These days, children in Greece have a wide range of toys from which to choose. Traditional Greek toys often had a religious connotation attached to them, including the yo-yo, the rattle, dolls and wooden pull toys. Modern versions of these can still be purchased, while authentic toys from Ancient Greece can be viewed at the National Museum of Athens, Greece.
Since their first historical reference in 500 B.C., children in Ancient Greece played with the equivalent of yo-yos. These toys were called discs and were made from wood, metal and clay. These discs consisted of two halves, and each half featured paintings of famous deities. When children entered adulthood, it was customary for them to offer toys to their gods. Historians believe the yo-yo discs made of terracotta clay were preferred offerings since they were too fragile for extended play.
Greek dolls were used as decorations, offered to the gods and given to a child as playthings. They were commonly made of terracotta, bones, rags or wood, though higher quality Greek dolls were made of wax or ivory. They often had poseable limbs and joints, and could be held up by strings and dangled. Children dressed their dolls in handmade clothes and called them kore (literally "little girl"). They were given old figures once used as idols, and when girls were wed they offered their kore to Artemis, the goddess of beauty, love and fertility. Greek dolls were created to be realistic and their presence dates back to 600 B.C.
Wooden creations, such as pull-toys, have been given to Greek children for centuries. Wooden pull-toys are carved into animal shapes, and wooden horses (including replicas of the famous Trojan Horse) were also popular. Children spun wooden tops and rode on hobby horses, a long, wooden rod topped off with a horse's head. Some hobby horses featured wheels at the bottom for easy movement.
Traditionally, Greek rattles were made of clay and came in an assortment of animal shapes. Greek mythology includes legends of Hercules using a rattle-like object to complete one of King Eurystheus of Mycenae's tasks. Rattles were filled with stones or pebbles and given to children as percussion instruments. Mothers also used rattles to lull babies to sleep, some while rocking them in a warrior's shield. Arhitas, a friend of the philosopher Plato, is credited with the creation of the toy.
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