1)Children's Games:  You can buy a bag of marbles at a dollar store for very little. Marbles is a good historic
game for children to play.  Other good games are: Jacks, hopscotch, jump rope, ring around the rosy, hide
and seek, London Bridge, The Farmer in the Dell, Uncle John, Fox and Geese, even Checkers or Chess.

2) Cut paper dolls from paper and let students color them.

3) Children DID make cornhusk and have hankerchief dolls, but these crafts may be a bit over-rated. Instead,
girls may want to make a cookie-cutter-type rag doll or a stuffed toy made from printed fabric.

4) If there is a ceramics shop in your area that makes doll heads, students may be able to visit to learn how
porcelain and china dolls were made.

5) Several companies still make metal "toy soldiers".  These were favorite toys for boys. There were also
"lead" farm animal sets, circuses, hunting sets. etc.  The modern equiviant would be plastic soldiers and farm

6) Some hobby and craft stores sell small wooden toys, such as trains, the children might enjoy painting.
Of course, students with wood working skills might enjoy making their own.

7) Many stores sell small but functional pans in which younger students can actually bake tiny pies and cakes.
These "patty pans" were very popular with 19th century children.


rocking horse                shoo-fly rocker                

porcelain doll - a doll made of porcelain, a fine unglazed ceramic, usually with life-like glass eyes and a body
made either of stuffed kid leather or of a hard substance called composition.

china doll- a doll made of glazed china (shiny), usually with molded black or blond hair and a stuffed cloth body.

lead soldiers- small figures made of molded metal and painted. Not all figures were actually soldiers. There
were hunting and farming sets, too.

toy kitchen (tin kitchen) a small model kitchen

toy reins- A belt with a set of "reins" so that children could play "horse."  Many children probably simply used a

Vocabulary (Adult Leisure)

soiree            ball              visiting card            chivari     


What kinds of toys do you like to play with?  

Children in the past sometimes did not have as many toys as children do today, but they usually DID have
toys. Sometimes children made their own toys, or parents made toys for the children.

Boys played with toy horses, farms, soldiers, balls, trains and wagons. They loved cap guns, toy cannons,
whips, horns, and things that made noise.

Girls played with dolls, doll houses, paper dolls, toy kitchens and tea sets.

Both boys and girls played with marbles, books, balls, jump ropes, hoops, and blocks.

Some children in the past had to work. Some worked on farms with their parents, but some worked in factories.
Many of these factory-working children did not have the chance to go to school.

Most adults had time for fun, too. They taught their children to make work fun.  Sometimes they would hold
working bees, such as quilting bees, barn buildings, or corn-husking bees. Friends and neighbors would come
for these. It was a way to get a lot of work done and socialize at the same time!

Men and women also enjoyed horseback riding, hunting, going to parties, playing games, reading and
watching horses race.

C2 INTERMEDIATE READINGS: Children's Toys & Adult Leisure Activites

1) Views of Childhood
One of the most difficult things for us to deal with when studying history is to understand that people in the
past sometimes THOUGHT about things differently than we do. I

In the  early 19th century, many people did not question the idea that some children should have to work.
Based on Calvinistic religious beliefs, some people stressed the fact that children were under Original Sin and
needed constant training and supervision to help them overcome their natural sinfulness. Parents thought that
it was safer for children to be busy, as "the devil finds work for idle hands."  Childhood was seen as a time of
imperfection; children were expected to learn to be adults as soon as possible.

Later in the 19th century,  people's idea about children changed and went in the other direction. Now many
people thought of children as being innocent, even angelic. Pictures from this time period show sweet-faced
children playing. This more relaxed view saw childhood as a happy time of life. During the later 19th century,
we see more toys and books available for children. Rather than being quickly pushed to being adults, children
were encouraged to play and be children.

