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Wednesday, 11 March 2009

A British History of Toys

The concept of toys developed through a basic need to develop the skills children needed for life, much the same as kittens play fight to prepare themselves so did we. Therefore the early toys of the Dark Ages and Medieval period reflect what affected there lives such as war and hard labour. Mimicking adults and role play are not just fun but are developing the vital skills needed which back then was often life or death. This meant that children would mostly play with toy swords, weapons and tools.

As life progressed so did the toys and by 1632 toys were being sold at market. By the 1700's toy shops were opened selling toys made by local craftsmen. People had money to spend and if they were lucky enough could afford a toy made from wood or fabric. Those who didn't have the money had homemade toys. Suddenly with all the emerging new industries a child's education and happiness became important. Common toys were dolls and musical instruments such as toy drums.

In the 1760's the first toy soldiers were produced in lead and tin, however these did not become popular until the 1800's. By the Victorian period toys were being massed produced and became more affordable. The rise in middle classes and attitudes towards children meant a rise in the toy industry and along came new exciting toys. Victorian children could expect to play with marbles, tops, hoops and skipping ropes. The richer children could have dolls houses and rocking horses in their nursery's. From this era came the legendary Punch and Judy puppets. Many great classic toys arose that people still love and play with today.

Despite all the toys now available most children were poor and had very few toys. They usually played in the streets with what ever they could find.

The twentieth century saw Frank Hornby emerge to create mecanno in 1901 followed by toy cars and trains in 1907. In 1902 the ‘Teddy Bear’ was created when US President Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt refused to shoot a bear cub whilst on a hunting trip.

In the 50's lego was created. Cinema and Tv began to influence the toys being created as it does today. Do any of these names spring to mind? Buck Rodgers, Andy Pandy, Bill and Ben, Turmpton, Magic Roundabout, this list goes on.

Since then many crazes have hit us such the unforgettable space hopper or rubiks cube. Many of these classic, retro and traditional toys are still with us in one form or another.

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