The history of toys
Children will play with almost anything they can find, and that has always been the case.
It was only towards the end of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century that mass production made toys widely available to all, including the poor. In poorer families the children usually had to help in the home or on the land, so toys would have been a rare luxury.
However, purpose made toys have been around for a long time. The oldest toy doll found is over 4,000 years old.
A game similar to backgammon was played one thousand years before that, although that may have been for adults.
In ancient Egypt, children played with toy animals with moving parts, as well as toy soldiers, spinning tops and marbles.
The ancient Greeks played ball games with inflated pig’s bladders. They also had kites. Before marriage, the girls would give up their toys, usually in a temple, as a symbol of their transition to adulthood.
Ball games were also popular with Roman children. During this time, board games also became popular.
The first dolls house that we know of was from Germany in the sixteenth century.
During the enlightenment of the eighteenth century, the view emerged that children should be able to enjoy their childhood, and toys started to be thought of as a means of education and developing skills. The rocking horse was invented for the potential horsemen of the next generation. Jigsaws also date from this time, as do roller skates. Board games were also very popular with the children of the well to do.
In the nineteenth century toys with an educational or religious value were encouraged. Puzzles, books, card games, crayons and alphabet blocks were among the toys provided for nineteenth century children.
Industrialisation and mass production meant that toys slowly became affordable to all sections of society. The growth of the modern toy industry accelerated in the early twentieth century, when model railways began to appear, and by the middle of the century plastic toys were being produced.
As the computer age approached, the use of computers for playing games happened very early on. In 1950 at the Canadian National Exhibition a computer game was displayed, powered by a computer that was 13 feet tall!
A little over 20 years later video games were featured in archades and the first home consoles were introduced.