Wooden Toys and the Paddle-Bear

                 I have always loved making toys. Even as a child I found the process of making a toy was often more fun than playing with a store bought toy. This may also be due in part to my parents, who firmly believed that fun had a lot more to do with doing things, than purchasing things. As a little boy, my favorite toys were either ones that had been made for me by someone I knew, or were “creative” toys; blocks, paints, kites, drawing tools, and tinker toys. In any event, I was hooked, and still am. By the time my nephews and niece came along, I had a lot of experience, and now their home is filled with an embarrassing quantity of handmade toys.
                  Since the purpose of this site is to share creative ideas, I simply want to share some toy ideas and themes that have worked for me. I am not going to write long “how-to” articles, first because I am not a writer, which may be apparent, and second because there are already lots of people writing that kind of thing.  My hope is that by sharing some of my own toy ideas like minded readers may come up with ideas of their own.
                  Wood is perhaps my favorite medium for toy making. It is reasonably durable, accessible, and versatile. It can provide the qualities to make a fairly complex toy. For example; look at this bulldozer with caterpillar treads made of individual poplar cleats glued to canvas and made in my shop.


                  On the other hand some of my most successful and popular toys were made with nothing more than a folding camp saw, a pocket knife, and whatever kind of sticks came to hand. The paddle-bear is a case in point.


 I have made a lot of these over the years, mostly while on hiking, camping, or paddling trips. 
                  Made in three parts that lock together without glue they are fairly simple to make and can be used on dry land, in a car, in a tent, or they can just be held. They also float. Paddle-bears have been sent down streams, rivers, over waterfalls, and have been “lost at sea”. This last can be a little traumatic for the child to whom the bear belonged. However, not only can a replacement be quickly fashioned, but some comfort can be given when you explain to the child in question that, at some point, the missing paddle-bear will wash up on a beach to be found by some other child. Sometimes we make up stories about some of the adventures the little bear might have after it has been lost, and before it has been found. This idea can have such strong appeal that on several occasions I have been convinced to make paddle-bears for the expressed purpose of “releasing them into the wild” to be found by other children. Once, on a paddle trip, in the bay of Fundy, the children who “released” the bear into the wild actually sang ‘Born free’ as the bear drifted away on a four knot current towards Grand Manan Island, or possibly Portugal.


                   Pretty heavy stuff for a simple toy made out of sticks.


2 Responses to “Wooden Toys and the Paddle-Bear”

  1. VickyTH Says:

    There was a book in my childhood called “Paddle to the Sea”. Your post has just brought it back to my mind. Must go and get a copy for my daughter….

  2. dovetails Says:

    I remember seeing that book too. I also vaguely remember a movie short made of the book that I saw as a child. In any event, I am confident that “Paddle to the Sea” was what gave me the idea in the first place. Well, fairly confident; in truth, I can’t quite remember when it was exactly I started to make these.

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