During the sixties my main toys were corgi cars, Action Man, my second hand ancient bike, wee plastic soldiers, plasticene, Lego and Meccano.
The last three there were great because you could do your own thing with them. They could be used in whatever sort of game or war I was imagining at the time.
Plasticene was great for making wee tiny sandbags for the wee plastic soldiers to hide behind, especially since it went a sort of unattractive brown colour when all the colours were mixed together as was almost always the case.
Lego was used for building platforms for the wee plastic soldiers to shoot from and to form steps and bridges between the cushions on a chair, again for the wee soldiers. You could also make guns out of Lego.
Meccano came with a wee booklet, which showed what your Meccano kit could be made into. You could make wee vehicles with the bits as well. Mines was a mixture of black and yellow bits and older green and red bits.
Lego and Meccano have changed quite a bit. Lego now comes as pre-designed kits and you just follow the instruction. Meccano is the same.
That means that the kids of today don’t get the opportunity to use their imagination or their creative skills to make stuff. My lego comprised almost entirely of red bricks with the occasional black or white one. Now they are all sorts of colours and they have a specific part to play in the kit.
If you were well connected, via your Dad obviously, he might know a man who worked at one of the chemical plants in Grangemouth who could get you a big bag of red bricks of the 4 or 8 variety. The BP made the feeder pellets, which were then melted down and used to form the bricks.
Lego and Meccano were scalable as well. You could build stuff, which was the same scale as Action Man or the same scale as the wee tiny Airfix soldiers. Lego was the best really. Although it lacked enough variability in the brick sizes and shapes, with a bit of imagination, you could make things work pretty well.
Lego also do figures now. They have to be built but there isn’t a lot to it. I did a Meccano kit I got at Christmas. It was a motorbike and there was a choice between two designs. The first attempt wasn’t doable. I didn’t have enough hands or fingers a few millimetres thick. I couldn’t bend the metal plate long enough to get the bolt through the required hole whilst also holding a wee spanner with a bolt in it and turning and tightening it. The kit said it was for eight years and above. I did the other design and it worked fine.
Anyway, I can’t help feeling that kids are being deprived of their chance to be creative. It’s so much better to be given something and then let your imagination build staff, which you want.
Maybe there are other toys now, which have taken the place of plasticene, Lego and Meccano. The world moves on. Technology rules. Technology also depends on people who have the ability to not be frightened of a blank sheet of paper and how to turn that blank sheet of paper into something that has value.