In America, the eighteenth century was marked by the colonial era which culminated in the Revolutionary War. During this time, children were expected to contribute to the needs of the family and were assigned important chores at an early age. Children spent most of their recreational time exploring the outdoors, joining in simple games or playing with homemade toys.
Colonial children often had to entertain themselves during the cold winter when they could not go outdoors. Cat’s Cradle was a game played with a loop of string twisted around a child’s fingers. A second child attempted to put his finger through the holes in the string without getting caught when the first child pulled the string tight. Children played board games such as chess, checkers and Nine Men’s Morrice, a game in which the object was to line up three markers in a row on the game board. Another indoor activity was listening to adults tell stories, folk tales and local legends.
Most children, particularly boys, spent their free time outdoors. Play was often unsupervised, and rural children often played with their siblings if there were no close neighbors. Metal hoops from barrels were often used in running and throwing games. Like children today, colonial children enjoyed games of hopscotch, tag and Blind Man’s Bluff. Fishing, running and flying kites were other popular outdoor activities.
In the eighteenth century, toys were typically homemade, because they were not sold commercially in stores. (See Reference 2, section 2) Children played jacks by tossing a stone up in the air and collecting seeds or pebbles from the ground before the stone landed. Tops were carved from wood, and dolls were made from dried apples and corn husks. The popular ball-and-cup game was carved from wood and involved a ball tied to a wooden-handled cup with a string. The object was to toss the ball in the air and catch it in the narrow cup. A buzz saw, or whirligig, could be made by threading a button on a piece of string. A child held the ends of the string in her hands and twisted the string tight. When the child pulled her hands apart, the button whirled around on the string, making a buzzing noise.
By Melody Vieth, eHow Contributor