Toy Stories

If Riverboom’s photographer Gabriele Galimberti had happened to shoot me, aged 6 and surrounded by my favorite toys, he would have seen the following: plastic medieval weaponry; assorted Lego (Space, Castle and Pirate); an inflatable Tyrannosaurus rex (punctured slowly into extinction); a Superman action figure (I lost it and hyperventilated with grief); a pair of cuddly rabbits (Sally and Billy); toy cars; a tiny guitar; a plane you launched with an elastic catapult; a replica pistol I thought my mum didn’t know about.

Everyone remembers their childhood toys. The fact that I can recall how most of mine tasted better than I can remember the names of my primary school teachers says everything you need to know about the universe kids inhabit. Indeed, when Galimberti hit upon the idea of photographing children from around the world with their toys, he was not expecting to uncover much we did not already know: kids love dolls and dinosaurs and trucks and cuddly monkeys, and will construct worlds around them before eventually, inevitably, disregarding them for ever. “At their age, they are pretty all much the same,” is his conclusion after 18 months working on the project. “They just want to play.”

But how they play can reveal a lot. “The richest children were more possessive. At the beginning, they wouldn’t want me to touch their toys, and I would need more time before they would let me play with them,” says the Italian, who would often join in with a child’s games before arranging the toys and taking the photograph. “In poor countries, it was much easier. Even if they only had two or three toys, they didn’t really care. In Africa, the kids would mostly play with their friends outside.”

Yet even children worlds apart share similarities when it comes to the function their toys serve. Galimberti talks about meeting a six-year-old boy in Texas and a four-year-old girl in Malawi who both maintained their plastic dinosaurs would protect them from the dangers they believed waited for them at night – from kidnappers and poisonous animals respectively. More common was how the toys reflected the world each child was born into: so the boy from an affluent Beijing family loves Monopoly, because he likes the idea of building houses and hotels, while the boy from rural Mexico loves trucks, because he sees them rumbling through his village to the nearby sugar plantation every day.

Ultimately, the toys on display reveal the hopes and ambitions of the people who bought them in the first place. “Doing this, I learnt more about the parents than I did about the kids,” says Galimberti. There was the Latvian mother who drove a taxi for a living, and who showered her son with miniature cars; the Italian farmer whose daughter proudly displayed her plastic rakes, hoes and spades. Parents from the Middle East and Asia, he found, would push their children to be photographed even if they were initially nervous or upset, while South American parents were “really relaxed, and said I could do whatever I wanted as long as their child didn’t mind”.

With the exception of computer games, he noticed that toys haven’t really changed over the past three decades or so. And there is something reassuring about that. “I’d often find the kind of toys I used to have,” he says. “It was nice to go back to my childhood somehow.”

Ben Machell – The Times Magazine

 

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  • Maudy - Kalulushi, Zambia

    Maudy - Kalulushi, Zambia

    Maudy was born in a hut in a small village close to Kalulushi, in Zambia. She grew up playing in the street with the other children in the village, who all attend the same school, where students ages 3 to 10 years old are in the same class. The village has no shops, restaurants or hotels, and just a few children are lucky enough to have toys. Maudy and her friends found a box full of sunglasses on the street, which quickly became their favorite toys.

    Maudy - Kalulushi, Zambia

  • Orly - Brownsville, Texas

    Orly - Brownsville, Texas

    Orly was born in Browsville from a Mexican mother and American father.
    He has never been in Mexico, 2 miles south of his house and his mother hopes that he will never go there because, she says, it is a dangerous place.
    He loves dinosaurs. He says that those that fly over his bed protect him from ghosts and from the mexican people that might kidnap him.

    Orly - Brownsville, Texas

  • Puput - Bali, Indonesia

    Puput - Bali, Indonesia

    Puput was born at home in Ubud, Bali. She never met her father, who died when her mother was five months pregnant. Her mother works as a cook in a little restaurant just 200 yards from their house. Puput doesn’t have many toys, but plays with these plastic balls like bowling pins, placing them on the ground in a triangle and rolling the rubber ball at them.

