Toys Past and Present
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Victorian Toys for Poor Children
Poor families made their own, such as cloth-peg dolls and paper windmills. Children would save their pocket money to buy marbles, a spinning top, skipping ropes, kites or cheap wooden toys.
Children in poor families made their own toys. Girls played hopscotch and made skipping rope with whatever bits of rope they could find. Another popular game for both girls and boys was to roll an iron hoop along the ground. Because there were no cars, streets were their playgrounds.
Boys from poorer families collected the marbles that were used to seal drinking bottles, usually made of glass or clay. They played jacks and tops, and with toy drums and tin soldiers when they could get them.
Victorian Toys for Rich Children
Children in wealthier families had a wider range of playthings, as well as the leisure time to enjoy them. In the nursery, the room dedicated to the child or children and their nanny, there was a collection of toys for them to play with. Most nurseries had a rocking horse with a mane and tail made of real horse hair. Girls had elaborate tea sets with which they would practice serving tea to their stuffed animals and dolls. Girls in wealthy families also played skipping rope, but with ropes with carved handles.
Boys often had chess and checkerboard sets. Train sets were also very popular, as were wooden toy soldiers with which to recreate battles both historic and fictional. Upper-class children also played with puppets, and would put on shows for their families in puppet theatres. These shows often featured Punch and Judy puppets.
Egg in Cap
Boys playing in the street. They are tossing an egg into a cap, hoping the egg didn't break!
Cricket and other games popular in 'posh' schools were also played by poor children in streets and fields.
A game of street football in 1889.
Spinning tops were favourite toys. This picture, from a children's book, shows how to play tops. Children used small whips to keep their tops spinning.
Girls played with dolls and tea sets whilst boys played with toy soldiers and marbles. During Victorian times, people became fascinated by toys that made pictures move. One of the earliest and simplest of these was the thaumatrope. This is a disc with a picture on either side that is attached to two pieces of string or a stick. When you spin the disc quickly, the two pictures appear to combine into one.