Toys Past and Present

Please note:  Whilst every effort has been made evaluate these sites for content, St Agnes School is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.  Please click on the links below to access the resources.


Class Clips - What toys were played with in Roman times?


BBC Primary History - Victorian Toys Quiz


Class Clips - Toys in 1914


The Museum of Childhood


Ilkley Toy Museum


Class Clips - Mechanical Toys


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!

Playing Cricket

Cricket and other games popular in 'posh' schools were also played by poor children in streets and fields.

Street Football

A game of street football in 1889.

Spinning Tops

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.

Roman Toys

Photo 1 - A rag doll, made in Egypt for a Roman child. It once had bits of coloured wool, probably to give it a face and 'clothes'.


Photo 2 and 3 - A Roman pull-along toy - a pottery horse and rider on wheels.


Photo 4 - A Roman board game