What toy has been around the longest?

What toy has been around the longest?

The history of toys is as rich and diverse as human culture itself, stretching back thousands of years to the dawn of civilization. Toys, in various forms, have been a fundamental part of human development, serving not only as sources of entertainment but also as tools for learning and socialization. Determining which toy has been around the longest involves delving into archaeological findings and historical records. This exploration will take us from ancient civilizations to the present day, highlighting some of the oldest toys known to humanity.

Ancient Origins

The earliest toys can be traced back to ancient civilizations such as Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. These early toys were made from natural materials like stone, clay, wood, and bone.


In ancient Mesopotamia, one of the cradles of civilization, children played with toys made from clay and stone. Archaeological excavations have unearthed small figurines of animals and humans, which were likely used for both play and religious rituals. Some of the oldest known toys, dating back to around 2600 BCE, include miniature chariots and carts, as well as small dolls.


Ancient Egypt also boasts a rich history of toys. Egyptian children played with dolls made from materials such as wood, clay, and cloth. These dolls often had movable limbs and were adorned with wigs and jewelry, reflecting the society's fashion and culture. Additionally, small animal figurines, spinning tops, and marbles have been discovered in Egyptian tombs, indicating that play was an integral part of daily life and the afterlife.

Greece and Rome

In ancient Greece and Rome, toys were similarly diverse. Greek children played with dolls, yo-yos, and small figurines, while Roman children had access to a variety of toys including dolls, miniature soldiers, and board games. The Greek philosopher Plato even mentioned toys in his writings, emphasizing their importance in the development of children.

The Doll: A Timeless Companion

Among the many toys that have stood the test of time, the doll is arguably one of the oldest and most enduring. Dolls have been found in virtually every culture and era, serving as playthings, religious icons, and educational tools.

Ancient Dolls

The earliest dolls, dating back to around 2000 BCE, were made from materials such as clay, wood, bone, ivory, and cloth. In ancient Egypt, dolls with movable limbs and elaborate hairstyles were common. These dolls were not only toys but also served a ceremonial purpose, often buried with children in their tombs to accompany them in the afterlife.

In ancient Greece and Rome, dolls were similarly significant. Greek dolls were often made of clay and had jointed limbs, allowing for more realistic movement. Roman dolls, on the other hand, were sometimes made of ivory and were highly detailed, reflecting the craftsmanship of the time.

Dolls in the Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, dolls continued to be popular in Europe. Wooden dolls, often called "stump dolls," were common. These dolls were typically carved from a single piece of wood and had simple, painted features. Cloth dolls also became more prevalent, particularly among lower-class families who could not afford the more expensive wooden or ivory dolls.

The Ball: A Simple, Enduring Toy

Another ancient toy that has persisted through the ages is the ball. The simplicity and versatility of the ball have made it a staple in children's play across cultures and time periods.

Early Balls

The oldest known balls were made from materials such as animal bladders, skins, and stitched cloth. In ancient Egypt, balls made of leather were used in various games and sports. Similarly, in ancient Mesoamerica, rubber balls were used in the Mesoamerican ballgame, a ritualistic and competitive sport played by the Aztecs and Mayans.

The Ball in Ancient Greece and Rome

In ancient Greece, balls were used in games like "Episkyros," a team sport that was a precursor to modern soccer and rugby. The Romans also enjoyed ball games, with "Harpastum" being one of the most popular. This game involved a small, hard ball and was played by two teams trying to keep the ball on their side of the field.

The Yo-Yo: From Ancient Greece to Modern Times

The yo-yo is another toy with ancient origins that remains popular today. The oldest known yo-yos date back to around 500 BCE in ancient Greece, where they were made from materials such as wood, metal, and terracotta. Greek art and pottery from this period depict children playing with yo-yos, highlighting their role in ancient Greek culture.

The Spinning Top: A Universal Toy

The spinning top is one of the simplest and oldest toys, with versions found in cultures around the world. Archaeological evidence shows that tops were used in ancient China, Egypt, and Greece.

Early Spinning Tops

In ancient Egypt, tops were made from clay and were often used in religious rituals. Chinese tops, made from materials such as bamboo and wood, date back to around 1250 BCE. These early tops were often decorated with intricate designs and used in various games and competitions.

The Kite: An Ancient Chinese Invention

The kite, originating in ancient China, is another toy with a long and storied history. The earliest kites were made from materials like silk and bamboo and were used for both recreational and military purposes.

Kites in Ancient China

The earliest recorded use of kites dates back to around 200 BCE during the Han Dynasty. Kites were initially used for military purposes, such as sending messages and measuring distances. Over time, kites became popular as recreational toys, and their designs became more elaborate and artistic.

The Evolution of Toys Through History

As we move through history, the evolution of toys reflects changes in society, technology, and culture. The Industrial Revolution, in particular, had a significant impact on the production and availability of toys.

The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries brought about mass production techniques, making toys more affordable and accessible. Materials like tin, cast iron, and celluloid were used to create a wide variety of toys, from mechanical wind-up toys to intricate dollhouses.

20th Century and Beyond

In the 20th century, advances in technology and materials further revolutionized the toy industry. Plastic became the dominant material, leading to the creation of iconic toys like LEGO bricks, Barbie dolls, and action figures. The rise of electronic toys and video games in the latter half of the century added a new dimension to play, incorporating lights, sounds, and interactive elements.


The history of toys is a testament to the enduring nature of play and its importance in human development. From ancient dolls and balls to modern electronic games, toys have evolved alongside human civilization, reflecting our changing cultures, technologies, and values. The oldest toys, such as dolls, balls, yo-yos, and kites, have persisted through the millennia, demonstrating their timeless appeal and versatility.

In examining the longevity and evolution of toys, we gain insight into the universal aspects of play and the ways in which it shapes our lives. Toys not only entertain but also educate, socialize, and inspire creativity, making them an integral part of human history and culture. The enduring presence of these ancient toys in modern times speaks to their fundamental role in our lives, bridging the past and the present in a continuous thread of play and discovery.

Share this post...

Previous post Next post