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A toy is an object used in play. Toys are usually associated with children and pets, but it is not unusual for adult humans and some non-domestic animals to play with toys. Many items are manufactured to serve as toys, but goods, or (game-centric) services produced for other purposes can also be used as toys. A child may pick up a household item and 'fly' it around pretending that it is an airplane, or an animal might play with a pinecone by batting at it, biting it, chasing it, or by throwing it up in the air. Some toys are produced primarily as collector's items and are not intended to be played with.

The origin of toys is prehistoric; dolls representing infants, animals, and soldiers, as well as representations of tools used by adults are readily found at archaeological sites. The origin of the word "toy" is unknown, but it is believed that it was first used in the 14th century.

Toys, and play in general, are important when it comes to growing up and learning about the world around us. The young use toys and play to discover their identity, help their bodies grow strong, learn cause and effect, explore relationships, and practice skills they will need as adults. Adults use toys and play to form and strengthen social bonds, teach, remember and reinforce lessons from their youth, discover their identity, exercise their minds and bodies, explore relationships, practice skills, and decorate their living spaces.

Toys are more than simple amusement, they and the ways that they are used profoundly influence many aspects of life.


History

Most young mammals have been observed to play with whatever they can find, turning such things as pinecones, rock, and food into toys. Toys and games have been unearthed from the sites of ancient civilizations. They have been written about in some of our oldest literature. Toys excavated from the Indus valley civilization (3000-1500 BCE) include small carts, whistles shaped like birds, and toy monkeys which could slide down a string.

The earliest toys were made from materials found in nature, such as rocks, sticks, and clay. Thousands of years ago, Egyptian children played with dolls that had wigs and movable limbs which were made from stone, pottery, and wood. 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 fourteen would offer their dolls in a temple as a rite of passage into adulthood.
As technology changed and civilization progressed, toys also changed. Whereas ancient toys were made from materials found in nature like stone, wood, and grass modern toys are often made from plastic, cloth, and synthetic materials. Ancient toys were often made by the parents and family of the children who used them, or by the children themselves. Modern toys, in contrast, are often mass-produced and sold in stores.

This change in the nature of toys is exemplified by the changes that have taken place in one of the oldest and most universal of human toys; dolls. The earliest and most primitive dolls were simple wooden carvings and bundles of grass. Egyptian dolls were sometimes jointed so that their limbs could move realistically. By the early 1800s there were dolls that could say "mama". Today there are dolls that can recognize and identify objects, the voice of their owner, and choose among hundreds of pre-programed phrases with which to respond. The materials that toys are made from have changed, what toys can do has changed, but the fact that children play with toys has not changed.

Child development

Toys, like play itself, serve multiple purposes in both humans and animals. They provide entertainment while fulfilling an educational role. Toys enhance cognitive behavior and stimulate creativity. They aid in the development of physical and mental skills which are necessary in later life.

One of the simplest toys, a set of simple wooden blocks is also one of the best toys for developing minds. Andrew Witkin, director of marketing for Mega Brands told Investor's Business Daily that, "They help develop hand-eye coordination, math and science skills and also let kids be creative." Other toys like Marbles, jackstones, and balls serve similar functions in child development, allowing children to use their minds and bodies to learn about spatial relationships, cause and effect, and a wide range of other skills as well as those mentioned by Mr. Witkin.

One example of the dramatic ways that toys can influence child development involves clay sculpting toys such as Play-Doh and Silly Putty and their home-made counterparts. Mary Ucci, Educational Director of the Child Study Center of Wellesley College, demonstrates how such toys positively impact the physical development, cognitive development, emotional development, and social development of children.

Toys for infants often make use of distinctive sounds, bright colors, and unique texture. Through play with toys infants begin to recognize shapes and colors. Repetition reinforces memory. Play-Doh, Silly Putty and other hands-on materials allow the child to make toys of their own.

Educational toys for school age children of often contain a puzzle, problem-solving technique, or mathematical proposition. Often toys designed for older audiences, such as teenagers or adults demonstrate advanced concepts. Newton's cradle, a desk toy designed by Simon Prebble, demonstrates the conservation of momentum and energy.

Not all toys are appropriate for all ages of children. Some toys which are marketed for a specific age range can even harm the development of children in that range.

Gender



Certain toys, such as Barbie dolls and toy soldiers, are often perceived as being more acceptable for one gender than the other. It has been noted by researchers that, "Children as young as 18 months display sex-stereotyped toy choices".

Playing with toys stereotyped for the opposite gender sometimes results in negative consequences from parents or fellow children. In recent years , mainly in western countries , it has been looked down upon for males to play with toys that were originally stereotyped as being "for girls". However, it is generally not looked down upon for females to play with toys designed "for boys", an activity which has also become more common in recent years.

Economics

With toys comprising such a large and important part of human existence, it makes sense that the toy industry would have a substantial economic impact. Sales of toys often increase around holidays where gift-giving is a tradition. Some of these holidays include Christmas, Easter, Saint Nicholas Day and Three Kings Day.

