Colonial Games and Toys
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How They Made Toys Colonial children had to make their own toys
because there were no toy makers or factories. They made their toys with things they found, such as corn husks, rags, wood, strings and hoops from barrels. Colonial Children played more games and had fewer toys then modern children. Children often made up new games on the spot.
Who did Early American Children Play with… Since most families were large and had six
or seven children, the children would play with their brothers and sisters, or their neighbors
Blocks Blocks were educational as well as fun. Young
children practiced working with their hands when they played with blocks. The sides of some blocks were decorated with letters of the alphabet, numbers, or pictures of animals. Sometimes blocks had part of a picture on one side, forming a simple puzzle. When the blocks were arranged properly, they were transformed into a colorful picture. Children also used block for constructing buildings.
Animated Toys Limberjack Flap jack Pecking Chickens Climbing Bear Jacobs Ladder
An authentic Appalachian Mountain rhythm instrument made and played in America since colonial days. Sometimes called a clogger man, jigger, or shuffling Sam because of its dancing action. To Operate - Sit on dancing board-let as much of the board as possible hang out beyond the edge of the stool or chair. Hold Jack by the end of the stick so that his feet rest on the dancing board near the far end. With your free hand, bounce the board in time with the music.
Flap Jack In the old days, family often
created fascinating toys for the youngsters. The Flap Jack was one of these wooden favorites. This flippin' floppin' Flap Jack is an absolutely amazing performer! Indeed, if any normal person were to try Jack's brand of acrobatics he would soon be tied up in knots. Nobody could match his energetic, wild, gymnastics!
Pecking Chickens Pecking Chickens are one of
the earliest mechanical toys. Pendulum-operated toys have been recorded as early as 3000 BC. This particular form, with moveable birds, was present in and around Greece and Persia from 500 BC. until the middle ages. To Use: Hold paddle by the handle. Cause the pendulum to swing by moving the paddle in a circular motion.
Climbing Bear This energetic little bear loves to scurry
up his ropes and then slide back down again for anyone who is willing to put him into action. One "udder" thing: This toy was used to teach children the art of milking cows. To operate, attach the loop on the crossbar to a hook on a door, wall, ceiling, or clothes rod. Grasp the round handles (one in each hand) and pull down in a alternating pattern; first one handle then the other. The bear will pull himself up paw by paw until he reaches the top. When you release the tension on the ropes he'll slide back down and be ready to climb again!
Jacobs Ladder The Jacob's Ladder toy dates
back to Pilgrim times in the New World and was allowed as a Sunday toy for Puritan children because of its biblical reference (Genesis 28:12). Jacob was on a journey and had a dream about angels moving up and down a ladder between heaven and earth. Other Sunday toys included the Handkerchief Doll (church doll), Noah's Ark, Whirlygig, Pillars of Solomon, Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, and the Buzz Saw. The Jacob's Ladder toy is still enjoyed today by both children and adults (as a "nice quiet toy").
Indian Pump Drill Perhaps one of man's earliest
manufacturing methods was the drilling of holes. Primitive objects of bone (fish and mammal), ivory, wood, stone, and pottery have been discovered in Native American mounds (and other burial sites), caves, and shell heaps. The diameter of drilled holes range from less than 1/32 of an inch to more than half an inch. The depth of drilled holes also varied -- from less than a quarter of an inch to more than six inches! Drilled objects have been recovered throughout the world and date from all periods of man's existence.
Besides "finger drills," there were also "shaft drills." These
basic drills were simply straight shafts of wood or bone. The thickness of the shaft could be as little as a quarter of an inch to over 3/4 of an inch. Drill lengths ranged from less than 10 inches to more than two feet! Shaft drills were rotated back and forth between the driller's hands. A shaft drill could also be used horizontally. This was accomplished by rolling the shaft drill up and down the thigh with one hand and holding the object against the drill point with the other hand.
Yet another technique was to "hold" the object between the feet and
use both hands to rotate the drill shaft back and forth. This type of drill was seen used by members of Columbus' expeditions and mentioned in "Antiquity of Mexico." Along with the "strap drill," this is the only drill mentioned by Early American explorers. The successor to the shaft drill is the strap drill. This tool is used not only for drilling holes but also for starting fires. Hence, the strap drill is also known by the name "fire drill." The shaft drill is an improvement because it increases the number of revolutions and allows for greater pressure to be exerted on the top of the shaft. The drill shaft is kept in position using a piece of wood (headpiece) and held in between the person's teeth.