    Puput - Bali, Indonesia

  • Li Yi Chen - Shenyang, China

    Li Yi Chen - Shenyang, China

    Li Yi was born in Shenyang, a big city in the north part of China. He lives with his parents and his grandmother in a small appartment in the south suburb of the city.
    His favourite toys are the guns. He loves to put little boxes above the table and then i likes to shoot at them rubbers bullets with the gun. He also love to play with the YoYo because his favourite character of cartoon uses the YoYo like a weapon.

    Li Yi Chen - Shenyang, China

  • Alessia - Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy

    Alessia - Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy

    Alessia was born and raised in the country, his family owns one of the largest farms in the city. She loves to play with animals and helping her grandfather with the work of the farm. With her small tools she brings food to the many Chianina cows.

    Alessia - Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy

  • Abel - Nopaltepec, Mexico

    Abel - Nopaltepec, Mexico

    Abel, the third of five children, was born and raised in the small town of Nopaltepec, about an hour southeast of Mexico City. In this photo he’s posing with all of his games. He loves to race with his toy cars, and sometimes plays with them with his younger sister.

    Abel - Nopaltepec, Mexico

  • Noel - Dallas, Texas

    Noel - Dallas, Texas

    Noel is 100% Texan! He has very clear ideas already, he wants to be a pilot!
    Noel plays only with airplanes of all sizes and sometimes with the playstation but only with a flight simulator. His favorite game is to put the little men of lego on his big boing that his father gave him and then let them fly to the bottom of the garden where there is a small pond. He envisions bringing legos on vacation at the lake, then after making him take a bath, puts them in the aircraft and brings them back home.

    Noel - Dallas, Texas

  • Allenah - El Nido, Philippines

    Allenah - El Nido, Philippines

    Allenah Lajallab was born and raised in El Nido, a small town north of Palawan in the Philippines. In El Nido there weren’t hospitals and she was born at home. She has a lot of stuffed animals, and her favorite is the orange one because she loves the color. She doesn’t like the white stuffed animal as much, because it gets dirty too easily.

    Allenah - El Nido, Philippines

  • Oscar, 7 -  Bradfortd on Avon, U.K.

    Oscar, 7 -  Bradfortd on Avon, U.K.

    Oscar, 7 - Bradfortd on Avon, U.K.

  • Tyra - Stockholm, Sweden

    Tyra - Stockholm, Sweden

    Tyra lives in a beautiful wooden house in the south part of the city together with her parents and her older sister. She always plays with the sister wich is just a year older. Their favourite toys are the red coockers and the dollhouse. Sometimes, when she plays with her sister, she love sto pretend she’s her mother and she cooks for her.

    Tyra - Stockholm, Sweden

  • Keynor  - Cahuita, Costa Rica

    Keynor  - Cahuita, Costa Rica

    Keynor was born in Cahuita, in the caribbean coast of Costa Rica, and he has never left that place neither for a day. He lives 300 meters from the beach and sometimes his mother lets him go to swim together with his older brother Deynor. Keynor’s father has a strong passion for toy cars, he maybe has more then 200 small cars. Every once his father gives him an old car and now Keynor has started his small collection!

    Keynor - Cahuita, Costa Rica

  • Arafa & Aisha - Bububu, Zanzibar

    Arafa & Aisha - Bububu, Zanzibar

    Arafa and Aisha are twins. They sleep in the same bed, have the same clothes, go to school together and share the same toys. They live in a two-room house in which both of the rooms are bedrooms, and the kitchen and restroom are outside. The big photo above the closet is a portrait of the formal president of Zanzibar.

    Arafa & Aisha - Bububu, Zanzibar

  • Mikkel, 5 - Bergen, Norway

    Mikkel, 5 - Bergen, Norway

    Mikkel, 5 - Bergen, Norway

  • Bethsaida - Port au Prince, Haiti

    Bethsaida - Port au Prince, Haiti

    Bethsaida was born in Port-au-Prince where she has always lived in a house with her family since, almost 2 years ago, a big earthquake distroyed it. Her parents are both deaf but fortunately she’s not. Now they live in a camp site out of the city. The camp was built from an american NGO which works with deaf, so in the camps almost 90% of the people can’t hear and talk. All the toys that Bethsaida has are donated from the NGO. She wants to be a hairdresser and loves combing her doll to practice, but unfortunately her brother has cut off half of the hair of the doll.

