The Toy Posted September 9, 2019 by Ross Atwood

In 1951, Charles and Ray Eames brought to market The Toy, a colorful, thoughtful product, intended for children as well as adults. The Toy went out of production in 1959, but in 2017, by popular demand, the Eames Office brought it back to life!

Charles and Ray Eames had eclectic passions; Charles was more than an architect, and Ray was more than a painter. Together, their broad spectrum of interests resulted in a catalog of film, photography, furniture, and even, yes, toys.

At a glance, it may be hard to imagine that the designers of sophisticated furniture like the Eames Lounge Chair would also have had a deep interest in toys. Upon closer look at their oeuvre, however, it all makes sense.

Toys played a role in several of their projects, including the film Tops and the Eames House of Cards, still available today. Creating opportunities for play as a form of learning was also a critical method of engaging visitors in their first exhibition, Mathematica: A World of Numbers . . . and Beyond, which has been on view since 1961. Charles once said, “Toys are not really as innocent as they look. Toys and games are precursors to serious ideas.”

The Toy was first in production from 1951 to 1959. Over the years, people have been captivated by archival images of the design. Think of the futuristic shots of Ray assembling towering structures in the Eames House meadow, or of the 1950s product shots with children building anything their imagination desired.

People of all age still love The Toy for its nearly limitless uses. It’s perfect for tunnels and structures for play, for towers, houses, and tents. You can use it as a theater set to stage a show, as party décor, shade from the sun, or even an airplane!

The outside label reads: “Large. Colorful. Easy to assemble. For creating a light, bright expandable world large enough to play in and around.”

Each kit includes four 30-inch square and four 30-inch triangular vinyl panels, along with thirty-eight hardwood dowels and connection wires. The instructions share building ideas and tips for inspiration.

Sears, Roebuck & Company included The Toy in its catalog for several seasons, and Life Magazine featured it in its July 16, 1951 article.


In 2017, the Eames Office reintroduced the toy, bringing it back for the first time in over 60 years for all to enjoy. Head to our online Eames Shop to find out more and make The Toy your own.

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