News

Spreading Love, One Heart at a Time Posted on 07 Feb 11:31

Carved Wooden Heart in a Birds NestDid you know that the heart symbol we're all familiar with can be traced back to before the last Ice Age? It turns out, early Cro-Magnons used the symbol in their pictograms. Of course, we can't be sure as to the symbol's meaning, but that's a long time ago!

The heart as we know it didn't become the symbol we use until the Middle Ages, when the heart-shape became an ideograph used to express the idea of love. Developed in the 15th century, the heart gained traction in the 16th century and continued on to the present, shifting from romantic love to a symbol that expresses heartfelt emotion.

At The Toy Boat, we're proud to say that we have an ever-changing "Collection of Hearts." This collection includes heart-shaped bowls, boxes, and stones; heart pouches, heart fairies, and heart lockets. Hearts made locally, and hearts from around the world. Tuck a message into one of our love-note pouches, or share one of our custom heart-shaped boxes, brimming with hearts. Remind someone that they are loved with a beautiful hand-carved stone heart.

Let's work together to spread love!

 


Sea Glass at The Toy Boat Posted on 01 Sep 15:46

Finding sea glass means finding treasure!

Sea Glass

Sea glass originates from bottles and glassware, broken into many pieces and tumbled about in the ocean. Some pieces of sea glass may have been swept out to sea, or fallen overboard—or even come from stranded ships and shipwrecks! For many years, these pieces of glass were rolled around the ocean, until their edges were worn off and the shine of the glass became smooth and frosted.

Sea Glass and Beach Glass

There are two different types of this treasured glass: sea glass and beach glass. The difference? Sea glass comes from salt water, and beach glass comes from fresh water. Sea glass, due to the salt, sand, and pH of seawater, has a heavy frosted look. Beach glass, on the other hand, is less frosted. Either way, experts estimate that a piece of glass takes over twenty years to take on the unique characteristics of beach glass and sea glass!

Sea Glass at the Toy Boat

At The Toy Boat, you'll find an amazing collection of sea glass. We theorize that some pieces are from ships that were stuck on the shoals nearby, while others may have travelled for many miles. If you're interested in sea glass, we have small canning jars filled with it! No two jars are ever the same, but the range of sizes and colors in sea glass are sure to delight. Add a jar to your own collection to give it a splash of color, use it in crafts of jewelry making, or just open the jar to explore the amazing colors and patterns.

Our sea glass is available only in limited quantities! Make sure to order yours online or stop by to pick yours up today!


Toys for Children on the Autism Spectrum Posted on 15 Aug 08:00

The colorful Brick Twist toy is a helpful toy for children with AutismFor the week of August 20th, the town of Nantucket will be helping to support Autism Week! Among the tokens of support will be blue lights all around the town, a walk in support of autism spectrum awareness, and the recognizable blue puzzle piece on display in numerous locations. All of this is to remind us to be aware of the needs of our friends and family on the autism spectrum, to support research into autism, and offer a better world for everyone on the autism spectrum.

The latest statistics show that 1 in 64 children can be defined as “on the autism spectrum.” Children on the spectrum have a wide variety of needs depending on their individual place within it, and in today's blog, we're focusing on two of the more common ways that toys can help!

Hand Manipulative Toys for Individuals with Autism

It is common for people on the autism spectrum to experience high levels of anxiety. Studies have shown that being able to manually focus on something in their hands can help calm them down. Something like a fidget toy can not only help children with autism spectrum disorder calm down, but they can also help these children focus and absorb information more effectively.

Our favorite fidget toy is the 'Brick Twist.' This small, bendable wooden toy can be folded and twisted, and is small enough to be stored in a pocket and pulled out at any time. No parts or pieces, and no wrong way to play—just manual manipulation. The Brick Twist has proven to be a very popular and helpful toy for children with autism!

Cause and Effect Toys for Individuals with Autism

Cause and effect toys provide children with action and reward. This is to say, when a child does one thing, she will provoke a specific reaction from the toy. Toys such as this are stimulating for children with autism because they allow the child a predictable way to exert influence on their environment.

Take our Marble Tree, for example: you drop a marble in at the top, and it cascades down until it lands in the lower dish. As one of our favorites, this great toy offers the opportunity to develop hand-eye coordination and express simple, repetitive actions. Likewise, the musical tone of the marble hitting the petals creates a positive auditory response. For a calming, predictable toy, you can't do much better than the Marble Tree!

More information on Autism Speaks is available at www.autismspeaks.org.


Seals on the Nantucket Jetty Posted on 09 Aug 16:07

There have been seals on Nantucket Island for hundreds of years. When seal hunting was legal, our native seals were hunted to dangerously low populations. When laws were passed preventing seal hunting in 1970, the populations were at such low levels, that there were barely any seals to be found on Nantucket Island. And when The Toy Boat opened nearly 30 years ago, there were no seals at all.

Fortunately, about a decade ago, seals began to return to the island. Now, they can be spotted at Great Point, on the Nantucket Jetties, on all of our beaches, and even here at The Toy Boat!

