It’s just before midnight on a Friday in downtown Leesburg, and a young couple just stumbled out of the biker bar in this historic Virginia town — past the American flags, quaint lampposts and cascading petunia pots — and ducked into an alley, furiously making out.
A guy in a backwards ball cap staggered toward some porta-potties, then whizzed on a wall just outside them.
Petula is a columnist for The Washington Post’s local team who writes about homeless shelters, gun control, high heels, high school choirs, the politics of parenting, jails, abortion clinics, mayors, modern families, strip clubs and gas prices, among other things. View Archive
But here’s what’s freaking out some folks of late: Le Tache, a lingerie and sex-toy shop that opened across the street from the courthouse five years ago. Its very presence, the Leesburg Town Council was told by some residents, is debasing the good people of this 257-year-old city.
Let’s check it out. Because 11:30 p.m. on a Friday is when a sin shop should be at its most depraved, right?
So I walk past the rustic Americana biker bar, stroll past the window mannequins modeling corsets and lace undies — outfits that cover more of those plastic bodies than what plenty of women wear to the pool — and I see it.
The clerk is knitting.
“Hello,” she says, cheerfully.
I described the debauchery I saw drifting out of the bar next door, and nope, none of those people were her customers. It had been busy earlier, but mostly older couples who came in after dinner.
Friday nights aren’t their busiest times, said the clerk, who doesn’t want to give her name.
“Monday mornings. Whoa,” she said. “Sometimes, people are waiting outside before we open at 10 a.m.”
I browse the store. The main part is fancy lingerie, nothing too different from what you’d see at a Victoria’s Secret at nearly every mall in the United States.
The curtained-off sex-toy part is certainly more graphic. But it’s also the area where children aren’t allowed, and it can’t be seen from the street.
The helpful clerk admitted she often feels like a therapist and is stunned by the questions, myths and misperceptions that customers — often middle-aged couples — have when they get to this part of the shop.
She answers all their questions patiently. And their gratitude (they often return to update her on how things went ) tells her she’s doing some valuable work in her community.
She took me on a tour of her bestsellers. One is a $ 350 vibrator. And no, for that price, it doesn’t also make breakfast in the morning. But it does look like something sleek and right out of Apple’s design shop. She explains the movement and battery life that account for the price. Oh.
She’s sold out of the real hit — a $ 250 wearable sex toy that can be buzzed remotely with an app. It’s really popular among Northern Virginia’s power couples, who are often separated by travel, she says. Pleasure is only an app away.
Or there’s the tiny device that’s a $ 150 Fitbit for your lady nether regions, reminding you to do your Kegel exercises with a buzz and tracking your progress on an app.
So this is apparently what prompted letters to the Leesburg Town Council and spurred visits from town officials.
“Actually, the police officer visit was because of a hookah,” store owner Bo Kenney said.
A woman was walking down the street and her grandson saw a hookah in the store window display. Grandma reported to police that there was a sex toy. Right in plain sight, in the window, Kenney said.
So they removed it and laughed at what, exactly, Grandma envisioned are the sex acts performed with the hookah.
The store is among the 12 shops that Kenney and his wife own. Le Tache bills itself on its Web site as “Northern Virginia’s #1 lingerie and couples boutique since 1988. Over 1 million toys for lovers sold! We offer sexy lingerie, toys for lovers, aphrodisiacs, lubricants, gifts and more.”
“We have nothing but good customers in Leesburg,” Kenney said. “Nothing about the town or the people has been negative.”
Members of the town council told Leesburg Today that they’ve been hit with e-mails from residents unhappy with having to pass the store windows and explain them to their children.
“Why do we have to have such unchaste and disgusting displays of women in a beautiful, old town as Leesburg?” one woman wrote to the council. “Please do something to get rid of this store as soon as possible. I wonder what else goes on in this building!”
Um, I checked it out for you, ma’am. Knitting. Knitting happens in that building.
Less than a mile from the pink ruffles and push-up bras is a gun shop, with window displays of rifle butts and Sig Sauer and Glock stickers. The gun shop is wedged between a soccer association headquarters and a family-style Italian restaurant. We haven’t seen the town council flooded with complaints about this juxtaposition.
But this year, 2,480 children have been injured or killed by gunfire, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
As far as I can tell — but maybe I’m just not finding these stats in the federal reports — zero kids have been killed by boobs. Or pink bustiers.
Leesburg’s attorney has told the letter writers and town leaders that they can’t do anything about the lingerie store. Everything being sold is perfectly legal, even if the displays offend some or objectify women.
(Hey, Le Tache, how about some men in the window?)
Bottom line: The naughty wares in Leesburg aren’t going anywhere unless people stop buying them. As the spending habits of the good people of Leesburg demonstrate, Sunday morning prudishness is a lot less powerful than Monday morning sex-toy shopping.
Educational Toys, Learning Toys for Kids & Children – MindWare
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Famed comedienne Phyllis Diller once said, “Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing.” Many parents realize that having children means their homes will be filled with a vast assortment of toys, clothing and other items that seemingly spend more time scattered across the family room floor than in children’s bedrooms.
Homes where young children lay their heads at night may not be as tidy as the photos lining home decorating magazine spreads. But while lived-in family homes may never be spotless, they do not have to be overrun with clutter, either. It’s possible to find a happy balance with the right strategy and by investing in a few organizational products.
• Work one room at a time. Cleaning up cluttered homes can seem like a monumental effort when looking at clutter as a whole. But parents can do themselves a favor by choosing a starting point and tackling the project one room at a time. Find the room that needs the most work or a space where clutter causes the biggest headaches. Once you clean such rooms, you may discover extra motivation to move on to the others.
