Archive for September, 2012

So, what are toys really? Apart from generally being brightly colored objects, which sometimes move and run on batteries?

Toys are tools (not the kind of tools you purchase from a hardware store) educating children and training them for the life they will lead in society. For example: the abacus was invented to assist children with counting and numbers, and colored building blocks were (and still are) used to help enhance cognitive behavior, hand-eye coordination, and to stimulate creativity.

Babies are eager to learn about the world around them, wanting to experience every shape, color, texture, taste and sound. A favorite toy for babies is the rattle, whose sounds and coloring are used to stimulate babies’ senses. Toddlers can play with a wider variety of toys and as children reach pre-school age toys can really start integrating the learning of letters, numbers and language skills.

We understand how toys are used in present day, but what about in the past? Were toys used for the same educational purposes and integration into society?

In today’s society it is seen as “old fashioned” or “behind the times” if someone we know does not own a mobile device.  Mobile devices such as phones and tablets have become an integral part of the way we live and communicate with each other on a daily basis. Even my dad who struggles with technological advancements has an iPhone!

Mobile phones have been present in our lives since 1973, but it wasn’t until the 1990’s when the second generation of mobile phones emerged that their popularity spread across the globe.

I remember when I was a child, we actually had to (gasp!) call people on a landline in order to speak with them.  You had to pray that the person you were calling was actually AT home, because text messaging and voicemail didn’t yet exist!

Mobile phones are now used by people of all ages, including children, to send text messages, check email, browse the internet, and play games. Phones are not that often used to, you know, speak… that primal form of communication seems so passé these days.

Have mobile phones assisted in the extinction of speech communication?

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I have fond memories of my childhood… the toys, the games, playing outside until it was too dark to see. I was born and raised in the UK and although we loved playing outside it wasn’t always possible with the wet and windy weather England is world renowned for. We were however, lucky to have, at our disposal, a vast amount of toys, games and gadgets to entertain ourselves with indoors.

Even though we had enough toys and games to fill a small country… we always wanted more. My dad would say, “We didn’t have that when I was young… you should count yourselves lucky”.

We took everything for granted! We really did believe that a man with a white beard and a red suit came down the chimney once a year to deliver us gifts (even though we didn’t actually have a chimney…). I now realize just how lucky we were, and just how hard my parents had to work to buy us things to keep us happy (and quiet).

I’ve always been intrigued by history, and remembering my dad’s words all those years ago prompted not only a trip down memory lane, but a desire to research toys of the past.

Did ancient civilizations have toys? What was the first toy? Where does the term toy even come from?

More to come…