Understanding adulthood, nostalgia, and the toys that made us

While toys are mostly reserved for childhood, some adults find it impossible to outgrow these playthings and the sentiment behind each.

Since time immemorial, toys have been around to serve as entertainment for the young; in some cases, to serve as methods to placate their sudden emotional outbursts. Indeed, when one thinks of a toy, an accompanying mental image of a child lovingly clutching onto it appears. There exists a certain mindset that toys are only exclusively enjoyed by children, and that adults have cast aside the enjoyment of their youth.

In the early months of 2022, however, the Jollibee Corporation revealed a robot-toy line aptly named the Jollibots, that not only appealed to the younger generation, but also to the “grown-ups”. These playthings took social media by storm, and since they were greatly appreciated by children and adults alike—one may ask: in the transition from childhood to adulthood, when was it decided that toys must be let go?

A childhood thing

“Playthings or toys can be any object that a child uses in play; they can be anything from yarns, stones, simple objects, and may not be store-bought,” defines child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Aimee Chua. While toys may play various roles in the lives of those who own them, there are many who see them as more than just for pure enjoyment.

For Neil Caunte (III, OSDM), “Having toys to play with as a child developed my creativity and imaginativeness as an adult. It also helped me read long texts that aren’t visually enticing by being able to picture the texts in my mind in a more vivid expression.”

In terms of their contributions to molding an individual, Kyle del Rosario (III, LGL) also chimes in, “It becomes the foundation wherein when you look back into your childhood, you’ll remember how it all began.”

These views are affirmed by Chua, saying, “Play whether with toys or without is a developmental need and develops imagination, creativity, and expression.”

More importantly, Chua identifies that play is vital. Toys act as agents of play, the latter being necessary for a child’s proper development. “What is essential is play; toys are merely adjuncts to this essential experience [that] allows the child to explore themselves and the world,” she illumines. But as much as playthings are advantageous for growth, no doubt sentimental attachments are made as well.

However, with the advent of technological advancement, more and more children have become unfamiliar with playing with actual toys and instead prefer electronic gadgets. Commenting on how this may affect the development of younger children, Chua inputs, “Toys have evolved across the different epochs and I think electronic gadgets as toys limit the experience of the other senses and movements.”

The psychiatrist reiterates that a variety of play experiences is what’s important. “Playing with one’s cellphone is just using visual, hearing, and maybe hand-eye coordination and lots of supposedly ‘mental’ skills,” she elaborates.

From kid to grown-up

Chua notes that alongside children’s experiences playing with toys are the memories that they bring with them. Even during adulthood, these memories are a significant aspect of an individual’s being, with Chua stating that “an individual’s childhood is part of that individual’s past and shapes who [they are].”

Isabel* (ISJ, ‘21) attributes her connection to her toys to the “lessons and skills” that she has gained through them. Meanwhile, del Rosario echoes this sentiment, sharing that his childhood toys helped him develop fine motor skills. “I believe that playing with toys as a child [promotes personality development] and [enhances] communication skills,” he posits.

As for Bernadette* (MEM-MR, ‘20), the toys she played with are actually a big part in choosing her area of study, “My dad loved sci-fi and had lots of action figures and little replicas of things, and I used to play with them. I think it kind of influenced my choice in [which] course [to pursue] because engineering is kind of the way to bring sci-fi to life.”

But for Nori* (II, BSA), “[My toys are a] remembrance of calmer days, reminders of how hard I worked, and frankly, a little balm for loneliness via nostalgia.” She goes as far as to say that they embody her academic achievements, as toys were her rewards for good grades. “They served as reminders that I did well in school,” she reiterates.

While toys usually go hand-in-hand with developing children, it is much less often that we encounter adults interacting with toys. In fact, most adults are of the opinion that toys must be left in the past, in order to make way for the future. But to Bernadette, toys give her a sense of identity and serve as an expression of who she really is. “I think they’re little reminders of who I am and what my interests are,” she declares.

‘Keeping one’s self’

Chua is able to see both sides of the proverbial coin—the bad and the good of toy collecting for adults. While she fears that adult toy collecting may lead to “too many feelings or security on an object,” she also shares the same sentiment with Bernadette about the retention of identity through adult toy collecting. “[It is a means of] keeping [one’s self] for the future,” she opines.

In the end, she emphasizes the importance of validating an individual’s interest, no matter what it may be. “[I would not] invalidate this need because underneath it all, one just gets by using what one needs,” she conveys.

Del Rosario agrees, expressing that “sentimentality is something undervalued by some people because not everyone feels the same about materialistic things.” He imparts that for him, his toys matter because of reasons such as their longevity in his possession, their rareness or value, or if they’ve been given by someone special to him. “It is important that when you see someone hold on to something for so long and would do anything to keep it, understand that there’s a story behind it,” he narrates.

Adults don’t necessarily have to outgrow toys—if they ever do at all—and that is perfectly normal. After all, according to Chua, “It is not the toy that is outgrown but the interests; [from playthings, interests change to liking and collecting] cars, makeup, and bags [instead].”

Even if one decides to collect or keep their toys as an adult, there is no shame in parading one’s Jollibot collection or Star Wars stormtrooper Funko Pop and Toy Story action figures. With them are the stories—our stories—that taught us things about ourselves and lessons in life. Playthings serve more than just as material possessions, and our collecting and keeping them even as adults benefit us in more ways than one. As del Rosario puts it, “This hobby is supposed to save us from stress and at the same time be a leisure in our busy lives.”

And while as children we believed them to be our pals, heroes, and treasures, as adults, we can now affirm that they truly are.

*Names with asterisks (*) are pseudonyms

Ramon Castañeda

By Ramon Castañeda

Marie Angeli Peña

By Marie Angeli Peña

Leave a Reply