Ancient Greek Toys

Ancient Greek children enjoyed playing with toys. Some of the toys they played with were early versions of toys children still play with today.

Facts about Ancient Greek Toys

  • Yo-yos and many other toys were invented by the Ancient Greeks
  • Spinning tops were a favourite toy for boys and girls
  • Girls played with dolls
  • Boys played with toy chariots
  • Carved wooden animals were popular pull-along toys
  • Knucklebones was a popular game played by all children
  • Children played marbles with chestnuts
  • Groups of friends played simple team games

Greek Firsts

The Ancient Greeks were the first to create a toy like the yo-yo we know today. It was made with discs of clay. Other firsts include spinning tops, draughts, rattles for babies, see-saws, and hoops.

Did you know… Greek children were also the first to play tug-o-war.

Spinning Tops

Spinning tops were a favourite toy with boys and girls. There were two types: the twirler and the whipping top.

The twirler had a stem on the top to get it spinning by hand. The whipping top was set in motion by striking it with a whip.

Did you know… Most spinning tops were made of wood or terracotta, but they could also be made of glass, bronze, stone or lead.

Toys for Girls

Girls liked to play with dolls. Most dolls were made from terracotta, clay, wax, or rags. Expensive dolls were made from glass or ivory.

Archaeologists have unearthed dolls with arms and legs that could be moved. This makes jointed dolls another first for the Ancient Greeks.

Did you know… The Ancient Greeks were also the first to add strings to dolls to make them moving puppets.

Toys for Boys

Boys liked to play with toy chariots and hobby horses. A favourite game was to take turns at pulling each other around in the chariot.

They also played with balls made from inflated pigs’ bladders or bundles of rags. Games that developed physical skills and fitness were encouraged.

These included juggling with apples or balls of wool and running alongside a rolling hoop.

Did you know… Boys also had dolls, but they took the form of soldiers.

Wooden Animals

Carved wooden animals were popular toys. Some were fixed onto wheels so that they could be towed along with a length of wool.

Archaeologists have found wooden horses, buffaloes, pigs, dogs, birds, and lots of other animal figures.

Did you know… Animal shapes were also used in wooden rattles made for babies.


Knucklebones was a game played with the ankle bones of a sheep or goat.

This made it inexpensive and easy to carry around, so most children played it. The game involved throwing and catching five small bones in different ways.

Did you know… Knucklebones is still played today but with plastic “jacks” instead of bones.

Chestnut Marbles

Games similar to those played with glass marbles today were played with chestnuts or acorns in Ancient Greece.

Some children then had polished stones to replace the chestnuts.

Did you know… Marbles is believed to be one of the oldest games in the world.

Team Games

Ancient Greek vases show images of children playing games together. Piggyback games were popular. Chase games were also played.

In one game known as ostrakinda, a shell was painted black on one side to represent night and left white on the other side to represent day.

Children would split into two teams, “night” or “day”, and then the shell was tossed. Whichever team colour was up when it landed would chase after the other team.

Did you know… Physical exercise was very important to the Ancient Greeks. Children were encouraged to play active games every day.

Questions and Answers

Name two toys invented by the Ancient Greeks.

Yo-yo, spinning top, draughts, rattle, see-saw, hoop.

True or false: Spinning tops could be made of glass.


Knucklebones was played with bones from which animals?

Sheep or goat.

What sort of game was ostrakinda?

A team chase game.

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