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According to toy trend specialists, in 2004 and 2005, Americans spent over 22 billion dollars on toys. Child development experts say play is crucial to a child's well being. Mike Smith has this report:
Toys have been used to entertain children and adults since the Stone Age when musical instruments and noise makers were made from bone and gourds. Clay figures, balls, hoops and sleds were used by children in ancient Greece, Egypt and Persia. During the Middle Ages, wooden dolls and figures of soldiers, birds and animals were sold during festivals and fairs. Tin soldiers were made and sold in Germany during the 1700's, while at the same time colonial Americans were making homemade toys. It wasn't though until the late 1830's when American toy manufacturing began to take root.
Tin toys were made in Connecticut, New York and Philadelphia in the 1840' and 50's, but the metal toy industry kicked into high gear after the Civil War.
From the late 1800's through the 1990's American consumers have been introduced to thousands of games and toys many of which are popular today including Lionel Trains in 1900, Crayola Crayons in 1903, Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs in 1914 and 1916 respectively.
In the 30's American children began playing with Lego Building Sets. In the 40's, Tonka Trucks and the Candy Land game were popular. The 50's was a big decade for the toy industry with the creation of Silly Putty, Mr. Potato Head, Play-Doh, and Barbie.
The decade of the 60's was just as important with games like Stratego, Aggravation, top selling toys like Etch-A-Sketch, G.I. Joe, Easy Bake Oven, and Hot Wheels.
In the 1970's we entertained ourselves with Nerf Balls and were frustrated by Rubik's Cube. Cabbage Patch Kids, Pictionary, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were popular in the 80's. In the 90's we giggled with Tickle Me Elmo, and this holiday season an anniversary edition of Tickle Me Elmo has been introduced.
According to Reyne Rice, a toy trend specialist with the Toy Industry Association, here in the 21st Century, Americans spend around 22 billion dollars annually on toys.
It's no secret toy manufacturers see their most profitable days during the holiday season. Rice says the last quarter represents 50-60 % of all toy dollars in the industry.
When toy makers are deciding weather to move forward on a design, Reyne Rice says they look at a number of factors including safety, age appropriate play patterns, patentability, and price points. Most of all, she says toy makers make sure the product is fun to play with. She says if a toy is not fun, then it might as well not be placed on the shelf.
Fun is the key according to Missouri State University Professor of Psychology Dave Dixon and Joanna Ceymore, Assistant Professor in the early Childhood and Family Development Department at Mo. State. They each say that toys and play are crucial to the development of children and adults alike. Play, they say, helps develop cognitive and nurturing skills, strategic thinking and physical abilities.
For KSMU's Sense of Community Series, I'm Mike Smith.