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Colonial Games & Toys

When children had time to play, they enjoyed the same games that their parents and grandparents had played when they were young. We still play many of these games today, like tag, hide-and-seek, and hopscotch.

Popular Colonial Games & Toys

Which Do You Know?

Yo-Yo                Hopscotch           Bubble-Blowing 

Puzzles              Jacob's Ladder      Marbles

Hoops                Leap Frog           Rocking Horses

Kite Flying          Bow & Arrow         Swinging                       

Jump Rope            Blind Man's Bluff   Cards

London Bridge        See Saw             Ice Sliding                    

Tennis               Cricket             Jack Straws

Spinning Tops                           (or pick-up sticks)
In the colonial period, these games helped children learn skills that they would need later in life as farmers and parents. Games taught children how to aim and throw, how to solve problems and do things with their hands, and how to follow directions and rules. They also learned to be fair, to wait their turn, and to use their imaginations.

What games do you usually play?

When your parents and grandparents were young, did they play any of the games that you like to play?

Where Did Colonial Children Get Their Toys?

Colonial children had to make do with what they had. There were no factories for making toys or toy stores. Toys had to be found in nature or in the house, or adults and children had to make them. They made dolls from corn husks and rags. Leftover wood and string could be used to make spinning tops. Hoops from barrels could be used in races and a variety of games. Many times, they made up games at the spur of the moment and needed no equipment at all.

What kind of game would you invent if you were chopping wood or picking up stones in a field?

Who Did Colonial Children Play With & Where Did They Play?

Since many families had six or seven children, brothers and sisters could always rely on each other as playmates. If neighbors lived close by, even more children could share the fun and join in the games. Since adults did not have time to watch their children closely, they were often left alone to play in the gardens, fields, or in the house when their chores were done.

On a winter day, a colonial family would gather around the fireplace in the kitchen to stay warm. The father would work on fixing his tools for the spring, the mother would spin, and if the children did not have to card wool or churn butter, they would probably play a board game or practice tongue twisters. In warmer weather, as the father tended the field and the mother did the laundry or made soap in the yard, the children would play outside with marbles, hoops, or battledores (a game like badminton).

Who are your playmates?

Do they live close by?

How does the weather affect your play?

A Colonial Board Game

Nine Men's Morrice was a board game that could be played on a board, a piece of paper, or even drawn in the dirt. Simple markers of corn, stones, or beans could be used for play.

You may draw or print out the game board . Morrice is a game for two players. Each player has nine markers. Players may select coins, beans, or whatever they would like for their markers, so long as their markers are different from their opponent's.

Object of the Game: The object of the game is to make rows of three markers on a line, and to prevent the other player from doing the same.

The players take turns putting down one marker at a time, always placing them at the point where the lines cross or connect to each other. This means markers can be placed horizontally, vertically, or even diagonally at one of the board's four corners. Three markers in a straight line make a row, and if they are cleverly arranged, one may form a part of two rows.

When all the markers have been placed on the board, the players may begin to move. Players take turns sliding one marker at a time along the lines, from one point to the next. The object is still to make rows by sliding the markers to different points on the board, and blocking the other player. Whenever one player makes a new row of three markers, he or she chooses one of the other player's markers, picks it up off the board, and lays it aside. If a player is reduced to only two markers left, he or she may give up the game as lost since three markers are always necessary to complete a row.

Nursery Rhymes

Colonial children, like children today, also told nursery rhymes. Do you know what some of these nursery rhymes really mean?

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick,
Jack jump over the candlestick.

After dipping candles, a colonial woman would hang them from two long horizontal sticks to allow them to harden and cool. These sticks, and not the candles themselves, were referred to as "candle sticks."

Lucy Lockett lost her pocket,
Sally Fisher found it,
Not a penny was there in it
Just a ribbon 'round it.

Most colonial clothes did not have pockets in them. A colonial pocket was a detachable cloth bag used for holding pocket books (wallets), sewing, and other things that girls and women would like to have on hand throughout the day. Pockets were tied around the waist with a tape, or ribbon, and they were often decorated with embroidery.

Tongue Twisters

Here are some colonial tongue twisters for you to try!

The skunk sat on a stump and thunk the stump stunk
But the stump thunk the skunk stunk.

Bluebirds bring bright berries.

She sheared six shabby sick sheep.

Riddles

Riddles were also popular in the colonial period. Can you figure out some of these? The answers are at the end of the last question!

1. What flies up, but is always down?
2. When is a boy most like a bear?
3. What kind of room is not in a house?
4. What has teeth but cannot eat?
5. What has a tongue but cannot talk?
6. What has 3 feet but cannot walk?
7. What has a mouth but cannot talk?
8. What falls down but never gets hurt?

1. Goosefeathers. 2. When he is barefoot. 3. A mushroom. 4. A comb. 5. A shoe. 6. A yardstick. 7. A river. 8. Snow.

To Learn More About Colonial Games & Toys....

In the colonial period, life was filled with a lot of different types of work, but life wasn't always hard or boring. Early Americans knew how to turn work into fun by singing or telling stories, having contests, and playing games.

For more information on colonial games and toys, join us at the Noah Webster House for a tour or program, or even stop by our Museum Gift Shop!

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