What Types of Games Did Children Play in Medieval Times?

Updated April 17, 2017

It may be difficult for kids today to imagine life without a television or video games; but in the middle ages, this was certainly a reality. Despite this, Medieval era children found plenty of ways to enjoy themselves. Many of the games they did play are extremely closely linked, or even identical, to 21st century mainstays.

Early Sports

Many sports played today are direct descendants of those played in the middle ages. Stoolball was a simpler version of baseball, played with a flat wooden bat and a ball made of leather and soft fabrics. There were no balls or strikes, and no stopping at bases. Colf, an early version of golf, saw participants strike a wooden ball with a club made of lead and wood. Skittles was a more complex version of 10-pin bowling where certain pins had an increased value, and the "king pin" scored the most points.

Outdoor Games

Some outdoor games had obvious modern descendants. In the popular game of horseshoes, players scored points by getting horseshoes as close as possible to a wooden peg. The more shoes you got closer than your opponent's best throw, the more points you received. Similarly, there was also stone throwing, where players would either throw small stones toward a target, or a large stone as far as they could.

Board Games

The likes of Monopoly and Cluedo didn't exist, but board games were common. In the strategy game Fox and Geese, one fox and 13 geese would move around a playing board. The fox would win by jumping all 13 geese, while the other player's objective was to surround the fox. Another strategy game, Nine Man Morris, was an import from ancient Egypt. Players would initially place, and then move, one of their nine pegs around the board. When a player formed a line of three, he removed one of his opponent's pieces. A player won by reducing his opponent to two pegs.

Games Still Played Today

All the above games have either evolved, become rare or faded out altogether. However, some still remain popular in their middle age form. Chess was an import of the Islamic empire and became popular in medieval Europe. Checkers was also popular, but was more common among less educated people who didn't understand the rules of chess. Bowls, similar to horseshoes, with balls replacing the shoes and peg, is still common and known as bocce.

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About the Author

Oliver Mintz-Lowe has been a journalist since 2005. He has written content for BBC local radio programs and news bulletins. Mintz-Lowe received a Master of Arts in multimedia journalism from Bournemouth University.