• Resist the urge to wander. One of the obstacles many people face when attempting to declutter a home is the tendency to remove an item from one room only to add it to the existing clutter in another room. For example, if a child’s toy is in the living room, you may walk that toy up to the bedroom and get involved in tidying up the bedroom, leaving the mess behind in the living room. When organizing a home, stay in a particular room until that room is clean. Have designated bins or bags for items that need to be carried into another room, but only transfer such containers after a room has been cleaned.
• Cull twice a year. Children accumulate the greatest number of new toys on birthdays and holidays. Set a schedule to go through existing toys prior to these events and sort out the broken, old or seldom-used items. Donate these toys to preschools, afterschool programs, family support centers, or babysitting centers at your office or gym. Whatever can’t be salvaged should be put into the trash or recycling bins.
• Invest in storage cubes and bins. Toys that are easily accessible and seen are easier to find and put away. Develop a storage system that works for your family. Labeling bins with words (or pictures for children who can’t yet read) helps children identify where things belong. Find a system that will have long-term functionality and grow with the family. Many stores sell storage bookcases that blend with home decor.
• Tame the toys. Making too many items available at any given time can become overwhelming to children. Rotate toys rather than always buying new ones so that items will be fresh and interesting. Toys out of the rotation can be stored in a basement or attic. Belongings that are not requested or missed can be given away. Another idea is to create wishlists for birthdays and holidays. This way friends and relatives only buy what kids want, rather than an array of toys that may just end up taking up space.
• Get items off of the floor. Any organizational system that can move items vertically is beneficial. Children will become accustomed to hanging things up rather than leaving belongings on the floor. Hooks, hangers and shelving mounted on walls, will free up precious floor space.
• Choose furniture that serves double duty. Beds with drawers underneath or a toy chest that doubles as a bench can work well in spaces that need some clutter control.
• Establish a school memory box. Parents can give each of their children a plastic bin where they can store memorable items from school. Not every assignment or drawing sent home needs to be kept. Reserve the memory box for those special things that have the most meaning.
Kids and clutter often go hand in hand. However, there are ways to keep the mess under control.
It looks like a rainy weekend ahead, and the forecast calls for chilly temperatures next week. This sounds like the perfect opportunity to prepare for much colder weather that’ll be here far too soon. I’ve already moved my pup’s evening walk earlier because it’s dark by 8:00. While shorter nights could mean chilling on the couch watching tv, why not start a new habit with family game night. The perfect place to find something everyone will love…Moore Toys & Gadgets.
Yes, it’s a play on their last name- Moore- but they really have more cool toys than I’ve seen in a while.
They’ve been open for less than a year, but I think Moore’s will be in Wheaton for quite some time. What I like most, though, is that this shop is geared toward older kids and adults. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty for little ones too, but since Ms. Moore’s three kids were older when they opened shop, the tween/teen/adult selection is great.
Unfortunately, my daughter and I were too busy playing with everything and checking out the shelves that I forgot to take pictures. A bonus customer service surprise…the teenage boy and girl working were having just as much fun showing us their favorites.
Since these pictures are off their Facebook page I can’t guarantee that everything is still in stock.
Heading on vacation? Looking for “brain teaser” books to boost those academic skills? They have plenty of options. Though they have lots of great gift ideas, they also have a studio room for parties and camps. Kimmer’s is conveniently next door so you won’t have to go far with your ice cream cake!
While I’ll definitely be back for holiday gifts, I’m certain we’ll be there this weekend if my daughter catches sight of these cool phone “pursecases.”
Moore Toys & Gadgets does have website, but it’s mostly informational (no online shopping yet). Check out their Facebook page for a better indication of in-stock items.
Moore Toys & Gadgets 107 E. Front Street Wheaton , Il 60187 630.480.4285
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Enthusiasts and ZipCar drivers alike can find brutally honest reviews, industry news, insight on trends and real-life-anecdotes likely to produce accelerated graying of hair amongst more than a few industry insiders.
HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill., Sept. 15, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — Kmart today revealed its Fab 15 list of the hottest toys for the 2015 holiday season and announced its first-ever Kid Toy Advisory Board – a select group of kids of Kmart associates who will serve as toy experts and holiday toy consultants.
Kmart’s annual Fab 15 toy list includes ridiculously awesome toys and games for kids of all ages and stages. The list, which comprises Kmart-exclusive toys and hot brands like Disney’s Frozen, Star Wars, LEGO®, Barbie™ and NERF®, is carefully curated based on industry trends, input from parents and kids, and more than 50 years of experience in knowing what toys kids love to play with and find under their Christmas trees.
The Kmart Fab 15 list of hot holiday toys includes:
The new Kmart Kid Toy Advisory Board will tap into toy playing insights that only a kid can provide.
“Our annual Fab 15 list makes gift-giving super-easy, and this year with No Money Down Layaway through Nov. 29, our members can put those hot toys away and pick them up in time for Christmas,” said Simha Kumar, president, children’s entertainment at Kmart.
Holiday Shopping with No Money Down Layaway at Kmart Now through Nov. 29, Kmart shoppers can place in-demand items across dozens of categories on layaway including toys, home products, apparel and electronics, with no down payment for in-store contracts and only one penny down for online contracts.* Shop Your Way members earn points on layaway purchases, and membership is easy and free. Gift-givers can stay organized by opting to receive payment reminder alerts via text. In addition, members also get $ 10 off a layaway purchase of $ 50 in apparel, jewelry and footwear.** For more information on No Money Down Layaway, visit Kmart.com/Layaway.
“One of the best parts of my job is being able to share with my readers and followers the hottest toys kids will want and the deals that parents will love,” said Melissa Garcia, ConsumerQueen.com founder and mom. “Kmart’s Fab 15 list includes hit licensed products and Kmart exclusives.” Garcia is also a personal shopper for Kmart, providing toy recommendations this holiday season to members who sign up with her for free on ShopYourWay.com.
