What was family life like?

A family of adult women and children gather round the gramophone in their living room Children gather around to listen to the gramophone
A boy and girl in their garden play on a toy horse. A boy and girl in their garden play on a toy horse
Three boys playing marbles in the gutter Boys play marbles in the gutter
An illustration of a boy making a kite tin his kitchen An illustration of a boy making a kite to play with
Portrait of a young girl playing with a skipping rope circa 1910 A girl skipping, a popular pastime during this period

Getting active

Girls in a London street dance to the music of a barrel organ
  • Street musicians played a barrel organ (a mechanical instrument on a handcart).
  • Children sometimes danced to the music of the barrel organ.
  • By 1914 almost every town had a 'picture house' or cinema. Cheapest seats, at the front, were often wooden benches.
  • 'Bumble puppy' was a game like modern swing ball (you hit a ball on a string so it wound round a pole).
  • Find out about days out during World War One

In World War One there was no television, not even for the richest families. Television hadn't been invented.

The army had radios, but no one at home had a radio they could switch on to listen to the news. There were no computers, so no computer games. People of all ages, rich or poor, made their own amusements - playing games, singing, listening to music and reading.

Gramophone records

Many families wanted a record player called a gramophone to listen to music. Soldiers had gramophones too, even in the trenches. The records broke easily, so people were very careful with them - they put them on a turntable, wound up the gramophone and gently placed a metal needle on the record to play it. A large shell-like trumpet made the music louder.

Useful pets

Many families kept a cat, which besides being a pet was useful in chasing away mice and rats. Dogs were probably the most popular pet, as they are today. Even soldiers at the front had dogs as pets. People kept canaries (singing birds) and pigeons too, and in the country children often made pets of lambs, piglets and chicks. Rich children living in the country usually had ponies to ride, or even drove small carts pulled by a goat or donkey.

What toys did children play with?

Rich children had some wonderful toys, such as doll's houses, rocking horses and steam trains that puffed out real steam. Poor children made do with home-made or cheap toys. Boys and girls liked bowling hoops - boys usually had iron ones whilst girls had wooden versions. Children played marbles too. There were big shiny marbles called alleys, and little ones called plimsolls. Children liked hopscotch, skipping, playing football with a tennis ball, and playing conkers in the autumn.

Teachers' notes

Teachers' notes and classroom ideas looking at typical families during World War One

School Radio: WW1

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