updated 11/17/2006 6:04:44 PM ET 2006-11-17T23:04:44

A rare picture game dating back to 1760 shares center stage with plastic ducks, antique chemistry sets and Barbie dolls in a new exhibit showing how adults and children engage with science through toys.

"Playing with Science...Your Favourite Toys" includes curiosities from the London Science Museum's medical, science, engineering and computing collections and treasured objects from individuals including a Space Rescue game made by British-born astronaut Nicholas Patrick long before he joined NASA.

"We've got toys that show us how adults and children have engaged with science in the past — things like chemistry sets, toy telescopes and microscopes," said Victoria Carroll, the exhibition's curator.

"We're also interested in toys which show us how changes in science and technology, or new material like plastic, change our everyday world."

Just as chemistry sets have set young budding scientists on to brilliant careers, Patrick's home-made space game complete with pencilled instructions on the board was early evidence of his interest in space exploration.

Some of the toys in the exhibit have been used by scientists in research, including psychology toys designed during the last century to test children's development and for play therapy.

Small plastic ducks swept overboard in the North Pacific in 1992, which eventually ended up in various parts of the world, helped oceanographers to refine their understanding about ocean drifts.

"They inadvertently ended up in a giant scientific experiment," said Carroll.

A magnetic game dating back to 1765 which belonged to King George III is one of the prized exhibits. It was known as a philosophical toy at the time and popular with fashionable ladies and gentlemen.

"It demonstrated philosophical or scientific principles like magnetism and electricity in surprising, quirky, unusual ways," according to Carroll.

Barbie dolls are included in the exhibit to show how the development of plastics and their use in the home, as well as changes over time, affect everyday life.

"Obviously dolls are a really important part of that," Carroll explained.

Children and adults are also encouraged to bring in their own toys which will be exhibited alongside the museum's treasures. The exhibit runs until late January.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.


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