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In particular, Froebel put toys in the center of his program. "Things" were absolutely critical to proper development, he argued. After Froebel, toys were rarely far from discussions of educational play.

Source: Hamlin, D.: Work and Play: The Production and Consumption of Toys in Germany, 1870–1914 (Social History, Popular Culture, and Politics in Germany), p. 136.

What does the phrase rarely far from discussions mean in the above sentence? Can I paraphrase the meaning this way: After Froebel activity the toy became the part of discussions regarding educational play.

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    It means the topic of toys often arose in discussions of development. The subject of toys was rarely ignored in discussions of educational play. (But I think the idiom likes to have an article: "far from the discussion".)
    – TimR
    May 21, 2015 at 13:01
  • It's a somewhat unusual usage - Google Books records only the cited instance and one other, and even on the entire Internet there are only half-a-dozen instances of rarely far from discussions. And including the discussion(s) finds even less hits. But I suppose it counts as an "idiom" - modeled on the far more common [His ideas were] rarely far from the truth. May 21, 2015 at 13:45
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    @TRomano: Maybe it's just me, but I'd be inclined to think that if I'm told X is rarely far from discussions, that doesn't necessarily mean the matter of X is explicitly raised in discussions. Thus, Incest is rarely far from discussions about domestic abuse might well be taken to imply that many/all of the people involved in such discussions are intensely aware of the relevance of incest to their discussions, even if in fact no-one ever explicitly mentions it. (It's the "elephant in the room".) May 21, 2015 at 13:52
  • I had in mind the idioms: never far from the surface and never far from the minds and never far from the thoughts.
    – TimR
    May 21, 2015 at 14:19
  • As to its meaning here "never explicitly raised but an undercurrent or subtext"--that is certainly a possibility. That's what "never far from the surface" would mean. But "she was never far from his thoughts" means "he thought of her often".
    – TimR
    May 21, 2015 at 14:25

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If you try to find the exact phrase "rarely far from discussions", you're not going to find much. It's more common to talk about one discussion, and rather than saying 'rarely', people will say that something is "not far from the discussion".

Look for "not far from the discussion" and you'll get a lot more hits.

If something is not far from a discussion, it means that that idea is strongly related to the discussion, and could easily be brought up in such a discussion. Since it wouldn't take much to make the discussion in question be about the related idea, we say that the idea is "not far from the discussion". In other words, it's easy to get to the idea, so it is not far away.

I think your attempt at rephrasing the statement indicates you mostly understood it, but your attempt has some grammatical issues. Here's a similar rephrasing:

After Froebel, the toy was often part of any discussion regarding educational play.

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