Win All Fab 15 Toys with Shop Your Way*** Shop Your Way members can enter for a chance to win all of the Kmart Fab 15 toys at ShopYourWay.com/FAB15SWEEPS. Members will receive additional entries by entering the code FAB15TOYS upon entering the sweeps and will receive an automatic entry by purchasing a Fab 15 toy. Members and customers can shop for any of the items on the Fab 15 list at local Kmart stores nationwide or online anytime at Kmart.com/fab15.
In addition to the Fab 15, Kmart has hundreds of exclusive toys from brands and characters kids know and love. Kmart has updated its toys website at Kmart.com/toys, where members can easily search a broad assortment of ridiculously awesome toys, games and activities, including sorting by age, category, brand and even individual character. Kmart will also be issuing its annual holiday toy book, which will include this year’s Fab 15, additional Kmart exclusives and a wide selection of on-trend toys for all ages and stages.
For the latest information and deals on the Fab 15 and Kmart’s full assortment of toys, “Like” Kmart on Facebook and “Follow” Kmart on Twitter.
*Offer valid on new layaway contracts through Sunday 11/29/15. No down payment required in store. One penny down required online for layaway only. All fees nonrefundable. Cancellation fees apply, except Ohio. Layaway requires biweekly payments. Exclusions also apply. See store for details.
**Members get $ 10 off any Apparel, Footwear and Jewelry purchase of $ 50 or more on layaway Details: Offer valid in-store and online on new Layaway contracts from 8/30 through 9/19 and 10/4/15 through 10/17/2015. Members $ 10 off any Toys, Sporting Goods, Home and Appliance purchase of $ 50 or more on layaway or lease Details: Offer valid in-store and online on new Layaway contracts from 9/20 through 10/3 and 10/18 through 10/31/2015. Excludes clearance merchandise, closeout, hot buys, gift cards, non-merchandise, prior purchases, Sears merchandise, Everyday Great Price items, Deal Flash, red-tag special buys, incredible buys, introductory offers, gold-filled jewelry, family jewelry, class rings, concessions, federal or state regulated items, alcohol, tobacco, fuel, items behind the pharmacy counter, prescriptions, partial-paid special order items, Lands’ End, and Scrubology. Online code limited to one-time use only and applies to merchandise marked sold by Kmart only. To redeem online enter LAYAWAY10 into promo field at checkout. Savings shown in cart. Not combinable with any other offer. Discount given at time of layaway purchase. Savings applied and pro-rated across all qualifying items purchased in addition to the minimum requirements and will be deducted from any refund. Purchase requirement before taxes and after other discounts and must be made in a single transaction.
About Kmart Kmart, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sears Holdings Corporation (NASDAQ: SHLD), is a mass merchandising company and part of Shop Your Way, a social shopping experience where members have the ability to earn points and receive benefits across a wide variety of physical and digital formats through shopyourway.com. Kmart offers customers quality products through a portfolio of exclusive brands that include Jaclyn Smith, Joe Boxer, Route 66 and Smart Sense. For more information visit the company’s website at www.kmart.com | Sears Holdings Corporation website at www.searsholdings.com | Facebook: www.facebook.com/kmart.
About Shop Your Way Shop Your Way® is a free social shopping destination and rewards program offering millions of products, personalized services, and advice. Through a network of retail partners and service providers, members can shop, compare, purchase items and earn points to use on future purchases. Members also enjoy special pricing, exclusive sales, events, access to celebrity brands and sweepstakes. And through the unique social community on shopyourway.com members can research and browse products, create wish lists, poll friends and family and even get advice from experts to help choose the products and services that best meet their needs. There is no minimum purchase required for Shop Your Way® members to redeem points and points can be used toward purchases across countless product categories. Download the free Shop Your Way app available on iTunes or Google Play. There is no minimum purchase required for Shop Your Way members to redeem points and points can be used toward purchases across countless product categories. Download the free Shop Your Way app available on iTunes or Google Play. By accepting Shop Your Way member benefits and offers, you agree to the Shop Your Way terms and conditions, available at www.shopyourway.com/terms.
Drake Floyd, 7, hugs Santa on Sunday as his grandmother, Gloria Drouyn, gives encouragement during the 33rd annual Toy Run to benefit the New Hampshire Union Leader Santa Fund for the Salvation Army. (NICOLE GOODHUE BOYD/UNION LEADER) MANCHESTER — Santa Claus came to town early, rumbling in on a motorcycle Sunday with bags full of toys for children who may otherwise go without during the holidays.
Hundreds of bikers rode together from Concord to Manchester during the 33rd annual Toy Run, the unofficial kickoff event for the New Hampshire Union Leader Santa Fund for the Salvation Army. The convoy arrived at the Union Leader around 1:45 p.m. during a break in the rainy weather and dropped off stashes of toys.
“Considering the weather, it went very well,” said Betty Rock of the New Hampshire Motorcyclists’ Rights Organization, which organizes the ride. “It was raining around the state here and there, so that definitely deters some people.”
Last year’s Toy Run was estimated at more than 1,000 bikers. Organizers said as many as 300 motorcycles made the trek through the spotty rain and mist on Sunday.
“This is all for the kids,” said Sherman Packard, a Londonderry resident and state lawmaker who helped start the event more than 30 years ago. “My wife has sometimes worked the toy booth down at the Salvation Army and she said some of the families that come through are just so grateful to get something for their kids at Christmastime.“
“Santa” — a biker dressed in the full red suit and white trim — led the pack.
Mayor Ted Gatsas greeted the riders and thanked everyone who took part.
Volunteers were waiting with burgers and other food beneath a tent in the Union Leader parking lot, where a trailer quickly filled — then overflowed — with toys in plastic bags.
Salvation Army Capt. Herb Rader, who heads the organization’s Manchester Corps, rode his own motorcycle in the convoy and also thanked the bikers for their annual display of generosity.
“It’s just a fun day,” Rader said. “Sometimes bikers have this hard image and gruff exterior, but this just shows that there’s a lot of good heart among the people here.”