    Bethsaida - Port au Prince, Haiti

  • Enea - Boulder, Colorado

    Enea - Boulder, Colorado

    Enea was born in Tuscany to an Italian father and an American mother, but now lives in Colorado. His uncle is a musician and Enea loves to imitate him. He often plays with his small musical instruments, trying to play the theme songs from “Batman” and “SpiderMan.” Sometimes he plays with his older sister Anita, and they pretend to have a band.

    Enea - Boulder, Colorado

  • Botlhe - Maun, Botswana

    Botlhe - Maun, Botswana

    Botlhe has a lot of friends, and all of them live really close by to the small house where she lives with her family in a residential complex. In the complex, there is one toilet for every four families. Botlhe has only one toy, the monkey, but she almost never plays with it because she prefers to go out with friends and play with them.

    Botlhe - Maun, Botswana

  • Shotaro, 5  - Tokyo, Japan

    Shotaro, 5  - Tokyo, Japan

    Shotaro, 5 - Tokyo, Japan

  • Lucas - Sydney, Australia

    Lucas - Sydney, Australia

    Lucas lives with his parents and his sister in a big house in the east part of Sydney, Australia. The first toy that his father gave to him two years ago is a little train.
    Since that moment Lucas loves little trains and He has a lot of them. His favourite one is the one made of wood. He always plays with that and he says that his dream is to work in the subway of Sydney.

    Lucas - Sydney, Australia

  • Ernesto - Firenze, Italy

    Ernesto - Firenze, Italy

    Ernesto - Firenze, Italy

  • Cun Zi Yi - Chongqing, China

    Cun Zi Yi - Chongqing, China

    Cun Zi Yi just turned 3, and received a lot of gifts for her birthday. She plays with everything and can’t choose her favorite toy. Her parents say that she’s really good at painting, and will be an artist when she grows up.

    Cun Zi Yi - Chongqing, China

  • Taha - Beirut, Lebanon

    Taha - Beirut, Lebanon

    Taha was born in Palestine but now he lives in Beriut where he’s a refugee together with his family. They lives in a sort of shantytown together with a few thousand of other people. Everybody there is from Palestine. To get water and electricity they need to illegaly connect their house to the public service. Taha has just one toy, the car, and he didn’t have any doubt when i asked him to show me his favourite toy.

    Taha - Beirut, Lebanon

  • Ralf - Riga, Latvia

    Ralf - Riga, Latvia

    “His name is Ralf, like the Formula1 champion”, said proudly the mother when i asked for this child’s name. She has been taxi driver for more then 10 years and she tells that Ralf has pratically grown up inside a car. “Sometimes I also brought him at work with me” says again the mother. He now loves toy cars and he can’t never get bored of them. He love to make them run on the pavement pretend they are racing rally. His favourite movie is obviously “Cars” and he watch it almost once a week.

    Ralf - Riga, Latvia

  • Chiwa - Mchinji, Malawi

    Chiwa - Mchinji, Malawi

    Chiwa live in a small hut with her mother, father and sister. They don’t have electricity and running water. Chiwa used to help her mother to carry water at home from the river. In the village there are other 50 children (more or less) and they always plays all together outside. Chiwa has just 3 toys that some volonteers of an NGO gave to her when she was born. Her favourite is the dinosaurus because she says that he can protect her from the dangerous animals.