2) Toys and Games for Children.   While poor children might not have many toys, or only home-made toys,
wealthy children enjoyed a wide-range of playthings. Many toys were small-scale versions of adult tools, so
that children could role-play being adults or learn adult activities.  By modern standards, many of these toys
might seem dangerous to us today, but children had to learn from their earliest years to be safe

a) Toy Soldiers
-  Boys played with molded lead figures. There were lead soldiers, farm sets, hunting sets and
many others.

b) Toy Stoves and Kitchens-  Girls might play with toy pots and pans, toy dishes, toy tea-sets and utensils.  
Some of the tiny pots and pans were suitable for actually cooking, and there were even large-sized toy stoves
that actually worked.

c) Toy Laundry Sets- Little girls might wash their dolls' clothes with tiny scrub-boards or wash sets. There
were even tiny wringers, clothes pins and irons.

d) Toy Wagons and Horse-related Toys.  Both boys and girls might have a pony  or old horse to ride, or a
goat-cart pulled by "Billy" the goat.  Toy wagons came in all sizes, from very small to large enough for an older
child to ride in. There were also many styles of rocking horses: from the simple rocker for a toddler to the
fully-carved rocking horse or swing-horse with real mane and tail and real leather saddles. There were even
rocking horses for girls that had model side-saddles.  One of the simplest toys were toy reins. These fit around
the child playing the "horse" and another child ran behind, holding the reins.

e) Toy trains and engines.  Small boys played with small toy trains, while older boys might enjoy working toy
steam engines of various kinds.

f) Fire Engines- some of the first toy fire-engines were cast-iron. Of course these early fire-engines were
pulled by model horses.

g) Blocks, Balls, Rolling-Hoops, Jump-ropes, marbles and jacks.

h) Dolls and doll houses.
Perhaps no other toy was as diverse and potentially expensive as dolls and
doll-houses. Early 19th century dolls might be made of wood or wax. By mid-century, dolls made of china
(shiny, glazed ceramic) and bisque (non-shiny ceramic) were becoming more common. Most early dolls were
shaped and dressed as adult women, even though there were a few child and baby dolls. By the 1870s,
adult-shaped bisque or wax fashion dolls could be purchased with numerous accessories and elaborate
clothing. Some of these may have been directed at adults as much as at children. In the 1880s, the most
popular doll was the bisque bebe,  or child-like doll. These dolls were shaped like a small child, and could also
be clothed in elaborate silk clothing. The most expensive dolls came from France, although Germany
produced more dolls. Inexpensive china-head dolls, most of them on lady-shaped bodies, were less-expensive
alternatives to bisque dolls.

To go along with dolls there was doll-sized furniture, clothing, clothing patterns, and toy sewing machines.

Paper dolls were also produced during the 19th century. Early
paperdolls could be quite expensive. Later,
some magazines and advertising companies printed paper dolls to give away as premiums.

Dollhouses also came in a variety of sizes. Some of these were extremely large and filled with exquisite
furniture; others were very simple with child-made furniture. Small china and all-bisque dolls were usually the
"family." There were dolls to be maids, nurse-maids, cooks, and other servants in addition to the doll "family."

i) Books and Magazines. The 19th century saw a proliferation in printed books for children. Many of these
were beautifully illustrated in color. There were also magazines just for children, such as
St. NIcholas and
Youth's Companion.

j) Toy weapons & tools.  Boys had toy swords, bows and arrows, and toy guns.  At an early age, a father
might give his son a real gun, or a hatchet or hammer. Boys were usually pleased with these, as it was a sign
that they were growing up.


Although wealthy children might have many toys and leisure to play, children from the lower classes might
spend their days working in a factory. Child as young as 5 worked in cotton textile mills, in mines, making
pottery, making artificial flowers, and sewing. It was not uncommon for children to have to work 12 to 14 hours
a day.  By 1853, several states had adopted a ten-hour workday for children under 12 years of age By the
end of the 19th century nearly one-fifth of all American children between the ages of 10 and 16 were gainfully

Children on farms routinely had to help with the farm chores and many children had to do simple chores
around the house. Common chores included chopping kindling wood, washing dishes, feeding chickens,
setting the table, watching younger siblings, and milking the cow.  Older children were put to work plowing and
driving a gentle team of horses or mules, cooking, sewing or milking more difficult cows.  By the time a young
farm-child  was in his or her mid-teens, he or she could do the basic jobs required as farmer or housewife, and
he or she was considered to be of marriagable age.