In 2010, when Maryland-based parenting blogger and consultant Maria Moser was on a quest for a toy baby stroller, she had one proviso in mind: It needed to not be pink. That proved to be a tall order, as Moser learned in the ensuing weeks searching for neutral-colored stroller. But it was a sticking point for Moser, since the stroller was for her young middle son rather than her daughter.
“I feel I’m not raising little boys, I’m raising men. Men who will perhaps be someone’s husband and father someday,” Moser said. “Allowing them to play with babies is important.”
As a mother of three children under 12, Moser has tried to impart a feeling of freedom and possibility into her kids that they, regardless of gender, can accomplish anything despite what traditional ideas of gender identity may dictate. To Moser, that lesson begins with the toys children play with, but it’s not a message she feels her children are likely to get from toys manufactured specifically toward one gender.
“I knew that they’d have the rest of their lives to have gender stereotypes shoved down their throats, and I wanted them to have the safety of exploring whatever they wanted without ridicule,” Moser said.
Moser isn’t alone in her enthusiasm for gender neutrality in children’s marketing and toys. This summer, retail giant Target announced that amid customer outcry it would stop labeling toys for girls or boys and remove any colored paper from its toy shelving that referenced gender, such as pink or blue.
The idea behind gender neutrality in toys is that encouraging kids to play beyond the boundaries of “traditional” gender roles can help to iron out real-world gender inequalities in the future. In 2014, when Lego introduced its Research Institute play set that included a female chemist, astronomer and paleontologist figurines, liberal blog ThinkProgress argued that the toys’ very existence could combat current gender equality issues like gender disparities in science and technology jobs.
“New Lego figures can’t fix all of those problems,” ThinkProgress reported. “But they could get some girls hooked on science who might have otherwise thought they shouldn’t be interested.”
Gender neutrality in children’s toys and play may be a noble goal, but child-play researcher and psychologist Peter Gray says the focus on gender-neutral toys and play overlooks gender as a crucial aspect of both children’s play and their development.
Page 2 of 4 – “Children come into the world designed to look around, see what it is that people of their gender do, and then they want to play at those skills to become good at them — we’re biologically drawn to that,” Gray said. “From an evolutionary perspective, there’s almost nothing more important than ‘declaring yourself,’ so there’s no confusion about what you offer within a given culture.”
The power of choice
As Moser’s kids have grown, they’ve started choosing their own toys based on their own preferences that are more traditional — her boys like toy cars and her daughter sometimes chooses pink Lego sets.
“I’m just trying to strike a balance and let them find their own way,” Moser said. “But I’m very quick to correct any ‘that’s for girls or boys’ talk.”
But University of California Davis sociologist and toy researcher Elizabeth Sweet wonders how much choice children really have at a time when gender-specific toy marketing is at an all-time high.
“The amount of gendered toys (that exist) today is unprecedented. Toys have never looked the way they do today,” Sweet said. “Some toys have always had some markings of gender, but it used to be done in overt ways. Now, entire aisles of toys are labeled for boys or girls.”
Sweet has spent years studying American toy advertising from the turn of the 20th century through today, looking for what she calls gender cues — that is, visual cues that tell a customer if the toy is for boys or girls. Sweet said cues have risen and fallen over the years in how much they target one gender or another. The cues can be overt — such as a boy or girl shown playing with the toy on the package — or implicit — such as color.
Sweet says toys were least gendered in 1905, when they weren’t a high-demand consumer item, especially in an age when children were still used for labor. By 1925, Sweet said 51 percent of toys exhibited subtle gender cues, like coloring, while 49 percent had no gender coding.
Obvious gender coding in toys hit an all-time high in 1945, when 30 percent of toys were marketed by gender. Gender cues in toys were relaxed in the 1970s, Sweet said, with 32 percent of toys marketed to specific genders and just 31 percent offered subtle cues.
“Compare that to what we see now, where outlets like the Disney online store is 100 percent gender-coded, that’s a huge change,” Sweet said. “Certainly young kids respond to gender stereotypes and that’s why marketers use them. But it’s not necessarily good for children.”
Page 3 of 4 – But Jim Silver, CEO of the toy review firm TTPM, says toy companies are simply conducting good business practices by designing their products based on their intended demographic. Silver said that gender-specific toys in no way restrict children’s play and pointed to Hasbro’s introduction of a neutral-colored EasyBake Oven as a sign that toy makers are open to change.
“Manufacturers and retailers are looking at (gender) labeling less — they’re listening to consumers,” Silver said. “But what do you do about something like Barbie dolls where boys just have less interest? You can’t expect Mattel to market to boys.”
Sweet says the problem isn’t that children are drawn to certain toys because they’re made for girls or boys; it’s the lack of variety in toys that’s worrisome. Sweet says when toy makers focus exclusively on gender, they risk defining children’s play for them — which can actually inhibit the benefits of play.
“When the system is set up as it is into two rigid, narrow boxes, there aren’t a lot of things that reinforce individual behavior and so much of play is about the child making their own decisions and taking control,” Sweet said. “If those boxes weren’t here, children could play in a way that wasn’t set for them.”
Toys and culture
Sweet says gender cues in toys have ebbed and flowed because adults think girls and boys play differently.
“In the past, that was paired with the idea that girls were inferior — the new version is that they’re separate but equal, so you get things like pink vs. regular Legos,” Sweet said. “Whether or not we tell girls and boys that they can be equal, there’s this idea (within toys) that an entire person’s capacity is defined by their gender.”
While Gray says gender does have a significant role in how children play, it’s more important that children not be forced to play in any certain way. Boxing kids in according to norms dictated by toy companies — such as, cars and action figures are for boys, dolls and tea sets are for girls — can actually inhibit the benefits kids get from play on their own terms.
