When you were a child, you at some point played with a toy. If you are a child or a child at heart, you have come to treasure your collection of playthings. They are the source of endless enjoyment, but there are many complicated factors that have shaped how the toy reaches the child’s bedroom, and what is happening during playtime. Children spend a lot of time playing, and it is during this time that they develop physically, mentally, and socially. Toys can reinforce gender roles, all while being the most sought after item by children. Toys are a crucial part of child development, and the role of how toys fit into our society is complex.
Toys have been a part of human development since before prehistoric eras. It seem where ever there are people there are children, and where ever there are children there are toys. Old carvings of animals, or dolls have been found in many archeological sites. I. Children will find a way to play. Sticks, grass, and stones can be used by children to entertain themselves for hours. Even today, a child can pick up a stick and can pretend he wields a mighty sword. Toys remained mostly had crafted or improvised. Toys were a luxury, and often they were hand made for families that could afford them. Then like many things, the Industrial Revolution made toys cheaper, and more abundant. Tin soldiers marched off the conveyer belt. Seamstresses were producing more dolls and stuffed animals.
“Made in China”
Today toys are mostly made of plastic. It is cheap and easy to manipulate into shapes. Toys are now produced at an unimaginable rate. Large companies such as Hasbro and Mattel fill children’s rooms with colorful toys for kids to enjoy. If you examine most toys, it has the stencil “Made in China”. We often associate these words with “cheap”. The United States has many standing trade deals with foreign countries to feed the large demand that the American market for affordable toys. An interesting story out of these trade deals was the decision of Toy Biz, Inc. v. United States. The United States Court of International Trade ruled that the X Men line of toys were exempt from the tariff put in place on dolls, and it was defined that dolls were figures that depicted humans. Toy Biz, Inc. claimed that this tariff did not apply to them because there toys were not humans they were “Mutants”. (Spike) In today’s society, toys play a role in international trade and policies, and the complicated web of globalism has effected the way children play in their rooms.
Play time is a large part of child development. When playing, they explore imaginative ideas, develop mentally and physically. Creative toys such as blocks, or Legos, have spurred children to make imaginative structures, and allows them to explore new ideas. Some engineers have used these building toys to put together ideas for large projects. Blocks and other building toys have remained popular for adults, and children for the same reason, it allows unlimited creativity. Puzzles are a popular toy that can challenge children to think and solve complicated problems. Toys can also drive children to run and play outside. Frisbees, and sports toys give children a physical outlet to release that almost unlimited energy that kids seem to have. If you ask any sports player, they will say they loved playing their sport as children, and that they found their passion at a young age. It is popular for parents to schedule play dates with other children. In these play dates, children learn how to interact with others. But one thing that has been the cause of many play dates to end in tears are disagreements over toys. This is probably where many children are taught how to react in a conflict. They argue about sharing, and jealousy, and not playing fair, but we can see that children that learn to share their play things often develop stronger social skills. Play time is important, toys can be the building block for creative minds, inspiration for passion, or the catalyst for early socialization. Play time is when we find what we like, what we can do, and what we want to do.
“Pink vs. Blue”
There is a theory on how we are assigned gender roles from birth. The theory is called Pink vs. Blue. When we are born we are swaddled in a blue or pink blanket. From there, you are assigned a standard about what you can like, and how you act in society. Toys have been made for boys and girls, but they have made it very clear which toy is for whom. In the early years, boy where given toy weapons to train and hone their skills for combat. They played as soldiers, and they engaged in imaginary battles. Girls were given dolls. They were taught to be motherly, and to become women. We still see this separation today. If you go to a supermarket, or toy store, they have a blue and pink aisle. The blue aisle has weapons, and the pink aisle has dolls. It has been the same toys for children since before the middle ages. We are seeing a move towards gender equality in adults, but the schism between boys and girls.
Toys have and always be with children. Toys have been with us since children got bored. They have developed from carved bone, stone, and wood, to electronic, plastic, mass produced action figures, and pony plushes. Creative toys and puzzles have challenged children to be creative. And playing sports have provided an outlet for their ample energy. The toys children play with set the standard of how to act your gender. So every Christmas, birthday, or when they see another toy advertisement on TV, children around the world will covet more toys.