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Toy, plaything, is usually for an infant or child, and often an instrument used in a game. Toys, playthings, and games survive from the most remote past and from a great variety of cultures. The ball, kite, and yo-yo are assumed to be the oldest objects specifically designed as toys. Toys vary from the simplest to the most complex things, from the stick selected by a child and imagined to be a hobbyhorse to sophisticated and complex mechanical devices. Coordination and other manual skills develop from cumulative childhood experiences received by manipulating toys such as marbles, jackstones, and other objects that require the use of hands and bodies. Mental agility, beginning in childhood, is challenged by puzzles.

History of toys 

Objects with human and animal forms that may have been toys have been found in deposits from ancient Sumer dating to 2600 BC. The earliest-known written historical mention of a toy comes from about 500 BC in a Greek reference to yo-yos made from wood, metal, or painted terra-cotta. It is believed, however, that the yo-yo originated in China at a much earlier date. In addition, the kite, still a popular plaything in China, existed as a toy there at least as early as 1000 BC. In India, clay animal-figures on wheels and other animal toys date to about 2500 BC. Later, brass and bronze horses and elephants were common playthings among Indian children from wealthy families.

Play with toys follows two main directions: imitative and instructive. The earliest types of play probably developed from the instinct for self-preservation. In many human cultures one of the first things taught to the young was the use of weapons, and the simple stick or club was the prototype of later military instruments of play, such as swords and guns. Most games and sports requiring physical action derived from practice of the skills used in warfare and hunting; nevertheless, the instruments of the game or sport, such as the small bow and arrow given to a boy in ancient Rome for training, were regarded not as toys but as weapons. By the Middle Ages, war-related objects—such as miniature soldiers and weapons—were considered to be toys, however. In modern times the latest developments in warfare are represented among contemporary toys, as are those weapons and war machines fantasized in science fiction and motion pictures.

One of the most ancient toys for adults and children is the ball, which was used in both sacred and secular games. Other forms of toys also probably derive from magical artifacts and fetishes that played a prominent part in primitive religions. Even today, during the Mexican festival of the Day of the Dead, sugar is formed into elaborate and beautiful skulls, tombs, and angels; many of these forms are essentially religious symbols, but in the hands of children they become toys that are played with and finally eaten. Christmas-tree decorations, Easter eggs, and the Neapolitan presepio (crèche), with its wealth of elaborate figures representing the birth of Jesus, are other obvious examples of toys of religious origin.

  • kachina dolls 

A modern relic of early culture, the kachina doll of the Pueblo Indians, while essentially an instructive sacred object, is played with by children as a means to learn the myths of their culture. In fact, the doll is perhaps the most ancient and basic toy. Every epoch and culture has provided its children with miniature versions of human beings. Dolls from early Roman times and from Christian Rome have been found preserved in the graves of their young owners. The collections of the British Museum and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto both contain early Roman dolls; made of linen and stuffed with papyrus, these dolls date from the 3rd century BC. 

  • Toy walking horse 

Moving toys include a wider variety of types of objects. It is probable that many experiments with basic physical principles were first realized in the form of moving toys known through literary description. Explosive toy weapons and rockets developed from the early use of gunpowder for fireworks by the Chinese. Balance and counterbalance, the wheel, the swing, the pendulum, flight, centrifugal force, magnetism, the spring, and a multitude of other devices and principles have been utilised in toys.

Many moving toys are centuries old. In India several kinds of movable folk toys are still common throughout the country—such as clay elephants that “drink” water and acrobatic dolls on sticks. At the other end of the spectrum, modern technological developments made possible the production of such sophisticated moving toys as scale-model electric railroad trains and automobile racing tracks and cars, radio-controlled model aircraft and wheeled vehicles, and dolls that walk, talk, and perform other stunts. New toy technology also allows children to design, build, and program robots employing special sensors, motors, and microcomputers.

In contrast, indigenous materials are often used by children to fashion folk toys. For example, Huli children in Papua New Guinea make pu abu, a whirling toy created from a flat piece of wood with a hole in the end to which the child ties a piece of string or grass so that the toy can be whirled around to produce a humming noise. (Similar toys are known as bull roarers in other parts of the world.) Many dolls, especially early dolls, were made of materials commonly at hand, such as a block of wood, remains of cloth, or pieces of corn husk.

Under the pressure of industrialization, folk culture and tradition are rapidly disappearing, but in many countries a variety of folk or homemade toys can still be found. Toys sold in developed countries are usually mass-produced and often manufactured in developing countries, with technology providing their locomotion and other actions. However, in spite of Western commodification, toys often reflect the child’s cultural environment. For example, in eastern India common toys include clay monkeys that climb up a string, paper snakes fastened to wood, and rattles created from gourds with pebbles inside.