In 2005, toy sales in the United States totaled about $22.9 billion. Money spent on children between the ages of 8 and twelve alone totals approximately $221 billion annually in the U.S.

Toy makers change and adapt their toys to meet the changing demands of children thereby gaining a larger share of the substantial market. In recent years many toys have become more complicated with flashing lights and sounds in an effort to appeal to children raised around television and the internet. According to Mattel's president, Neil Friedman, "Innovation is key in the toy industry and to succeed one must create a 'wow' moment for kids by designing toys that have fun, innovative features and include new technologies and engaging content."

In an effort to reduce costs, many mass-producers of toys locate their factories in areas where wages are lower. 75% of all toys sold in the U.S., for example, are manufactured in Chinamarker. Issues and events such as power outages, supply of raw materials, supply of labor, and raising wages that impact areas where factories are located often have an enormous impact on the toy industry in importing countries.

Many traditional toy makers have been losing sales to video game makers for years. Because of this, some traditional toy makers have entered the field of electronic games and are enhancing the brands that they have by introducing interactive extensions or internet connectivity to their current toys.

Types

Construction sets

The Greek philosopher Plato wrote that the future architect should play at building houses as a child. A construction set is a collection of separate pieces that can be joined together to create model. Popular models to make include cars, spaceship, and houses. The things that are built are sometimes used as toys once completed, but generally speaking, the object is to build things of one's own design, and old models often are broken up and the pieces reused in new models.

The oldest and, perhaps most common construction toy is a set of simple wooden blocks, which are often painted in bright colors and given to babies and toddlers. Construction sets such as Lego bricks and Lincoln Logs are designed for slightly older children and have been quite popular in the last century.Construction sets appeal to children (and adults) who like to work with their hands, puzzle solvers, and imaginative sorts.

Some other examples include Bayko, Konstruk-Tubes, K'NEX, Erector Sets, Tinkertoys, and Meccano.

Dolls, animals, and miniatures

A doll is a model of a human (often a baby), a humanoid (like Bert and Ernie), or an animal. Modern dolls are often made of cloth or plastic. Other materials that are, or have been, used in the manufacture of dolls include cornhusks, bone, stone, wood, porcelain (sometimes called china), bisque, celluloid, wax, and even apples. Often people will make dolls out of whatever materials are available to them.

Sometimes intended as decorations, keepsakes, or collectibles for older children and adults, most dolls are intended as toys for children, usually girls, to play with. Dolls have been found in Egyptian tombsmarker which date to as early as 2000 BC.

Dolls are usually miniatures, but baby dolls may be of true size and weight. A doll or stuffed animal of soft material is sometimes called a plush toy or plushie. A popular toy of this type is the Teddy Bear.

A distinction is often made between dolls and action figures, which are generally of plastic or semi-metallic construction and poseable to some extent, and often are merchandising from television shows or films which feature the characters. Modern action figures, such as Action Man, are often marketed towards boys, whereas dolls are often marketed towards girls.

Toy soldiers, perhaps a precursor to modern action figures, have been a popular toy for centuries. They allow children to act out battles, often with toy military equipment and a castle or fort. Miniature animal figures are also widespread, with children perhaps acting out farm activities with animals and equipment centered around a toy farm.

Vehicles

Children have played with miniature versions of vehicles since ancient times, with toy two-wheeled carts being depicted on ancient Greek vases. Wind-up toys have also played a part in the advancement of toy vehicles. Modern equivalents include toy car such as those produced by Matchbox or Hot Wheels, miniature aircraft, toy boats, military vehicles, and train. Examples of the latter range from wooden sets for younger children such as BRIO complicated realistic train models like those produced by Lionel and Hornby. Larger die-cast vehicles, 1:18 scale, have become popular toys; these vehicles are produced with a great attention to detail.

Puzzles

A puzzle is a problem or enigma that challenges ingenuity. Solutions to puzzle may require recognizing patterns and creating a particular order. People with a high inductive reasoning aptitude may be better at solving these puzzles than others. Puzzles based on the process of inquiry and discovery to complete may be solved faster by those with good deduction skills.

The history of puzzles goes back many thousands of years.

There are many different types of puzzles, for example a maze is a type of tour puzzle. Other categories include; construction puzzles, stick puzzles, tiling puzzles, transport puzzles, disentanglement puzzles, sliding puzzles, logic puzzles, picture puzzles, lock puzzles and mechanical puzzles.

History of mechanical puzzles

The oldest known mechanical puzzle comes from Greecemarker and appeared in the 3rd century BC.The game consists of a square divided into 14 parts, and the aim was to create different shapes from these pieces. In Iranmarker “puzzle-locks” were made as early as the 17th century AD. In 1742 Japanmarker there is a mention of a game called “Sei Shona-gon Chie No-Ita” in a book. Around the year 1800 the Tangram puzzle from Chinamarker became popular, and 20 years later it had spread through Europe and America. The company Richter from Rudolstadtmarker began producing large amounts of Tangram-like puzzles of different shapes, the so-called “Anker-puzzles”.

