Child psychologists recognize that playing with toys is an important way that
children model adult roles and learn necessary life skills. Playing with dolls
teaches girls to be nurturing mothers. Using building blocks develops eye-hand
coordination. Board games teach children how to play fair, and so on.
Whether received in
birthday gift baskets or purchased with their own allowance, not many
child's toys are destined to be a timeless classic. Fads come and go, but
certain toys continue to capture the imagination of children everywhere. A
classic toy can also make a great Mother's or
Father's Day gift, bringing your parent back to their youth. Here are some
One of the oldest games known to mankind,
kids have played with marbles for centuries. Marbles are small balls made from
glass or other substances that can be used in a variety of games. The best known
of these is one in which each player uses one marble to knock as many marbles as
he or she can out of a circle drawn on the ground. Fun fact: Marbles have been
found in Egyptian tombs and the Aztec pyramids, testifying to their antiquity.
Spinning tops are likewise quite ancient and yet still enjoyed
today. Tops are devices that spin around a central axis on a point and are
usually shaped like an inverted cone. Many tricks are possible with a spinning
top. Fun fact: The dreidel used in games at Hanukah is basically a spinning top
on which Hebrew characters have been stamped.
One of the many varieties of stuffed, plush animals, the
teddy bear has been a companion for kids at bedtime for decades. Named for
American President Theodore Roosevelt, a teddy bear is simply a stuffed animal
in the shape of a bear. Fun fact: Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead recorded a
version of the song “Teddy Bears’ Picnic.”
Charles Pajeau invented the
Tinkertoy construction set in 1914. Now one of Hasbro Incoporated’s many toy
brands, a Tinkertoy set consists of round wooden spools with holes, wooden
sticks, and various plastic accessories. The various items can be combined to
build all sorts of structures. Fun fact: Not until 1955 were green, yellow, and
blue used to color Tinkertoy sticks.
Building blocks are beloved
all around the world, and in 1916 John Lloyd Wright introduced a variation of
these blocks with his Lincoln Logs. Shaped like the logs that are used to build
log cabins, Lincoln Logs are notched and stackable, and they can be used to
create all sorts of miniature structures from cabins to farms to sawmills and
more. Fun fact: Lincoln Logs are named for Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth
president of the United States, who grew up in a log cabin.
Who hasn’t watched a slinky travel down a flight of stairs? Resembling a
spring but without as much tension, Slinkys are toys that can move from one
level down to another. They will keep going from step to step on account of
gravity and the momentum built in the toy. Fun fact: Richard James accidentally
invented the slinky in the 1940s when trying to develop springs for use on
with enduring popularity, a Frisbee is a disc, usually made of plastic, that can
be thrown and remain aloft for several seconds. The official name Frisbee
is a registered trademark of the Wham-O Incorporated, but the term is popularly
used of disks whether Wham-O has manufactured them or not. Fun fact:
Frisbee-like discs are popular giveaways for many companies. Such companies
often stamp their logos on the discs.
Under the directive of the US Government to produce a synthetic rubber for use
in World War II, James Wright accidentally invented Silly Putty in 1943. Binney
and Smith holds the registered trademark for Silly Putty, a rubbery like
substance that can bounce, be shaped, and used in various games. Fun fact: In
the year 2000, Silly Putty joined a Smithsonian exhibit on 1950s objects that
have shaped culture in America.
Kids love to ride on wheeled contraptions, and for decades they
have enjoyed riding on skateboards. The origins of this toy are uncertain, but
the basic design of the skateboard is a short board attached to four wheels.
Standing on the board, a person can propel himself with one leg and/or do fancy
tricks. Fun fact: Shaw Millennium Skate Park in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, is
North America’s largest park for skating and skateboarders.
Another variation on traditional building
blocks, Lego bricks were invented in 1949 in Denmark. Legos are plastic bricks
of varying colors, generally with hollow bottoms and pegged tops. These bricks
can be joined together tightly but are also easily separated, allowing for the
construction of all kinds of buildings, vehicles, and more. Fun Fact: Legos are
licensed to different companies worldwide to make Batman-themed sets, Star
Wars-themed sets, and many others.