The shaft is rotated by wrapping a leather strap once around it and
holding the ends by the hands. By pulling in one direction and then the other, the shaft spun and drilled into an object. To get a better grip, pieces of wood or bone would be attached to the ends of the strap. The strap drill was used by cave dwellers in France as well as the early Egyptian, Greek and Indian (Asia) civilizations. The Aleut and Greenlanders of long ago are also known to have used the strap drill. The improvement to the strap drill came with the invention of the "bow
drill." This tool allowed the shaft to be rotated at a much greater speed and the head piece is held by a hand instead of the mouth. The strap is tied to a bowed stick (or, possibly, a curved piece of bone) and wrapped once around the shaft. The bow is then moved backward and forward with the other hand to make the shaft revolve.
Yet another improvement led to the invention of the "pump drill." This
type of drill has a shaft which passes through a disc of stone, wood or pottery and a crosspiece through which the shaft runs. To the ends of the crosspiece is attached a leather string or thong, There is enough "play" in the string or thong to allow it to cross the top of the shaft and permit the crosspiece to reach close to the disc. The disc is turned to wind the string about the shaft thus raising the crosspiece. By pressing down on the crosspiece several time the shaft is made to turn. The disc's purpose is to make the shaft rewind the string. This method allows the pump drill to have even greater speeds than the strap drill or bow drill. Also, one hand is left free to hold the object being drilled.
Fun Fact The pump drill was used by the Iroquois
and Pueblo Indians. It is still used today in the process of creating works of art!
Action and Skill
Yo Yo Mountain Bolo Spool Tractor Puddle Jumper Rocking Horse Top Cup and ball Fish toss game Kite juggling
The yo-yo dates back to ancient Greece and was used in England, France, and other European countries. It was also known as a "Bandelure" or winding toy and, in England, a "Prince of Wales" toy, in France Bandelure. About the beginning of the 19th Century, the ‘bandilor’ as it was called in England, became a fashionable toy under the name of Quiz, and scarcely any person of fashion was without one of these toys. Today, most yo-yos are made from either wood or plastic, but they have also been made from gold, silver, and animal horn.
Fun Fact: The Yo-yo fromed a part of the early history of Filipino weaponry. Attackers would hide among tree branches, waiting patiently for the enemy to pass below, and then skillfully release their yo-yos, hitting the victims on the head.
Mountain Bolo This skill toy contains two small balls
at the end of the string. The string has a small loop near the center, but the lengths of string are unequal to avoid a clash of the weights. Grasping the center loop, the object is to make the two weights orbit in opposite directions (counter rotate) by moving the hand up and down or back and forth. This looks quite easy, but it isn't until the straight line movement is mastered. The weights often are nuts (such as buckeyes and even machine nuts), while in the eskimo yoyo version of the polar regions small sealskin balls are filled with sand for weight.
Spool Tractor Before children's toys became
mass-produced, many parents made toys for their little ones from whatever they had at hand. This toy evolved from the wooden spools of thread normally found in the sewing baskets of mothers. Other spool toys were made but the spool tractor became a classic toy. Wind up the long dowel, put the toy down on a hard surface and watch it go!
Puddle Jumper (Flying Machine) This toy is possibly the world's
oldest flying toy! Over 2,000 years ago, the Chinese invented a toy of this type called the "Chinese Top," which consisted of a propeller attached to a stick. A helicopter-type flying toy of this kind was given to the Wright brothers by their father, and they became fascinated with the idea of flying. Now known as a hand propeller or helicopter, kids love to play with this simple toy at family gatherings and birthday parties. Spin it between your hands and watch it soar! Adult supervision is suggested for young children.
Rocking Horse Rocking horses are more than a
great toy for a child; they are a distinguished piece of history! In fact private collectors and museums currently own and/or display some dating back to the 17th century, including one once owned by King Charles the First of England when he was a child. Although rocking horses became prominent during the Georgian and Victorian periods of England (where it subsequently became popular in America), it is believed that crude toy horses placed upon wheels were made for children as far back as ancient Greece and Egypt.
