in the toy theatre the Jewish mother has the means to create, for her children and with her children, an amusement that will not only entertain the youngsters but will also be of lasting influence in the formation of their racial consciousness.