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Field Trips with Toys

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Toy horse and wagon

In New York City, there are many places to go for toys and games beyond the usual, even places that will take us back in time.

The Museum of the City of New York has an antique toy collection that includes board games, "piggy" banks, and doll houses. Currently they have a special installation of Transportation Toys. Toys that move are among the favorite toys of childhood: cars, trucks, boats, horse-drawn carriages.

For some hands-on fun, try Sony Wonder Technology Fun, a free technology museum located at 56th St. and Madison Ave. It's like having a giant series of games family members can play, that teach you about robotics and modern technology.

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At Fifth Ave. and 58th St., you can visit the greatest toy store in the world, FAO Schwartz. This is a wonderful stop on a Christmas walking tour. Start here and wander south via Rockefeller Center, where you can see the angels and the enormous tree towering above the rink, pass St. Patrick's Cathedral, and end at 38th St. with the charming windows of Lord and Taylor's. But you may never leave FAO Schwartz. The rooms of toys seem to go on forever, and most of us kids have to see everything.

You used to be able to see the Calder Circus at the Whitney Museum. Now you can only see images of it on-line, and a performance of the circus on youtube. Still, it might be enough to inspire some homemade toy making, out of bits of string, wire, feathers or beads or pins, and perhaps some glue.

The lower level of the Children's Museum of Manhattan is one giant playroom — Playworks — designed for ages 1 – 4, full of toys! These are the kind meant to be played with, not just look at. Exhibits throughout the museum often use toys to engage their younger viewers, combining play with learning.

Currently at the Museum of the American Indian in lower Manhattan, there is an exhibit called Small Spirits: Dolls from the National Museum of the American Indian, from March 5, 2011–July 19, 2012, with over 90 dolls from their collection. Make a cornhusk doll in a children’s workshop with Angela Friedlander (Metis), in the Diker Pavilion on the first floor, every Thursday 2 – 3:30 pm, through December 22nd (free with admission).

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