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.[1] The oldest known doll toy is thought to be 4,000 years old.[2]
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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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.

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Another study done by Jeffrey Trawick-Smith took 60 different children ages three to four and observed them playing with nine different toys deemed best for development. They were allowed to play with the toys in a typical environment, a preschool classroom, which allowed for the results to be more authentic compared to research done in a lab. The researchers then quantified play quality of the children with each toy based on factors such as learning, problem solving, curiosity, creativity, imagination, and peer interaction. The results revealed that boys generally received higher scores for overall play quality than girls, and the toys with the best play quality were those identified as the most gender neutral, such as building blocks and bricks along with pieces modeling people. Trawick-Smith then concluded that the study encourages a focus on toys which are beneficial to both genders in order to create a better balance.[32]
The earliest toys are made from materials found in nature, such as rocks, sticks, and clay. Thousands of years ago, Egyptian children played with dolls that had wigs and movable limbs which were made from stone, pottery, and wood.[4] In Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, children played with dolls made of wax or terracotta, sticks, bows and arrows, and yo-yos. When Greek children, especially girls, came of age it was customary for them to sacrifice the toys of their childhood to the gods. On the eve of their wedding, young girls around fourteen would offer their dolls in a temple as a rite of passage into adulthood.[5][6]

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.
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