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.
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.
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.
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.
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.