Playing with toys is considered to be important when it comes to growing up and learning about the world around us. Younger children use toys to discover their identity, help their bodies grow strong, learn cause and effect, explore relationships, and practice skills they will need as adults. Adults on occasion use toys to form and strengthen social bonds, teach, help in therapy, and to remember and reinforce lessons from their youth.

c.1300, "existing at the time," from Old French present "evident, at hand, within reach;" as a noun, "the present time" (11c., Modern French présent) and directly from Latin praesentem (nominative praesens) "present, at hand, in sight; immediate; prompt, instant; contemporary," from present participle of præesse "be before (someone or something), be at hand," from prae- "before" (see pre-) + esse "to be" (see essence). Meaning "being there" is from mid-14c. in English. As a grammatical tense, recorded from late 14c.
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.
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Having carefully considered the subject of the above discourses, and wondering within myself whether the present times were propitious to a new prince, and whether there were elements that would give an opportunity to a wise and virtuous one to introduce a new order of things which would do honour to him and good to the people of this country, it appears to me that so many things concur to favour a new prince that I never knew a time more fit than the present.

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.[15] 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.[16] 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.
In addition, children from differing communities may treat their toys in different ways based on their cultural practices. Children in more affluent communities may tend to be possessive of their toys, while children from poorer communities may be more willing to share and interact more with other children. The importance the child places on possession is dictated by the values in place within the community that the children observe on a daily basis.[19]
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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.
It has been noted by researchers that, "Children as young as 18 months display sex-stereotyped toy choices".[29] When eye movement is tracked in young infants, infant girls show a visual preference for a doll over a toy truck (d > 1.0). Boys showed no preference for the truck over the doll. However, they did fixate on the truck more than the girls (d = .78).[30] This small study suggests that even before any self-awareness of gender identity has emerged, children already prefer sex-typical toys. These differences in toy choice are well established within the child by the age of three.[31]

This stereotypical attribution of sex-typical toys for girls and boys is gradually changing, with toys companies creating more gender neutral toys, as the benefits associated with allowing children to play with toys that appeal to them far outweighs controlling their individual preferences.[38] For example, many stores are beginning to change their gender labels on children's play items. Target removed all identification related to gender from their toy aisles and Disney did the same for their costumes.[26] The Disney store is an especially prevalent example of gender in play because they are a global identity in the toy world. A study done regarding their website found that though they have removed gender labels from their costumes, the toys online reflect more stereotypical gender identities. For example, males were associated with physicality and females were associated with beauty, housing, and caring.[39] Too, though they promote their toys as being for both genders, there is no section for boys and girls combined on their website. Those which are generally deemed for both genders more closely resemble what many would label "boy toys," as they relate closer to the stereotype of masculinity within play.[39]
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