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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 June 2006, 02:46 GMT 03:46 UK
Toy 'experience' encourages play
By Lynne French
BBC News Online in Cornwall

Groups from local schools have been visiting Wonder Years
Walking through the doors of Wonder Years in north Cornwall is a little like stepping back into the past.

You are bombarded with a myriad of childhood memories, triggered by the sight of hundreds of toys and games from the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

Owner Dave Banford says Wonder Years in Bude is not a shop or a museum, but a toy "experience".

And judging from the reaction of visiting schoolchildren and adults, this is a fitting description.

"Childhood lasts for such a short time and so many adults and kids seem to be in a rush to make it go even quicker," says Mr Banford.

The nice thing was that everyone went home really happy
Andrew Whelan, Bude Junior School
The father-of-three has an almost missionary-like gleam in his eyes as he talks about the idea behind Wonder Years.

"I think the art - if you can call it that - of creative play with old fashioned toys and games is being lost and so are the benefits.

"The way to get children to play longer is simple - just get parents and adults to join in and play too.

"That's the idea behind Wonder Years. When adults see the toys they played with as kids, their faces are pure magic to see.

"The toys bring back so many memories and it's a springboard for them to get out old toys and games from the attic and play with their children."

Mr Banford says he would like to make it compulsory for families to have a dining table so, apart from eating together, "you can draw and paint or make things".

"Most importantly you're talking together."

A selection of the 3,271 items on display at Wonder Years

Teachers from the local primary school have been taking groups of children to visit Wonder Years since it opened at the end of April.

Andrew Whelan, from Bude Junior School, said: "The children had a fantastic time looking at all the toys.

"It has a huge appeal for adults too and their reaction was really interesting because they kept grinning.

"The nice thing was that everyone went home really happy."

Mr Banford passionately believes all children should be given the chance to reap the rewards of playing.

"Learning through play is so easy and if you give children the opportunity, they will play," he says.

'Bashed toys'

"Toys and games offer so much education potential for children. Even modern computer games can be really useful.

"My 10-year-old twin boys were playing a wrestling game on their computer recently.

"It reminded them about some wresting figures they had in a toy box under their beds. They created their own wrestling ring which they played with for ages."

Teacher Sandra McConnell has introduced a "golden time" at Bude Junior School when one afternoon a week her class play board games.

She said some of the Year 3 children (7 to 8 year-olds) who had never played board games before not only discovered the enjoyment of board games, but learned patience and how to be "good losers".

Mr Banford says toy collectors would probably not approve of Wonder Years as it is not about keeping toys in pristine condition in case they are worth money one day.

"Broken, worn and bashed toys are usually signs of toys which have been well-used and much loved."

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