Puzzles were greatly fashionable towards the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The first patents for puzzles were recorded at this time. In 1893 professor Hoffman wrote a book called “Puzzles Old and New”. It contained, amongst other things, more than 40 descriptions of puzzles with secret opening mechanisms. This book grew into a reference work for puzzle games and modern copies exist for those interested.

With the invention of materials easy to shape such as plastic, the range of puzzle possibilities grew. Rubik's Cube, arguably the most famous puzzle worldwide, would not be possible without modern polymers.

Physical activity

A great many toys are part of active play. These include traditional toys such as hoop, tops, jump ropes and balls, as well as more modern toys like Frisbees, foot bags (also known as Hacky Sacks), astrojax, Myachi, and the yo-yo.

Playing with these sorts of toys allows children to exercise, building strong bones and muscles and aiding in physical fitness. Throwing and catching balls and frisbees can improve hand-eye coordination. Jumping rope, (also known as skipping) and playing with foot bags can improve balance.

Collectibles

Some toys, such as Beanie Babies, attract large numbers of enthusiasts, eventually becoming collectibles. Other toys, such as Boyds Bears are marketed to adults as collectibles. Some people spend large sums of money in an effort to acquire larger and more complete collections. The record for a single Pez dispenser at auction, for example, is $1,100 U.S.

Promotional merchandise

Many successful films, television programs, books and sport teams have official merchandise, which often includes related toys. Some notable examples are Star Wars (a science fiction film series) and Manchester United, an English football club.

Promotional toys can fall into any of the other toy categories; for example they can be dolls or action figures based on the characters of movies or professional athletes, or they can be balls, yo-yos, and lunch boxes with logos on them. Sometimes they are given away for free as a form of advertising. Many food manufacturers will run promotions where a toy will be included with the main product as a sort of bonus. Some people go to great lengths to collect these sorts of promotional toys.

Invention

Some new toys and new types of toys are created by accidental innovation.After trying to create a replacement for synthetic rubber, Earl Warrick inadvertently invented "nutty putty" during World War II. Later, Peter Hodgson recognized the potential as a childhood plaything and packaged it as Silly Putty. Similarly, Play-Doh was created as a wallpaper cleaner.In 1943 Richard James was experimenting with torsion springs as part of his military research when he saw one come loose and fall to the floor. He was intrigued by the way it flopped around on the floor. He spent two years fine-tuning the design to find the best gauge of steel and coil; the result was the Slinky, which went on to sell in stores throughout the United Statesmarker.

Safety regulations

Many countries have passed safety standards limiting the types of toys that can be sold. Most of these seek to limit potential hazards, such as choking or fire hazards that could cause injury. Children, especially very small ones, often put toys into their mouths, so the materials used to make a toy are regulated to prevent poisoning. Materials are also regulated to prevent fire hazards. Children have not yet learned to judge what is safe and what is dangerous, and parents do not always think of all possible situations, so such warnings and regulations are important on toys.

There have also been issues of toy safety regarding lead paint. Some toy factories, when projects become too large for them to handle, outsource production to other less known factories, often in other countries. Recently, there were some in China that America had to send back. The subcontractors may not be watched as closely and sometimes use improper manufacturing methods. The U.S. government, along with mass market stores, is now moving towards requiring companies to submit their products to testing before they end up on shelves.

Disposal



When toys have been outgrown or are no longer wanted, reuse is sometimes considered. They can be donated via many charities such as Goodwill Industries and the Salvation Army, sold at garage sales, auctioned, sometimes even donated to museums. However, when toys are broken, worn out or otherwise unfit for use, care should be taken when disposing of them. Donated or resold toys should be gently used, clean and have all parts. Before disposal of any battery-operated toy, batteries should removed and recycled; some communities demand this be done. Some manufacturers, such as Little Tikes , will take back and recycle their products.

In 2007, massive recalls of toys produced in China led many U.S. based charities to cut back on, or even discontinue, their acceptance of used toys. Goodwill stopped accepting donations of any toys except stuffed animals, and other charities checked all toys against government-issued checklists.

The WEEE directive , which aims at increasing re-use and recycling and reducing electronic waste, applies to toys in the United Kingdom as of 2 January 2007.

See also



References

  1. Definition of "toy" from etymonline.com
  2. MrDonn.org - Daily Life in Ancient India, including the mysterious Indus Valley Civilization
  3. (Full-text on-line version requires login)
  4. Toys for Girls and Boys - The Canadian Toy Testing Council accessed 27 May 2007
  5. Karl Hils, The Toy - Its Value, Construction and Use, Edmund Ward Ltd., London, 1959.
  6. On the invention of silly putty, from web.mit.edu
  7. [1]
  8. Goodwill donation guidelines
  9. Information about the Weee Directive.


Further reading

  • Kline, Stephen. 1995. Out of the Garden: Toys, TV, and Children's Culture in the Age of Marketing. Verso Books; ISBN 1-85984-059-0.
  • Walsh, Tim. 2005. Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them. Andrews McMeel Publishing; ISBN 0-7407-5571-4.
  • Wulffson, Don L. Toys! Henry Holt and Company; ISBN 0-8050-6196-7



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