Games Played by Children in the 1960s

In 1960, the average number of children per family in the United States was 2.33; today, it's 1.87. Because of the baby boom after World War II, the population consisted of more children than ever before. Board games of the 1960s focused on a society that was changing views prevalent in the past. Games included hands-on creation or tasks, changing technology and social attitudes, and good old family fun.

Family Games

Originally created in 1860 by Milton Bradley, then called, "The Checkered Game of Life," was re-released in 1960 to celebrate the game's 100 year history. The Game of Life showed children a side of life that was not always what you bargained for. The goal of the 3-D game focused on Capitalism. The player who achieved the most success throughout the game was the winner. The Game of Life is part of the permanent collection of the National Museum of American History of the Smithsonian Institute.

New Technology

As technological advances in game-electronics expanded, the board game, "Operation" came about. Originally called "Death Valley," players would use a metal probe to search for "water" in the desert. In 1965, the Milton Bradley Company bought the concept for Operation. The game setting became a hospital instead of the desert. Operation incorporated a light bulb and a buzzing sound on the board as players attempted to remove 12 parts from a patient named "Cavity Sam." Tweezers replaced the metal probe, and players used them to remove pieces of Cavity Sam's body. If a player touched the sides, a buzzer sounded, indicating that the "surgery" had failed and the player would lose a turn.

Created in 1967 by Hasbro, Light-Brite was a simple art toy that used a light box, peg-type lights and a black sheet of paper. Players plugged the pegs into the light box using patterned images of favourite characters, or players could create their own drawings.

Creative Games

In 1960, Ohio Arts introduced Etch a Sketch, known as the "magic screen" and originally called the "L'Ecran Magique." The Etch-A-Sketch drew horizontal and vertical lines guided via the player twisting knobs attached to a stylus. Internal strings and pulleys moved the stylus along a screen with concealed "aluminium powder and plastic pellets" that scraped against a thin coating when turned, creating lines, also called metal lithography. According to Ohio Arts, the Etch-A-Sketch "inspired a child to draw pictures and patterns that developed art skills, visual though, dexterity, and individual expressionism."

Spirograph was "pattern drawing by revolving stencils," according to Tim Walsh, author of Timeless Toys. Spirograph debuted at the Nuremburg Toy Fair in 1965. Kenner, a toy company that produced interactive toys that allowed children to create, purchased the Spirograph. The child placed a pen in a hole on a plastic disk, and the disk was then rotated around a gear, producing one of the first engineering toys for children.

Party Games

Twister was considered by some as controversial in 1966. The game included a spinner and a large mat with different coloured circles. The object of the game was for players to place their hands and feet on the circles as dictated by the luck of the spin, until one player fell over. Player's bodies intertwined as the game progressed, challenging sexual morals of earlier times. Twister focused on changing sexual attitudes in America, and allowed for a more open-minded view from the youth of the culture.

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About the Author

RS Wagner began writing professionally in 1997 as a frequent contributor to the "Sun Herald's" column, "What's Cookin'." She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design from William Carey University.