We can’t stay children forever, but London tourists can take a nostalgic trip back to the innocent era of platground games and skinned knees by visiting the Museum of Childhood. Part of the Victoria & Albert Museum, the collections contain everything from vintage and antique toys to children’s clothing, school materials, and artifacts from toy industry figures.
Past exhibitions at the Museum of Childhood [PDF] have included 2003’s “Teddy Bear Story: 100 Years of the Teddy Bear,” 2005’s "Beatrix Potter’s Garden," and 2016’s “Game Plan: Board Games Rediscovered,” among others.
The museum's collections include toys that modern children (and adults) likely wouldn’t recognize. Long before LEGOs became popular in America, English manufacturer E.A. Lott created Lott’s Bricks during World War I. German imports were banned in Britain, and the British government promoted toy-making to stimulate the economy and create jobs for veterans. Lott's's tiny toy bricks proved to be so popular that Queen Mary purchased a set at the British Industries Fair in 1918.
Other fascinating artifacts include Meccano, a model construction kit created in 1901 by Liverpool clerk Frank Hornby, and one of the very first Spirograph drawing sets, created in France by Denys Fisher in the mid-1960s.
And since every kid deserves a cuddle buddy, London company Dean’s Rag Book Co. manufactured this stuffed dog, called “Dismal Desmond,” in 1926. The soft canine proved to be one of the most popular toys of the 1920s. He was also beloved among adults and children alike: For example, Dismal Desmond once served as mascot of the England Cricket Team, and also as mascot in the ladies changing rooms at Wimbledon. Desmond was manufactured until World War II, and make a brief comeback in the 1980s and 1990s.
To continue indulging your inner child, browse more of the Museum of Childhood’s toys online.