What Did You Play With?
The idea that play can shape the way a child thinks and learns is common in American history. In 17th and 18th century colonial society, toys, and games were recognized as vital to a child’s mental and physical development. In the 19th century, many children worked on farms and in factories, but still found time to play. The development of kindergartens, increased attendance in public schools, and the introduction of public playgrounds led to new ideas about play and more opportunities for it.
Dolls, games of strategy, vehicles, and construction toys such as the ones you see here have been favorites for centuries. But with new technologies in the 20th century—radio, movies, television, and computers—parents and educators wonder whether children are too dependent on passive entertainment and losing the benefits of traditional play. Inventors and historians wonder whether the changes in how we play will change how we invent.
The Stuff of Play
Here are some favorite toys of American children and inventors.