    Chiwa - Mchinji, Malawi

  • Jeronimo, 4 - Colombia

    Jeronimo, 4 - Colombia

    Jeronimo, 4 - Colombia

  • Elene - Tblisi, Georgia

    Elene - Tblisi, Georgia

    Elene was born in the south of Georgia five year ago but then she grew up with her family in Tblisi. She doesn’t go to school yet but she already knows how to read and write. Her favourite toys are all connected with school somehow. She loves pencils, notebooks, colour pens etc

    Elene - Tblisi, Georgia

  • Pavel - Kiev, Ukraine

    Pavel - Kiev, Ukraine

    Pavel doesn’t have any doubts: he wants to be a police man. He loves guns and plays with them all the time. His younger brother is always under “Pavel’s arrest.” Pavel handcuffs him, questions him and accuses him of stealing cars. Sometimes he lets his brother be the police man, but only when other friends come over and become the “bad people” Pavel wants to arrest!

    Pavel - Kiev, Ukraine

  • Jaqueline - Manila, Philippines

    Jaqueline - Manila, Philippines

    Jaqueline has a loto of different toys but her favourite is for sure Tinker Bell, the little green fairy that her best friend gave her. Her father is a fashion photographer and almost every day takes photos of her too. Jaqueline says that she will be a model in the future.

    Jaqueline - Manila, Philippines

  • Tangawizi - Keekorok, Kenya

    Tangawizi - Keekorok, Kenya

    Tangwizi was born in a Maasai village in the south of Kenya in a small hut made of dung and straw. His bed is made of a few rags on the ground. He always plays outside with all the other childern of the village but every night he sleeps together with his unique toy: a little pelouche monkey.

    Tangawizi - Keekorok, Kenya

  • Julia - Tirana, Albania

    Julia - Tirana, Albania

    Julia was born in Tirana where she lives with her parents in a small appartment in the center of the city. Her father works in a gas station and her mother is an housewife. Both of the parents speak a good italian because they learned from the italian tv, probably the main one in Albania! They are sure that their child Julia will learn soon Italian too. She loves dolls and especially barbie but her father recently gave her a small guitar because he would love her to be a musician.

    Julia - Tirana, Albania

  • Kalesi - Viseisei, Fiji Islands

    Kalesi - Viseisei, Fiji Islands

    Kalesi loves to cook for her dolls using her small cook tools and the mud from the garden. She has an older brother which goes to school every morning and she love to pretend to go to school too. She puts small toys and some paper in her back pack (the one from transformers is her favourite one) and she goes in the garden where there is a small table that she uses as a school desk.

    Kalesi - Viseisei, Fiji Islands

  • Reanya - Sepang, Malaysia

    Reanya - Sepang, Malaysia

    Reanya was born in Kuala Lumpur, but now lives in a big, new house built in one of the many satellite cities around the capital. Her family shares the house with her uncle’s family, in a neighborhood that looks like an American suburb, where all the houses are very similar. Her parents give Reanya a lot of different toys, but she love bears the best.

    Reanya - Sepang, Malaysia

  • Niko - Homer, Alaska

    Niko - Homer, Alaska

    Niko was born in a small town in the mountains of Alaska in the Kenai peninsula. His father is a fisherman and his mother is a teacher. Niko loves to play with Legos and similar games. He built a small Lego spaceship and likes to imagine he’s bringing little men up to space.

    Niko - Homer, Alaska

  • Norden - Massa, Marocco

    Norden - Massa, Marocco

    Norden lives in Massa, a small village 40km south of Agadir. In the room where he plays and sleeps there is nothing, except for a carpet. Every day he wakes up early together with his family and he goes with the down to the valley where they have some pieces of land to farm. He spends most of his time playing with a small dog outside, even because the ones in the photo are all the toys he owns.

    Norden - Massa, Marocco

  • Shaira - Mumbai, India

    Shaira - Mumbai, India

    Radhika was born in Mumbai 6 years ago but she lived the first 3 years in New York together with her family. Now she lives in Mumbai but her first language is still english. She knows just few words in hindi and just because her babysitter speaks just hindi. Shaira loves table games. She spends a lot of time playing with the board games together with her family. From her room’s windows, at the 18th floor of a new building, she can see almost the whole city.

    Shaira - Mumbai, India

  • Ragnar - Reykjavik, Iceland

    Ragnar - Reykjavik, Iceland

    Ragnar has a small room in a big house in the north part of Raykjavik. Their parent rent the house and they have been living there for 5 years. The monkey’s mask is for sure his favourite toy. He pass 90% of his free time inside because in Iceland is too cold, dark and humid for playing outside. He almost never plays together with his older sister.

