Reflecting on Childhood Objects


Looking at the childhood objects is becoming my favorite activity ever!

As I was (compulsively) browsing in delight the huge list, one word that struck me in many posts was love, and that reminded me of a quote from Papert’s essay:

I remember that there was feeling, love, as well as understanding, in my relationship with gears”.

I noticed the same feeling in people’s relationship with their objects.

And now I’m very curious to know, what do you notice?

I understand that not everyone has the time to look at 1000+ posts a day, so I made a word cloud with the most frequent words that appear in the childhood objects posts so far… that should save you a bit of time!

Share your thoughts (…and your love for the LCL community!)


Wow, that’s great @tarmelop


I was always struck by another italicized line in Seymour’s essay: “I fell in love with the gears.

That line sparked me to write an essay called Falling in Love with Seymour’s Ideas [written in 2008].

As I wrote in that essay: “When I met Seymour in 1982, I didn’t just learn about Seymour’s ideas, I fell in love with Seymour’s ideas. And in the 25 [now 35] years since then, I never fell out of love with his ideas.”


It was this link that made fall in love with Seymour, quit my job and do what I do today…

and then read this and came to learn about 'wide walls’


С любовью к детству!


I have some question:

How could the gears of childhood influenced by gender?

How a defined toy or an undefined object could be different in learning?

Are some objects more influential respect to others?

How important is the time variable in influencing learning ?


Hi @Bice_Rapaccini. You have many questions over there, but let’s see if I can contribute somehow… Gender has been a big discussion nowadays and I, myself, question the relevance of certain discussions. Anyways, in my point of view, there are two perspectives that we can approach when thinking about gender. One is the nature of it that can easily be explained and explore by Biology and the other one is the nurture of it, shich is were I prefer to focus.
When we visit toy shops we can easily find aisles labelled ‘girls toys’ and ‘boys’ toys’. The girls’ aisles are filled with Barbie, cute animal toys, fairy outfits, tea sets and dolls. Boys’ aisles are jam packed with big trucks, dinosaurs, tool sets and super hero costumes. This sends out a message of what is ‘appropriate’ to buy for each gender and what boys and girls ‘should’ like. Unfortunately, children are given controversial messages when they explore toys that are not the ones ‘supposed’ to be used by them. A boy who plays with a doll, fairy wings or kitchen stuff might be told that those are a "girl’s toy” and he can be easily judge by others (including adults). Even when the negative message is not exposed, exploring outside traditional gender roles is not frequently supported in the majority of the families and/or schools. As Head of Year Years, my main question is, if they are never motivated to join different types of play, either than the stereotyped ones, how can children benefit from the language and social skills that are enhanced during the activities that happen outside the ones that are considered appropriate for “boys and girls”?
The younger a child is, the more likely they are to play with a wider variety of toys. While there are some preferences influenced by nature, young children have not yet been as influenced as their older peers with gender. As educators, I believe it is our responsibility to make the most of this time by having lots of variety available for children in their play, allowing them to explore the moment without prejudgement. It’s simply a learning through play time that should be allowed and facilitated.


I’ve always found that girls gravitate to “girl” type of toys and boys to boys. And why not?


Have you seen the video that’s going around online now that shows how adults interact differently with boys and girls? In the experiment, baby boys are dressed as girls and given girls’ names, and the adults playing with them only give them “girls” toys to play with, even though a wide range of toys are available to choose from. It’s the adult who’s choosing the toys for the child to play with, not the child.

It shows the bias the adults have.

When I was growing up, my brother and I played with the same toys together. Whether it was blocks, toy cars, dolls, or trains, we played together with the same toys. My parents didn’t distinguish between toys for me and toys for my brother.

Maybe that’s why I became a physics major when the other girls in my class didn’t?

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Thanks very much for those interesting information. I would like to add, if I am right:

  • numeric programming, such as with Scratch or similar software, leave open the choice to the programmer,
  • in some countries, they are taught to the children that “no anymore differentiation between gender”, which solve, to a certain extend this problem

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I wondered how it could be different if Papert was born as a female. In Italy our culture shows many difference in treating boys and girls.

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Very interesting conversation. One should also consider the other side of the coin. Soft toys, dolls, kitchen ware, etc. develop the child’s affectivity and sense for nurturing, which are traditionally viewed as ‘female’ characteristics. By imposing our biases on boys and not letting them play with so called girl toys we are curtailing the development of a fundamental human quality, empathy. It is no surprise then that boys can grow into adults who do not respect women and think aggression is the better part of valor. My feeling is that the gender bias hurts boys as much as it does girls, even though the effect is less noticed and less studied.


I was struck by your questions

as I found it difficult to pinpoint a childhood object myself! Maybe there is an element of awareness vs instinct — an object we remember as being critical to our development vs an object that was critical but unrecognised as important.

I’ve actually realised the task forced me to think critically and reflectively about what my “style” of learning is, and from that deduce what the significant childhood object must be. But then I wonder, am I just focusing on the obvious one?? Is there more I am simply unaware of?


I may sound cynical, but I have a feeling she would have been dismissed.


I would like to join in this discussion by adding. That a culture where any learner of any age regardless of gender can benefit by exploring all types of toys/learning when given the opportunity. When I drew up I played both boys and girls games and with boys and girls toys. My favourite was Lego - non gender specific. Exploration of our world and the things that are in is our inherent trait. It is what makes up crawl and walk and google search. Empowering self through learning and exploration of things outside our comfort zones makes us tolerant, creative and resilient.


Reading the biography of women lived in the past, specialized in STEM subject , it seems relevant the father influence, so maybe the Seymour’s father could have been an open mind man respect the women rights.


That’s a good point! Definitely family support makes a difference, especially at a younger age. Once a person is adult however, there are institutional barriers that may mean significant contributions are not acknowledged.