  • Playing with dolls 

It is generally accepted that children are attracted to toys along gender lines. Modern studies demonstrate that while boys consistently choose trucks or soldiers, girls’ choices are more flexible and may include so-called masculine toys as well as baby dolls and household objects. Some of this preference is related to parental beliefs about the appropriateness of certain toys for boys and girls. In a 1970s study conducted in Taiwan, boys preferred electrical toys, then playground slides and swings, tricycles, toy guns, and kites, in that order. Girls, on the other hand, chose playground slides and swings first, then kites and such activities as paper folding, singing, and playing house. In a 1990 study, also done in Taiwan, researchers noted that in 150 randomly selected toy commercials, very few doll advertisements depicted boys and girls playing together, except for a few involving stuffed animals.

During the first two years of life, children absorb information about gender-appropriate toys. This starts with the different types of toys bought for boys and girls. Some parental influence on children’s toy choices is more subtle. For example, when girls play with dolls, parents are typically not even aware as they nod and smile at them, whereas parents are apt to make nonverbal, if not overt, negative reactions when boys play with dolls. In strict gender-segregated societies in Africa, boys may help girls make dolls by gathering the materials for them, but they would be strongly discouraged from playing with dolls themselves. Instead, the boys use the same gathered materials to create vehicles, military men, or toy weapons for their own playthings. Most researchers in Western societies generally agree that boys prefer toy guns and other toys linked to aggression, whereas girls prefer to play with dolls and household objects. American psychologist Jeffrey Goldstein has asserted, “These preferences develop early and appear to have biological as well as social origins. Of the latter, modeling by peers and parents seems to be especially potent.”

The Importance Of Toys In A Child’s Development:

There is ample evidence that toy play is a very important aspect of child development. Children of all ages enjoy playing with toys and the different roles they play in their fantasy and make-believe games, but toys are more than simple playthings. Studies have shown that children learn through every part of their body, and many toys offer hands on learning opportunities that can instill basic skills that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

Did you have a favourite toy when you were a child? It went everywhere with you, and you loved it more than anything else. That was because that toy was crucial to your development as you were growing up. Toys are accepted as commonplace in households with children, but they’re more than entertainment. They’re actually important for the child’s development.

Why Are Toys So Important? 

Firstly, let’s look at why toys are so important for your child. At first glance, toys are simply there as a form of entertainment for them. The reality, is they are so much. When your child is just a month old, they can start using toys to help understand the world around them. When they play, they’re building skills that are crucial for good development.

It’s important to remember that a toy isn’t just something that’s specifically sold as such. A toy can be anything, from a set of keys to a cup or even an empty toilet paper tube. A toy can also be a creative tool. Items like paint, play and pencils are all toys that help a child understand the world.

When you think about toys, you’ll think about something they play with in their spare time. In fact, they’re learning through their toys. Giving them a jigsaw puzzle helps them recognise patterns, and get their brains working to figure the puzzle out. Even younger children will get a lesson in physics, when a building block tower falls over.

Even before your child sets food in the classroom, they’ll be learning through their toys. If you’re giving them access to plenty of toys, then they’ll be able to start learning from a very young age.

  • How Toys Affect Development 

‘It’s amazing how many ways your child grows, just through play’ says health writer Bridget Harrison from Nextcoursework and PhD Kingdom. ‘Every time they play, they’re developing a whole range of skills they need to develop.’ Here’s how the toys your child plays with affects their development.

  • Improve Creative Thinking

When your child is given a set of toys like building blocks, pretend food or dolls, they will use these to create narratives as they play. The toy becomes more than what it actually is. The blocks become a castle, the food is part of a pretend restaurant, and the dolls become a family just like the one the child lives in.

When they’re doing this, they’re working to make sense of the world around them. It also helps them see things mote broadly. Being able to come up with scenarios like this is important, as later in life they’ll need to be able to imagine scenarios. Being able to think outside of that box is vital.

Most children will play creatively with anything that’s on hand, too. Have you ever given your child an empty box to play with? That box could be anything, from a blank canvas for their drawings to a rocket ship. Having items like this also helps them to develop their creativity.

  • Develop Motor Skills

Whenever a child is manipulating a toy, they’re developing their motor skills. Let’s take dolls as an example. Children will be developing skills as soon as they are handed a doll, as they can be easily held and carried. They’re often designed to be moved into certain positions, so the child will need to manipulate them to do so. They’ll also develop their skills through playing with the dolls’ clothing. As they use velcro strip, buttons or zippers, they’ll get practice with fine motor skills.

There are plenty of toys that help children develop gross motor skills, too. You can give them a pogo stick to jump on, or a ball to kick and throw around. When they’re given the ability to master these tasks, they’ll be developing those skills.

  • Emotional Maturity 

As well as physical skills, children need to be able to emotionally mature in a safe environment. Toys are the perfect tool to help them do that. Think back to your own childhood. When you had a favourite toy, did you sleep with it at night? Did you ever bring it with you to a scary situation, like a doctor’s appointment? You probably did so, as these toys were how you interacted with your feelings.

When a child has a favourite toy, they are practising bonding in a healthy way. When you play with them, it in turn helps them bond with you. It helps them create great childhood memories, and create great futures for them as they could fully experience childhood.

