10 Historical Toys

The Hoop
The hoop is a simple toy, but it’s been entertaining kids for centuries. Evans/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The simple hoop in its various forms has entertained children for thousands of years. Kids in ancient Egypt shook dried grapevines around their waists as early as 1000 B.C.E., forming the earliest-known hula-hoops. By the 14th century, both adults and children used metal or wooden hoods for spinning, another pastime similar to what's now known as hula-hooping [source: Patrick and Thompson]. Children and adults in Europe and the Americas rolled wooden hoops over the landscape by hand or by using a simple wooden stick to propel the hoop forward. By the 1800s, young ladies in Europe engaged in the game of Graces, where two players tossed wooden hoops through the air to one another using a pair of slim wooden sticks. Graces was seen as one of the few acceptable sports or games for females of the time and was rarely practiced by men or boys [source: Boyle].

By the mid-19th century, British sailors coined the term "hula-hoop" after they noticed how traditional Hawaiian hula dances mimicked the way people in Europe spun hoops around their hips for fun. The hula-hoop peaked in popularity during the 1950s but can still be found in major toy stores to this day.