What did children do for fun?

The front of an early 20th century toy board game called, 'The new game of blow football.' A game that could be played whilst indoors was blow football. The box encouraged any number of players to join in the fun together
Two children playing with a small boat on the Serpentine, Hyde Park, London lake circa 1912 Outdoor toys were available to play with. This small model boat could be be sailed, from the shore, by pulling on the attached string
Young children, a boy and two girls, pose standing in a garden with two large hoops in the early 20th century Some toys were very simple designs and could be played outside. These children would play with large hoops when outdoors
A little girl hosts a tea party for her doll and three teddy bears circa 1915 Younger children still played with toys such as dolls and teddy bears. Newer toys were more patriotic looking and some wore military themed uniforms
The front of the Dreadnought battleship inspired board game called, 'Kill Kiel' The Dreadnought battleship inspired the board game called 'Kill-Kiel'. The game was for sale by Christmas 1914
The front and back of the 'Trench football' game The British designed game 'Trench football' poked fun at the Kaiser. The aim was to guide a small ball to his mouth and score a goal

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Patriotic toys

Two military toy vehicles and three teddy bears wearing military uniforms of the Russian, British and French armies

Patriotic toys like these were popular shortly after the outbreak of war

War changed children's lives - and their toys too. A toy cupboard in 1910 might have held a wooden hoop, a spinning top with a whip to make it whirl round, a skipping rope, a bag of glass marbles, a leather football, a rag doll or some painted toy soldiers and board games such as snakes and ladders or the new game of blow football.

By 1914, people could buy Christmas crackers decorated with Dreadnoughts (British battleships). Shops offered toy machine guns and a board game about sinking German submarines, called 'Kill Kiel'.

Teddy bears had been a new craze in the early 1900s. The German toymaker Richard Steiff made the finest bears of all but when war broke out, German teddies became unthinkable. British toymakers rushed to make patriotic British bears instead.

What materials were used?

Battery powered toys hadn't been invented. Toys that moved did so by clockwork mechanisms. Plastic was almost unknown, so toys were made of cloth, wood, leather, metal or china. There were very few motor cars on the streets, so there weren't many toy cars in the nursery either. Instead, children played with toy trains made from wood or tin.

When war came, many factories stopped making toys. They switched to turning out uniforms, bombs and bullets. In a nice twist, though, a newsreel film from 1916 shows injured soldiers and sailors making Christmas toys. The Lord Roberts Memorial Workshops were set up to help wounded men learn toy-making skills and earn money when they were no longer able to fight.

Teachers' Notes

Teachers' notes and classroom ideas looking at entertainment 100 years ago.

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