Thankfully, my parents and grandparents encouraged this sort of thing. At least until I went as far as getting into pounding heated nails into tiny swords for my GI Joes.
Dad drew the line at me becoming an eight-year-old blacksmith.
I harkened to the nameless students slaving away on Star Wars miniatures who eventually became the nucleus for Industrial Light & Magic and yearned to work alongside the master of creating wonder from foam and felt, the late great Jim Henson. And early on, I had a particular affection for Santa's elfin helpers as well.
Even those toys I did buy (or was given as gifts) eventually found their way under the tools. All of my favorite GI Joe and Star Wars characters and vehicles were custom paint jobs and crazy amalgamations made to suit my own fancy, characters in my own extended storylines.
This was a childhood custom-built for a future artist and author, I suppose.
As an adult, I transferred this into sculpture and artwork, but I always go back to the toys. I troll the junk drawer and the woodshop and the aisles of misfit toys that stock the shelves of thrift stores, looking for something neat, something overlooked, something broken. Sometimes I repair the toys on the spot and put them back on the shelf, sometimes I take them home and toss them in a box to be later turned into something entirely other.
Really these impulses are all extensions of the same brain frequency, the translation of a mental picture into a three-dimensional object. A sculpture is the same as a toy is the same as a table is the same as a novel. I've made props for renaissance faires and small theatrical productions, I've created elaborate costumes for science fiction conventions (especially Steampunk, naturally) and even had a blog for awhile on creating period costumes for men.
These things are my toys, as carefully crafted as any story I've ever written. Whether it's a story or a toy or a reproduction of a 15th century wheelbarrow, in the end what this is really about is making neat stuff.
And I like being the guy that makes neat stuff.