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The Evolution of Toys: Past, present and future

KANSAS CITY, MO - Think back to the time in your life before work and worries. Before you had kids, back to when you were a kid. When a toy was all you wanted, all you needed. Whether you’re seven or 70, there’s no denying the connection we have with our toys.

“Toys communicate messages to kids. They tell kids a lot about the world around them.” Said Laura Taylor, Curator of Interpretation at The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures in Kansas City.

“Childhood in the 19th century was not for sissies. What has changed over time is the technology and the materials that are used.” Added Taylor.

The concept of the “Easy Bake Oven” is a great example.

“It’s a far cry to bake something with a light bulb than it is with an actual fire.” Said Taylor.

The turn of the century turned the toy industry on its head. Manufacturing improves and toy makers started directly targeting children with their ads.

“Barbie is the perfect example of this,” said Taylor

Barbie’s creator, Ruth Handler, used ads on the Mickey Mouse show to pitch her products. More than 60 years later, Barbie’s brand remains strong.

Nowadays, kids are being marketed to on social media. This 7-year-old and his YouTube channel, “Ryan Toys Review, has 17 million subscribers. It’s led to a multi-million-dollar income for his family. Companies pay Ryan to review and post about their products. More clicks mean more money because they are ads and links to ads all over the page.

“The rise of the digital toy provides an interesting conundrum for us.” Added Taylor.

Like plastics to the 20th century, electronic technology has revolutionized modern toy making. Video games become more realistic and intuitive every year, but does the added connectivity actually cause kids to disconnect? It’s a question posed by Stephanie Bliss of St. Louis’ Field House Museum.

“You had to use your creativity and you had to use your friends to use your creativity. And we don’t see that a lot today. A lot of the electronic toys do that for you.” Said Bliss.

It’s clear our toys have come a long way from the 1780s when wooden snakes with tacks for tongues were used to poke your friends as a prank. And who isn’t glad baby dolls no longer have these super creepy faces? You see as times change, toys change, and mainly for the better. Because as long as kids are captivated and infatuated with toys, there will always be a new trend and a new toy to add to the list.