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A toy is any 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, 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 young humans 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 our 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 were 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.
As technology changed and civilization progressed, toys also changed. Where as ancient toys were made from materials found in nature like stone, wood, and grass, modern toys are often made from plastic, cloth, and synthetic materials, oftentimes powered by batteries. Ancient toys were often made by the parents and family of the children who used them, or by the children themselves. Modern toys, in contrast, are often mass-produced and sold in stores.
This change in the nature of toys is exemplified by the changes that have taken place in one of the oldest and most universal of human toys; dolls. The earliest and most primitive dolls were simple wooden carvings and bundles of grass. Egyptian dolls were sometimes jointed so that their limbs could move realistically. By the early 20th century there were dolls that could say "mama". 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 responThe 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.
A rubber duck is a popular bathtime toy for small children.
Toys, like play itself, serve multiple purposes in both humans and animals. They provide entertainment while fulfilling an educational role. Toys enhance cognitive behavior 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.
Two children playing with paddle balls, a painting by the Chinese artist Su Hanchen (苏汉臣, active 1130s-1160s AD), Song Dynasty
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.