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.[33] Researcher Susan Witt said that parents are the primary influencer on the gender roles of their children.[34] 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.[35] This is often done through encouragement or discouragement, as well as suggestions[34] and imitation.[28] Additionally, sons are more likely to be reinforced for sex-typical play and discouraged from atypical play.[35] 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.[36] Fathers are also more likely to reinforce typical play and discourage atypical play than mothers are.[37] 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.[34]

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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.[56][57] 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.

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.[9]
Meccano was a model construction system that consisted of re-usable metal strips, plates, angle girders, wheels, axles and gears, with nuts and bolts to connect the pieces and enabled the building of working models and mechanical devices. Dinky Toys pioneered the manufacture of die-cast toys with the production of toy cars, trains and ships and model train sets became popular in the 1920s. The Britain's company revolutionized the production of toy soldiers with the invention of the process of hollow casting in lead in 1893[12] – the company's products remained the industry standard for many years.

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