    Ragnar - Reykjavik, Iceland

  • Stella - Montecchio, Italy

    Stella - Montecchio, Italy

    Stella was born in Italy to an Italian father and Australian mother. They live in the countryside of a small city in Tuscany. She loves to play with dolls and dress them up like princesses, and she also loves to dress up like a princess. Her favorite toy is the small pink pig behind her.

    Stella - Montecchio, Italy

  • Virginia - American Fork, Utah

    Virginia - American Fork, Utah

    Virginia was born in Salt Lake City but she has past her first 5 years of life in American Fork, a little town 50km south of the capital. She’s from a mormon family. She love to play baseball together with her little brother. He launches the ball and she hit it, it never happens the opposite! In the garden her family keeps some animals, like goats and chickens. She has a favourite goat and she always wants to play with her.

    Virginia - American Fork, Utah

  • Ryan - Johannesburg, South Africa

    Ryan - Johannesburg, South Africa

    Ryan lives with his parents and his younger sister in the north part of Johannesburg, more then an hour driving from the center. He has never been at school and he will never go because his mother says that she doesn’t believe in other’s people teaching and she want to teach to her children by herself. Ryan loves to play with lego and build castles.

    Ryan - Johannesburg, South Africa

  • Farida - Cairo, Egypt

    Farida - Cairo, Egypt

    Faida lives with her family in the east area of Cairo, the newest and maybe richest part of the city. Her father work abroad for an oil company and he gains a lot of money. Every time that he comes back home (almost five days for month), he brings back a gift for her and almost every time the gift is a peluche. Her favourite one is the with bear she holds with her hand. He’s name is Peter and he comes from Canada.

    Farida - Cairo, Egypt

  • Callum, 4 - Fairbanks, Alaska

    Callum, 4 - Fairbanks, Alaska

    Callum, 4 - Fairbanks, Alaska

  • Davide - La Valletta, Malta

    Davide - La Valletta, Malta

    Davide lives with his big family in a small city just 20 minutes south of the capital Valletta. There are more then 10 people living together in the same house. He has a younger brother and an older sister and each of them has his own room. Davide doesn’t have a favourite toy, he love to play with everything.

    Davide - La Valletta, Malta

  • Talia - Timimoun, Algeria

    Talia - Timimoun, Algeria

    Talia was born a Timimoun, in the middle of the Sahara desert. She has a little brother and they share the same room. Her parents work in a small travel agency and they accompany in the desert the few turists that travel in that area. Talia’s birthday was a week ago this photo were taken and the bike it’s the gift from her father. So, now the bike is her favourite toy.

    Talia - Timimoun, Algeria

  • Watcharapom - Bangkok, Thailand

    Watcharapom - Bangkok, Thailand

    Watcharapon loves motorbikes! His father has a scooter and every morning puts his helmet before to leave the house, then he goes out, on the street in front of the house where he keeps his scooter and he goes to work. Watcharapon loves to imitate him e puts the helmet at home, then he plays with his little motorbikes.

    Watcharapom - Bangkok, Thailand

  • Naya  - Managua, Nicaragua

    Naya  - Managua, Nicaragua

    has few small cook tools but she never gets bored to play with them. She uses mud and grass from the garden to pretend to cook some cakes for her older sister. She says that in the future she will manage a restaurant and she’s sure that turists will love it!

    Naya - Managua, Nicaragua

  • Louis 4 - Bogotà, Colombia

    Louis 4 - Bogotà, Colombia

    Louis 4 - Bogotà, Colombia

  • Sofia, 4 - Bradfort on Avon, UK

    Sofia, 4 - Bradfort on Avon, UK

    Sofia, 4 - Bradfort on Avon, UK

  • Fermina, 5 - Montevideo, Uruguay

    Fermina, 5 - Montevideo, Uruguay

    Fermina, 5 - Montevideo, Uruguay