What Games Did Victorian Children Play?

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While many of the games children played during the Victorian era have not survived to modern times, children still play a number of games that were invented in the 19th century. However, some of these games have a secret history created by the strict social standards of the Victorians.

While Victorian children were not allowed to play card games because adults feared such activities would lead to gambling, game companies created child-friendly decks for games like Old Maid. Most games for Victorian girls did not involve physical activity; instead, they taught the skills needed to care for a household.


According to Literacy Community, adults approved a few games that promoted light exercise. Children played "hoop and stick" by beating a large wooden hoop with a stick, forcing it to roll like a wheel; the object was to keep the hoop moving. Simple games like Kick the Can entertained children for hours with a simple tin can. Kick the Can was played like Hide and Seek: One child would close his eyes while the other children hid; they set a tin can in a common area. When the seeker child found the hidden children, the hidden children would be stuck in a holding area. If another hider kicked the can, all the children in the holding area could hide again. Battle Door and Shuttle Cock created an opportunity for skill building and exercise. Children played this game the same way modern children play badminton, but without a net.

Word Games

Many word games were played in Victorian times, such as Cupid's Coming and I Have a Basket. Both games employed the idea of guessing the letters of words through a series of prompts and questions. Children would begin Cupid's Coming by splitting into teams. The first team would chant the words, "Cupid's coming, how is he coming?" The second team would secretly choose a word and then describe something Cupid does, starting with the first letter of the secret word. The game would continue until the first team guessed the secret word. To play I Have a Basket, children would name objects that could go in a basket. The first item would begin with the letter "A," and each child would name an object that began with each letter of the alphabet until he reached the letter "Z," or a child could not think of an object.

Parlour Games

Because parlour games could be played inside, they were ideal for parties and rainy days. According to Literacy Community, children played Deer Stalker, a variation of Marco Polo with two players, by chasing each other around a table while blindfolded. Children divided into two teams for Dumb Crambo and used rhyming to guess a secret word. Blindman's Wand tasked children to adapt voice-recognition skills.

Girls' Games

To learn how to keep house, girls played games geared toward household learning development. According to Literacy Community, young girls played card games similar to the game Memory. Playing with dolls --- a game still popular with girls today --- helped girls understand the importance of child-rearing. According to the British Broadcasting Company, girls also played with paper dolls, an inexpensive alternative to cloth dolls. Children were not allowed to play with toys on Sunday except for toys relating to the Bible.

Games Still Played Today

Though video games and board games have overtaken our society, some games invented in the Victorian era still maintain children's attention. At birthday parties, for example, children still play Pin the Tail on the Donkey, a game that originated in Victorian times, according to Literacy Community. The card game Old Maid still entertains both children and adults alike. Adults play Taboo and Charades at parties and showers, and adults and children enjoy watching and playing sport games such as football and baseball. People who play all these games might be surprised to learn that these games originated with the Victorians.