•A 17th-century rocking horse which could have been commissioned as a gift for Charles I is to be unveiled as the V&A Museum of Childhood’s latest acquisition. Purchased from a private collector, it will go on public display in the Museum’s new mezzanine galleries when the Museum reopens to the public on 9 December.
Tops Spinning tops have been used by
cultures throughout history and around the world. Tops were introduced in Japan during the 8th century from China by way of Koma in the Korean Peninsula. Japanese tops are known as "koma" and were originally a game for court people and nobility. Playing with tops is also part of our Early American history. They were known as "peg tops" in the early 1800s and played with by boys.
Top Nursery Rhyme Spinning ‘Twirly’ Tops
No Strings or spring or ring or wing. It spins on its pedestal true. Just give it a twirl, then it’s off with a whirl. And the effect will surely surprise you too.
Circle Toss (Top Game) Circle Toss – Twirly tops can be even more fun
when used in top games. The simplest of all top games involves trying to land the twirly top in a designated area. First, make a ring on the floor or outside in the dirt. Stand back about a foot behind the circle and throw the twirly top in the circle. Make sure it lands spinning! The player whose top lands in the circle the most times out of ten attempts wins!
Plugging (Top Game) Plugging – the first player begins by
spinning a top in the circle. The next player attempts to knock it out of the circle while keeping his/her twirly top spinning
Numbers (Top Game) Divide a circle into sections and assign a
numerical value to each section. Players alternate turns in the game. The first player places his/her twirly top directly in the middle of the circle and then begins spinning the top. Score points according to where the top stops spinning. The player with the most points in ten attempts wins!
Counqueror Conqueror was an exciting game! Two
players spun their tops so that the tops so that the tops bounced against each other. The top that knocked the other over, but stayed upright itself, was the winner.
Peg in the Ring To play this game children drew a circle on
the ground about 3 feet (1m) wide. Players threw their tops into the ring one at a time, trying to peg, or hit the other tops in the ring. The object of the game was to split an opponent’s top and keep the iron peg as a trophy.
Cup and Ball
Toss toys date back to ancient Greece. The Cup and Ball Toss Toy was played with in Colonial America and is mentioned in an 1834 publication for girls. It is similar to, but much easier than the Bilboquet, which has the ball landing on a pointed stick instead of inside a cup. See if you can catch the ball with the cup. Play with others and see who can score the majority of points by catching the ball the most. Do not let this toy fool you; it takes good hand dexterity to score. Cup and Ball is a game that tests the hand-eye coordination of the player. Played indoors or outdoors, the game consists of a cup made of wood. A wooden ball is connected to the cup by a string and the cup is attached to the handle. The object of the game is to swing the ball into the cup.
Fish Toss Game American Folk toy.
They say The Indian Ring Toss game was created by the Indians to teach the children how to spear fish. When all the rings line up just so, the fish appears through the holes and thats the moment to spear him.
Walking on stilts is practiced by the shepherds of the Landes, or desert, in the south of France…. Stilts are easily constructed: two poles are procured, and at some distance from their ends, a loop of leather or rope is securely fastened; in these the feet are placed, the poles are kept in a proper position by the hands, and put forward by the action of the legs. A superior mode of making stilts is by substituting a piece of wood, flat on the upper surface, for the leather loop; the foot rests on and is fastened by a strap to it; a piece of leather or rope is also nailed to the stilt, and passed round the leg just below the knee; stilts made in this manner do not reach to the hands, but are managed entirely by the feet and legs. In many parts of England, boys and youth frequently amuse themselves by walking on stilts. (Clarke, 73-4) Take two long poles of equal length. At the same height, nail a flat piece of wood perpendicular to each pole sot that it forms a small step. Hold poles at angle so that the end of the pole closest to the step is facing down. Wrap an arm around each pole so that your shoulder is in front of the pole, but your elbow is behind the pole. Place one foot on the step, and as you place your second foot up, pull the poles so that they are perpendicular with the ground. Pull up with the stilt at the same time you take a step. Take small steps to begin.
