Deborah Jaffé
Text & images © Deborah Jaffé 2011
Site design © Alice Krelle 2011
Childhood + Toys

Deborah has years of experience in the field of children's play and is a firm believer that play, in its widest manifestations is crucial for all children's development. She is interested in all aspects of the history of and attitudes to childhood and children's playthings.

Recently, she has become interested in the ways in which childhood experience - a toy, book or activity - have had profound effects on choices people make in their adult lives.

Having trained as designer of toys and play equipment, she has worked for the Toy Libraries Association, coordinated adventure playgrounds for children with disabilities and undertaken research into how architects design for children's play needs. She is constantly fascinated by the similarities in, as well as changes to, play activities and their material culture as they pass from generation to generation. The role of iconographies, design and materials in the manufacture of children's toys and play equipment are of particular interest. Recent debates about toys that are gender specific are another area of interest.

In The History of Toys, published in 2006, she traces the long history of toys and reflects changing attitudes to childhood as well as the influences of technology and the invention of new materials on the manufacture of toys. It explores the various influences on toys from politics and marketing to religion and education combines Deborah's long-term interest in the history of childhood and play with her knowledge of technology and manufacturing.

Deborah is a member of the committee of the V&A Museum of Childhood and on the steering committee of the National Art & Design Saturday Club at The Sorrell Foundation.

Deborah appeared on the BBC2 program The Toys that Made Christmas, broadcast during Christmas 2011.

Deborah presented her paper Adventure or Assault Course, based on her original research, at the Rethinking the History of Childhood: Narratives, Sources, Debates conference at the University of Greenwich in January 2012.

Patent diagram showing the complexity of the mechanical movements inside Louis Schmetzer's 1871 Creeping Baby Doll. A rod could be added to the axle and another doll attached to make creeping twins. Patent GB 2942/1871

During World War I many manufacturers were encouraged, by the government, to make toys to reflect the times and instil an air of patriotism. William Wayne patented his design for a mechanical tin soldier in 1915 a the height of the war. When the leaver at the base was depressed this automata toy fired the soldier's gun through his lookout. Patent GB6301/1915

his life like rubber frog was devised by Herbert Crossley and Theodore Birnbaum in 1894 and no doubt brought much fun to pranksters. Patent GB2003/1894