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Top Photo:  In 2020, toy sales increased by 16% in the US, most likely due to the pandemic. The average American family spends about $580 a year on toys.

Every year, kids around the world are hoping for their favorite toy to arrive. What is the toy you hope to get this holiday season? Maybe it is the latest trendy toy, or it might be a classic that has stood the test of time.

During the holiday season, many people have traditions that include exchanging gifts. Are you hoping for a special toy this holiday season? Toys can be timeless or trendy, but kids have been playing with certain kinds of toys for a long, long time.

Dolls may be some of the oldest toys in the world, with evidence of dolls in ancient Egypt, Rome and Babylon. Dolls were originally made out of materials like wood, clay, fur or cloth. They are still popular today and come in a wide variety.

Before there were American Girl Dolls, Barbies, Cabbage Patch Kids or actions figures, the ragdoll reigned in colonial American. Fashion dolls made with porcelain heads were popular in the mid-1800s. In the 1900s, doll makers were trying to make baby dolls more and more realistic. There were dolls that cried, closed their eyes to sleep, wet their diapers, and those that appeared to eat and drink.

In 1959, Barbie appeared on the scene. Five years later, G.I. Joe arrived and made action figures a hot COMMODITY. Then, following the 1977 release of the first Star Wars movie, Star Wars action figures stormed toy store shelves and are still there today.

Luke, Leia, Han, Harry Potter, Anna, Elsa, Elmo, the Paw Patrol pups and many more show that dolls, plushies and other toys continue to be inspired by movies, shows and books. Likewise, some movies, show and books (Transformers, My Little Pony) have been inspired by toys!

Whether you are looking for a comforting companion or a cool collectible, here’s hoping that you get just the toy you are dreaming of this holiday season.

The National Toy Hall of Fame

The National Toy Hall of Fame is part of the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York. Established in 1998, the Toy Hall of Fame recognizes popular toys that have delighted children (and adults) over the years.

Each year the Hall of Fame recognizes toys that have stood the test of time to become beloved classics. This year’s inductees include American Girl Dolls and the board game Risk. The hall also includes toys like Hot Wheels, the Frisbee, Easy-Bake Ovens and games like Candy Land, Monopoly, chess and checkers.

The hall notes that games like chess and checkers have been around for centuries, as have toys like marbles and hoops. But some toys not only PERSIST, but surge in popularity at certain times. One of the most popular games in the world, chess, was very visible last year thanks to the pandemic, television, streaming and online chess. Similarly, hoops have been used as play things since ancient times, but the Hula Hoop became a huge fad in the 1950s. 

Erector Set

Alfred Carlton Gilbert, or A.C. Gilbert, was an American inventor. He was also an athlete who won an Olympic gold medal in the pole vault in 1908, but Gilbert remains best known as a toy maker—he invented the Erector Set in 1911. 

This famous building and engineering toy made its public debut in 1913 at the Toy Fair in New York. The Erector Set was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1998.

According to the A.C. Gilbert Heritage Society, when the government was weighing a ban on toy production in 1918 to support the war effort during World War I, Gilbert successfully argued against the ban. He was thus nicknamed “the man who saved Christmas.”

Gilbert died in 1961 and his company went bankrupt in 1967, but Erector sets continued to be made by other companies and are still around today. Other building toys have gained popularity over the years, including Lincoln Logs, LEGO and Magna-Tiles.


You can’t mistake the slightly sweet smell and squishy feel of fresh Play-Doh. But did you know that Play-Doh became a playtime favorite by accident? 

A non-toxic putty was made in the 1930s by Noah McVicker at his family’s soap company. The putty was used to clean wallpaper, but by the 1950s many homes had switched away from coal-burning stoves and no longer needed the putty to clean soot off the walls. Joseph McVicker, who took over the business, needed a new idea and it came from his sister-in-law, Kay Zufall. She was a teacher and she suggested that the putty might be ideal for kids to use for crafting and play.

McVicker launched a new company, Rainbow Crafts Company, in 1956. A year later Play-Doh was available in red, yellow and blue. By the mid-1960s, the company was shipping over a million cans of Play-Doh each year.

Today you can find Play-Doh Slime, Krackle, Foam, and a PLETHORA of playsets in addition to classic cans of Play-Doh.

Chess & Checkers

The most popular board games have been around for a long time—some for a very long time. A version of the game of checkers has been around since 3000 B.C. The game was played in ancient Mesopotamia in the Middle East, but the rules are unknown. A similar game called Alquerque was very popular in ancient Egypt.

It was around 1100 in France when the game was adapted to use a chessboard with 12 pieces on each side. Rules continued to evolve, and a version like the checkers we play today was being played by the 1500s. The first checkers world championship was in the 1840s.

Chess may have grown out of a game called chaturanga that was played in India around the year 600 A.D. The game grew in popularity and soon spread throughout Europe and Asia. 

The 1800s saw the standardization of the chess pieces we use today. At the same time, the chess clock was introduced into competitive play. According to, it was also the first game played online and one of the first apps on a computer.

Video Games

Kids today are very familiar with video games from Minecraft to Mario, Fortnight to Animal Crossing and many more. But while you may play your favorite game on the Xbox, Switch, or on a tablet or phone, did you ever hear of an Atari?

One of the first video games people could play at home was a table tennis game from Atari called Pong—it debuted in 1975. A few years later, the company had a real game changer with its Atari 2600 game system. 

In addition to having better games and graphics, the new Atari system let you change games. You could play Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Frogger and more!

While Atari was eventually overtaken by newer, faster systems, the Toy Hall of Fame credits the Atari 2600 with bringing video game play into American homes and making them a part of everyday life. The Atari 2600 was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2007. 

Timeline of Most Popular Toys 


Rocking horse

Die Cast Model T Ford car

Crayola Crayons

Spinning top


Raggedy Ann Doll

Lionel Trains

Teddy Bears

Erector Set


Radio Flyer Wagon



Joy Buzzers


Army Men Figures


Microscope sets

View Master



Magic 8 Balls

Silly Putty



Barbie Doll

Mr. Potato Head


Pogo Sticks



Easy-Bake Oven

Lite Brite

G.I. JoeHot Wheels

Etch A Sketch



Star Wars Action Figures

Rubik’s Cube

Tonka Trucks

Pet RockNerf




Care Bears

Koosh Balls


My Little Pony



Super Soakers


Elmo toys


Beanie Babies


Xbox 360

Razor Scooters

Ipod Touch

Guitar Hero



Xbox One



Frozen Toys

Amazon Echo



Board games

LOL Surprise!

Playstation 5

Baby Yoda toys

Animal Crossing