  • Cognitive Development

When your child goes to school, they’ll start learning about important skills like maths and language. Even before they get to school though, they’ll be learning them through their toys. As mentioned earlier, every time they play they’re learning how the world works.

Different toys will teach your child different cognitive skills. For example, a board game helps them develop concentration and memory, while building blocks help with problem-solving. Having access to these toys helps them develop these skills before they ever go to school.

  • Social Skill Building

As a parent, you want your child to be able to make friends and interact with others in a healthy way. When they play with toys, they’re learning to do just that. They help children interact with you at first, and then with other children around them.

When they play with another child, they’ll develop skills in sharing, respect, and cooperation. These are all essential skills for later life, so you’ll be setting them up for success in the future. 

The Best Toys For Every Age 

 Toys have an incredible impact on children, in so many different ways. If you want them to get the most from their play, you’ll need to ensure they have the right toys for their age. Here’s what you can provide your child at every age, to help them learn skills in an age appropriate way.

  • 1 To 12 Months Old

When your child is very young, they’ll get the most out of toys that help stimulate their senses. Anything that they can manipulate to make a sound, or feel different textures on, will be great here. As they get more active, you can introduce more toys that will teach them cause and effect. For example, if they press a key on a toy, it will make a sound. Toys like soothers, stacking blocks, crawl around play centres and more are perfect here.

  • 12 To 24 Months Old

As your child becomes more mobile, you’ll want to bring in toys that help improve balance skills. Stride and ride toys and push cars are perfect here, as they’ll help your child improve their balance as they’re having fun. Themed sets are good here too, to help them improve recognition skills.

  • 2 Years And Up

At this point, your child can start expanding on the toys they have, and the skills they can learn. For example, physical play toys are perfect for introducing motor skills into play. A tricycle, for example, works here. When you introduce these toys, you can also introduce safety. Give them a helmet with the tricycle, and they’ll learn they can only play on it if they’re wearing the helmet.

Now’s the time to introduce cognitive skill building toys, too. These are especially helpful as your child is getting ready for school. If you can introduce some basic concepts here, they’ll recognise them when they come across them in the class room.

Toys that help children with writing are always a winner. Kinetic sand and drawing easels will help children understand the concept of making shapes and letters, and they can of course practice their own name with them.

Games and books are also important here, when it comes to literacy. A book about a cat, for example, will help your child associate the picture of the cat, with the word ‘cat’. They’ll also become more familiar with books and how words look on a page, so you can set them up for learning to read.

Choosing The Right Toys

It is an amazing fact that toys can improve your child’s development, to a great extent and you’ll need to pick out the right toys for them. That’s going to feel rather overwhelming for you, when there’s so much choice out there. How do you find the right toys for your child?

‘Remember that toys aren’t always what you find in the store’ says educator Daniel Peters from Brit Student and Origin writings. ‘A child will happily play with anything, and will do when there’s nothing else available.’ Don’t be afraid to give you child non toy items to explore. For example, when a baby is young they’ll be fascinated by your house keys. They make a jangling noise when played with, and of course there’s lots of textures to explore.  

The empty box is a classic non toy ‘toy’, as a child can do almost anything with it. Give them other items too, that can expand their creativity. You can use household items in creating art work, such as empty toilet paper rolls, and the classic macaroni on paper. If you give them anything like this, ensure the materials are safe and age appropriate for them.

As for regular toys, remember that quality is key, rather than quantity. A child may have lots of toys, but you’ll hear from them that they’re bored, or that they’re dealing with a lot of emotions during play time. That’s a sign that they’re overwhelmed by the toys they have. As you’ve seen, children will develop emotional attachments to the toys that they have. If there’s too many, then they can’t do that.

To stop this happening, pare down the amount of toys they have. You can help them develop attachments to the toys they have, and you’ll stop toys from cluttering up the space you have.

When choosing toys, use the age recommendations as a guide. These will help you see if the toy is appropriate and safe for your child to play with. Plus, they’ll be designed to help your child develop skills that are right for their age, too.

Finally, take the lead from your child. Of course you won’t pick up everything they want in the toy shop, but you will be able to see what draws them in. If they have a favourite character, there’s probably a whole range of toys that will suit their needs.

As you’ve seen, playing with toys is actually crucial to a child’s development. When they’re able to play with the right toys, they can develop all kinds of skills that will set them up for later life. Find the right toys, and your child will be off to a flying start.

The best toys for your child are those that they can develop an attachment with. It means that the child has the potential to continue to play with their wooden toys as they grow into childhood and adolescence. This enables the parents to spend time with their children, watching them play and progress. Wooden toys are attractive, good-quality and will last a long time. So choosing wooden toys for your baby or child is a good investment. Wooden toys are a perfect fit for any family and are an excellent choice for shower watching when you’re buying new toys for your child!


Toys can help children bond with each other and with adults of all ages. Toys also nurture a child's cognitive development during childhood years. Toys can stimulate their concentration levels and improve their attention span and memory.

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