“Children really know themselves better than we know what’s important for them to do,” Gray said. “When we try to direct their play by saying something like, ‘You can’t play with guns,’ or whatever, then the child isn’t going into it with same enthusiasm and they’re not learning to take control of their own lives.”
Page 4 of 4 – Gray says it’s also unlikely toys can change the state of gender equality. Rather than trying to change culture through children’s toys, he says, children’s toys are a reflection of the culture children are born into.
“There’s always this trend to think we can shape the future or our children through what we give them to play with, but it’s the other way around,” Gray said. “As the culture changes, children’s interests also change to reflect that. So far, our culture hasn’t changed in regard to (gender neutrality).”
While Moser isn’t expecting to change the world overnight with her kids’ toys, she does plan to keep thinking of her children as individuals rather than simply as one gender or the other whatever colors their future toys are.
“My kids are who they are and like what they like because they’re individuals, not because they are boys or girls,” Moser said. “At the same time, I don’t claim that gender doesn’t play a role in that.”
A toy is an item that can be used for play. Toys are generally played with by children and pets. Playing with toys is an enjoyable means of training the young for life in society. Different materials are used to make toys enjoyable to both young and old. Many items are designed to serve as toys, but goods produced for other purposes can also be used. For instance, a small child may pick up a household item and “fly” it through the air as to pretend that it is an airplane. Another consideration is interactive digital entertainment. Some toys are produced primarily as collector‘s items and are intended for display only.
The origin of toys is prehistoric; dolls representing infants, animals, and soldiers, as well as representations of tools used by adults are readily found at archaeological sites. The origin of the word “toy” is unknown, but it is believed that it was first used in the 14th century. Toys are mainly made for children.
Toys, and play in general, are important when it comes to growing up and learning about the world around us. The young use toys and play to discover their identity, help their bodies grow strong, learn cause and effect, explore relationships, and practice skills they will need as adults. Adults use toys and play to form and strengthen social bonds, teach, remember and reinforce lessons from their youth, discover their identity, exercise their minds and bodies, explore relationships, practice skills, and decorate their living spaces.
Most children have been said to play with whatever they can find, such as pine cones and rocks. Toys and games have been unearthed from the sites of ancient civilizations. They have been written about in some of the oldest literature. Toys excavated from the Indus valley civilization (3000-1500 BCE) include small carts, whistles shaped like birds, and toy monkeys which could slide down a string.
The earliest toys are made from materials found in nature, such as rocks, sticks, and clay. Thousands of years ago, Egyptian children played with dolls that had wigs and movable limbs which were made from stone, pottery, and wood. In Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, children played with dolls made of wax or terracotta, sticks, bows and arrows, and yo-yos. When Greek children, especially girls, came of age it was customary for them to sacrifice the toys of their childhood to the gods. On the eve of their wedding, young girls around fourteen would offer their dolls in a temple as a rite of passage into adulthood.
The oldest known mechanical puzzle also comes from Greece and appeared in the 3rd century BC. The game consisted of a square divided into 14 parts, and the aim was to create different shapes from these pieces. In Iran “puzzle-locks” were made as early as the 17th century AD.
Toys became more widespread with the changing attitudes towards children engendered by the Enlightenment. Children began to be seen as people in and of themselves, as opposed to extensions of their household and that they had a right to flourish and enjoy their childhood. The variety and number of toys that were manufactured during the 18th century steadily rose; John Spilsbury invented the first jigsaw puzzle in 1767 to help children learn geography. He created puzzles on eight themes – the World, Europe, Asia, Africa, America, England and Wales, Ireland and Scotland. The rocking horse (on bow rockers) was developed at the same time in England, especially with the wealthy as it was thought to develop children’s balance for riding real horses.
A boy with a hoop. Hoops have long been a popular toy across a variety of cultures.
In the nineteenth century, the emphasis was put on toys that had an educational purpose to them, such as puzzles, books, cards and board games. Religiously themed toys were also popular, including a model Noah’s Ark with miniature animals and objects from other Bible scenes. With growing prosperity among the middle class, children had more leisure time on their hands, which led to the application of industrial methods to the manufacture of toys.
Frank Hornby’s 1901 patent number GB190100587A for what later became known as Meccano
The golden age of toy development was at the turn of the 20th century. Real wages were rising steadily in the Western world, allowing even working-class families to afford toys for their children, and industrial techniques of precision engineering and mass production was able to provide the supply to meet this rising demand. Intellectual emphasis was also increasingly being placed on the importance of a wholesome and happy childhood for the future development of children. William Harbutt, an English painter, invented plasticine in 1897, and in 1900 commercial production of the material as a children’s toy began. Frank Hornby was a visionary in toy development and manufacture and was responsible for the invention and production of three of the most popular lines of toys based on engineering principles in the twentieth century: Meccano, Hornby Model Railways and Dinky Toys.
Puzzles became greatly fashionable as well. In 1893, the English lawyer Angelo John Lewis, writing under the pseudonym of Professor Hoffman, wrote a book called Puzzles Old and New. It contained, amongst other things, more than 40 descriptions of puzzles with secret opening mechanisms. This book grew into a reference work for puzzle games and was very popular at the time. The Tangram puzzle, originally from China, spread to Europe and America in the 19th century.
During the Second World War, some new types of toys were created through accidental innovation. After trying to create a replacement for synthetic rubber, the American Earl L. Warrick inadvertently invented “nutty putty” during World War II. Later, Peter Hodgson recognized the potential as a childhood plaything and packaged it as Silly Putty. Similarly, Play-Doh was originally created as a wallpaper cleaner. In 1943 Richard James was experimenting with springs as part of his military research when he saw one come loose and fall to the floor. He was intrigued by the way it flopped around on the floor. He spent two years fine-tuning the design to find the best gauge of steel and coil; the result was the Slinky, which went on to sell in stores throughout the United States.
