Stunning Photos Of What Children Play With Around The World

Photo: Gabriele Galimberti/INSTITUTE
There are few pleasures more universal for children around the world than the joy of a new toy. But what those toys are, and how their owners play with them, varies as much as the cultures and communities they come from.

Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti began exploring the world of play when he set out on a two-year, 58-country tour of the world to document the phenomenon of "couch surfing" for an Italian magazine. Along the way, he started photographing his hosts' children.

"The first photo that I took was the daughter of one of my best friends in Tuscany. My friend asked me to photograph her child, so I went to their house, and she was playing with the cows. I really loved the result of that photo, and some months later, when I had the opportunity to start my trip around the world, I decided to take the same kind of photo in every country that I was going to visit."

Toy Stories, the resulting photo essay, took Galimberti to Kalulushi, a village in rural Zambia, where he met Maudy Sibanda, a 3-year-old with bare feet, a bright-yellow sundress, and a big smile. "It's a place where there is almost nothing: no electricity, no running water, and of course no toy stores! I was lucky enough to arrive in that village a couple of days after Maudy had found a box full of sunglasses on the ground along the main road. Her mother told me maybe they had fallen from a truck. All of the children of the village were playing with these glasses!" the photographer told Refinery29.

To date, Maudy's portrait remains one Galimberti's favorites. Ahead, he shares more of his stunning photos and the stories behind them with Refinery29.

Editor's note: Captions
were provided by Galimberti. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Caption: Maudy was born in a hut in a small village close to the Zambian town of Kalulushi. She grew up playing on the street. There are no shops, restaurants, or hotels, and just a few children are lucky to have some toys. Maudy and her friends found a box full of sunglasses on the street, and from that moment, the sunglasses became their favorite toys.
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Photo: Gabriele Galimberti/INSTITUTE
Alessia Pellegrini, 5
Tuscany, Italy

"Alessia was born and raised in the country. Her family owns one of the largest farms in the region, and Alessia loves to play with animals and help her grandfather with the farm work. With her small toy tools, she brings food to the cows."
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Photo: Gabriele Galimberti/INSTITUTE
Julia, 3
Tirana, Albania

"Julia, she lives in a small apartment in the center of the city, where her father works at a gas station and her mother is a homemaker. Both parents speak Italian, which they learned from watching Italian television, and hope one day their daughter will speak it, too. Julia loves dolls, especially Barbie. Her father recently gave her the small pink guitar because he would love for her to be a musician."
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Photo: Gabriele Galimberti/INSTITUTE
Pavel Denisov, 5
Kiev, Ukraine

"Pavel knows exactly what he wants to be when he grows up: a policeman. His younger brother is always under arrest — Pavel handcuffs him, questions him, and accuses him of stealing cars. Occasionally, he lets his brother be the policeman when friends come over. Obviously, those friends become the 'bad people,' and Pavel arrests them, too, he says."
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Photo: Gabriele Galimberti/INSTITUTE
Reanya Velaithan, 5

"Reanya was born in Kuala Lumpur but now lives in a big house in one of the many satellite cities near the Malaysian capital, an American-style suburb where her family and her uncle’s family share a house. Reanya's parents make sure she has lots of different types of toys, but it's the stuffed bears she loves the most."
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Photo: Gabriele Galimberti/INSTITUTE
Allenah Lajallab, 4
El Nido, the Philippines

"Allenah was born at home: There was no hospital in her town. She has lots of stuffed animals, but her favorite is the orange bear, she says, because she loves its color. The stuffed animal that she likes least is the white one. It gets dirty too easily."
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Photo: Gabriele Galimberti/INSTITUTE
Keynor Mazay, 3
Cahuita, Costa Rica

"Keynor lives 300 yards from the beach in Cahuita, on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Sometimes his mother lets him go swim with his older brother, Deynor. Keynor’s father, who has a passion for toy cars, has collected more than 200 of them. Every once in a while, he gives an old one to his son, adding to Keynor's personal collection."
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Photo: Gabriele Galimberti/INSTITUTE
Orly Garza, 6
Brownsville, Texas

"Orly was born in Brownsville to a Mexican mother and American father, but he's never been in Mexico, even though it's only two miles south of his house. His mother hopes he will never go there because, she says, it's too dangerous. Orly loves dinosaurs. He says they fly over his bed and protect him from ghosts and the Mexican people he thinks might kidnap him."
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Photo: Gabriele Galimberti/INSTITUTE
Arafa and Aisha Saleh Aman, 4
Bububu, Zanzibar

"Twin sisters Arafa and Aisha sleep in the same bed, wear the same clothes, go to the same school together, and share their toys. They live in a house with two rooms, both of which serve as bedrooms; the kitchen and bathroom are outside. The big photo above the closet is a portrait of the former president of Zanzibar, a semiautonomous region of Tanzania."
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Photo: Gabriele Galimberti/INSTITUTE
Botlhe Mohutsiwa, 4
Maun, Botswana

"Botlhe has a lot of friends in the residential complex where her family lives with 10 other families. Each toilet is shared by four households. Botlhe has only one toy, a stuffed monkey, but she says she almost never plays with it because she prefers to go out and play with her friends."
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Photo: Gabriele Galimberti/INSTITUTE
Cun Zi Yi, 3
Chongqing, China

"For her 3rd birthday, Zi Yi got lots of presents — so many that she can't choose a favorite. Her parents say she's really good at painting and will be an artist when she grows up."
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Photo: Gabriele Galimberti/INSTITUTE
Watcharapon Chookaew, 3

"Watcharapon loves motorcycles. Every morning, his father puts on his helmet, goes out to the street where he keeps his scooter, and drives to work. Watcharapon loves to imitate his dad. He puts on the helmet at home, then plays with his miniature toy motorbikes."
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Photo: Gabriele Galimberti/INSTITUTE
Shaira Vachani, 6
Mumbai, India

"Shaira spent the first three years of her life in New York City, so English is her first language, but she has learned a few words of Hindi from her babysitter. From the windows of her bedroom on the 18th floor of a new building, she can see almost the whole city."
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Photo: Gabriele Galimberti/INSTITUTE
Stella Pantini, 4
Italy and Australia

"Stella, the daughter of an Italian father and an Australian mother, lives in the countryside outside a small city in Tuscany. Although she loves to play with her dolls and dress them as princesses — and to dress up like a princess herself — her favorite toy is the small pink pig behind her."
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Photo: Gabriele Galimberti/INSTITUTE
Shotaro Tamaka, 5

"Baseball-obsessed Shotaro collects bats, balls, and gloves."