The origin of toys is prehistoric. Archaeological sites reveal dolls that represent infants and animals. Toys excavated from the Indus valley civilization (3000-1500 B.C.) include carts, whistles shaped like birds, and toy monkeys, which could slide down a string. The origin of the word "toy" is unknown, but may date back to the 14th century.
A toy is any object that can be used for play. Children have been known to play with whatever they can find, turning such things as pine cones, rocks and food into toys.
Thousands of years ago, Egyptian children played with dolls that had wigs and movable limbs, which were made from pottery, wood and stone. "In Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, children played with dolls made of wax or terracotta, sticks, bows and arrows, and yo-yos. When Greek children, especially girls, came of age it was customary for them to sacrifice the toys of their childhood to the gods. On the eve of their wedding, young girls around 14 would offer dolls in a temple as a rite of passage into adulthood."
As civilization progressed, toys also changed. Ancient toys were made from materials found in nature; modern toys were made from plastic, cloth and synthetic materials. Ancient toys were usually made by parents or by the children themselves, whereas modern toys are usually mass-produced and sold in stores.
Early toys were often intended to have a dual purpose, that to educate and also entertain. Some toys show how childhood was seen as a preparation for adulthood, especially gender related. Girls were taught domestic skills. A toy kitchen range was heated by paraffin instead of coal and interestingly enough, it was not considered dangerous to play with - that is under close parental supervision. Dolls were very appropriate toys for girls in preparation for motherhood.
During the 15th and 16th centuries dolls were made of wood or clay. The wood dolls were called stump dolls as they were carved from blocks of wood. Some wooden dolls had no arms, thus representing babies in swaddling bands. During the 18th century jointed wooden dolls, known as Peg Woodens, had jointed limbs and they were made in different sizes and were elaborately dressed. Then during the late 18th century and until the beginning of the 20th century wax was also used for making dolls. In the 1830s Germany started making porcelain doll heads. Rubber dolls became popular in the 1850s and 1860s because of the vulcanization process that made rubber stronger and more resistant to heat and cold. Man-made, chemically produced materials or plastic was developed in the late 19th century. But the early celluloid dolls were found to be very dangerous as they caught fire if placed too close to a flame. Then by the 1940s safer plastics such as vinyl were used. The use of soft plastics in the 1960s meant that hair could be rooted into the dolls' heads. Barbie dolls were first produced in 1959 and Sindy was produced in 1963.
But since then the faces and figures have changed of both these dolls.
Boys were taught different skills to be learned and used in adult life. "Boys were often given toys to foster scientific enquiry. Construction and tool kits were designed to encourage an interest in engineering. Military toys, such as forts and lead soldiers, were very popular in the 19th century. Toys that were intended for both boys and girls included beautifully carved rocking horses and Noah's Arks.
Children's games have been played for centuries all around the world. Ludo, a board game was originally known as Pachisi, and has been played in India since the 4th century AD. Chess may have originated in China in the 2nd century BC, and Mencala has been played in Africa for 3,500 years. The earliest board game invented in Western Europe is believed to be "The Game of the Goose" a race game known to have existed in Italy in the 16th century.
Source: More Information from the Past V&A Museum of Childhood.
(Continued next week)