Category Archives: toys

On A Nutshell, We Had Fun

Back in those days of the 50s and 60s,  we kids had a lot of time to be just kids.  Though we had very few factory-made toys, that did not stop us from having a good time.  We laid our hands and feet on whatever that were available  and made them entertain us.

Coconuts were plentiful in my kampong as my house was in the midst of a coconut plantation.  

So, one of the favourite pastimes was to put a coarse string through two-halves of tempurung and then we stepped on the inverted coconut shells and walked with them.  The string had to be pulled up and gripped between the big toes and the 2nd toes, like how one wore a Japanese slipper.  Klok-klok-klok….

Well, in a nutshell, we had great fun on a nutshell !

Windmills Of My Time

Haha, paper pinwheels!  I remember learning to make these toys at home from a very young age.  By the time I went to primary school,  I was the “master craftsman” in this art. OK, so let me take you for a spin.

It was great fun for us kids, racing in the kampong or on the school field, faces gleaming with pure innocuous joy as we saw the wheels spinning on a stick in our hands.

Sometimes, as we travelled in our kereta sekolahs, and school buses, those seated at the windows would try to hold one out and set the wheels spinning very fast.  Of course that attracted an earful of disapproving reprimands from the bus uncles and aunties — well, it could be dangerous.

Nowadays, I seldom see kids making or playing with these windmills of our time. 

Rope Makes The Wood Go Round

The Top – or Gasing, in Malay – was one of our favourite childhood toys.  It had  body of wood that had been turned in a lathe machine, and then later a piece of nail was hammered into the pointed end of the body.  

To play, a thin-gauge rope was wound lovingly around the nail and then up onto the sloping part of the body.  A smart throw-out of the wound-up toy onto the ground, with whipping action, would send it spinning like a gyroscope.

The free end of rope usually had a bottle cap attached, to provide good anchoring for the fingers.   

Yep, the rope did make the wood go round !   BTW, it is said that the best wood was that from guava tree.

With some practice, the spinning top could be coaxed with the rope to jump onto one’s palm – albeit a bit ticklish.

The Original “One-Trick Pony”

Yes, the wooden Rocking Horse was almost universally present in all homes with kids.  It came in as many designs as the imagination would drive any maker.  But no matter what the individual sub-variants looked like, it could do only one action, ie., rocking back-and-forth on a pair of curved wooden sleds.

That limitation notwithstanding, The One-Trick Pony brought much thrill and fun, to all kids of all ages, through the ages.  The rocking motion must have somehow triggered a rush of serotonin and endorphin (the “happiness” hormones).

But caution was needed : one had to take care to ensure that no toes or fingers accidentally got under those wooden sleds, otherwise, ouch….it would have been very painful.  And had to be very sure that the hormones did not go into overdrive, and cause rider and beast to overturn.

Feathers Of A Bird Locked Together

No, it is not  “birds of a feather flock together”.

When we were kids, we used to play with a simple homemade toy – which consisted of 3,4 or maybe 5 big feathers tied together and locked and glued onto a long nail that had pierced through several round pieces of rubber sheets.    Big goose feathers from the wings purportedly were the best.   In Chinese, we called it “Jianzi” (毽子) while I later learned that the Malay name for it is “Chapteh”

It was fun kicking it into the air and the challenge was to keep the toy airborne.  In China, this game is still very much alive and there are great experts doing all kinds of stunts with it.  However, these days “jianzi” is mass-produced in factories, where real feathers have been supplanted by those made from colourful synthetic fibres.