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When Children Came out to Play: Ancient Toys and Games

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Children Playing by David Klöcker Ehrenstrahl (1651) Skokloster Castle (Public Domain)

When Children Came out to Play: Ancient Toys and Games

The main halls and secured vaults of museums around the world are loaded with vast arrays of grotesque antique weapons, golden lined velvet robes, ceremonial swords and crowns, jewel encrusted scepters and other adult treasures and artifacts. Toys, play paraphernalia and games from the most remote past are generally assigned a shelf or a dusty cabinet but kites, balls, yo-yos and stick dolls wrapped in cloth have been discovered across the face of the planet, proving that children’s imaginations have always mimicked real life.

Cycladic Art Museum, Athens, Greece. (Public Domain)

Cycladic Art Museum, Athens, Greece. (Public Domain)

Ancient Toys

The oldest toys ever found were excavated by archaeologists in ancient Sumer; hand crafted human dolls and animals dated to 2600 BC, and in ancient Indus Valley clay animal-figures on wheels were dated to around 2500 BC. The earliest written record of toys was made in ancient Greece about 500 BC in a mention of ‘yo-yos’ being crafted from wood and metal for play and a painted Greek vase dated to 440 BC shows a boy playing with a terra cotta yo-yo disk which were often ceremonially offered to gods when the child owner came of age.


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