Forget the latest video games, tamagochis, or internet crazes (where is the romance and history to that rubbish?) if you want toys that look the part, last their lifecycle, have style and class and guarantee not to turn your little angel into a hoodie, the place to look is not in the pages of Argos, it is the annals of time. Think of the sepia photographs of children playing gleefully and innocently with balls and hoops on cobbled streets- that is what we want we want for our children, not images of them in arcades taken on mobile phones!
Toys have been around for an eternity. Greek & Roman children played with balls, rattles, dolls, carts, hoops and spinning tops. Between the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages, when children were old enough to play they also learnt to work and use weapons and tools- not that I’m suggesting you do the same, but what you will notice is that until the age of the computer, many of these items of play where still extremely popular- 2000 years of play would suggest they were probably quite fun!
They would play outdoor games using pebbles, and barrel hoops. Some would have hand made wooden toys such as tops, hobby horses and puppets- all of which are fabulously stylish things to introduce to your child’s room or play area. Things like puppets are also very beneficial to your child’s development as they encourage interaction.
The 18th century saw mass produced toys which were cheaper to make and buy. Wealthy parents spent their money on printed instructional toys that would aid learning and morality, such as pictorial alphabet cards, dissected map puzzles, books and board games. Puzzles and board games not only look much better on the shelf then today’s games consoles which have wires sprouting out of every plastic orifice, they also promote family fun time.
In the 19th century the main retailers of technical toys were opticians who sold steam engines, magic lanterns, building blocks and optical toys such as the kaleidoscope and zoetrope- all wonderfully stylish and quality toys, guaranteed to still enthral the media savvy children of the “noughties”.
Many famous toy companies started business in the 1890s and 1900s. Hornby and Meccano began to manufacture their eternally popular train sets and “build-yourself” mini engineering projects. Toys by these companies were small works of art and would probably be as popular with dads today as sons. Lego were another company to born out of this time.
In the 20th century, the cinema and later TV, has had a major influence on the retail of toys. First came Buck Rogers and cowboys and Indians, later there was Thomas the Tank Engine and My Little Pony, later still were the Toy Story characters- figurines such as these are not only fun for kids, they also make for brilliant kids bedroom décor. Film and T.V. also spawned themed duvet sets and children’s curtains– things like these can be used to create a sense of unity in an otherwise chaotic bedroom.
The popularity of many toys goes in cycles as new generations rediscover the toys for themselves. A return to a simpler time when bicycles (remember when you couldn’t see the tarmac in your street for bikes on Christmas day?), wooden toys, traditional looking teddy bears and simple games such as marbles, spinning tops is inevitable and your home and your children will be all the better for it.