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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: Games children play   Mon 18 Feb 2013, 11:22

Children are, and ever have been, an important part of the social and community construct yet all too often are overlooked in historical and archaeological accounts. I suppose, as it is the adults who have recorded history, which is through an adults perspective and (as is they way of adults) quite often forgetting that they were once children themselves.

A delightful find, a hoard of 16th and 17th century children's street toys has been unearthed at Harborough which gives us a rare glimpse into the world of the young. And tells us that the lives of children was not necessarily about misery and work, but also about fun and doing what children enjoy most, playing. Spinning tops, whistles, balls, knucklebones, whip handles, others known as tipcats and teetotums (the names of which I had not heard before) and wooden cylinder objects that seem to have experts baffled as to their purpose. Interestingly, most of these toys are recognisable in the paintings by Pieter Bruegel.
http://irisharchaeology.ie/2013/02/a-hoard-of-16th-and-17th-century-childrens-toys/

No hula-hoops though but the tops, whistles, balls and knucklebones were still used in games when I was a child in the 60s, I think the ball is about all that has survived into the present day. Children don't seem to play outside as much these days, unfortunately.


Last edited by Islanddawn on Mon 18 Feb 2013, 17:13; edited 1 time in total
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: Games children play   Mon 18 Feb 2013, 12:18

Interesting but I'm intrigued by how that huge haul of toys came to be there. The suggestion that they were simply cleared off the walkway along the top of the rood screen and into the access stair doesn't quite seem to be the whole story, although I'm struggling to think what that might be. Why a mass of toys and nothing else, was there not even the odd candle stub, old prayer book or dead pigeon amongst this cleared away "rubbish"? And why so many toys? It this where the schoolboys stashed their forbidden treasures? Or was this where the masters hid all the conficated stuff? It's suggested that the items were thrown up onto the rood screen, but why? Unless maybe that was a game in itself? It's almost like a collection of votive offerings!

EDIT : Ah ha! The museum website
http://museums.leics.gov.uk/collections-on-line/col_images/resources/interpretation/harborough_hoard/harborough_hoard.htm

says that there was some other rubbish, mostly broken pottery, amongst the haul. Also it says:

"Although there is no documentary evidence for how the toys got into the stairwell, it seems very likely that they were originally confiscated from schoolchildren or young members of the church congregation and thrown onto the rood screen. In medieval churches this divided the nave and the chancel and in the Harborough church was demolished in 1752. At this time the litter of toys on the walkway running along the top of the screen was swept into the stairwell before the entrances were sealed."

.... which paints a rather delightful picture of Tudor schoolboys hunkered down in their pews, surreptisiously playing at knucklebones during divine service ... but occasionally getting caught, dragged out of the pews by their ears, their pockets turned out, their swag confiscated and thrown temptingly just out of reach .... and then no doubt they were caned.


Last edited by Meles meles on Mon 18 Feb 2013, 15:47; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Games children play   Mon 18 Feb 2013, 13:19

Leicestershire-again eh? So now we know what the young princes did all day and Unca Dicklaterv took their toys away as keep sakes and found a rood screen for their protection etc. Either that or someone stashed them away for Leics to keep any old pot boiling.

On the other hand and intereting find. In our local museum children are fascinated by the toy collection - some of which they are allowd to play with; what the heck!
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PostSubject: Re: Games children play   Mon 18 Feb 2013, 17:52

I'm surprised to find that yoyo's have been around since ancient times, the earliest surviving example dates from 500BC and made from terra cotta and skin side disks.

A representation on ceramic of boy playing with a yoyo from 400BC


And more recently, a woman and yoyo or 'bandalore' (I've not heard the name before) as they were known from a French fashion journal, 1791

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PostSubject: Re: Games children play   Mon 18 Feb 2013, 22:50

I suppose Shakespeare's whining schoolboy creeping like a snail unwillingly to school shows that kids then had better things to do with their day than sit in a room studying, and it wasn't likely to be hard physical work they were missing. So that play was being valued is the assumption here.

Even in quite basic communities toys seem important. Maori had quite a range of toys for their children. I was reading yesterday of some sort of counting toy. And this site http://teaohou.natlib.govt.nz/journals/teaohou/issue/Mao24TeA/c34.html dating to 1958 talks of tops, little flax canoes, stones that may have been used for some kind of bowling, which was known in other areas of the Pacific.

Native Indians had dolls and spinning toys, and noise-making toys seem common to many cultures. And games with resemblances to draughts and Chinese checkers etc, seem to have been very popular especially in African societies, sometimes used with little other than stones and pebbles, but at other times much more sophisticated.
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PostSubject: Re: Games children play   Tue 19 Feb 2013, 18:29

In museum collections of Indus Valley finds - circa 1800BC - there are clay mazes around which to tilt a little clay ball as well as animals with noddingheads and tetra hedron dice for we know not what games but there are tablets of cut clay with Nine Man Morris layouts also. Its always pleasing to think that children had time to be children.

I heard a very sad tale today of a grandson - aged 7 having a friend over to play and my daughter says they were being quiet as they were both using their ipads. There's something awful about that - on the other hand the 4 year old went off to play with a friend for the day bearing two large plastic swords. Next half term they will have with me, I think.
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PostSubject: Re: Games children play   Thu 21 Feb 2013, 16:59

Some interesting finds, there!
If memory serves, Roman dolls have been discovered, some with quite sophisticated jointing - the more sophisticated ones assumed to be the belongings of wealthier children, though I suppose if you were lucky enough to be the offspring of someone who made these things you might hit the jackpot, doll-wise!