These soft-eyed animals have begun to stir up a bit of controversy, however. Though environmentalists are pleased to see the resurgence—citing an expansion of biodiversity and a boost for popular seal tours—some fishermen are concerned with seals' interference in their fishing charters. Likewise, beach goers have noticed that seals are taking over large portions of public shore-line. And concern grows that the seals will draw sharks closer to our shores, making swimming dangerous (although, since the beginning of records in 1837, there have only been three shark attacks with a single fatality, back in 1936.)

For the rest of us, however, the opportunity to share our beautiful island with these creatures is an honor. It may be taken as a sign that we are refining our delicate balance between man and nature.

Seal FigurineThe above photo was taken in front of The Toy Boat. Our location makes an ideal spot for seal sightings, among many other types of wildlife. This was the only time I've seen one on our dock.

The Toy Boat version of seals on the jetty, however, is in stock every day! It has been an exclusive feature of The Toy Boat since 2002. Children love to set up the Seals on the Jetty with the Harbor Series boats and the Brant Point Lighthouse. They can then add rocks and seals to replicate their own sightings.

Here's to many more visits from our seaborne friends!

 


Children and Handwork Posted on 26 Jul 08:00

Sewing basketLearning to create is essential to a child's healthy development, and crafts—one of the first ways children create—let them develop several skills at once. Developing strength and coordination in the hands and fingers is a key resource for neurodevelopment. Hand-eye coordination develops fine motor skills, and fine motor skills are essential to writing and reading—and all of these skills can be taught through crafts.

Handwork Enforces Skills

Other skills enforced by handwork are basic eye-tracking and numeracy. Number skills—as you might guess—are essential for all kinds of tasks and crafts. For example, knitting, crocheting, and sewing all require basic numbers-knowledge. Counting how many stitches you cast on. Did you drop any? How far apart are your running stitches? How many running stitches in an inch? All of these questions help build skills that we use every day as adults.

Handwork Teaches Self Reliance

Young girl with a sewing basketLikewise, crafts can help teach children self reliance. Though self reliance may be a skill that children are slowly losing access to in a world filled with technology, children who do develop self reliance have a number of advantages. If you can mend a hole in your jeans or replace a button on your coat, for example, you can keep using them—and you were able to resolve the problem!

Crafts don't only add to a child's self reliance and  mental development, however. Crafts can help children better find their place in the world, providing them an opportunity to develop their generosity and sense of community. Children often share their crafts! Nothing is better than seeing a child's face light up when they give someone a gift that they made. Here at The Toy Boat, we've seen children like Ella find inspiration in our Looper Loom, and go on to weave hundreds of pot-holders for a fundraiser to benefit young women's causes. Our knitting basket inspired Jason to knit scarves for the homeless. And our rock painting directions encouraged Rose to paint rocks for our peace project.

But perhaps the most critical reason to encourage children to work with their hands is that hand-work is central to our history as humans!

Browse our selection of items hand-crafted by family and friends. Whether using our hands to create necessary things or just to make our lives more beautiful, The Toy Boat loves to encourage creativity!


Kid Create Craft Fair Posted on 21 Jul 09:50

Hand Crafted Star Ornaments

July 28th, 3:00 - 4:00pm

Anyone who enjoys hand-made things likes a good craft fair. Well, here at The Toy Boat, we've got a special one for you!

Each year The Toy Boat hosts a Kid's Craft Fair. It's run like most other craft fairs, except showcasing student artists and artisans! How it works is this: kids contact us to tell us about the things they've made that they want to sell--we want to make sure we don't have too many of the same thing--and register. The kids make their product with their own materials, and on their own time. They create displays and signs, and set up their booths exactly as they want to. Once they've set out their wares in their spot, they get to sell their creations and keep 100% of the money they make!

Young Girl at the Toy Boat Kid Create Craft FairThis is one of The Toy Boat's favorite events, for both adults and kids. If this sounds like a fun time, contact us to register! And don't forget--join us on July 28 for a nice stroll down the wharf to support the island's budding artists.


A Magical View From The Toy Boat Posted on 19 Jul 09:57

Two young girls playing with a fairy houseThe Toy Boat is a special place, where fairies, mermaids, elves, and dragons live--all waiting for their special person to arrive. When these children find their toy, they're inspired to create a whole new world of magical beasts and beings--elaborate tales of adventure are told, and imaginations overflow!

The Importance of Magical Play

Fairy Toy in Purple DressMagical play is evidence of creative thinking. In the magical worlds that they create, children control the environment. The characters they manifest are different from the humans these children know--they're not only accepted for these differences, but elevated because of them. In these worlds, characters can be anything the children want them to be, interacting with one another according to nothing but the child's imagination. Little people live inside acorns, fairies ride on the backs of dragons, and pirates and mermaids are friends.

During magical, imaginative play, children use abstract and representational thinking. Magical play is the place where a child's ideas are allowed to flourish--it's during this play that real education takes place. Children process their ideas and allow their creative energy to flow during magical play. It's a place where differences are examined, and traditional roles don't exist. Magical play is where children experience creative freedom.

