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The History of Little Green Army Men

Little green army men evolved from their predecessors, tiny toy soldiers made from metal (often lead); the molded plastic version was first introduced in the 1930s. Plastic little green army men became especially popular in the 1950s because that’s when parents began to worry about their children playing with toys made with lead. The two- to four-inch-tall figures mostly represent infantry soldiers of the mid-20th century U.S. Army, with corresponding weapons and equipment. They were far less expensive to produce and purchase than previous metal versions, which encouraged kids to play more roughly with them. They came in much larger quantities as well. In fact, little green army men were often sold in large bags or buckets and paired with jeeps, artillery, helicopters, and other items needed to stage an all-out battle. Today, not much has changed with these toys, and they continue to provide an opportunity for children to engage in imaginative, often elaborate battles and collaborative play.

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