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Book Review: 'Playing Them False - A Study of Children's Toys, Games and Puzzles'

War games

'Playing Them False: A Study of Children's Toys, Games and Puzzles'. By Bob Dixon. Trentham Books. £11.95.

From earliest age children’s toys are clearly divided into boys’ and girls’: the boys’ miniaturising outdoor pursuits, construction and “manly” activities while the girls’ are based on the kitchen and domestic activities.

Adventure kits for boys as young as three are intended to "make little men out of boys” with gear appropriate to various aggressive roles. Take you pick from, among others, the Para Kit. Assault Kit or Tank Commander. Speaking of tanks. Bromley Council in 1981 purchased for its playgrounds fighter plane and tank climbing frames; on the latter there's a gun which you can fire in the turret.

Holiday Postscript

Long before Christianity a festive break during the dark, cold winter months helped people to get through the most trying time of the year. To replace celebration of the winter solstice, early Christians decided to celebrate the birth of Christ on 25 December; historically incorrect, but necessary to combat the appeal of the heathen jollifications.

Whatever the excuse, the holiday is over. We have had our parties—probably eaten and drunk a bit too much, certainly spent more money than we meant or could afford and, thankfully, waved goodbye to relatives and friends whom we genuinely welcomed at the start of the holidays. Listening to the radio on New Year's Day, one particular thought came uppermost. Money—"vast profits" to quote the narrator in Woman's Hour—are made, particularly during the season of "Peace and Goodwill"—from belligerence.

Material World: Still In Chains: South Africa After Apartheid

Material World

“They never freed us. They only took the chain from around our neck and put
it on our ankles.” Anti-apartheid activist Rassool Snyman to Naomi Klein.

Pathfinders: Why the minus 16.3 percent happy face?

  In today’s science lesson, boys and girls, we are going to discover that if you put a Mentos mint into a large plastic bottle of cola, you get a huge explosion that sends a geyser rocketing into the sky. Then, when you have wiped fizzy rain off your school blazers, we’re going to debate whether the Mentos mint company are using this curious fact in their school programme, Put the Fizz Back into Science, in order to advance scientific interest among you little ones because none of you like science anymore (New Scientist, Dec 1) or whether they are shamelessly marketing their sugary sweets through the school back-door, under the disguise of education (The commercialisation of our classrooms, BBC Online, Dec 9). And don’t you listen to silly old NUT teachers who got the government to ban junk food ads on children’s hour TV last year.

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