A toymaker manufactures or invents toys for all ages. Work as a toymaker can be quite diverse, ranging from creating hand-crafted wooden toys in a traditional artisan style to developing new board games. Toymakers can come from a variety of backgrounds, including engineering and art, and they may work for themselves or for toy companies.
People have been making toys for thousands of years. Toys are often viewed as a form of simple entertainment for children, although they can also amuse adults, but they are also intellectually valuable. Play enriches cognitive and social development, making it beneficial to young children, and it can act as an icebreaker for adults as well. A toymaker usually has a sense of play or interest in cognitive development, or may simply be struck with a good idea for a toy and the willingness to follow up on the idea.
Toy designers work with a wide variety of media to develop new toys, create prototypes, and eventually bring them into production. The complexity of toys can vary, from simple dolls with no movable parts to complex mechanical sets with configurable moving parts which are designed to stimulate interest in engineering and mechanics. Training in a number of industries can help people successfully design and develop toys.
A skilled toymaker either creates or capitalizes on a trend, ensuring that the products he or she designs will be successful when they reach the market. Some toymakers specialize in educational toys which are specifically designed to be used in educational settings or to stimulate intellectual development, while others may be interested in more general toys, or in a specific field of the toy industry, such as making models, board games, or replications of old-fashioned toys and games.
People can also make toys without being involved in their invention. Toy fabrication involves a great deal of skill, especially when it involves mass production, and toy companies employ woodworkers, metal workers, and a variety of other professionals on their manufacturing lines. Handmade toys tend to fetch a higher price, and people can develop very marketable skills by studying toymaking at a traditional shop.
Some toymakers are also involved in toy repair. Several museums keep toy curators on staff who are familiar with the objects in their collections and the repair of a variety of toys from throughout history, repairing or restoring toys in the museum's collection. Repair specialists can also work on their own in independent shops, or for toy companies which back their products with warranties. A career in repair for a toymaker usually starts with apprenticeship in a toy shop, or professional-level training in college or university to learn about the proper maintenance, restoration, and repair of antiques.