Who invented dolls?
The simple answer to that question is that we’ll never know. Evidence of doll toys has been found from thousands of years ago, as far back as the ancient Egyptians. With many examples known on ancient Greek and Roman dolls. But when it comes to discovering who invented dolls unfortunately we’ll never know.
Early dolls were made from available materials such as clay, wood, stone, bone, ivory and leather. Stories from ancient Greece describe dolls being used as playthings as far back as 100 AD although the likelihood is children were playing with a version of dolls long before this.
In fact a doll made of soapstone was found in a Siberian child’s grave dating back to the bronze age, around 4500 years ago, which appeared to be a child’s toy rather than a religious or spiritual symbol.
Dolls were not just children’s playthings but would also have had spiritual and ritual value in many cultures. We still see examples of this today, for example, Guatemalan worry dolls and African Akua’ba fertility dolls.
Of course, all ancient dolls would have been hand made as are many dolls that still exist today. Whether they were made as playthings or for ritual or spiritual purposes they would have been crafted by hand.
Handmade rag dolls are likely to have existed for far longer than we have evidence of as they simply wouldn’t have survived. Made from scraps of material they would have been created as gifts or used as a way to teach young girls how to sew.
The British Museum has an example of a rag doll found in a child’s grave from around 500 AD but as the fabric does not preserve well there are a very limited number of examples.
Mass produced dolls
Toys started to be mass-produced, including dolls, in the 19th century. Hard plastic dolls were first manufactured in the 1940’s and Barbie was introduced to the market in 1959. Barbie was invented by Ruth Ruth Handler and designed by Jack Ryan. This was the first fashion doll aimed at older children as was destined to be a huge success worldwide.
Ken, Barbies boyfriend was introduced at a later date but despite being a boy doll was still primarily aimed at girls, however, the 60’s also saw the introduction of action figures such as GI Joe aimed at boys. And addressing the question can boys play with dolls simply by giving them another name.
Nowadays our concerns about the use of plastic mean many people are choosing to go back to more traditional toys and materials and soft dolls and wooden peg dolls are seeing a rise in popularity again. And it’s not just the environment that will benefit from this change. Simple toys foster creativity and inspire the imagination so they are better for your children too.