Play-Doh is but one of many toys on this list that was invented
by accident. Originally conceived as a compound for removing wallpaper, Play-Doh
was introduced in Cincinnati in 1956. It is a colorful substitute for modeling
clay that can be molded into various shapes. Fun fact: A model of Thomas
Jefferson’s home Monticello was once made from 2,500 bricks of Play-Doh
Throughout history, kids have played with
hoops, rolling them, chasing them, and using them for all sorts of games. In
1958, Richard Knerr and Arthur Melin invented the Hula Hoop, a colored plastic
version of a hoop that children spin around themselves, shaking their hips to
keep it from falling to the ground. Today the Wham-O corporation owns the rights
to the name Hoola Hoop. Fun Fact: Kym Coberly kept a hoop spinning around
herself for 72 hours in 1984.
Dolls are yet another standard that have entertained children for
ages. Until the twentieth century, however, they were largely just dolls of
infants. Girls’ playtime would never be the same after 1959 when Ruth and
Elliott Handler introduced Barbie, a doll representing an adult woman, along
with many accessories like removable clothing, a car for Barbie, and others.
Easily inserted into (gift baskets), Barbie dolls are popular all over the
world. Fun fact: Barbie is named after Ruth and Elliott Handler’s daughter,
Playing house became that much more realistic with the
invention of the Easy-Bake Oven in 1963. The first working toy oven, the
Easy-Bake Oven is a small oven that cooks little cakes and other things with the
heat of a light bulb. Fun fact: The colors and design of the Easy-Bake Oven
change to keep pace with current kitchen styles.
Boys have always loved to play with toy
soldiers, and in 1964 Hasbro introduced G.I. Joe, a poseable military figure
with accessories like guns and uniforms. Hasbro relaunched the brand as G.I.
Joe: A Real American Hero in 1982 and produced hundreds of 3 and ¾ inch
articulated figures and accompanying vehicles. G.I. Joe became “America’s
daring, highly trained special missions force,” a team of specialists working to
defeat the terrorist organization Cobra. Fun fact: Larry Hama, who wrote nearly
all the issues of the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero comic book
published under Marvel Comics, also wrote most of the biographies featured on
the packaging of the action figures.
Introduced in 1967,
Lite-Brite allows kids to create glowing, multicolored pictures using colored,
translucent pegs placed into a screen that has a light bulb behind it. Pre-made
patterns assist the process, or kids can develop their own designs. Fun fact:
The largest Lite-Brite image ever produced was of a training shoe in 2008.
Nearly everyone in the
Western world has been intrigued, delighted, and perplexed on account of Rubik’s
Cube. Ern? Rubik invented the puzzle in 1974, and its standard form is a
six-sided cube with six different colors, each side divided into nine sections .
The colors can be scrambled, and the object of the game is to return the cube to
its original state of having each side made up of nine blocks of the same color.
Fun fact: Rubik’s Cube was so popular in the early 1980s that Ruby Spears
produced a cartoon show called “Rubik, the Amazing Cube.”
MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE
“By the power of Grayskull” is a phrase known to
every child of the eighties. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe are action
figures devoted to protecting Castle Grayskull and the world of Eternia from the
evil forces of Skeletor. Fun fact: Masters of the Universe action figures were
some of the first to have an action feature that was unique to each toy.
MY LITTLE PONY
Girls love dolls and horses, so combining them makes for a
fun and popular toy. Debuting in 1982, My Little Pony dolls are plastic ponies,
unicrons, and other four-legged friends with brushable hair, decorative
insignias, and a multitude of accessories. They are popular toys that are often
given in Easter baskets or other (holiday gift baskets). Fun fact: A theatrical
movie based on My Little Pony was released in 1986.
CABBAGE PATCH KIDS
One of the first
toy crazes in the 1980s was for the Cabbage Patch Kids, vinyl-headed, soft dolls
with yarn hair. Each of the Cabbage Patch Kids comes with adoption papers to
certify that the child who owns the doll is the doll’s parent. Fun fact: The
signature of Xavier Roberts, the creator of the Cabbage Patch Kids, is
embroidered on the backside of every Cabbage Patch Kid.
Since 1984, robots who are “more than meets the eye” have
captivated boys worldwide under the name Transformers. When Hasbro repackaged
Japanese toylines Diaclone and Microman as Autobots and Decepticons, a hit was
born. Transformers are robot action figures that can be changed from robots to
vehicles, animals, and more. Fun fact: At Hasbro’s request, Marvel Comics
created the backstory of the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons for
the Transformers brand.