Where did Victorian children play?
Although many children worked in Victorian times, they still had time to play.
Outdoors, most Victorian children played in the street or in the fields and woods. Not many families had gardens big enough to play in, and there were no children's playgrounds. Rich families had playrooms or nurseries, but poorer children played wherever they could find space. With ten or more children often crammed into one or two rooms, play-space for poor families was a luxury. Playing outside was the usual escape.
In street games, children shared toys like hoops, marbles and skipping ropes, with friends in the street, or in the school playground. They played chasing games such as tag and played catch with balls. If they hadn't got a proper ball, they made balls from old rags, and bats from pieces of wood. They also played hopscotch. Victorian children were able to play out in the street as there was less traffic than today. There were no cars until the 1880s. They crowded around street musicians, wheeling a barrel organ, which played tunes when the handle was turned.
Sometimes barrel organ players had a monkey with them.
Books for children
Victorian children were often given books with improving moral lessons, about characters with names like Lazy Lawrence and Simple Susan. A favourite story was Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies about a badly treated chimney-boy. There were lots of books written specially for children, such as Treasure Island (about pirates) by R L Stevenson and Black Beauty (about a horse) by Anna Sewell. Perhaps the most famous Victorian children's book is Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) written by Lewis Carroll.
Children played outdoor chasing games such as tag (which had lots of other names, such as touch or tig), and others like Tom Tiddler's Ground, where one player (Tom) tries to catch anyone trespassing on his or her ground, shown by a line. They also played a version of musical chairs, using cushions or old rags to sit on. At Easter, children played 'Egg-Shackling'. In this game, everyone put an egg with their name on in a basket or sieve, which was shaken until the eggs broke. The last egg left unbroken won.