Toys are traditionally thought of more or less as a stimulus and that nothing more of value or importance can be said of them.
Two prominent psychological researchers in particular, Berlyne and Piaget, represent this view. Their intention was to indicate that toys and play are locked in either:
- stimulating characteristics, or
- previously existing mental operations.
Where toys are concerned, the characteristics enable them rather:
- to provoke creative thoughts and actions and
- to be seen from a semiotic point of view.
This begs the question: What does the user, the person-at-play, think is the most exciting or interesting aspect of play or manipulation with the toy in order to feel power, to gain mastery over things and thoughts - whilst simultaneously having potential to use his senses and emotions in a stimulating way?
What kind of image comes closest to that the person-at-play would prefer to see?
What criteria for truth ought to be chosen in order to ensure legitimacy?
Just as the toy’s stimulating characteristics comprise both hegemony and emotion, there are both hegemony and emotion in the child’s own personal imaginative creativity, through which all kinds of barriers are crossed - suggests Schäfer (1986: 251 - 289) in his dissertation on the development of imagination through play.
It is of course important to point out that children’s use of toys is also generally an expression of their creativity. Play with toys is not only determined by the automatic stimuli related to the type and physical appearance of the toy but other completely invisible factors, “the inner reality” as opposed to the external one, “the inner catastrophe”, etc. which, amongst other things, Schäfer investigates and describes.
Therefore, these descriptions of:
- How toys are positioned by the person-at-play, the user,
- How the characteristics of toys provoke creative thoughts and actions,
How the characteristics of toys can be seen from a semiotic point of view which describes how the person-at-play investigates through play to a recognition of the toy’s position.