Though a great variety of modern toys have made their way into Myanmar toyshops especially in the cities partly due to globalization and trade liberalization, a number of Myanmar traditional handmade toys still win the hearts of young children in both urban and rural communities.
Myanmar children have been enchanted by those handmade toys for centuries and they are truly Myanmar in their essence and characteristics. Most Myanmar handmade toys reflect the way of life and way of thinking of Myanmar people and their history. Although toys are made from several materials such as paper, wood, bamboo, metal and clay, the most common material is paper in the form of papier-mâché.
To make papier-mâché toys, a mold carved out of wood is covered with scraps of paper covered with glue, allowed to dry in the sun, and then cut free. The toys are painted in bright colours with swift strokes, and with the eyes drawn in classical lines. Hence the toys have a whimsical look that has existed for decades. Toys made this way are usually animals familiar to the children in daily life or through tales, animals such as oxen, tigers, or elephants.
A common papier-mâché toy is Po Wa, or Little Fat Boy, the favourite figure of a pageboy serving in the palace. Another popular papier-mache toy is Pyit-taing-daung, or a knock-about egg-shaped toy with a smiling and serene face. This toy is weighed down with clay stuck inside the base. It is fun for the kids to roll them about and see them always stand upright.
To make wooden toys like owls, the figures are carved out of softwood and then covered with gold paper. Cute facial aspects are then drawn or painted on the owls. These golden owls are the favourite not just of children but also of adults who proudly display them in their living rooms. A variety of stringed puppets in the forms of princes, princesses, royal officials and horses are also made of wood as toys for children and souvenirs for appreciative tourists.
Myanmar children also enjoy playing with small traditional instruments such as drums, xylophones, clappers and flutes that are made of wood, leather, metal or bamboo. Such toys not only entertain children but also help develop their musical sense.
Children also like miniature cooking utensils and animals made of clay, baked and beautifully painted or glazed. They are ideal toys for the kids especially girls of quiet nature, who can nurture their desire for housekeeping.
Toys reminiscent of the monarchic era include papier-mâché helmets, wooden swords in sheaths and spears, and replica armor and weaponry of ancient warriors. These are usually sold at pagoda festivals and fun fairs.