After the Second World War as society became ever more affluent and new technology and materials (plastics) for toy manufacture became available, toys became cheap and ubiquitous in households across the Western World. Among the more well known products of the 1950s there was the Danish company Lego‘s line of colourful interlocking plastic brick construction sets, Rubik’s Cube, Mr. Potato Head, the Barbie doll and Action Man. Today there are computerized dolls that can recognize and identify objects, the voice of their owner, and choose among hundreds of pre-programmed phrases with which to respond. The materials that toys are made from have changed, what toys can do has changed, but the fact that children play with toys has not changed.
Toys, like play itself, serve multiple purposes in both humans and animals. They provide entertainment while fulfilling an educational role. Toys enhance cognitivebehavior and stimulate creativity. They aid in the development of physical and mental skills which are necessary in later life.
One of the simplest toys, a set of simple wooden blocks is also one of the best toys for developing minds. Andrew Witkin, director of marketing for Mega Brands told Investor’s Business Daily that, “They help develop hand-eye coordination, math and science skills and also let kids be creative.” Other toys like Marbles, jackstones, and balls serve similar functions in child development, allowing children to use their minds and bodies to learn about spatial relationships, cause and effect, and a wide range of other skills as well as those mentioned by Mr. Witkin.
One example of the dramatic ways that toys can influence child development involves clay sculpting toys such as Play-Doh and Silly Putty and their home-made counterparts. Mary Ucci, Educational Director of the Child Study Center of Wellesley College, demonstrates how such toys positively impact the physical development, cognitive development, emotional development, and social development of children.
Toys for infants often make use of distinctive sounds, bright colors, and unique textures. Through play with toys infants begin to recognize shapes and colors. Repetition reinforces memory. Play-Doh, Silly Putty and other hands-on materials allow the child to make toys of their own.
Educational toys for school age children of often contain a puzzle, problem-solving technique, or mathematical proposition. Often toys designed for older audiences, such as teenagers or adults demonstrate advanced concepts. Newton’s cradle, a desk toy designed by Simon Prebble, demonstrates the conservation of momentum and energy.
Not all toys are appropriate for all ages of children. Some toys which are marketed for a specific age range can even harm the development of children in that range.
A toy tank with a remote control. Such toys are generally thought of as boys’ toys.
Certain toys, such as Barbie dolls and toy soldiers, are often perceived as being more acceptable for one gender than the other. It has been noted by researchers that, “Children as young as 18 months display sex-stereotyped toy choices”.
However, when eye movement is tracked in young infants, infant girls even show a visual preference for a doll over a toy truck. Interestingly, the opposite is true for infant boys. This shows that even before any self-awareness of gender identity has emerged, children already prefer sex-typical toys. These clear differences in toy choice are well established within the child by the age of three.
Parents encourage their sons and daughters to participate in sex-typed activities, including doll playing and engaging in housekeeping activities for girls and playing with trucks and engaging in sports activities for boys. Parents, siblings, peers, and even teachers have been shown to react more positively to children engaging in sex-typical behavior and playing with sex-typical toys. Additionally, sons are more likely to be reinforced for sex-typical play and discouraged from atypical play. However, it is generally not as looked down upon for females to play with toys designed “for boys”, an activity which has also become more common in recent years. Fathers are also more likely to reinforce typical play and discourage atypical play than mothers are.
Toys “R” Us operates over 1,500 stores in 30 countries and has an annual revenue of US$ 13.6 billion
With toys comprising such a large and important part of human existence, it makes sense that the toy industry would have a substantial economic impact. Sales of toys often increase around holidays where gift-giving is a tradition. Some of these holidays include Christmas, Easter, Saint Nicholas Day, and Three Kings Day.
In 2005, toy sales in the United States totaled about $ 22.9 billion. Money spent on children between the ages of 8 and twelve alone totals approximately $ 221 million annually in the U.S. It was estimated that in 2011, 88% of toy sales was in the age group 0–11 years.
Toy companies change and adapt their toys to meet the changing demands of children thereby gaining a larger share of the substantial market. In recent years many toys have become more complicated with flashing lights and sounds in an effort to appeal to children raised around television and the internet. According to Mattel‘s president, Neil Friedman, “Innovation is key in the toy industry and to succeed one must create a ‘wow’ moment for kids by designing toys that have fun, innovative features and include new technologies and engaging content.”
In an effort to reduce costs, many mass-producers of toys locate their factories in areas where wages are lower. 75% of all toys sold in the U.S., for example, are manufactured in China. Issues and events such as power outages, supply of raw materials, supply of labor, and raising wages that impact areas where factories are located often have an enormous impact on the toy industry in importing countries.
Many traditional toy makers have been losing sales to video game makers for years. Because of this, some traditional toy makers have entered the field of electronic games and are enhancing the brands that they have by introducing interactive extensions or internet connectivity to their current toys.
Lincoln Logs have been a popular construction type toy in the U.S. since the 1920s.
The Greek philosopher Plato wrote that the future architect should play at building houses as a child. A construction set is a collection of separate pieces that can be joined together to create models. Popular models to make include cars, spaceships, and houses. The things that are built are sometimes used as toys once completed, but generally speaking, the object is to build things of one’s own design, and old models often are broken up and the pieces reused in new models.
The oldest and, perhaps most common construction toy is a set of simple wooden blocks, which are often painted in bright colors and given to babies and toddlers. Construction sets such as Lego bricks and Lincoln Logs are designed for slightly older children and have been quite popular in the last century. Construction sets appeal to children (and adults) who like to work with their hands, puzzle solvers, and imaginative sorts.
Sometimes intended as decorations, keepsakes, or collectibles for older children and adults, most dolls are intended as toys for children, usually girls, to play with. Dolls have been found in Egyptiantombs which date to as early as 2000 BC.
Dolls are usually miniatures, but baby dolls may be of true size and weight. A doll or stuffed animal of soft material is sometimes called a plush toy or plushie. A popular toy of this type is the Teddy Bear.
