Top Ten Traditional Toys

While game fads and toy trends may come and go, some playthings have long stood the test of time, inspiring generations of children. From the iconic to the blissfully simple, we take a look at the toys that have had the staying power to endure beyond the other short-lived passing crazes.


Doll’s House

Diminutive dwellings date back as far as the ancient Egyptians, but miniature mansions like the ones we know today can be traced back 400 years. Some can be extremely detailed, like the Tate House, on display at the Museum of Childhood in London. These little lodgings are great for imaginary play, which is important for confidence and social development.



Charmingly simple, this nifty spring entertains through mere movement. When first sold in 1945, the entire stock flew off the shelves in just ninety minutes. Still a bestseller, this tightly coiled helix of metal or plastic ribbon has changed little since its invention, and continues to captivate with its smooth gravitational action. Building Blocks Brilliantly basic, these blocks or bricks date back as far as 1693. Whether wooden or plastic, they’re bound to build dexterity and spatial awareness in little architects. Young constructors can stack these sturdy shapes into tall towers, which sparks imagination and creativity, plus they can work alongside siblings, which develops interaction and social ability.


Play Doh

This manageable modelling material was first manufactured as a toy in the mid-50s. Non-toxic and reusable, this versatile dough is great for squeezing, squishing and rolling into sausage shapes to make all sorts of fun and colourful miniatures. This sort of creative play is great for learning to grip and manipulate, improving sensory development and motor skills.

Train set

From the battery-powered to the manually moved, these locomotive sets are great for young and old alike. The first electric set was made in 1929, and since then sets have developed as a great gadget for pretend play based around rail travel. Fitting together track pieces and bridges is like solving a puzzle, giving children a chance to learn basic mathematical principles and patterns.


Teddy Bear

These stuffed creatures were named after the United States president Teddy Roosevelt following an incident on a hunting trip. Early bears were made to look realistic, but these days they’re much cuter and cuddlier. These calming comfort items, made from tactile textiles and fabrics, are said to alleviate stress, so are often given to children in tense situations by emergency officials.



In one form or another, these merry marionettes or playful puppets can be traced back to 384BC. Easy and fun to make at home from old gloves or socks, cheery characters are great for storytelling or role-play, helping to develop speech and listening skills as well as emotions. Why not have some fun with shadow puppets by making a screen with tracing paper and a light, and fashioning crazy characters out of black card. Jack in the box Thought to originate from a 13th Century folk myth, these brightly coloured, crank-operated music boxes became common in the 1700s. Often chiming nursery rhymes, these cause-and-effect toys have the element of surprise, which teaches a child about consequences as a result of their actions.


Mr Potato Head

Invented in 1949, this face-changing spud is great for learning about facial features and body parts. Originally designed for pinning on a real potato, the set now comes with safety-compliant plastic torso on which to place the pieces. Have hours of fun with this jolly jacket potato, as kids learn to recognise and identify emotions and expressions.


Rocking horse

These relaxing rockers first appeared in the 17th Century, often painstakingly hand-crafted by master carpenters. Perfect from toddling to pre-school age, these days you can find rockers in all shapes and sizes, including cars, fire engines, motorbikes, dragons and other creatures. Ideal for encouraging motor skill development at a child’s own individual pace, a rocking horse makes a marvellous addition to any nursery.


Top Ten Traditional Toys  Photo Credit: Mrs Logic


This take on nostalgic play was brought to you by Show and Stay, UK theatre break providers.





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