As the school holidays approach, at Sudeley we’re preparing for a summer packed full of events and activities for little lords and ladies – not least with the return of our famous Children’s Wednesday events, every single week! While you wait for the best summer yet, we’ve looked back on the games and activities children used to play throughout history.
1. Life on the road
In Victorian Britain, cars were scarce, which meant the country’s streets were a place for play – despite the fact that many children spent most of their time working. Children would share toys such as hoops, marbles and skipping ropes. Other games included tag and hopscotch – which are still played in schools and playgrounds today.
2. Wheely good fun
In the 1930s, many families were too poor to afford manufactured toys, which meant children would have to find creative ways of making their own fun. Scooters were popular amongst many children around this time as they would salvage scrap wood and ball bearings for the wheels. They would often spend longer refining their designs and making improvements to their toys than they did actually playing with them.
3. Life’s a ball
Children in Ancient Rome often played ball games with defined rules, much like modern hockey or volleyball games today. One popular game involved drawing circles on the floor and bouncing a ball inside the circle without other players catching it – all the while moving around the circle to distract other players. If no one caught the ball, the player who made the move would win a point.
4. A dangerous game to play
Examinations of coroner’s reports and subsequent inquests have found that child’s play in the Tudor era wasn’t as safe as previously thought, with a number of infant deaths being linked to play. There are examples of children drowning while picking flowers, falling into a ditch while making ‘mud cakes’, and even getting fatally wounded while playing with a foal. In fact, one inquest looking into the deaths registered between 1551 and 1560 found that 37 children died while playing.
5. Resourceful Play
In Ancient Greece, there were no manufactured toys beyond small pottery figures and rag dolls, so children had to be resourceful. Often, children would play with balls made from rags or inflated pigs’ bladders and use the ankle bones of sheep to play various catching games.
6. Top of the swaps
Many toy factories during the Second World War were required to make guns, plane parts and other pieces of equipment needed for the country’s war effort. This meant there was a shortage of new toys so children would swap with one another at ‘toy exchanges’. Any toys which were made during the war would be themed for the era – from planes and tanks, to battleships and toy soldiers. They would be crafted from paper or card as more substantial materials such as metal or rubber were needed for the war.
7. Fun fit for a queen
Despite having a subdued, serious childhood herself, Queen Victoria ensured that all of her nine children would have happy upbringings. The children spent many of their younger years helping Albert to build the ‘Swiss Cottage’ at their holiday home on the Isle of Wight. Albert encouraged the children to learn through play and taught them skills which he believed would make them better adults. From laying the foundations of the cottage to tending to their allotment, play for the royal children was fun, yet productive in making them into well-rounded adults.