Anything that children use in their play can be classified as a toy, but when we mention the term toys, most of us will have in mind items that have been created specifically for play and not just some stick, rock, blanket, or other item that a kid has picked up and converted into something else that can be played with via his or her imagination. These specially-crafted toys have been around for as long as human history. Dolls have been found at the oldest archaeological sites on the planet, as well as other classic toys like marbles, jacks, and more. For ages, parents and even kids themselves made most of the toys on the planet, but for the past several generations, individuals and companies have gone into business for themselves making truck toys, character toys, dolls, and other playthings.
Prior to World War II, those manufacturers who specialized in toy making constructed toys out of wood, tin, and cloth, but the boom in plastics after the war has meant that most of the bestselling toys on the market today include a high percentage of plastic in their construction. Because it is relatively cheap and malleable, plastic is an excellent choice for making action figures, dolls, balls, game pieces, and much more. This is likely to continue far into the future, although increased plastic costs have contributed to an increase in the retail price for toys.
Toys for children fall into several broad categories. There are fashion dolls such as Barbie and the simple baby dolls that come in every shape and size imaginable. Action figures are a popular choice for boys, whether they are the famous Transformers, G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, Power Rangers, or any of the other major media and character brands. Both action figures and dolls are popular with adult collectors as well. Other popular categories of toys include board games, diecast cars and trucks, and building blocks as are found in Lego sets.
Today, the two largest toy companies in the world are Mattel and Hasbro, and the majority of items found on the shelves at any toy or department store will likely be a creation of one of these two toy empires. Other smaller toy companies also distribute their products via these stores, but they also sell them online, since buying toys direct from their manufacturer, whether the maker is large or small, is an increasingly popular choice for parents and collectors alike.
Undoubtedly, toys will continue to be an integral part of our society. Children will always play with them, and they will always bring back treasured memories of a simpler time for all of us.