What Was Entertainment for Kids in the 1850s?

Written by denise russell
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What Was Entertainment for Kids in the 1850s?
The parlour was a lively place for wealthy children to entertain friends with a variety of games. (Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Families and children in both America and Europe were heavily influenced by the norms and culture of what is now called the "Victorian Age," named for the British queen, Victoria, who reigned in England and Ireland from 1837 to 1901. Many of the games, toys and entertainment remained consistent throughout the 1800s. By 1850, Queen Victoria had a firm influence in the Western World, and while she contributed much to society, strict rules of decorum and discipline were enforced, and children did not escape that influence. To explore the history of children's entertainment, you have to separate the pastimes of the "haves" and the "have nots." Poor children had hard lives and had to work for long hours under dangerous and harsh conditions, while well-to-do children had free time to play a variety of games, both outdoor and in the parlour, a designated room to entertain guests.


Arms flailing about, jumping around and uproarious laughter were the order for the day when children of the Victorian Era played charades -- a word-guessing game in which you had to use creativity and body language to communicate the sounds or representations of words or phrases without uttering a single sound. Word names and phrases were traditionally divided by subject -- book, song, animal or play.

What Was Entertainment for Kids in the 1850s?
Charades continues to be a popular guessing game at parties for people in all age groups. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Blind Man's Bluff

Blind Man's Bluff is a variation of tag. The child who is "it," that is, the designated "blind man," gropped around the room, arms outstretched and looking to locate his or her friends. The other players' goal was to run about the room and try not to get caught, so they wouldn't be the next person to be "it."

Pin the Tail on the Donkey

Some games never get old. Another blindfold game, Pin the Tail on the Donkey, was a favourite at children's parties and well suited for the parlour. One child, enlisted to secure the tail to a picture of a donkey, was led by the clues and urgings of the un-blindfolded children. The goal was to thwart the tail-pinner from getting too close to the right place to attach the tail, with each child taking turns. Winner was the one whom got the closest to the tail end of the donkey.


Checkers -- now here's a game the outlasts a millenia. Originally called Draughts, Checkers is a game of wits that was based on the combination of a two-color board like chess and the gambits of backgammon. This was a game children in the late 1800s could play in relative quiet, which was the order of the day. Children were to be seen and not heard.

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