Oh boy, I remember the time when toy stores were a veritable fantasy land, a passage to another realm for my young-self. Nowadays it's' a totally different ballgame with computers and virtual reality ruling the scene.
A full blooded 90's kid, I got to see the rise and fall of the rainbow slinky, tamagotchi pet, magic dough and Gameboy, among others. At the time, I thought that getting a hula hoop with sand in it would be the highlight of my life (even though I didn't know how to whirl it).
When it comes to older generations, I recall my mother mentioning rags-stuffed faux footballs and rare porcelain dolls. However, I'm not sure what my nana's playthings were or how it all began with toy production. My inner curious cat was instantly awoken so I did a history research and here are my favourite bits. All aboard the toys time machine!
Back to the beginning
The first pieces date back to the ancient Sumerian period and involve toy-like items in human and animal shape. Still, the earliest records of actual toy mentions are connected with Greek civilisation and cover the reference to yo-yo in terra cotta, wooden and metal variety.
The yo-yo origins are in fact linked to China, a country that gave birth to a classic kite thousands of years ago. Simultaneously, Indian families amused their younglings with wheeled objects and animal figurines from clay.
The main division
The toy making streams followed either an instructive or an imitative design. The need for self-preservation was visible in the example of weaponry-inspired objects such as clubs or sticks, precursors of modern guns and firearm toy replicas.
Romans took an extreme step by giving the common arms-resembling toys a genuine practical dimension which stemmed from their predominantly war-packed lifestyle. This serious character of toys was dropped by the Middle Ages and tiny soldiers were objects of play again.
The balls that exist to this day were present from the start of toy history. They were often part of the magical primitive rites and later, religious ceremonies. Apart from this role, toys were also used as learning tools, and the kachina doll connected with Pueblo Indians is a nice illustration of it.
A doll is equally widespread and each era yielded their own toy version of human form. The moving playthings that exploited the current offer of mechanic tricks utilised inventions such as wheels, spring, pendulum and gunpowder (fireworks).
The nineteenth century
The Victorian epoch featured quite an array of interesting game objects, but sadly, a distinctive line was noticeable between the rich and the poor. With the rise of the English industrial revolution, factory made toys were a usual sighting. It ranged from train sets, jigsaw puzzles, and doll houses with adequate accessories to sailing boats and alphabet bricks. Many of these survived into the modern setting as well. Poorer household had to settle for homemade pieces which involved clothes peg dollies, skipping rope or sawdust-stuffed balls.
The twentieth century
- 1910: You may have not known, but teddy bears came into play as late as with the mandate of American president Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt who reportedly refused to shoot a defenceless animal while on a hunting trip. His compassionate act was soon immortalised in the form of iconic teddy bear toy.
- 1920: Children's book character Raggedy Ann made into the annals of this period, along with yo-yo's comeback.
- 1930: Scrabble and Monopoly are definite winners of this decade.
- 1940: The LEGOs, slinky and Silly Putty are not just part of my childhood, as they date far back to this decade.
- 1950: Popularly called the golden age of toys, the fifties earthed Barbie and Mr Potato Head (what a match!).
- 1960: This period prides in its G.I. Joes, Easy bake ovens and Etch-a-Sketch.
- 1970: Nerf gun and Star Wars action figures are a fun combination from the seventies.
- 1980: Transformers toys were IT in this period, as were Cabbage patch dolls.
- 1990: Finally my terrain, and my honourable mentions are Gameboy and fuzzy Furby.
The new millennium
The contemporary notion of toys has somewhat changed, as the technology is propelling the toy industry in the fantastic directions. However, the tactile playing has become obsolete in a manner, as gaming consoles and a wild selection of software games have created a virtual playground for the kids. However, many toy users are happy with action packed items similar to Davey Boys Toys, smart Japanese robots or Magic: The Gathering cards. Some classics like marbles or Frisbee remain as well.
If you're picking a toy for your child, try to diversify and allow them to experience the traditional and modern toys alike. After all, every era brings something new with it, and children and their gadgets are its main bearers.
Marie Nieves is a student and a blogger who loves unusual trips, gadgets and creative ideas. She is an avid lover of photography interested in interior and exterior design and regular author on several blogs. For her articles, she often consults decor specialists and home organisation experts. You can find Marie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter and G+.