You’d be hard pressed to find someone who never played with a pull toy as a youngster. We all know this classic wheeled toy has been a childhood staple for a while, but did you know pull toys date back to ancient times…
Early examples of small, wheeled animals have been found in archeological sites around the world. Examples of such, which are speculated to have been toys (though some opinions differ), include:
- A clay cow on wheels from the Cucuteni–Trypillia culture in modern-day Romania, dating to the early 4th millennium BCE (~4000-3700 BCE)
- Another clay cow on wheels, with a hole in the front where a string could be tied, found at Harappa in Pakistan, dating the early-mid 3rd millennium BCE (~2900-2330 BCE)
- Carved stone animal figurines mounted on wheeled carts have been found in the Mesopotamian region of modern-day Iran, dating to the late 2nd millennium BCE(~1300-1000 BCE)
- Wooden and terracotta horses on wheels have been found throughout Ancient Greece and in Roman Period Egypt (30 BCE to 641 CE)
- Wheeled clay jaguars from the Mesoamerican Classic Period (150-950 CE)
Image: Little horse on wheels (Ancient greek child’s Toy). From tomb dating 950-900 BC. Kerameikos Archaeological Museum in Athens. Photo by Sharon Morellus.
Now, we don’t have anything that old in our collection here, but we do have some cool vintage pull toys – mostly made in the USA – dating to the mid 20th century! Needless to say, pull toys from the modern era aren’t as commonly made of clay or carved stone, but rather wood, cast iron, tin and of course, plastic.
Pull toys are such an enduring mainstay for a reason: These simple toys actually encourage children’s development of problem-solving, whole body coordination, and fine motor skills. When a toddler first makes the connection that the toy moves towards them when they pull the string, they learn about cause and effect. Walking and pulling a toy behind them helps little ones develop balance and coordination, while navigating around obstacles in the room stimulates the development of problem solving skills as well as motor skills.
Many pull toys take the cause and effect aspect to the next level, incorporating moving features which are activated by the rotation of the toy’s wheels. For example, when Nosco’s Pokey Joe Ding Dong Fire Truck is rolled forward, the green fireman swivels left and right to strike the bell, while the yellow firemen in the back jump up and down to work the water pump. Or when Renwal’s Old Woman in a Shoe toy is pulled, the disk around the bottom rotates, causing the children to enter one door of the house and exit the opposite door. Many of them are also musical, like the Happy Harry Musical Car which plays “Yankee Doodle” on a rotational device within the toy.
Enjoy the gallery below, and peruse the pull toys in our vintage and antique toy shop – Plus get 10% off pull toys with code: WHEELS