Toys for Children in the 17th Century

Toys for Children in the 17th Century


About 17th-Century Pastimes & Games

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While families of the 17th century did not have access to the world of pastimes and games that we have today, they managed to keep themselves entertained. Children especially enjoyed making up their own games and toys when they had free time. In fact, it is easy to see that some of the games and activities that we find fun today are rooted in the pastimes of the 17th century.


  • 17th Century Schoolhouse

    Life was not easy in the 17th century. The entire family worked hard to make life sustainable, and even comfortable. Chores and school came before anything else for the children, and if these tasks were not accomplished in a given day, there was no time left to be “just a kid,” as we know it today. Before television was invented or the Internet was even a thought, children had to play games with each other, and have recreation that consisted of nothing but imagination. The children of the17th century spent so much time at school, on the farm, and doing their household chores that when they got a chance to play outdoor games or immerse themselves in their favorite pastime, they were happier than at any other time.


  • Nine Pins

    There were many popular games in the 17th century. One of those games was called rolling the hoop. As with this game, most games took place outdoors where the land was large, and there was plenty of room to get good and dirty. This particular game involved taking a large wooden hoop that the children would have to roll from one point to another on the lawn. Whoever finished the fastest would win. It seems so easy, but those were the types of games that the children liked to play. The children also had a game that was almost like bowling, called Nine Pins. Again, it was played outside. There would be nine pins that would be set up on the grass in three rows of three pins each As in bowling, you had to try to knock down all nine pins with a ball.


    • Making friends

      With only their imagination children created and played some of the best games of all time such as tag, hopscotch, sack races, quoits, and leapfrog. They would go swimming, ride horses, go fishing after they caught their own bait, and fly kites. Whether they were walking, skipping rocks, inventing games, or just sitting around with friends under a tree, they enjoyed being outside. When it rained they would come inside and huddle together and play with spinning tops, other wood toys, and anything they could find to pass the day. Games were so much a part of their lives, and without so much commotion like we have today, they were able to socialize, make new friends, and enjoy their youth.


    • Many of the adults would also join in and teach the children games that they knew as youngsters. Some of those games are still popular today, such as hide and seek, blind man’s bluff, and London Bridge. Also, since outdoor work was such an important part of their life, much of what they learned to play could be used later on, such as learning how to shoot a bow and arrow. Any activity that included learning how to solve problems, work with their hands, or following rules was also enjoyable for children.


    • Homemade doll from 17th Century

      Because there were no toy stores, not a lot of books, and nothing to keep children in the house, the pastimes that were most popular could be found around the house outdoors, in the woods, or simply in the imagination. They made their own toys, built their own games, and developed pastimes that will last forever. And because of the imagination of the children of the 17th century, we have many more pastimes today.

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Toys for Children in the 17th Century


Seventeenth century children performed chores at an early age.

Most children living in the 17th century had little time for toys. Life was tough and childhood was fleeting amid the many responsibilities and harsh realities of the times. Still, as children do, they managed to eke out idle moments of pleasure and fun. In each other’s company, children commonly played games: race and tag games, singing games and hopping games — the types of games easily started and abandoned when life and adults demanded. Toys were treasured. If not the lucky recipient of toy gifts, many children created their toys and a bit of time to enjoy them.

Spinning Toys

  • Other toys often played indoors were whirligigs and spinning tops. Already widely popular for centuries, whirligigs were easily constructed by sliding a disk of hammered metal, wood or clay on a twisting loop of string and pulling both ends. If the creator of the toy chose to include scalloped edges on the disk, the toy buzzed as it whirled around the string. By the 17th century, several types of spinning tops were already available, including whip tops, peg tops and hand-spun tops. Scalloped edges on a top also created a buzzing sound, delighting children and adults alike.

Rock, Roll and Slide

  • Rocking horses made their debut in early 17th century and quickly galloped into family life. The simplistic design of plank board sides used for the horse’s legs ensured sturdy support for young riders. Rolling hoops with sticks also proved to be well-liked. Hoop and stick games abounded, but trundling a hoop across ground was also a solitary amusement. When adults could be pressed into nailing a few spare boards together, children used the boards for sledding down grassy slopes.


Tossing Toys

  • Children in the 17th century frequently fashioned toys from what they found either in nature or discarded by adults. Variations of marbles and jacks were played using bits of found bones, pebbles and stones. Youngsters poked strong sticks into rotten apples or potatoes and flung them as far as possible. A game of flinging rotting vegetation, notably apples, was called, “apple ball.” An indoor variety of toss and catch was the cup and ball toy. A small ball was tossed into the air and caught in a cup attached to the end of a stick.

Play Imitates Life

  • Whether roughly carved or exquisitely detailed, replicas of people, animals and the world they inhabit have been a child’s joy from the earliest times. Miniature living toys in 17th century included dollhouses, furnishings and human figures. The more elaborate miniatures were showpieces belonging to wealthy adults and were not intended for play. Girls’ dolls were common and frequently made at home with scraps of fabric. Though they frowned upon too much time spent idly playing with the toy, mothers encouraged doll dressmaking as a life skill to be learned.

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