The 1920s was an era of transition for children’s games and play. A lack of sports leagues and activities created an atmosphere of creative play. Children often created their own games and used imagination to occupy themselves. As the decade progressed, technical and economic advances in manufacturing allowed more children to own pre-made toys, changing the direction their games took. Parents purchased more games and toys for home, choosing protected play to ensure children’s safety.
Girls often played imaginary games with dolls. The 1920s witnessed a change in the quality and quantity of dolls and stuffed animals available to children. Prior to this era, most dolls were handmade and passed down from mother to daughter. Toy Reviews and News reports that the 1920s was a time of advances in manufacturing technology that led to increased amounts of commercially-made toys. Little girls had access to more dolls that inspired make-believe games.
Boys frequently played games of imagination, such as cops and robbers and cowboys and Indians. They enjoyed marbles and chasing each other in games of tag. Boys were influenced by a consumer culture that made purchased toys readily available. Parents often bought toy rifles and guns for their sons.
Children in the 1920s frequently played street games, or those played outside of school, home, or playgrounds. The games had regional names and flexible rules. Boys often played early versions of baseball. They also played other team sports, such cricket and hand ball. Children used an old can in lieu of a football for Kick the Can. Girls were more likely to jump rope and play hopscotch, and invented songs and rhymes to accompany their games.
The North Caroline Museum of History refers to the 1920s as the Golden Age of American Sports. While baseball was considered the national pastime, basketball, football and boxing gained popularity as well. Children played games to mimic their sports heroes, forming neighborhood baseball and football tournaments. Sports gained immediacy as children listened excitedly to the radio to hear the plays of sports legend Babe Ruth.
Board and Card Games
Children played with homemade and commercially-made board games. The Chinese tile game of Mah Jongg became popular in the 1920s. Adults and children frequently played this game, matching the tiles decorated with geometric shapes. Children played simple card games and boys collected sports cards for trading.
- Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society: Street Games
- MacGregor State School: 1920s
- Stoke Goldington Association: Children’s Games
- Toy Reviews and News: Vintage Toys of the 1920s and 1930s
- Encyclopedia: Consumer Culture
- North Carolina Museum of History: The Golden Age of American Sports
- baseball image by Tomasz Plawski from Fotolia.com