Toys can influence a child’s senses, trigger their imaginations and inspire them to cooperate with others. As they grow up, toddlers can use toys to develop reasoning and discover cause and effect associations. Moreover, objects such as blocks and cubes assist them in strengthening their motor skills as well as hand-eye synchronization.
Essentially, toys and games have played a major role throughout history. They can be dated back thousands of years ago. They have been excavated by archaeologists from sites of ancient civilizations. The first toys built were made from materials found in nature, such as rocks, sticks, and clay. Egyptian children played with dolls that had wigs and movable limbs which were constructed from stone, pottery, and wood.
The origin of the word “toy” is unfamiliar, but it is believed that it was originally used in the 14th century. The oldest known doll toy is thought to be 4,000 years old. Toys exhumed from the Indus valley civilization (3010–1500 BCE) include small carts, whistles shaped like birds, and toy monkeys which could slide down a string.
In Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, children played with dolls made of wax or terracotta, sticks, bows, arrows and yo-yos. When Greek children, especially girls, came of age it was usual for them to sacrifice the toys of their childhood to the gods. On the eve of their wedding, young girls around fourteen would offer their dolls in a temple as a ritual of passage into adulthood.
The oldest known mechanical puzzle also derives from Greece and appeared in the 3rd century BC. The game comprised of a square separated into 14 parts. The objective was to generate various shapes from these pieces. In Iran “puzzle-locks” were produced as early as the 17th century (AD).
Toys became more prevalent with the changing behaviours towards children affected by the enlightenment. Children started to be regarded as people in and of themselves, as opposed to postponements of their home. They were considered as people who had the right to flourish and relish their childhood. The variety and number of toys that were produced during the 18th century steadily increased; John Spilsbury designed the first jigsaw puzzle in 1767 to aid children study geography. He created puzzles on eight subjects – the World, Europe, Asia, Africa, America, England and Wales, Ireland and Scotland. Additionally, the rocking horse was invented at the same time in England, particularly with the rich as it was considered to advance children’s poise for riding real horses.
The golden age of toy advancement was at the beginning of the 20th century. Wages were increasing in the Western world, giving the chance to even working-class families to afford toys for their children. Industrial methods of engineering and mass production were in a position to deliver the supply to meet this increasing demand. Furthermore, emphasis was placed on building a happy childhood and future child growth. William Harbutt, an English painter, developed plasticine in 1897, and in 1900 commercial production of the material as a children’s toy began. Frank Hornby was a visionary in toy improvement and manufacture. He invented and produced three of the most popular lines of toys based on engineering principles in the twentieth century: Meccano, Hornby Model Railways and Dinky Toys.