VICTORIAN ERA TOYS
In the early 1800s, American children had very few toys. Toys were given to children on special occasions, like Christmas or birthdays. Toys were very expensive, so even rich kids only had a few of them. Popular toys for wealthy children included rocking horses, doll houses, tea sets, toy soldiers, and train sets. Toys with moving parts were extra special. The Zoetrope was a spinning toy that made still pictures look like they were moving. The kaleidoscope was a toy you could look through to see a design then twist or shake to make a new design. Rich kids also had wind-up toys. (Battery operated toys weren’t invented until the 1960s.)
For kids who were not rich, toys were handmade by parents or other relatives. Children from non-wealthy families had toys made from cloth and wood scraps. There were cloth-peg dolls for the girls and wadded cloth kickballs for the boys. Kites were also made from cloth. Sometimes toys were whittled out of wood. A spinning top, jump rope handles, or toy soldiers were carved from wood. There were also moveable toys made from wood. These toys didn’t have a motor or a key for winding. They needed to be moved by hand.
Because children had so few toys, they carefully guarded the ones they owned.
MAKING THE HUNGRY CHICKENS MOVABLE “WOODEN” TOY
This “hungry chickens” toy is an example of a Victorian toy that a woodworker might have carved for a child.
It works best if you print the pattern on cardstock paper or glue it onto posterboard. If you want to make the toy look like it’s wooden, color it with crayons, then lightly paint over it with brown watercolor paint. Let it dry before cutting out the parts and assembling them.
When and if your students complain about how boring this toy is, tell them to imagine this is the only toy they own.