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A glimpse of China children's toys over the years

Updated: 2013-01-28 10:22
( China Daily)

Before 1980

Toys evolve as technology advances and the economy alters.

Before the early 1980s, children in China played with toys and games similar to those their grandparents played with when they were young. The most common games usually required lots of physical movement.

Most traditional Chinese toys were simple in structure, easy to play yet utterly addictive.

Jianzi, or shuttlecock, is an ancient toy that can be traced back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Players need to constantly kick a heavily weighted shuttlecock in order to keep it in the air.

Shabao, or beanbag, is a typical home-made toy in China. It involves a coarse cloth bag staffed with sand or beans. The rules vary but the basic concept is similar to dodgeball in the West.

Starting from the 1960s, iron hoop rolling became the most popular game with children, especially boys. The popularity of iron hoops reflected the fact toys were scarce at the time.

Chinese rings, a mechanical puzzle featuring a double loop of string which must be disentangled from a sequence of rings on interlinked pillars, originated around the second century AD. The gadget was then brought to European countries and known as Cardano's Rings.


China's toy market started to thrive after the country adopted its opening-up policy in 1979.

Stuffed toys and dolls became popular among girls while plastic cars and construction toys such as Lego were favorites for boys.

Tetris was the first digital game introduced to China in the 1980s. A battery-powered Tetris handset was the most desired gift among children.

As the nation began embracing the world, the toy market became an international business.

After Tetris, electronic pets became children's new favorite. The devices, such as the Tamagotchi from Japan, highlighted the interaction between players and their virtual pets.

Japanese consumer electronics company Nintendo Co's Family Computer, or Famicom, entered the Chinese market in the 1980s. It became an instant success in the country. Also popular were video games running on Famicom, including Super Mario Bros, Pac-Man and Battle City.


In the 1990s and 2000s, PlayStation, a video game console made by Sony Computer Entertainment Inc, was the fanciest toy for children in China. Because the price was more than 2,000 yuan ($321) for each unit and most Chinese families were not willing to spend that much on their children, underground PlayStation alleys became highly popular after school.

As more technology was added to toys, the products became increasingly sophisticated. Dolls were installed with chips to enable them to talk, Tetris evolved into a color version and Super Mario became a three-dimensional figure.


With the popularity of mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, youngsters have found themselves new toys to play with.

Thousands of game applications developed for children can be found on iOS and Android app stores. As more children became obsessed with Angry Birds and Drift Mania Championship on the iPad, few any longer care to learn how to roll an iron hoop.


Children toy with new forms of leisure