Maple Ridge Museum photo                                An unidentified group wearing early bathing costumes on the South Aloutette River.

Maple Ridge Museum photo An unidentified group wearing early bathing costumes on the South Aloutette River.

LOOKING BACK: Retro play

Allowing us to play with reminders of our past, but also grounding us in the present.

From wooden toys to electronic gaming systems, children’s toys and activities have changed dramatically over time and continue to evolve today.

New technologies have advanced the way people work, shop and play. In fact, it can be hard to remember a time when toys were thought to be a luxury item.

Yet prior to the 20th Century, children had few toy options available.

This is in part because our idea of childhood is a recent invention. Looking back over the centuries, toys were an indulgence, and there were few options for children. Kids were expected to contribute to the household, which meant that recreational time was minimal and of low priority.

When there was time for recreation, parents invented their own objects for children to play with.

Today, recreation time is encouraged; parents have the ease of just letting their children play.

By collecting children’s toys, games and playthings, we can better understand how people lived and played in the past. From the Slinky to Yoyo’s to kick ball, many modern toys or games are rooted in earlier versions.

Even nostalgia can play an important role: it can build optimism, inspiration and creativity.

Allowing us to play with reminders of our past, but also grounding us in the present.

While summer brings forward an abundance of open-air activities, the surrounding environment can also be the best toy box. In summers past, locals and visitors from other cities would seek the wild in Maple Ridge, in search of the perfect swimming hole, hiking trail or camping spot for weekend recreation. Families regularly enjoyed a variety of sports, picnics and swimming at Maple Ridge Park, Alouette Lake, and Whonnock Lake.

Building on the open-air activities and ideas behind play, this week the Maple Ridge Museum is hosting “Painting in the Park” at 22520 – 116th Ave, Saturday July 29th from 12–3 p.m. This event is $5 for children (adults are free), and offers a tour of the museum, alongside the painting craft outside. Light refreshments will be provided, as well.

Also on display will be a variety of touchable artifacts highlighting indoor entertainment in Maple Ridge. Reading, writing and storytelling were important indoor activities before the era of electricity. When the weather was not warm enough to enjoy outdoor activities, children used different styles of storytelling for indoor amusement.

Maple Ridge Museum summer hours (July and August) are Wednesday – Sunday, 1-4p.m.

On temporary display this summer, the museum will be showcasing Hina Dolls – Japanese Girl’s Day dolls, also known as Doll’s Festival, which takes place in March. The museum will have this display on until end of spring 2018.

– Allison White is the curator of the Maple Ridge

Museum.