This year’s Christmas must-have (1825 edition)

We’re doing a lot of fretting this year over No1’s Christmas present.

He wants (don’t we all?) an iPad. We’re not very techy people, but my brother-in-law is an Apple aficionado, and introduced us to the world of tablets when we were still not far past being excited at the idea of sending photo texts. The children think they are marvellous, and would happily spend all day playing on the various apps, and doubtless learning lots at the same time.

So. Do we pool together all his Christmas money and buy him an iPad? We could, technically, afford it, though it is astronomically more than we usually spend, and I personally am uncomfortable about the idea of a 7 year old owning something so valuable and fragile. Do we try another, cheaper, alternative? What about the other two: they’re unlikely to be impressed if he has something so very covetable and they have to wait till they are older. Some of his friends already have one, most have some kind of DS/MP3 player/gaming device, and although I know giving in to peer pressure is dangerous, I am wary of holding out against something out of stubbornness. This is the world he is growing up in, and computers and screens are going to be a big part of it, whether we like it or not. The technology is alien to us, though, and choosing something which will last more than a few months feels fraught with difficulty.

The truth is that I don’t know what to do for the best, and the whole thing has put me into a grumpy, un-Christmaslike mood. It’s a real first-world, my diamond-shoes-are-too-tight, modern-life-is-rubbish sort of problem, which adds to the grumpiness, because it isn’t really a “problem” at all.

Then, on Saturday, I had a revelation. We were visiting the wonderful Bowes Museum and looking at its fabulous collection of old toys. What caught my eye was this beautiful train set


and the accompanying text:-

“Train set in painted wood. The sloping track, carriages, engine and tender fit into a box marked. This train belonged to John Pease”. He was eldest son of Edward Pease, who was known as the “Father of Railways” of East Mount, Darlington. In 1825 Edward Pease, in collaboration with George Stephenson, provided the first stream train service from Darlington to Stockton. This could be the first toy train set in the world.”

Imagine that. Imagine being the little boy with the first toy train set in the world, especially if your Daddy had made the first real train track in the world. We live just behind a portion of the old Stockton-Darlington railway line, and it makes me smile to imagine the clamour of small boys, living probably not very far at all from where we are now, pestering their parents almost 200 years ago for a train set like John Pease’s. Perhaps the beleaguered parents tried to persuade their children to stick with the toy horses they themselves grew up with. Almost certainly they worried about the cost of a new-fangled present which might – who knows? – turn out to be obsolete within a year or two.

The technology may be new and ever-changing, but thinking of those long-ago parental present dilemmas has restored a little bit of Christmas cheer to my heart. I still don’t know what to buy, though.

*with thanks to The Bowes Museum for kind permission to use the image and text*


2 thoughts on “This year’s Christmas must-have (1825 edition)

  1. I always find Bowes is a good place for thoughts and revelations! mine on this matter of yours is that a family I-pad is a good idea with limited screen time for everyone daily/weekly or however often you want them to use it. There are some good apps etc but the teacher in me says only a little a day (my girls usually have about 20 mins but they don’t always ask to use it everyday) would be ok for a 7 year old. I’m afraid I may be a little old-fashioned but I still think toys, books or playing outside are what little people should be up to when not at school (or asleep). I think technology is great and they need to learn how to best use it to help their learning and for a bit of fun but I’m going to stick my neck out and say I don’t think they need their own! (They can always say they have one to friends, they don’t have to elaborate that they only own a part share!)
    Nic x

    1. Hello! (and thank you for comment)

      Bowes is fab, isn’t it? Haven’t been for a while as No3 wasn’t really a sit-in-pushchair-cooing type of baby, but he’s old enough now to get something out of it & season ticket makes big difference.

      Re iPad – I completely agree re screen time in general. He is quite good at occupying himself and is really into reading now (can’t imagine where he gets it from…) – I still think that, finances aside, I’d happily buy them all one for all the various things they offer, but restrict access. None of his classmates have them yet, they are more into the game type things which are a world i understand even less!

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