10 Historical Toys

Although kaleidoscopes are more about looking than playing, their colorful light patterns have amused kids for hundreds of years. Susan Biddle/The Denver Post via Getty Images

While performing experiments in the field of optics during the early 19th century, Scottish scientist Sir David Brewster noticed that angling a set of mirrors within a tube resulted in mesmerizing patterns of light. While Brewster didn't set out to make a toy, he quickly realized the value of his invention and patented his kaleidoscope within a few short years. Using chips of colored glass, tinsel and beads in conjunction with the mirrors helped the kaleidoscope form elaborate patterns of color and light. Expanding on Brewster's idea, American toy makers used bubbles of air contained within tubes of liquid to create similar patterns and designs when the tube was rotated [source: Sobey and Sobey]. In the days before television, film or even old-fashioned projectors, the kaleidoscope served as a wondrous and cutting-edge toy for people of all ages.