Kite Kite-flying has been a favorite
pastime of American Children for generations. Perhaps the most famous kite-flyer of all time was Benjamin Franklin. In one original test, kite-flying was described as “fine fun,” especially if you had a good kite, plenty of string and a day neither too windy or too calm. The object of kite-flying was always to see whose kite could sour higher than anyone else’s or whose kite could remain airborne the largest.
Bilboquette (Bilbo Catcher) A popular toy regarded today as an Appalachian toy,
the Bilbo Catcher is a ball with a hole drilled into it which has a string running through the ball, and the other end of the string is attached to a turned handle with a small curved surface onto which the ball, being swung, is to be caught and balanced. Much like the Cup and Ball game, this is more difficult than Cup and Ball. The chief differences between the two are that the Bilbo Catcher has a much smaller area with which to capture the ball, and the ball, once caught, is not bounded by walls, and so can easily fall off rather than being trapped in a cup.
The oldest reference of juggling appears in an Egyptian tomb of an unknown prince from the Middle Kingdom period circa 1994-1781 B.C. A drawing depicts three women juggling by themselves and two pairs of women with partners on their backs who are juggling with each other. Balls used for play during this time period would probably have been made from leather stuffed with shredded leaves, three to nine centimeters in diameter. We know of other balls made of wood, clay faience, or plaited palm leaves because they were found in children's graves. In ancient Greece, competition was a part of life. Greek girls did not compete as much in physical activities as the boys, but they did play games. A vase shows a Greek girl juggling, but she is not considered an entertainer or an acrobat, rather just an ordinary girl. The word juggling derives from the Middle English jogelen to entertain by performing tricks, in turn from the French jongleur and the Old French jogler. There is also the Late Latin form joculare of Latin joculari, meaning to jest. Juggling became highly popular in America during the days of traveling circuses and was closely associated with clowns. Today, there are juggling associations, magazines devoted to juggling and open competitions. Jugglers use other props to juggle such as beanbags, rings, clubs, knives, and lit torches. Juggling is a physical human skill involving the movement of objects, usually through the air, for entertainment (see object manipulation). The most recognizable form of juggling is toss juggling, where the juggler throws objects through the air. Jugglers often refer to the objects they juggle as props. The most common props are balls, beanbags, rings, clubs, and bouncing balls.
Optical Toys Thaumatrope Kaleidoscope Zoetrope
Thaumatrope (Wonder Turner) The Thaumatrope, also known
as the “Wonder Turner” was invented in 1826 by the English physician J.A. Paris. The Thaumatrope consisted of a piece of cardboard with a picture or image drawn on each side and two pieces of string attached to the cardboard with which to spin it. When the Thaumatrope was rapidly twisted back and forth, the pictures on either side merged into one.
Kaleidoscope The kaleidoscope was invented in 1818. It
looks like a telescope, but you can see a wonderful design inside the tube. This effect is created by several mirrors at the end of the tube. The mirrors reflect the pattern made by many chips of colored glass. The design can be changed by turning the section containing the bits of glass.
Zoetrope This toy makes pictures appear as if they
are moving. The toy is a drum like cylinder lined with a series of pictures. Between each picture was a small slot. To use the zoetrope, a child spun the cylinder and peered through a slot. The pictures inside appeared to move creating a short cartoon.
Puzzle Toys Button and string Ox and yoke Nail puzzle
Button & String Puzzles The Button and String Puzzle is also
known as the Cinch Puzzle because it resembles cinch blocks used to tighten tent ropes during the American Civil War. The object of the puzzle is to remove the wood button and string from the block of wood without untying the string. A similar but much more complicated toy called The Puzzling Rings is described in great detail in "The Boys Own Book," published in 1829. These kinds of puzzles are a great amusement for anyone traveling long distances. Keep this toy in your car or give it to a child who has everything, especially time on his or her hands!
Ox & yoke Puzzle
Puzzles have been a source of amusement and entertainment since the 3rd century B.C. If there were a "golden age of puzzles," it was probably around the end of the 1800s and early part of the 20th century. It was during this period that the first patents for puzzles were granted. The Ox-Yoke Puzzle belongs to a group of string puzzles that were popular during the mid-1800s and early 1900s. In fact, these puzzles are still mind bogglers for all ages today. The object of the Ox-Yoke Puzzle is to move one wooden ring from the string loop on one side of the puzzle to the string loop on the other side of the puzzle without untying knots or cutting the string. Fun Fact: The Ox-Yoke Puzzle is also known as the "Lover's Yoke Puzzle."
