Even grown-up kids want toys for Christmas!
Christmas is a great time to shop at the flea market, especially if your wish list includes vintage toys. So when our brother and sister-in-law came to visit for the holidays, we couldn’t wait to take them to our local antique fair. On the way in, we chatted about what a kick it is to see the things you had as a kid or asked Santa for but never got. The vendors must have read our minds because the booths were not only Christmassy, they were brimming with old-fashioned playthings. There were bisque baby dolls, handmade rocking horses, and one-eyed teddy bears with more character than stuffing!
We couldn’t resist a booth that looked just like the toy department at the five-and-dime. Renée found a book of paper dolls called Campus Queens, complete with party dresses and sweater sets. She plans to photocopy the gals to make greeting cards. Jennifer flipped for some building blocks from the 1800s. But since they cost over $1000, she opted for $3 picture blocks of a giraffe, an alligator, and a horse. Kitty played with an authentic Betsy Wetsy to make its eyes open and close, but she decided not buy it. Prunes, her rag doll, might get jealous.
One vendor had hand-carved biplanes that Renée secretly bought Kevin to hang in his office. (She pretended they were for her boss.) The seller across the way specialized in Steiff stuffed animals from Germany. It was a wonderful menagerie, but just too spendy in mint condition. Thankfully, the next vendor was Mr. Teddy Bear! This dealer had bears by the dozen and told us they were named for Teddy Roosevelt. Kitty picked out a black bear cub with a chewed ear. (Mint condition lacks character!) Jennifer found a small, articulated bear to perch on her blocks. We got them both for $25! Kevin thought he was just along for the ride until he found a wooden truck, probably hammered together by someone’s Grandpa. Irresistible at $18. He plans to park it in the guestroom doorway as a doorstop.
When it comes to decorating with vintage playthings, we love unexpected vignettes. So instead of keeping your Kewpie Doll in a glass cabinet, nestle her down for a nap in a bassinet next to your armoire. Place a well-loved Raggedy Ann in a high chair in the dining room or at a tiny table set for a tea party. Group stuffed animals in the back of a toy truck so it looks like they’re going somewhere. Or tuck a primitive calico kitty in an open drawer as if she’s peeking out to see what’s new.
Display littler toys in special spots where they can be discovered. A whittled duck sitting on a miniature chair breaks up a row of books in a bookcase. Let fur mice dressed in period costumes invade your spice rack. Or line up a trio of celluloid sheep on top of your recipe box. For a collection of little wooden tops, mix them right in with high-end collectibles like Venetian glass paperweights.
And be sure to move them around from time to time, creating fun, new vignettes. After all, toys are meant to be played with!