A brief history of some of our favorite outdoor playthings.
Whether due to inclement winter weather or endless hours of electronics, we’ve all spent more than enough time inside this year. But spring has sprung and it’s time to get outside and play! If you feel a little rusty, don’t worry – the play experts at EI have put together a crash course on some of the classic outdoor playthings you may have forgotten about during your hibernation. From hula hoops to hopscotch, we present a brief history, along with some little-known facts, about your favorite outdoor playthings. Did your fave make our list?
Riding Bikes – Bikes have been around since the early 1800’s. Invented by the Germans and named by the French, the first bicycle had no pedals – riders sat on a seat and pushed the bike along with their feet. Necessity was the mother of this invention, as many horses, a common mode of transportation before the bike, were dying of starvation due wide-spread crop failure.
Skateboarding – Turns out Marty McFly wasn’t far off! The skateboard actually owes its popularity to surfing – skating on a board with roller skates underneath was a way to “surf the sidewalk” when there were no waves. The first skateboards were made and sold in L.A. by a surf shop owner who ordered skate wheels and attached them to wooden boards.
Pogo Stick – The first batch of wooden pogos to hit U.S. soil rotted on the ship ride over, so Gimbles Department Store asked a local toy designer to create a more durable jumping stick. Popularity of his version sky rocked after being featured in the Ziegfeld Follies and today’s Xpogo athletes reach heights of 10 feet and perform incredible stunts at professional pogo events like Pogopalooza.
Hula Hoop – Although modern-day toy manufacturer Wham-O is credited with launching the hula hoop in the U.S., its history goes a bit further back. To ancient Greece, actually. There’s evidence that the Greeks used hula hoops to work their abs. We’re not that surprised. They did bring us the Olympics…
Hopscotch (and it’s very best buddy, Sidewalk Chalk) – Speaking of ancient civilizations, it is thought that we can thank the Romans for hopscotch! This classic game of tossing and hopping was first recorded as “Scotch Hoppers” and is still played by children around the world (Cuban kids know the game as Pon). The first hopscotch squares were etched out using tiles, coal, or chalk, all of which became scarce during WWII. Now street painters use colored chalk and even 3-D glasses to bring amazing works of art to life.
The fact that some of our favorite playthings have been around for several centuries isn’t that surprising. After all, people have been playing outside since the dawn of time, so we’ve had plenty of time to perfect it! You can find additional outdoor play ideas on our Pinterest board. What’s your family’s favorite way to play?