Childhood & Play

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.

Whilst studying Visual Arts at  Dartington College of Arts, she became interested in the relationship between creativity and play going  on to train  as a  designer of play equipment at the London College of Furniture. She then  worked for the Toy Libraries Association and coordinated adventure playgrounds for children with disabilities. All this led to her MA at the Royal College of Art (RCA) where she  undertook research into how architects and designers  accommodate children’s play needs.

The similarities in, as well as changes to, play activities and their material culture as they pass from generation to generation are a source of fascination. The role of iconography, design and material in the manufacture of children’s toys and play equipment are also of particular interest. Recently, Deborah  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. The continual debates about toys and gender specificity  are a cause for concern, mainly because of the lack of resolution of the  issues .

Deborah is the author of The History of Toys and numerous kit books for children and a frequent commentator on children, play and toys. She was a member of the committee of the V&A Museum of Childhood and the steering committee of the National Art & Design Saturday Club at The Sorrell Foundation. She appeared as a ‘toy expert’ on the BBC2 programme  The Toys that Made Christmas, broadcast during Christmas 2011.

Deborah lectures on various aspects of childhood, play and toys include: The History of Toys; Adventure or Assault Course, based on her original research; and Frank Hornby and Meccano.

Deborah Jaffé is an author; cultural and design historian; ceramicist and painter with special interests in the history of souvenirs and memory studies; women and innovation; childhood, play and toys.