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When we shop for toys for the loved ones on our list, we like to think the kids learning something. Books help children learn to associate those squiggles with objects. Puzzles help them solve problems. Dolls engage the imagination.

13th century bronze toy knight

13th century bronze toy knight (from Walters Art Museum via Wikimedia Commons)

In eighth century Francia, the setting for The Cross and the Dragon and The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, the nobility had their own idea of educational toys. For boys, it included wooden swords and toy soldiers of bronze, silver, or gold. The purpose of these toys was not just to indulge fantasy. Their parents fully expected their sons to soon be wielding real swords and leading conscripts into battle.

See my post on Unusual Historicals for more about how noble-born boys’ early childhood was part of their preparation to become warriors.