History of Toys and Games Students Create a Timeline to Illustrate When Popular Toys Were First Introduced

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History of Toys and Games
Students Create a Timeline to Illustrate When Popular Toys Were First Introduced
from Education World ®

Subjects: Language Arts, Visual Arts, Educational Technology, Math, Social Studies

Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

Students will:

  • develop research skills as they search the Internet for popular toys,

  • learn when those toys were first introduced, and

  • use measurement skills to create an accurate timeline.

timeline, toys, Christmas, December, consumer, money, shopping, games, calendar, bulletin board

Materials Needed

  • Internet access (classroom or computer lab setting)

  • 4-1/4 x 5-1/2-inch heavy-stock paper (e.g., oak tag) — 2 sheets per student

  • other technology resources (optional)

  • fishing tackle or yarn; or clothesline and clothespins (optional)


Begin the lesson by brainstorming with students the hottest-selling toys and games of the current season. Make a list of those toys on a chalkboard or chart. Talk about whether the toys are new to the market or if have been around for years. When completed, put aside that chart for future reference.

Most of the toys discussed are likely to be the hot, new toys of this holiday season. You might wonder aloud how many of those toys will be remembered 10, or even 5, years from now. Remind students of a few toys that are extremely popular that have been around for decades — toys like the Barbie doll, the Slinky, and the board game Monopoly. Ask students, "What other popular toys and games do you think have been around for 5 or 10 years or more?" Write on a chart the names of those toys and games as students call them out.

Instead of doing the above activity as a whole-class exercise, you might arrange students in small groups and have them work together to come up with lists of toys and games that have been around for as long as they can remember. Then have each group merge with another group to share and combine their lists, and build on them. Finally, have the groups share their lists to create a class list of popular toys and games.

Next, take students to the computer lab. Provide them with their master list of toys and games and the Hot List of "History of Toys" Web Sites found at the end of this lesson. Let students use the Web pages on that Hot List or surf freely to research when each of the toys on the list was first introduced. They will learn that some toys, like the yo-yo, are centuries old, while others, such as the Barbie doll, have been around for decades. (See Sample Findings below.)

You might assign each student one or two toys on the list to research. When they've tracked down information about those toys, they can use the balance of their time to research other toys on the brainstormed list or to uncover information about other popular toys that might not be on their list.

As students gather information, they should record on their copy of the list the date when each toy was first introduced. They also might take additional notes about where each toy was introduced, who created it, and other pertinent or interesting facts.

Next, cut 8-1/2 x 11-inch paper of heavy stock (oak tag stock or heavier) in half. Provide each student with two sheets of the 4-1/4 x 5-1/2-inch stock. On each sheet, have students record the following information about the toys they are responsible for researching:

  • the year in which the toy or game was introduced — in large, bold numbers;

  • an illustration of the toy or game (hand-drawn, cut from a catalog, or photographed using a digital camera);

  • the name of the toy or game; and,

  • a paragraph of interesting researched information about the toy or game.

Students also might use available technology — including word processing and Photoshop or illustration programs — to create their toy history cards.
When students have completed their informational cards, create a class timeline to show the history of some of the world's most popular toys. Since the bulk of toys were probably introduced since 1950, the timeline might cover that period only; separate card displays might serve as a reference for toys introduced before 1900, between 1901 and 1950, and in the last few years.

The timeline display can be created on a bulletin board; or you might string fishing tackle or yarn across the room, mark decades at measured intervals, and attach student-created toy history cards in the appropriate places on the timeline. (Clothesline and clothespins can serve as optional materials for creating this timeline.)

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