It’s always tough for parents and kids to settle on the age-old dispute of which toy to buy. Inevitably, the kids are going to want a toy that is totally fun and the parents are going to want something that will make their child think.
Lucky for both, there were certain toys that satisfied both sides of the argument at once. One of the best is Tinker Toys, a classic construction-set toy that has been a favourite of adults and children for almost a century.
A stonemason named Charles Pajeau invented Tinker Toys in 1913.
Inspired by the sight of children playing with sticks, pencils and spools of thread, he decided to build a play-set for children that would incorporate these shapes.
The heart of the set was a series of wooden spools that had eight holes on their perimeter and one larger hole through the middle.
Also included were a series of cylinder-shaped wooden sticks that could be stuck into the holes of these spools to create all types of three-dimensional shapes and objects. After perfecting the Tinker Toys set in his garage, Pajeau took his new creation to the 1914 American Toy Fair.
Legend has it that that the Tinker Toys gained their first public fame when Pajeau asked a local druggist to put a display of Tinker Toy windmills with little paper blades in his store window.
An electric fan made the little windmills come to life, attracting much attention and prompting people to buy Tinker Toys of their own.
Another story claims that Pajeau did not score big at the Toy Fair but made the toys a success later during the Christmas of 1914. He supposedly pulled this off by buying space in a department store window and hiring little people to dress up in elf suits and play with the Tinker Toys.
Either way, Tinker Toys quickly became a hit. Kids have enjoyed the challenge that Tinker Toys provide for their imaginations, and parents love the intelligent and constructive thinking that comes with the use of Tinker Toys.
Because of this combination of fun and mental challenge, Tinker Toys have become an enduring favourite.
Although there have been changes over the years (Giant Tinker Toys were introduced for a while, and plastic Tinker Toys replaced the familiar wooden style in the early 1990s), Tinker Toys remain consistently popular today.