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. The oldest known doll toy is thought to be 4,000 years old.
While some parents promote gender neutral play, many 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. Researcher Susan Witt said that parents are the primary influencer on the gender roles of their children. 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. This is often done through encouragement or discouragement, as well as suggestions and imitation. 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. A study done by researcher Susan Witt suggests that stereotypes are oftentimes only strengthened by the environment, which perpetuates them to linger in older life.
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.
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