Toys, Games and more Toys
28 June, 2012

For most children around the world toys and games mean everything. Adults believe them to be an enjoyable way to prepare the children for life in the society by helping them discover their identities, learn cause and effect and explore relationships. Archeologists have found ancient toys of different shapes and sizes throughout the world, and today the ”toy business” has one of the most substantial impacts on the economy. 


If we think back to our childhoods, we all have a fond

memory of our favorite game or toys that we loved to play with. For most girls I’m guessing it was a doll that they cared for as a mother to a child. For boys toy guns, horses, and swords probably drove their imaginations wild where they were pirate ship captains and cowboys, before their mothers called them back inside for lunch. But those wild imaginations go back to much earlier times. Dolls and figurines have been found in Egyptian tombs which date back to as early as 2000 B.C. Construction sets, animal figurines, and wooden and clay mechanical string toys have also been found in the ruins of ancient cities around the world. And to top this off, in 1887, a British archeologist discovered an Egyptian doll factory dating back to 1800 BC! However, compared to today’s toys, these ancient toys were in most part representations of their societal beliefs. In other words cats, crocodile’s birds and the ones alike were icons in these ancient families.

To this day, there are toys around the globe that maintain their special traditional meanings. Akabeko, or “red cow”, is a traditional toy from the Japanese Aizu region which is located west of Fukushima. It’s made by the papier-m?ch? technique and its shape resembles a cow which is later painted in red, since the color red is believed to be a lucky color in Japan. You may think of this toy as a bobble-head since when moved, its head also moves up and down and side to side. The origin of this toy dates back to the year 807. As the legend holds, a monk called Tokuichi, was building the Enzoji temple and cattle was used to haul the lumber. Among them was a large red cow. When the temple was finished the cow refused to leave and the locals started to treat her as a religious symbol. However the first Akabeko toys were not made until the late 16th century and they are believed to be able to prevent smallpox and other illnesses alike

Traveling westward and in Mallorca, Spain, the very famous Siurell is made. It is a clay whistle and is one of the major symbols of this island. Two traditional siurell figurines are those of a peasant and a devil. But nowadays other figurines of various people and animals are also made. Siurell is traditionally white with lines of different color and the color of these lines depends on the place where the figurines were made. These figurines are traditionally crafted by women. Although it is believed to be of Muslim origin, they were used by farmers to manage their herds and were even used to compose Majorcan folk songs with dances that have survived to this day.

One of the best examples of the Russian folk art is the Dymkovo toys and the Matryoshka dolls. The earthenware Dymkovo figurines have been made since the ancient time and are believed to have their roots in old pagan beliefs. They were part of the local spring festival that had been organized until the early 20th century on the bank of nearby Vyatka River. These toys are made of red clay and sand from that river and are usually made into three types of toys – balls, whistles and dolls. However, nowadays they have purely decorative meanings. The Matryoshka dolls on the other hand were not so symbolical when they first appeared in the 1890’s, but have become a famous Russian toy icon. The Matryoshka is made of wood and usually has an odd number of figurines within. The size of these dolls decrease so that one doll can be put inside the other. Usually the biggest doll in the set is a woman wearing a traditional Russian dress, other dolls can represent both genders and the smallest doll is always a baby. Today, special sets are also available as a mockery on who stands where in politics, music or any other profession.

Toys are a way to make friends, have fun and most importantly learn how to socialize amongst our peers. These traditional toys taught children about their customs and beliefs involuntarily during playing. Psychologists believe that children as young as 18 months differentiate between girl and boy toys and tend to play with the ones made for their gender. Most girls grow up playing mother, nurse or teacher. And boys in most part tend to play more active and physical games. When you think about it, it’s funny how big of a role our genes play in what we like to imagine being. Boys are amazed by pirates, soldiers, cowboys and knights while girls stick to princesses in castles with fairies, flowers and butterflies, awaiting their prince charming. Remember those wonderful times? Children need these toys and games in order to please their urge to act like their idols. So, I guess it’s true when they say that we should always stay young at heart. After all, they say when you dig deep inside, you will hear the young you calling…I hope you still haven’t lost touch with that child in you, because you might be someone else’s idol.