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A Brief History of Toys
Toys have been around for a very, very long time. If one only considers a toy to be something that a child plays with, then they have probably been around for as long as human kind itself. Before there was anything that carried the label of “toy”, children would have amused themselves by throwing rocks or banging sticks against things, thereby creating their own toys.
The birth of modern toys, as far as we can tell, comes from Babylon around 4000 B.C. Most likely the ancestor of games such as checkers and chess, this toy most resembles board games of our time. In 3000 B.C., a Sumerian game appeared that seems very similar to Backgammon, and in 2000 B.C., Egyptians seemed to have started playing an ancient version of checkers. In 1000 B.C., the Greeks invented the stone yo-yo and the first kites appeared in China, although some version of something that flew in the sky was probably played with since before history was recorded.
By 300 B.C., toys were beginning to become more complex with the help of the wheel. Ancient Greek children played with toys shaped like horses on wheels, the inspiration behind the notorious Trojan Horse, and in 200 A.D., Scandinavians were skating on iron skates.
Around 600, the ancestor of chess appeared, though the roles of the pieces were not standardized until the 15th century. 969 saw the invention of playing cards in Asia, and in 1686 the first doll houses began appearing in Europe, though they were not intended for use by children, but rather by well-to-do ladies.
The 1800's saw the emergence of playgrounds in American cities and toy stores in Germany along with kaleidoscopes, BB guns, and speaking dolls. In 1901 the first toy train was invented as an “animated advertisement”, though customers were more interested in the train than that which it advertised.
In the early 1900's, Crayola crayons were invented as well as Lincoln Logs, and Mickey Mouse was the first animated character to be further popularized by a stuffed doll likeness. In 1950, Silly Putty was introduced, and in 1960 the first Etch-A-Sketch was sold.
1972 saw the first video game, created by Magnavox and dubbed the Odyssey, and in 1973 Dungeons & Dragons was invented. Star Wars action figures set a precedent for video games and toys being based on popular movies in 1977 by totally dominating the action figure market upon their release.
Since the 70's, video games have increased exponentially in popularity, various other dolls have been released for either playing with or collecting, and the small toy shop has largely been replaced by specialized websites, but toys continue to innovate and entertain both children and adults alike.