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Donkin's World: The World's Best Toy

The best toy in the world costs nothing, as author and journalist Richard Donkin reveals.

Do please visit Richard's well-stocked Web site

Details of his book Blood, Sweat and Tears which is acclaimed world-wide can be found here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Sweat-Tears-Evolution-Work/dp/1587990768/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1214554429&sr=1-2

It costs nothing, it's available practically everywhere in the world outside the polar regions and the Sahara, and has amused children probably for the whole of human history.

What is this marvellous toy? It's the stick. http://www.strongmuseum.org/NTHoF/NTHoF.html Americans have recognised its ubiquity as a play thing by voting it in to the US National Toy Hall of Fame in New York.

It must have those people at Hasbro and Mattel gnashing their teeth. As far as I know, there has not been an attempt yet to market sticks beyond those you can buy for walking and wading.

Yet this has to be the world's best toy. I don't think I went anywhere as a child without finding a stick. My own kids did the same. It started with looking around for something appropriate. One or two prototypes might be considered for a while then discarded, then you found something that was just the job.

What was "the job"? What is the limit of your imagination? The stick must be the ultimate multifunctional tool/toy. Gun, bat, staff, spear, bow, fishing rod, twiddler, swinger, prop, prodder, tripper, brodler - it could be all of these things. You couldn't be Little John or Robin Hood without your stick.

You couldn't be much of a boy scout without your stick either. The stick made Sir Donald Bradman in to the greatest cricketer of his generation. His hand-eye co-ordination was sharpened as a child by continually hitting a ball against a wall with a stick. It inspired the writer, A A Milne (pooh sticks)and helped make Tommy Cooper a magician "Juss like that!"

An earlier inclusion in the hall of fame was the cardboard box (invented in the UK in 1817). It seems odd to think that men who fought at the Battle of Waterloo (1815) had never seen cardboard boxes although they were familiar with wooden boxes and chests.

I was surprised to find that the simple ball is not yet on the list. For next year's inclusion, however, I would like to cast my vote for string.

I reckon you could have an excellent Christmas Day as a youngster if Santa was to bring you some sticks, a ball, some string and a few boxes. Come to think of it he usually does bring string and boxes. What would Christmas be without them?


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