We here at The Toy Boat know that childhood can be a magical time. If you'd like to learn more, visit us and let yourself wander into a world of magic!


Enchanted Villages at The Toy Boat Posted on 17 Jul 20:53

Fairy house with a jaw bone archwayOur 18th annual Enchanted Villages, Fairy House Building
July 21, 3:00 - 4:00

The Toy Boat Fairy Garden

If you've visited The Toy Boat, you've seen our amazing Fairy Garden. Located in front of the store, our Fairy Garden is a wonderful sight, full of tiny houses for fairies, gnomes, and all sorts of other enchanted beings.

These petite dwellings aren't made by tiny, magical hands, however-- they're all made by local children and helpers here at The Toy Boat. Every gnome-home and fairy-house in our garden is made from natural materials, and the layout changes constantly. Walking around our fairy garden, you'll discover tiny hideaways, stairways to the unknown, and tiny doors that could be portals to a tiny hidden world. Here, a fish-jaw creates a doorway, scallop shells become tiny chairs, and old driftwood is transformed into a fairy treehouse. Our garden is a magical place where kids of all ages can experience the wonder of the secret enchantment of Nantucket Island.

Join Us

Fairy house with a jaw bone archwayYou're welcome to come explore our enchanted garden year-round. However, for one magical hour a year, you can join us to contribute to our garden by building your very own fairy home! All materials are provided, and once you're finished, we'll find a special place in our garden for your creation. Feel free to bring along some extra supplies, like natural materials, string, and scissors.

Oh-- and don't forget, bring your imagination!


20 Years of the Toy Boat Marble Swap Posted on 11 Jul 08:00

A bowl of colorful marbles

July 14, 2016 from 3:00-4:00 PM

For the past 20 years, The Toy Boat has hosted one of our favorite events—the Marble Swap. Once a year, from 3:00-4:00 PM, children and adults alike arrive on Straight Wharf to trade marbles with other collectors.

Marble Swap History

The Marble Swap began with a local boy named Raymond Decosta. Like most visitors to The Toy Boat, Raymond loved buying marbles from our one-of-a-kind Marble Machines. However, since the marbles come out randomly, styles and colors vary! After receiving a number of duplicate marbles, Raymond suggested that we plan a time where other kids could come to the store and trade the marbles they no longer wanted.

Loren and children pick out marbles from a basketSo we did!

Raymond is an adult now, but I've been assured that he and his friends still have their marble collection. In fact, many a friendship has been created thanks to this wonderful event!

Join Us for the Swap

Please join us on July 14th at 3:00 in the afternoon. Bring your marbles (even one is enough to get you started!) This year, we will be giving away an amazing hand-made marble by glass artist Fritz Launstein. His incredible marbles feature in private collections around the world!


Marbles at The Toy Boat Posted on 06 Jul 21:30

A brief history of Marbles

A wall of Marbles at the Toy Boat

Did you know that marbles have been found in the tombs of the Pharaohs? And that there are references to marbles in Greek and Roman literature? Or that a 15th century manuscript refers to “the little yellow balls with which school boys play, and which were very cheap?”

Marbles have existed in nearly every culture the world over. It shouldn't be surprising, then, that they still hold great appeal to children—their shape, colors, patterns, and textures remain appealing to all ages!

Marbles in America

In the 1930's, America was marble crazy! Every child's pocket had a few marbles in it. School yards and alleyways were full of children knuckle-down in the dirt, and marble contests were all the rage. Marbles were worth their weight in gold to their young owners. All of this popularity held strong until the 1950's, when America's marble madness began to wane.

How Things Changed

Many aspects of America's cultural and physical landscape began to change in the 1950's. Community landscaping began to shift from dirt surfaces to cement or blacktop, including schoolyards and driveways. Alleys became a thing of the past, and suddenly there just wasn't anywhere to play.

Likewise, television lessened the interest in “old fashioned toys.” This, combined with an increase in commercially-produced toys, led to a decrease in interest for marbles. To cut a long story short, as television and commercialism took more control of our lives, marbles fell by the wayside.

The playing of marble games has become almost non-existent. However, marbles have not! They're just the type of timeless toy we here at The Toy Boat believe all children should experience. Games are played, and games are invented for them. We've seen them become jewels and money in fantasy play, and take part in math and science exploration. Their size encourages the development of fine motor skills, and they open dialog between people and offer endless creative possibilities.

Marbles at The Toy Boat

 

A little boy holding a bag of marbles
At The Toy Boat, we share the world's fascination with marbles. That's why you'll find an amazing variety of marbles here! We've got marbles from all over the world— marbles so small they can barely be picked up, marbles so large that we're often asked if they're really marbles at all, and everything in between! We have hand-made marbles (each one a unique work of art) and antique marbles to remind us of our history. Stop by the store, and we'll teach you the names of hundreds of marbles—we hope you'll find them as delightful as we do!

There are very few things you can give a six year old that a 60 year old will still love. Here at The Toy Boat, we believe that marbles are one of those things. If you agree, take a look—we've got an excellent Art Marble section.

The endless variety of sizes and designs that marbles take will never let them be forgotten.

Well, not if we can help it.