History Of Toys And Games

History Of Toys And Games

Known from the beginning of recorded history and in virtually all parts of the world, toys are playthings often used in games. Although primarily for children they are also used for entertainment by adults and range in complexity from the simplest objects with no moving parts to sophisticated mechanical and electrical devices. Many toys of ancient cultures are exhibited in museums in their countries of origin.

It is known that boys played with toy soldiers and girls with dolls from 3000 BC, although few examples of these early toys have survived. Some small terracotta animals and men found at Rhodes have been dated to about 2000 BC. Egyptian baked-clay horses from 500 BC exist, as do similar toys in Greece from 400 BC. Most ancient dolls were made of wood, terracotta and fabric. Museum pieces date from 200 BC (Egypt), 500 BC (Corinth) and 500 AD (Greece). Another old toy is the ball. In addition many ancient objects whose original purpose is unknown are preserved in museums today and experts suspect that many of these may have been toys.

In general, toys during the Middle Ages were fairly simple, although the first mechanically powered toys were discussed in around AD 1000. The Industrial Revolution resulted in far more sophisticated methods of making toys and the toys themselves have greatly increased in complexity since then.


Throughout the ages play with toys has been imitative or instructive and sometimes both. The way children play with soldiers and dolls reflects the actions of adults in everyday society. Dolls’ houses, household utensils, medical kits, costumes and many other toys fulfill a child’s desire to imitate its parents in play. The instinct of self-preservation that existed in the earliest civilizations undoubtedly prompted parents to teach their children to defend themselves by giving them toy weapons with which to play. Although it has been replaced by modern toy weapons, the club or stick of ancient cultures probably inspired the use of golf clubs, drum sticks, hockey sticks, billiard cues and many other instruments of play. Many basic skills of coordination are learned by children through playing with such toys as balls, marbles and jackstones.


Most action games and sports derived from practicing the skills needed in warfare. Mental development is stimulated by games like drafts and chess and all kinds of puzzles. An acquaintance with probability and chance comes from games involving dice. Children and adults in ancient Rome threw knucklebones, the precursors of dice. Such toys as Christmas decorations and Easter eggs have been associated with religious instruction.

Modern developments

Toys with moving parts give rise to more dramatic games. Exploding toy weapons and rockets originated from the Chinese use of gunpowder for fireworks and other moving toys provide illustrations of the principles of balance, the wheel, the spring, the swing, the pendulum, flight, centrifugal force, magnetism and electricity. Modern technology has produced model electric railways and car racing tracks, radio-controlled aircraft, battery-powered dolls and many other sophisticated electronic toys. It is only in countries like India, China, Japan, Mexico, Portugal and Peru that some folk toys are still made in the old tradition.