The reconstructed Victorian Merchant's House attached to the Jersey Museum includes a nursery where children (or adults, I suppose!) are able to play with the toys. Seems to keep the ghost that allegedly haunts that room entertained, too...

(Incidentally, I never did get the hang of yo-yos Embarassed )
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PostSubject: Re: Games children play   Wed 26 Sep 2018, 04:19

I was writing a little story today about the games we played at school as a child, and wondered about some of them historically. This was the nearest I could find on the topic on Res Hist. so I am adding it here.  

We played Rounders at my school and I was wondering what the difference between that and softball was and found this sentence on wikipedia: The game of rounders has been played in England since Tudor times,[1] with the earliest reference[1][8] being in 1744 in A Little Pretty Pocket-Book where it was called base-ball.[9]


I found it a bit hard to make sense of this: if it was first referenced in 1744, how do they know it was played in Tudor times.  Or does that just mean the first time the game was named?

I also talked about a game called Kick the Wood that we used to play.  I wrote: 

Kick the Wood was the mainstay of my primary school.  We had a log of wood that we played near the school entrance; it was kept in the bike shed.  Everyone hid, except “it”.  I don’t remember how “it” was chosen.  “Its” job was to find everyone and kick the wood as they called the person’s name.  That person was then caught and could only be freed if a hider was able to reach the wood before they were caught, or if “it” made a mistake, calling the wrong name.  “It” usually stayed close to the wood, so it was hard to be freed. But a good older runner often freed a lot of us slowcoaches. And sometimes ‘it’ would be concentrating on finding someone they knew was round the shed and someone else would creep up unawares from another direction.  ‘It’ had to say the right name of the person they found, but a glimpse was enough. Sometimes we would hide behind the school and allow a bit of sleeve to be seen.  ‘It’ would yell, “I see Helen”, and Barbara would come out wearing her jersey and therefore be allowed to free someone.  Kick the Wood filled in many a playtime.


Did any of you play this or a similar game?  Then we played a game we called Cross the River Jordan.  I think it is the same as the controversial Bullrush.  I don't know if this is a specifically NZ game or if it is known elsewhere. 
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PostSubject: Re: Games children play   Wed 26 Sep 2018, 09:58

I can't think of anything like "Kick the Wood" myself, Caro, though that doesn't mean it didn't feature elsewhere in the UK.  Is "Cross the River Jordan" like "Tom Tiddler's Ground".  I did mention a couple of games that I haven't personally seen children play for a longish time in the disappearing skills thread not that they garnered much attention.  We had "it" in our chasing games in the midlands where I live but some cousins used to use "man" instead of "it".

I'll cross-post the games I mentioned before but as I say, I don't know if they caught anyone's fancy.

The following are not work skills but I wondered if some of the more practical playground games of children could be viewed as disappearing skills though it's unfair to think of youngsters being stuck in front of their computers or phones all the time I guess.  I remember there was an indoor game called cat's cradle that we used to play with a piece of string.  Here is an example of a solo version (I never played anything but the version for two people)

There was a game called French skipping where a person would make patterns in the rope with their legs. I found an article by Michael Rosen about skipping games on the British Library site.https://www.bl.uk/playtimes/articles/an-introduction-to-skipping-games  (The video clips posted have gone ou of sequence I believe).
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PostSubject: Re: Games children play   Wed 26 Sep 2018, 10:11

I'm also cross-posting about cat's cradle for one person.

I don't know what happened but I seem to have deleted the cat's cradle clip so I am trying again
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PostSubject: Re: Games children play   Wed 26 Sep 2018, 11:43

Pleased to see this topic has started up again.

And I'm surprised no-one has yet mentioned the painting 'Children's Games' by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (painted c. 1560) which depicts children, who range in age from toddlers to adolescents, playing with toys and participating in various games. Identifable are children riding hobby-horses, walking on stilts and playing on a swing; staging mock tournaments, a mock wedding and a play; wearing disguises, playing 'dress-up' and with a pretend shop; playing leap-frog, piggy-back, hide-and-seek, follow-my-leader, king-of-the-castle, tag, and blind man's bluff; playing games like pitch-and-toss, scissors-paper-stone, tiddly-winks, marbles, dice, skittles, bowls and football; performing handstands and cartwheels; climbing trees and fences; swimming and diving in a river; inflating pigs' bladders as balloons; playing with dolls, toy animals, balls, tops, hoops, kites, rattles, soap bubbles, water pistols, playing with fire, and even poking a pile of shit with a stick.



... I can't see anything that looks like a game of rounders, but it might be there somewhere.


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PostSubject: Re: Games children play   Wed 26 Sep 2018, 13:48

ID did mention "the paintings by Pieter Breugel" in the opening comment in this thread, MM, though no picture was inserted.  The link provided by ID does show details from a couple of Breugal paintings, though now you have inserted a whole picture into the thread I'm sure it will take me ages to identify all the games.  I still haven't found all the ones you have mentioned!
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PostSubject: Re: Games children play   Thu 27 Sep 2018, 11:32

Something I found on the internet pertaining to Navaho legends mentions a game called "kick the stick" - it is in the second paragraph in the linked article but somehow I don't think it is the game Caro describes.  www.sacred-texts.com/nam/nav/omni/omni04.htm
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