Promotional toys can fall into any of the other toy categories; for example they can be dolls or action figures based on the characters of movies or professional athletes, or they can be balls, yo-yos, and lunch boxes with logos on them. Sometimes they are given away for free as a form of advertising. Model aircraft are often toys that are used by airlines to promote their brand, just as toy cars and trucks and model trains are used by trucking, railroad and other companies as well. Many food manufacturers run promotions where a toy is included with the main product as a prize. Toys are also used as premiums, where consumers redeem proofs of purchase from a product and pay shipping and handling fees to get the toy. Some people go to great lengths to collect these sorts of promotional toys.
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.
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. 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. 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.
It has been noted by researchers that, "Children as young as 18 months display sex-stereotyped toy choices". 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). 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.
Toy companies change and adapt their toys to meet the changing demands of children thereby gaining a larger share of the substantial market. In recent years many toys have become more complicated with flashing lights and sounds in an effort to appeal to children raised around television and the internet. According to Mattel's president, Neil Friedman, "Innovation is key in the toy industry and to succeed one must create a 'wow' moment for kids by designing toys that have fun, innovative features and include new technologies and engaging content."
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.
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A toy is an item that is used in play, especially one designed for such use. Playing with toys can be an enjoyable means of training young children for life in society. Different materials like wood, clay, paper, and plastic are used to make toys. Many items are designed to serve as toys, but goods produced for other purposes can also be used. For instance, a small child may fold an ordinary piece of paper into an airplane shape and "fly it". Newer forms of toys include interactive digital entertainment. Some toys are produced primarily as collectors' items and are intended for display only.
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