Victorian Children's Games

Written by erin moonyeen haley
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  • Introduction

    Victorian Children's Games

    During the 19th Century Victorian Era, grownups started to recognise a demarcation between childhood and adulthood. Part of the reason for this was that reformers began to vehemently protest the dangerous working conditions children faced in factories. This sparked movements to protect them. As Patricia Rooke and R.L. Schnell state in their book, "Discarding the Asylum: From Child Rescue to the Welfare State in English-Canada," it became important that children experience childhood. Games were an important part of this cultural trend.

    The Victorian era was unique in that childhood was starting to be recognised as a precious time in one's life. (Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

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    Blindman's Wand

    Blindman's wand involved a group a children. One child was blindfolded and then held out a stick called a wand. The other players took turns holding the opposite end. The child who wore the blindfold asked a certain number of questions, (it was typically three), and then tried to guess who the other person was based on the sound of their voice. When Victorian children played this game, they were allowed to answer questions with animal sounds to make the game harder.

    Blindman's Wand was a game where blindfolded children had to guess who was holding the other end of the wand. (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

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    Jackstraws was a game Victorian children played similar to modern day pick-up-sticks. It was considered a popular parlour game since that is where games were often played. Children would sit around a table and drop wood sticks or splinters in a pile in the middle. The goal was to remove a piece of wood without disturbing any of the other sticks. An alternative way to play the game was to roll dice. Whatever number came up was the number of sticks the child had to successfully remove.

    Jackstraws was the Victorian era version of today's game of pick-up-sticks. (Jeffrey Hamilton/Photodisc/Getty Images)

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    Name Game

    The Name Game was played by older children. Every player wrote down anywhere from five to 10 famous people's names on pieces of paper. The papers were then put in a basket and the guests sat in a circle. One child pulled out a name and gave the child sitting to their right three guesses about the character they had chosen. Their friend had to guess the identity. Once they did, the basket was passed around to the next player. If one guessed incorrectly, they had to sit out until the next game commenced.

    When playing the Name Game, older children passed around a basket with names of famous people whose identity the others had to guess. (Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

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    Ball of Wool

    Ball of Wool started by rolling wool into a ball and placing it in the centre of the table. Children sat around the table and tried to blow the wool off the table. If the wool was blown into a child's lap, that child lost the game. A game similar to this was called Blowing the Feather. Typically played outside, a feather would be tossed in the air, and children would race around, blowing at it to keep it airborne. If the feather landed on a player, they had to sit out the rest of the game. The last child standing was the winner.

    An alternative version of Ball of Wool was when children had to keep a feather afloat by blowing on it. (Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

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    Thinking of Something

    Children would mentally pick an object or location that the other children would know about in Thinking of Something. Examples were the ocean or a castle. They would then drop clues about what they were thinking about. For instance, if they were thinking about Westminster Castle, they might say that what they were thinking about something that came with a tower. The other children would ask Yes and No questions. Whoever guessed correctly was the next one to take the lead.

    Thinking of Something was a guessing game Victoria era children played. (Dynamic Graphics/Dynamic Graphics Group/Getty Images)

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