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Our Toys Then and Now. By Kathleen Anderson Berry Shoals Intermediate School 2003. Play is important. Play helps children learn how to be in the world. Play is a child’s work. Toys are the tools. Children long ago played with toys a lot like the ones they play with today.

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Our Toys

Then and Now

By Kathleen Anderson

Berry Shoals Intermediate School



Play isimportant.

Play helps children learn how to be in the world.

Play is a child’s work.

Toys are the tools.


Children long ago played with toys

a lot like the ones they play with today.


This figure is called the Kouros.

It is made of gold and ivory. It had crystal eyes, could move its legs, and could be stood on a display stand.

The Kouros may be the oldest action figure in the world.

It is a relic of Minoan Crete.

It dates from about 1500 BCE, more than 3500 years ago!


Many action figures today are plastic. They are not very valuable, but they are very durable, and many have moving parts.


This toy is known as the Broighter Boat.

It is made

of solid gold.

It was found in Ireland, and it is about 3000 years old.

The boat is very simple, but it has everything it needs to function just like a real boat.

It has a mast, a rudder, oars, seats

and even a boathook.


These Egyptian toys were found in a child’s tomb.

She might have needed them in the afterlife.

They were made about 2500 years ago.

The cat is mechanical.

It opens and closes its mouth.

Parts of its legs move.

The doll is made from rags, and it is stuffed with papyrus.


These tiny terra cotta carts are from

the Harappan period of ancient Mesopotamia,

about 2300-2200 BCE.

Similar carts are still used in rural areas

of Pakistan, Iraq, and India.


Here’s a more modern version of a toy

just like the real thing!

This is a 1957 tin Marx Fire Engine.

It has a swiveling extension ladder that really works.


Children are fascinated by vehicles.

Vehicles give children a feeling of freedom and independence.


Footpowered “Kiddie Car”

c. 1900

Looks kind of like a tricycle, doesn’t it?


This young man drives a tractor,

just like the big one his dad uses.


This little girl takes her stuffed animals for a ride. Someday, maybe she’ll be driving her children

to their dance classes and ball practice..


Kids like to be heroes!

It makes them feel powerful and important.

Putting on a costume is like becoming someone else. It’s a chance to try on a different role.


Everyone likes to dress up!

These kids have created a great parade.

Maybe someday they will become Shriners.


Girls from every time and every culture have played with dolls.

These young Nez Perces girls posed here with their dolls and miniature cradleboards.

Why do you think girls everywhere like dolls?


This baby carriage would have been

the perfect way to take your doll for a walk in 1950.


Chinese Rag Doll from California,


Baby Doll with Bisque china head, 1920

Plains Indian beaded leather doll, 1880


This little girl was playing with her toy stove in 1911.

What similar toy do children still play with today?


The inside of a doll house is just like a real house.

The dolls can be arranged

just like the real people in the family.


Doll House furniture is made

just like real furniture.

It can be very expensive.


Children are very proud of toys they are able to make by themselves.

Building a model takes patience and a steady hand.


This contraption is called a “Jungle Gym!”

There was no mulch, only cement,

so you didn’t want to fall!


The inside of a toy store has always been exciting.

When do you imagine this picture was taken?


New bikes, cars, and wagons, in Macy’s, 1947.

These are the toys your grandparents wanted!


Image and Sound Sources

  • Most images courtesy of

The American Memory Collection of the Library of Congress.

  • Clip art images courtesy of,, and Print Artist 4.0
  • Ancient Art images
    • Jochen Lueg: About Toy Collecting
    • Rhys Carpenter Library, Bryn Mawr College
    • Pharonic Egypt
  • Other images used by permission from private collections.
  • Sound Files from and