A Retroflective Look at Toysby Tyler Woods on Aug. 17, 2009, under Life
I was invited to a 9-year-old’s birthday party this weekend. (Happy birthday Eli!) We had such fun playing games and watching him unwrap all of his toys. The joy in his eyes reminded me how important toys and playing are. Not just to the 9 year old but to all of us adults.
I recall one year for Christmas, I bought all my adult friends racecar tracks. Not expensive ones, just the 20 dollar ones. It was a gift that made adults bend down with their achy backs and bad knees, get on the floor, and race their cars around the track with a smile in their heart and a sparkle in their eye. The actual gift I gave was their ability to feel like a child again.
After playing hard with a child, and like a child this weekend, I decided to take a quick glance at the history of toys. I would love to hear what your favorite toys were. For me, I had many, but I loved my walkie talkies, Barbies and Barbie’s playhouse, and my hot wheels.
1902 In America, toy bears begin to be called Teddy Bears” named after President Theodore Roosevelt.
1903 Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith produced the first box of Crayola crayons.
1913 Former Olympian (Gold, Pole Vault, 1908) and medical doctor A.C. Gilbert invented the Erector Set.
1914 Charles Pajeau developed a collection of rugged wooden toys similar to the Erector Set, but designed for younger children; he called them Tinker Toys.
1916 John Lloyd Wright, the son of architect Frank Lloyd Wright invented Lincoln Logs.
1929 The yo-yo is popularized in the United States after entrepreneur Donald Duncan saw the toy being demonstrated in Los Angeles.
1935 Parker Brothers introduced Monopoly.
1938 Piano tuner and camera buff William Gruber was the mastermind behind the View-Master three-dimensional viewer.
1943 Richard James discovered that a spring will “walk” end-over-end when knocked over. James brought the discovery home to his wife, who named the new toy “Slinky”.
1947 Tonka trucks were invented.
1950 Silly Putty was introduced at the International Toy Fair in New York.
1952 Banking on the idea that children like to play with their food, Hasbro introduced Mr. Potato Head.
1954 Jack Odell created the original Matchbox car.
1956 Play-doh entered the market as a wallpaper cleaner. Non-toxic and less messy than regular modelling clay, it was soon recognized that the cleaner made an excellent toy.
1958 Wham-O founders Arthur Melin and Richard Knerr began marketing the Hula Hoop.
1959 The Barbie doll is introduced at the American Toy Fair in New York City by Elliot Handler, founder of Mattel Toys.
1965 Stanley Weston created a doll for boys called G.I Joe.
1966 Elliot Handler, one of the co-founders of Mattel, Inc., invented Hot Wheels.
1969 Parker Brothers marketed the first Nerf ball.
The 70s marked the introduction of video games, and toys slowly have lost their meaning. No longer do children roller skate in the street, toss their Nerf ball, or play for hours with silly putty. They just flip open a screen or turn their TV and game consoles on, and become plasmic ooze. There is something to be said for the simplicity of playing with toys.