Among some people, work was considered to be inherently virtuous, and too much leisure was regarded with a
certain amount of suspicion. Even the middle-class woman, surrounded by servants, was often expected to
have some genteel activity such as fine needlework, music, reading or visiting.  Men's leisure activities often
took the form of hunting, fishing, going to sporting events or horse races, or participating in politics.  Some
types of leisure, such as quilting bees, were methods of working and socializing at the same time.
Campmeetings, or revivals, also offered chances to socialize and attend religious services at the same time.

Hunting and Fishing were popular masculine activities, both for the game they provided or the pest they
destroyed and just for enjoyment. The game hunted varied by location, of course, but men valued deer, bear,
and other large game. Men also hunted the smaller animals, such as squirrels, raccoons, possums, and
rabbits, but these were also prey for boys learning to hunt.

5) Pets
Pets were extremely popular among the 19th Century middle class.  It was during this century that many
registries for purebred animal breeds were begun, and dog and cat shows were started.

Dogs were popular as pets. St. Bernards were a symbol of faithfulness and protection. Pugs and toy spaniels
were favorites with wealthy ladies.  Men depended on their hunting dogs, and most farms had "Ol Shep" for
protection or working livestock.

Cats were also favorites in some households.  Mama cats were often considered good role models for young
girls because of the care they gave their kittens.

Birds were also common pets.  The singing canary was a stock item in a 19th century parlor, and was almost a
symbol of refinement and middle-class status. The parrot was more often the pet of a wealthy family, or a
family with a sea-going son or relative.

Cold-water aquariums with fish such as goldfish, and terrariums with turtles were a fad for a while.

Children kept whatever their parents would allow: pet mice, squirrels, raccoons or harmless snakes. In the
barnyard, the children might have a pet lamb or goat, their pony, a chicken, or a favorite heifer calf.

5) Holidays

While Christmas has been celebrated for centuries, the modern Christmas tree with a roly-poly Santa Claus
did not become a part of American Christmases until the mid-19th Century.  As cash was in short supply for
many families, children might receive nuts, apples, exotic fruit such as oranges, a little candy, some mittens,
and perhaps a small toy.

May Day (the First of May), a pagan spring ceremony, was still celebrated in some areas with dancing around
a May Pole and electing a "Queen of the May."  Few people in America even think about May Day now.

New Years Day was a popular day for visiting.  Men would frequently make visits to relatives and business
associates, while women stayed home to receive guests. In some parts of the country,  children received gifts
on New Years Day rather than at Christmas, or in addition to Christmas.

Halloween was apparently practiced in some areas of the country, while other areas knew nothing about it.  
Those in the higher churches might celebrate Nov. 1 as All Saints Day, a Christian holiday.  The plate below
shows costumes for a fancy-dress party. These were very popular among the wealthy and upper-middle-class,
and might occur any time of the year, although this plate is for October.
A mother gives her youngest daughter a toy horse with lady rider,
while her older daughter holds a battledore (a badmintton racquet.)
Godeys' Feb. 1848
A little boy rides a horse on
wheels while other children play
hoops.  Godey's May 1856
A little girl shows her Grandmother the  
doll she received for Christmas.  
Godey's Dec. 1866
Left: A collection of French bisque

Above: A German bisque baby doll.
Pets, ponies, wagons, and
goat-carts were popular for
December 1866

Children wake up to find
a small Christmas tree
decorated with toys and
American flags in their

Adults celebrate with a
party and dancing.  

During the heat of the summer, wealthy
city-dwellers might visit the country, the
mountains, or a fashionable "watering
place" (natural spa) to escape the heat or
to regain their health.

Some spas offered cold, hot, or salt-water
baths, or people went to swim in the ocean.
Drinking the mineral-rich water was also
believed to help many different conditions.
In some cases, it may really have relieved
some muscular conditions.

For the wealthy, trips to Europe were
common. The American dollar was highly
valued, and travel in Europe was relatively
cheap.  The wealthy boy or girl could expect
a European vacation as a kind of "finishing"
program intended to give them a final polish.

Left: Bathing Suits from 1867