A distinction is often made between dolls and action figures, which are generally of plastic or semi-metallic construction and poseable to some extent, and often are merchandising from television shows or films which feature the characters. Modern action figures, such as Action Man, are often marketed towards boys, whereas dolls are often marketed towards girls.
Toy soldiers, perhaps a precursor to modern action figures, have been a popular toy for centuries. They allow children to act out battles, often with toy military equipment and a castle or fort. Miniature animal figures are also widespread, with children perhaps acting out farm activities with animals and equipment centered around a toy farm.
Children have played with miniature versions of vehicles since ancient times, with toy two-wheeled carts being depicted on ancient Greek vases.Wind-up toys have also played a part in the advancement of toy vehicles. Modern equivalents include toy cars such as those produced by Matchbox or Hot Wheels, miniature aircraft, toy boats, military vehicles, and trains. Examples of the latter range from wooden sets for younger children such as BRIO to more complicated realistic train models like those produced by Lionel, Doepke and Hornby. Larger die-cast vehicles, 1:18 scale, have become popular toys; these vehicles are produced with a great attention to detail.
A puzzle is a problem or enigma that challenges ingenuity. Solutions to puzzle may require recognizing patterns and creating a particular order. People with a high inductive reasoning aptitude may be better at solving these puzzles than others. Puzzles based on the process of inquiry and discovery to complete may be solved faster by those with good deduction skills. A popular puzzle toy is the Rubik’s Cube, invented by Hungarian Ernő Rubik in 1974. Popularized in the 1980s, solving the cube requires planning and problem-solving skills and involves algorithms.
Some toys, such as Beanie Babies, attract large numbers of enthusiasts, eventually becoming collectibles. Other toys, such as Boyds Bears are marketed to adults as collectibles. Some people spend large sums of money in an effort to acquire larger and more complete collections. The record for a single Pez dispenser at auction, for example, is $ 1,100 U.S.
Promotional toys can fall into any of the other toy categories; for example they can be dolls or action figures based on the characters of movies or professional athletes, or they can be balls, yo-yos, and lunch boxes with logos on them. Sometimes they are given away for free as a form of advertising. Model aircraft are often toys that are used by airlines to promote their brand, just as toy cars and trucks and model trains are used by trucking, railroad and other companies as well. Many food manufacturers run promotions where a toy is included with the main product as a prize. Toys are also used as premiums, where consumers redeem proofs of purchase from a product and pay shipping and handling fees to get the toy. Some people go to great lengths to collect these sorts of promotional toys.
Digital toys are toys that incorporate some form of interactive digital technology. Examples of digital toys include virtual pets and handheld electronic games. Among the earliest digital toys are Mattel Auto Race and the Little Professor, both released in 1976. The concept of using technology in a way that bridges the digital with the physical world, providing unique interactive experiences for the user has also been referred to as “Phygital.”
Playing with these sorts of toys allows children to exercise, building strong bones and muscles and aiding in physical fitness. Throwing and catching balls and frisbees can improve hand-eye coordination. Jumping rope, (also known as skipping) and playing with foot bags can improve balance.
Toys with small parts, such as these Lego elements are required by law to have warnings about choking hazards in some countries.
Many countries have passed safety standards limiting the types of toys that can be sold. Most of these seek to limit potential hazards, such as choking or fire hazards that could cause injury. Children, especially very small ones, often put toys into their mouths, so the materials used to make a toy are regulated to prevent poisoning. Materials are also regulated to prevent fire hazards. Children have not yet learned to judge what is safe and what is dangerous, and parents do not always think of all possible situations, so such warnings and regulations are important on toys.
For toy safety, every country has its own regulations. But since the globalization and opening of markets, most of them try to harmonize their regulations. The most current action for children is to put toys in their mouths. This is why it is of utmost importance to regulate chemicals which are contained in the paintings and other materials children’s products are made of. Countries or trade zones such as the European Union regularly publish lists to regulate the quantities or ban chemicals from toys and juvenile products.
There have also been issues of toy safety regarding lead paint. Some toy factories, when projects become too large for them to handle, outsource production to other less known factories, often in other countries. Recently, there were some in China that America had to send back. The subcontractors may not be watched as closely and sometimes use improper manufacturing methods. The U.S. government, along with mass market stores, is now moving towards requiring companies to submit their products to testing before they end up on shelves.
When toys have been outgrown or are no longer wanted, reuse is sometimes considered. They can be donated via many charities such as Goodwill Industries and the Salvation Army, sold at garage sales, auctioned, sometimes even donated to museums. However, when toys are broken, worn out or otherwise unfit for use, care should be taken when disposing of them. Donated or resold toys should be gently used, clean and have all parts. Before disposal of any battery-operated toy, batteries should be removed and recycled; some communities demand this be done. Some manufacturers, such as Little Tikes, will take back and recycle their products.
In 2007, massive recalls of toys produced in China led many U.S. based charities to cut back on, or even discontinue, their acceptance of used toys. Goodwill stopped accepting donations of any toys except stuffed animals, and other charities checked all toys against government-issued checklists.
It is not unusual for some animals to play with toys. An example of this is a dolphin being trained to nudge a ball through a hoop. Young chimpanzees use sticks as dolls – the social aspect is seen by the fact that young females more often use a stick this way than young male chimpanzees. They carry their chosen stick and put it in their nest. Such behaviour is also seen in some adult female chimpanzees, but never after they have become mothers.
^Caldera, Yvonne M.; Huston, Aletha C.; O’Brien, Marion (February 1989). “Social Interactions and Play Patterns of Parents and Toddlers with Feminine, Masculine, and Neutral Toys”. Child Development60 (1): 70–76. doi:10.2307/1131072. JSTOR1131072. PMID2702876.
