toy, article designed to be played with, chiefly for children. Archaeological research has revealed numerous playthings from prehistoric civilizations. Early Egyptian, Greek, and Roman dolls, tops, balls, rattles, hoops, and miniature representations of furniture, houses, and dishes have been preserved. Mechanical toys, often created for the amusement of adults, have been popular since the Middle Ages. Toys made by individual artisans were early distributed in Germany; they were at first sold chiefly by peddlers at fairs. The use of sheet-metal stamping in Nuremberg c.1850 introduced the first large-scale manufacturing methods. The manufacture of toys is an important industry in most countries. Although many new toys are created each year, some, especially dolls, balls, art materials, and blocks, retain their popularity year after year. Educators and psychologists, beginning with Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel and Maria Montessori, have stressed the role of toys in the mental, emotional, social, and physical development of children.
See A. Fraser, A History of Toys (1966); G. White, Antique Toys and Their Background (1971).