Checkers, card games, dolls and toy trucks! Oh my! Games and toys are part of our history. Within the last one hundred years or so, children had more leisure to “be kids” and play. With the holiday season coming soon, toys and games are top items on wish lists. let’s look at ways we can incorporate stories about how children spent/spend their time and what they used for entertainment.
There are interesting resources available that talk about games and toys throughout the years. Within your own family you may have a doll or a board game from a parent or grandparent or even a great-grandparent. Have you thought about incorporating this information into your family story?
Where to start? Well if you are lucky enough to have grandparents, parents, aunts & uncles, siblings and cousins in your life, now is the time to ask that question. This week I plan to send an email to my aunts & uncle to ask them to tell me about their favorite childhood toy. Ask your relatives what kinds of toys they played with. What was their favorite game?
In my own family, I remember that going to Grandma’s meant playing cards. Any kind of cards. Royal rummy, whist, hearts, “kings in the corner” and even penny ante poker! It was a rare visit that didn’t involve playing cards with Grandma…and what a wonderful memory!
My Dad came from a large family so there probably wasn’t a lot of money for fancy toys. He and his brothers were excited when they got large cardboard boxes to make forts or whatever their imagination created for those boxes.
What about your own family? Was your family boardgame fanatics? Or did they disappear at the mention of charades? Contrast what you know about your ancestors to how your family entertains itself today? Is everyone separate on their own device or do you have game night with a fierce family competition? If you are writing your family history with a focus on sharing your parents’ story and your story with your children and grandchildren, talk about the games that you played. They likely have never heard of them before. Capture that unique piece of history.
To help you get started, here are some sites that talk about “old” games and toys.
Children’s Game in the Twentieth Century
Children’s Lives at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
20th Century Toys and Games Timelines
The History of Game Boards
19th Century Toys
If you have old toys, game boards, dolls and toy trucks, do some research to learn more about the item and its history. Here’s an example of a large gameboard I inherited. It’s missing parts but has become an attractive wall decoration
And interestingly, a quick search find that this game board is still available to purchase online and at local retailers. Replacement parts are available online. And I can learn to play games on the board here: https://carrom.com/game-resources/.
While we have no way to know definitively what our ancestors from the 18th and 19th century played with as children, we may have clues about what their day to day life was like in general histories. We do have the opportunity to write down this information from the 20th century. We have evidence in pictures and stories from living relatives that help add a bit of color to your story, adding depth to your ancestor’s life story.
“We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing!”
― Benjamin Franklin
With a lifelong passion for genealogy and history, the author enjoys the opportunity to share genealogy tidbits, inspiring others to research and write their family story.