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Wooden Toys

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A History Of Toymaking

The toys our children play with today are certainly much different than the toys we had as kids. The bells and whistles on toys today didn’t even begin to live in our imaginations as kids and the toys we did play with were in a totally different league than the toys of our parents’ childhoods. It’s no understatement to say that with every generation toys become more elaborate, complex and expensive. Oddly enough, many people feel they are not as permanent, lending some truth to the cliché ‘They just don’t make them like they used to.’

While this certainly may be true to a degree, many toy manufacturers today are hearkening back to the days of our childhood and even beyond to come up with imaginative and educational toys that can really take a beating. While traditional toymakers may still be in the minority today, many parents feel the cost of traditional wooden toys are well worth it: delivering durability as well safety and imaginative play. After all, it’s no coincidence that so many toys have survived largely intact from decades ago. After all, for the most part, kids do not play any rougher with their toys today than they did one hundred years ago. The difference lies completely in the way the toys are manufactured and produced.

At the turn of the 18th century the toymaking industry was just beginning to get a good head of steam. Prior to that time it had been difficult to really mass produce toys in a manner that was cheap enough for most parents to afford. By the time the 19th century rolled around many parents had begun to understand that toys could be both education as well as entertaining and were willing to spend money on them toward that end. Some of the most famous toy companies that we know so well today actually started business during this time period. British companies, in particular, were dedicated to the art of toymaking, turning out such all time favorite toys as toy soldiers, cowboys and Indians and farmyards. Wooden building blocks, steam engines and kaleidoscopes were also popular favorites of children during this time.

By the time the 19th century turned into the 20th century, children had become fascinated with the electric trains that were being produced on a fairly large scale. It would seem that the toymaking industry was reaching a zenith. All of that would change; however, at least for a time, as World War II entered the lives of every parent, child and factory owner around the world.

With an increasing need for war materials, factories found they were better suited producing the items needed to keep their respective soldiers in business than toys. As a result toy production ground almost to a standstill. Along with almost everything else, during that time parents made do as best they could. Homemade toys, not in fashion for quite some time, found new meaning.

After the war was over, it was a different story. Toy companies were relieved to be back at the work they loved and happily returned to toymaking with new fervor. As a result of the explosion of ideas during this time period, a booming economy and the introduction of a revolutionary new material known as plastic, the toys produced during this time period were much different than their predecessors. With the advent of television, more and more toys began to take inspiration from beloved television programs and movies. Each year, toymakers sought to make their new crop of toys better than the last.

Today, of course, it seems as though there is no end to the innovation, creativity and inspiration with which manufacturers can produce toys. Still, many people can’t help but feel that yesterday’s toys might yet be better for today’s youth than all of the fancy gadget and gadget toys currently on the market.

Wooden toys, in particular, have witnessed a resurgence in popularity. Archeological studies have shown that wooden toys date all the way back to the days of the Ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. German toymakers, in particular, have been well known since the Middle Ages for producing miniature wooden versions of everyday objects that children can use to inspire their imaginations, including soldiers, dolls, trains and jack-in-the-boxes.

Actually, it’s little wonder that wooden toys have remained so popular throughout the years. They certainly last longer than many of the mass produced plastic toys of today, giving parents the opportunity to take advantage of both a ‘back to the basics’ kind of philosophy as well as a quality and craftsmanship to which even the fanciest toys of today cannot seem to compare.

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