Why such big families?
Many women had lots of babies. Birth control was not widespread, and few couples used any means of contraception. Child-bearing could be dangerous, and many women died in childbirth. Many babies also died, from childhood diseases. Queen Victoria had nine children. Her children were called Edward, Alfred, Arthur, Leopold, Victoria, Alice, Helena, Louise and Beatrice. The royal family became a model for other families.
Many poor children lived in tiny country cottages or in city slums. There was no money for toys, nowhere to play except alleys and yards. Many children had to work, while others were too sick and hungry to play. Yet most poor children still managed to make some fun. They played with whatever they could find, perhaps dancing to the music of a hurdy-gurdy man, paddling in a stream, or climbing trees and lamp-posts.
Nanny in the nursery
Rich families had large houses, with a special room for children called the nursery. This was often at the top of the house. In the nursery younger children ate, played and slept. They were looked after by a woman called a nanny. She took them for walks in the park or to the zoo. Some rich children saw their parents only in the morning and evening, and were looked after mostly by their nanny and by other servants. Most Victorians thought children should be 'seen and not heard'.
The person who looked after the children was called a nanny
Fun at home
Victorians made their own entertainment at home. They had no radio or TV. They enjoyed singing, and a rich family would sing around the piano, while poorer families enjoyed tunes on a pipe or a fiddle. Families played card games and board games, and acted out charades. At birthday parties, a special treat was a magic lantern show. An oil or gas lamp sent a beam of light through a glass lens and onto a screen, to show enlarged images, perhaps of wild animals or a story told in pictures.