Toys and Games from the Pioneer Days

Amy Fauss
May 9, 2012

Wouldn't it be wonderful to experience life as a pioneer? Living off the land, baking homemade bread, spending more time together as a family, and never having to set an alarm clock? I know what you're thinking: there are way too many comforts we would have to give up.  And you're right; life would be much harder in so many ways. Yet sometimes I wonder if it wouldn't be easier in even more ways. Granted, I usually arrive at that thought after sitting on my comfortable couch in my air-conditioned home, snuggled in watching a nostalgic episode of Little House on the Prairie with my girls. 

But I do think there is much to be learned from the days of early pioneers—for adults and for children. Our kids could benefit from being reminded that children used to be satisfied—quite happy, actually—with nothing more than a piece of chalk and chalkboard, or a jumping rope.  Pioneer children had to rely on their imagination and creativity during play time, which was something they could enjoy only after their chores were done. They certainly didn't have access to American Girl dolls or games on an iPad, Xbox or Wii.

Take a look at some of these popular toys and games for children in the late 1800s:

  • Softball, with a cloth ball and stick for a bat
  • Wooden spinning top
  • Checkers
  • Ring toss
  • Hide and seek
  • Whittling wood
  • Playing with pets
  • Dancing and singing around the fire to music
  • Fishing
  • Playing in the lake
  • Exploring wildlife
  • Dolls, including cornhusk dolls introduced to early settlers from Native Americans
  • Jacks, played with stones
  • Marble games, played with marbles made of stone or clay
  • Pick up sticks (also known as Jackstraws), another game introduced by Native Americans
  • Keep Away
  • Jump rope

I believe our children would thoroughly enjoy taking a break from their modern toys and electronics, and stepping back into time to play some of these wonderful pioneer games, don't you? So pull out that box of forgotten Lincoln Logs and start the conversation about the history of pioneer life in America. You might be surprised how much fun both you and your child will have dusting off that amazing little thing known as imagination! 

Interesting fact about Lincoln Logs: Did you know that Lincoln Logs were invented by John Lloyd Wright, son of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright?

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