^Alexander, G. M., Wilcox, T., & Woods, R. (2009). Sex differences in infants’ visual interest in toys. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 427-433. doi: 10.1007/s10508-008-9430-1
^Alexander, G. M., & Saenz, J. (2012). Early androgens, activity levels and toy choices of children in the second year of life. Hormones and Behavior, 62, 500-504.
^Gender Role Stereotypes, Expectancy Effects, and Parents’ Socialization of Gender Differences, Jacquelynne S. Eccles, Janis E. Jacob, Rena D. Harold, 14 April 2010
^ abServin, A., Bohlin, G., & Berlin, L. (1999). Sex differences in 1-, 3-, and 5-year olds’ toy-choice in a structured play-session. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 40, 43-48.
^Berenbaum, S. A., Martin, C. L., Hanish, L. D., Briggs, P. T., & Fabes, R. A. (2008). Sex differences in children’s play. In J. Becker, K. Berkley, N. Geary, E. Hampson , J.Herman, & Young, E.A. (Eds.), Sex Differences in the Brain from Genes to Behavior (1ed., pp. 275-290).New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
The days of pink and blue toy aisles may soon be a thing of the past, as toy manufacturers and big-box retailers move to eliminate gendered toy marketing.
While gender equality advocates hail these advances (myself included) as positive, others are less than enthusiastic—and downright misinformed.
Most recently, news that Target is ditching gender-based toy labels—including in-store signage and colored backdrops on shelves—has sparked the ire of some conservatives, who contend that gender-neutral shopping experiences are an affront to “traditional” values.
Case in point: Franklin Graham (son of well-known evangelist Billy Graham) authored a viral Facebook post in Aug. 2015 denouncing Target, because God would have wanted gender binaries to stay intact: “I have news for them and for everyone else—God created two different genders,” Graham writes. “If you agree, share in the comments below—and let Target know … that you are perfectly willing to shop where the genders God created are appreciated.” And share people did. The post, touting an #OffTarget hashtag, has been shared nearly 50,000 and racked up more than 109,000 likes.
Integrated toy aisles won’t result in widespread upheaval and gender confusion among children.But despite Graham’s and his sympathizers’ beliefs, integrated toy aisles won’t result in widespread upheaval and gender confusion among children. As developmental psychologist Christia Brown recently told New York Magazine, such a claim simply “doesn’t hold up to the science … We know kids know their gender really early—they know it by about two years old.”
Science: 1. Haters: 0.
Science has also taught us about the detrimental effects that gendered toys can have on young, impressionable children. As Dr. Elizabeth Sweet, a sociologist and lecturer at the University of California, Davis, whose research focuses on gender and toys, explained to Quartz, “Studies have found that gendered toys do shape children’s play preferences and styles. Because gendered toys limit the range of skills and attributes that both boys and girls can explore through play, they may prevent children from developing their full range of interests, preferences, and talents.”
These effects shouldn’t be under-emphasized. According to Let Toys Be Toys, a UK-based campaign focused on eliminating the gendered labeling and marketing of toys, “the stereotypes we see in toy marketing connect with the inequalities we see in adult life. By late primary age, research … shows that children already have very clear ideas about the jobs that are suitable for boys and girls; ideas that are very hard to shake later on.”
In other words, a stroll down the toy aisle can end up teaching young girls that glamour and beauty, cooking and baby care are their ultimate goals, while boys might leave the toy store believing they should be rough, rowdy, and only interested in action-oriented activities. The result? Reinforced gender stereotypes that buttress outdated notions of masculinity and femininity, which, for mainstream outliers, can carry harmful consequences.
Conversely, de-gendering toys will allow children, and arguably society at large, to reap long-term benefits: when we offer kids equal choices from an early age, it logically follows that they will continue to expect and demand equality in their personal, social and professional lives.
Conversely, de-gendering toys will allow children, and arguably society at large, to reap long-term benefits.This is precisely why my husband and I make a point to offer our three-year-old daughter a wide variety of toys. That’s not to say we preclude her from playing with traditionally “girly” toys (we even indulge her princess obsession, to my horror), but we want her to explore any and all interests, including ones that Franklin Graham would characterize as masculine.
Drop by our house at any given time and you’re likely to find her playing with trucks while dressed as Queen Elsa. And when our son is old enough to engage in parallel, associative and cooperative play, I will similarly support him no matter what toys catch his fancy. After all, play should encourage, not thwart, development. Nor should it ever be used to shame a child who wants to pursue non-binary interests.
Those concerned that removing gender labels from toys will “cause the collapse of the gender order,” as Sweet put it, are whipping themselves into a frenzy for nothing. De-gendering toys simply allows children to “be free to explore their diverse interests beyond the narrow confines of gender stereotypes. Taking down a sign that says ‘Girls’ Building Sets’ doesn’t prevent a girl from selecting that toy, it simply means that a boy could also choose it.
Besides, we still have a long way to go. In fact, according to Sweet’s research, toys are more gendered now than they’ve ever been before. “The use of signage and color-coding to gender segregate toy aisles is a relatively new phenomenon that has only become popular in the past several decades,” she said. And the social media backlash that followed Target’s announcement demonstrates just how deeply entrenched sexism is.
Still, there’s reason to remain optimistic. Elsewhere, campaigns like Britain’s “Let Toys Be Toys” have been very successful; to date, 14 retailers have committed to end gendered toy marketing. And if major US retailers like Target are willing to embrace a cultural shift, it’s likely that eventually more stores and manufacturers will follow suit.
As a mom and die-hard believer in gender equality, I’m hopeful. I never want my children to feel pressured, whether subliminally or overtly, to pursue interests based on their perceived gender identity, and I know I’m not alone. While having completely genderless toys is likely impossible, there is a middle ground, which stores like Target are increasingly embracing. Children should not be forced to comply with their parents’ socially-constructed ideas of binary gender roles. To each his or her own!