Children seem to instinctively be able to play. Sometimes the smallest thing interests and amuses them. It is perhaps in the modern world that people believe that they need expensive toys and when they are a few years older, modern technology? What is interesting in countries like Vietnam is that toys have evolved over the years and there is no doubt that culture has played a role in how children amuse themselves with games and toys. In the West, games like ‘’Doctors and Nurses’’ and ‘’Cowboys and Indians’’ have come about by children observing things around them, or copying what they have seen on TV. In Vietnam, some of the fun that children have has roots in culture, dating back as far as 4,000 years.
Archaeologists have found marbles from that time and seen toy images on similarly dated drawings on ancient bronze drums. Tourists travelling in Vietnam may see them in museums.
It is important to remember that most children grew up in a rural environment and were expected to play a role within family life; there was always some work to do even if it was not too hard. Life was not easy however and there was limited time to play, and limited materials available for toys; wood, clay, bamboo and paper. As a result, toys were fairly basic but they did give children an appreciation of nature and the environment. Drums were a popular toy with paper stretched across a hoop or something similar. Festivals involve more complex drums and Vietnam tour packages will involve festivals where possible or alternatively Vietnamese music and drama.
It was easy to make a boat out of bamboo as well. There was, and still is, plenty of water around whether permanent rivers and streams or flooding during the monsoon season. Children have always loved puddles though not always to sail a boat in. There have been more complex boats as well; made from tin cans and including a water container that can be heated with diesel to create steam.
Masks are used by young and old. There have always been many festivals and celebrations in Vietnam. They are a chance to dress up in traditional clothes but also for parades with masks playing an important role. For example, festivals in mid-autumn involve lion masks as part of the lion dance. They are made from papier mache with two small mirrors for eyes. Red cloth is used as a mane. In a lion dance, there are dancers waving tails, clown masks, drums and of course the lion head.
Phoc Gun is a boys’ toy, a gun that fires small nuts or balls made of paper through a bamboo tube. They are fairly harmless before you begin to worry. The Vietnamese are a happy people, naturally peaceful and tours to Vietnam are likely to reveal this first-hand.
One of the real pleasure of Vietnam packages is meeting the people, especially the charming children and watching their daily lives.