‘World’ created from toys in a tray of sand

‘World’ created from toys in a tray of sand

When a toy is not just a toy

How would you set about helping troubled children who are too young to express their emotions in words? For the pioneering child psychologist Margaret Lowenfeld these toys were part of the answer.

In Lowenfeld’s ‘world technique’ the psychologist observes the child as he or she constructs a world out of sand, water, plasticine and toys. Lowenfeld argued that this process enabled children to express fear, anger and family problems. The drawing you can see was made by an artist who observed a session with a 7-year-old in 1960.

From the 1920s onwards Lowenfeld accumulated and categorised thousands of miniature people, buildings, machines, plants and animals. She saw these toys collectively as a kind of instrument which was valuable, she argued, because it was not contaminated by any faddish theory, such as those of Sigmund Freud or Carl Jung.

You can see more toys in Psychoanalysis: The Unconscious in Everyday Life until April 2011.

What do the other museums have to say?

Science Museum: 20 January – 6 March
Wellcome Collection: 7 March – 17 April
Horniman Museum: 18 April – 30 May
Natural History Museum: 31 May – 10 July
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: 11 July – 21 August

Source: Science Museum, London. Inv. Nos: 2009-15 (tray), 2009-14 (toys)

Currently on display in:
Year made :
Inventory number :