During the 1800s, children's pastimes looked a bit different than they do today. Parents wanted everything their children did to be educational or help improve their thinking. Many games played by children in the 1800s were not only designed for fun, but also had a lesson or skill embedded in them. Nonetheless, these games were popular with children, and many are still played today.
Game of Graces
The Game of Graces was brought to America by the French who called the game La Grace. It was meant to be played outdoors by two people. It was very popular with girls because it was acceptable exercise and also taught gracefulness. Boys never played the game together, but would play it with a girl as their partner. The game is played with two wooden throwing rings decorated with ribbons and four catching wands. The players held a wand in each hand. One player would place the rings over each wand in her hands and then toss the rings, one at a time, to her opponent who would try to catch them on her wands. Play would continue for a set amount of time. Whoever caught the most rings during this time period would be declared the winner.
Marbles have been a popular children's game for centuries. In earlier years, marbles were made of clay or stone. However, in the late 19th century, marbles made of glass became popular. There were many games that involved marbles, but the most popular one is still common today. Known as "ring taw," it was played by making a circle on the ground (using chalk, string or drawn into the dirt). The largest marble, called a shooter, was held out, while all the other marbles were placed inside the circle. Children crouched down around the circle and took turns flicking the shooter into the circle. Any marbles knocked out by the shooter were kept by that child. When all the marbles were out of the circle, the child with the most marbles in his possession won the game.
A few board games, such as checkers, chess and backgammon were common even before 1800s. However, it was during the 1800s that many new board games were made. Most board games during this time period were used to teach or improve a child's mind. For example, when a player landed on a ladder square in the popular game snakes and ladders, he was greeted with a picture of a child doing something good. Then, he moved forward a number of spaces. The snake squares were pictures of disobedience and caused the child to move backward. Other games dealt with science, math or geography. Games such as picture lotto taught children words. It was also during this time that Milton Bradley became a household name with his game The Checkered Game of Life.
Many people in the 19th century had a room in their home designated as the parlor. This was a special, often beautifully decorated, room designed for entertaining guests. When guests were visiting, the family often entertained them with parlor games. These games involved several people. The most popular games played in parlors were guessing games, word games and board games. Games such as charades and blind man's bluff were common parlor games.