Nail Puzzle The Nail Puzzle is a good example of
olde-time ingenuity and resourcefulness. It looks simple, but is guaranteed to drive many bonkers! Just when you're ready to pound out the nails and use 'em in your fence, they fall apart. But then try to show somebody how it's done -- wrong-o! Just remember, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Getting them back together is fully 50% of the puzzle fun.
Noise Making Toys Buzz Saw Bull Roarer
The Buzz Saw is one of the most popular noisemakers of all times! Native Americans made "buzzers" from a circular piece of bone or antler and used sinew instead of string. Colonial children played with buzz saws. This type of noisemaker was also known as "button on a string" during the Victorian Period and later. A very large button from a mother's sewing basket could be strung for this toy. Coins, bamboo, stones, and seashells have also been used to make this toy. Tin was even used, and teeth were cut around the circumference so that the disc would shred a piece of paper when the two came in contact. Made this way, it resembles a circular saw blade, and this is where it got the name Buzz Saw. Other names for the Buzz Saw are Whizzer, Whiligig, Whirligig, Moonwinder, and Skyewinder.
The bull roarer is a primitive wind instrument and one of the first musical instruments Man invented. It has been used by primitive cultures in Africa, Australia, New Guinea, Europe, the Americas, and the Arctic polar region. Its origins can be traced to 24,000 years ago! It has been a symbol of fertility, and evidence of them has been found in several Paleolithic sites. The bull roarer was an important acoustical part of various spiritual rituals and certain rites of passage in some areas of the world. When spun overhead in a circular motion, it produces a pleasing "whirr, whirr" hypnotic droning sound. This sound was incorporated into primitive rituals to produce a "voice" of an ancestor, a spirit, or deity. To others, its sound represented various insects and animals. The bull roarer has been used for several purposes. It has been used to call out to the spirit world and to gain the attention of spiritual beings who were thought to be able to influence the natural elements, such as wind and rain. Hence, bull roarers are usually painted with various symbols representing clouds, raindrops, lightning, and other depictions. The Apaches in North America used bull roarers to call forth rain. This ancient wind instrument was made with a flat wooden board (called a "rhomboid") and pierced with a small hole at one of the ends for attaching a length of cord or rope. The rhomboid was sometimes carved, painted, or both. Sometimes animal bone or stone was substituted for the flat wood board. Oftentimes, a thong handle was tied to the other end of the cord for a better grip to control speed and direction.
Bull Rorer Continued
The bull roarer's sound is produced by vibrations of the flat wood as it rotates in the air. Changing in the speed and angle to the ground changes the sonority and allows an individual to make the sounds of a whimper, moan, roar, or scream. There is not a typical range for bull roarers as each one is a one-of-a-kind instrument. Change the velocity of the spin, however, and the size of the instrument affects the relative pitch. The smaller the bull roarer, the faster it can be spun for a higher pitch. Conversely, a larger instrument spinning at a slower speed results in a lower pitch. The bull roarer has been used by Native American cultures such as the Athabaskan, Nootka, Yokuts, Pomo, Hopi, and Aztecs. The Navajo call their bull roarers "Tsin di'ni" (groaning stick) and used them to drive away evil spirits. It is called several different names, including "Burliwarni," "Ngurrarngay," and "Muypak." Sometimes a bull roarer was used to send animals into ambush or to alert a tribe of another's presence in their area. To the Maori, the bull roarer is called "Purererhua" (butterfly), and a smaller version (called a "Porotiti") was used for healing by spinning over areas of rheumatism or arthritis. (The sound's vibrations massaged joints in a similar way to modern ultrasound therapy!) The main academics that have studied ancient bull roarers have been ethnomusicologists and anthropologists. This is because of the instrument's use in ritual and magic ceremonies. Fun Fact: The bull roarer is also called a Rhombus and is still used today as the "voice of God" by Aborigine tribes in Australia! Fun Fact: The bull roarer is an "aerophone" and, along with the flute, one of the oldest musical instruments of its kind!