Frontier Toys

I hope everyone had a great Christmas! Mine certainly was.

When I was growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, my favorite things to play with (when I wasn’t reading a book) were dolls. I liked the limp kind that seemed like a real baby, where the arms and legs flopped around. The more realistic the better, especially the ones that had eyes that closed when you laid her down. And I was in sheer heaven when I got a doll that laughed.

Then, when I got around eight or nine (could’ve been younger) my baby sister and I became obsessed with paper dolls. We’d patiently cut out their clothes with tabs and dress them up. We’d make up stories and have the cardboard dolls act them out. We spent umpteen hours on end playing with them.

Back in frontier days there was little time for playing. Children of a young age on up had chores to do. Older children had to help get crops in and care for the animals. There were no shirkers when it came to living on a farm. Every hand counted. Even school was abandoned when children were needed on the farm.

But kids still found time for play, if only occasionally.

Frontier children were limited when it came to toys, but they were very resourceful. And sometimes it was the parents who showed great creativity.

Mothers would make their little girls rag dolls out of whatever material they had available. Usually they had yarn for hair and nothing but stitching for eyes, mouths and noses.

For toddlers, mothers strung thread spools on heavy string or they handed their children a pan and a spoon and let them go. I did that too when my kids were little.

Fathers carved toys for their sons and made horses, spinning tops, drums, wagons, whirligigs out of string and a piece of metal. Whirligigs made some type of whirring noise when they were whirled really fast. Fathers also made cup and ball toys that had the ball attached to a string. The object was to flip the ball into the cup.









If they had money to spare, parents would buy their son a bag of marbles. That kept the boys entertained for long periods of time and became treasured possessions.

There were also little tin soldiers for a price unless the father figured out how to make them on a forge out of left over metal.

Boys also whiled away many an hour playing with a barrel hoop and a stick. It was versatile. It was a game that could be played by one boy or a dozen. If it involved a group of boys, they usually spit up into teams and tried to get the hoop away from the others. I’m sure they had some kind of goal to reach to score points. Or boys could race the hoops if they had several.

Baseball wasn’t played until around the turn of the century.

Native American children had similar toys and games. The girls had dolls and the boys had stick games they played.

Can you imagine the children today having nothing to play with except these primitive toys? I swear, they wouldn’t know what to do without their high tech games!

What toys were your favorites when you were young?


Frontier Toys — 12 Comments

  1. Good morning Linda, yes I had a wonderful Christmas. I remember my favorite gift as a little girl. I loved horses and the color purple. I wanted a stuffed purple horse. Well the closest thing my mom found was a purple bull. I was so excited with it, that it didn’t matter that it wasn’t a horse, the purple did the trick and a bull seemed close enough to a horse I was literally on cloud 9. I too played with paper dolls. Yes today’s kids would be lost, as they have no imagination to create fun. By the way I was a champion mud pie chef, well in my way of thinking I was anyway. Great topic. Happy New Year!

    • Hi Tonya…..I’m glad you had a great Christmas. I’m slowly getting back in the swing of things. Your purple bull made me laugh. I’ll bet he was very cute! You were easy to please it seemed. Glad you weren’t upset. Mud pie chef? Jan and I probably would’ve challenged you on that. We made some pretty mean mud pies!

      I hope you got lots of goodies under your tree. And I hope you enjoy Lorraine Heath’s A Rogue in Texas.

      Love you, sister friend!

      • We could of all been master chefs together. I used to take grass which was my spinach, sneak in the barn for oats and then after I “cooked” them I would feed my horses. My dad said I was always sneaking them goodies all day. He knew I wasn’t giving them very much or he would of had to of told me to stop, so they wouldn’t colic. I loved to find dirt of different colors, I could really make some awesome colored layer cakes. Yes I was easily entertained. Wished kids of today could experience the imagination we all had back then. In regards to the purple bull, I still have it. It’s in Texas in my bedroom down there.

        • Yes we could’ve, Tonya. We were very resourceful. Little rocks made a good substitute for walnuts and pecans too. Glad you still have that purple bull. Those memories are priceless.

  2. I loved this blog. In fact, it brought back happy memories of my own childhood even though I was not raised on the frontier. I have vivid memories of paper dolls. They were a top notch toy in my opinion. Sometimes my older sister and I even drew our own dolls and their clothes (always princess gowns were a certainty). My mother made me several rag dolls including Raggedy Ann and Andy.
    Of course, I was born and raised in a time before computers, Ipads, and video games. I’m glad I was acquainted with the nontechno world. But that’s just me stuck in a time of simplicity like a walking, breathing anachronism.
    A lovely post, Linda.

    • Hi Sarah……We must be about the same age. That non-techno world was full of wonder and happy times. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. I think it taught us so much more, especially how to use our imaginations. We probably were better able to cope in the world. I like simple times that moved slower and let you savor life rather than rush through it.

      Much love, dear friend!

    • Hi Robyn……thanks for coming! Great to see you. I loved playing jacks and did a lot. I tried again a few years ago for fun and didn’t do very well.

      Have a good day, my friend!

  3. Oh this certainly brought back memories. Of course, I loved my babies and I can remember even getting one that I could feed a bottle to and it would wet so I got to change her diapers. 🙂 But, I also loved to play jacks (even though you almost always beat me) and color. Do you remember the rolls of coloring books we got somewhere? It literally was yards and yards of coloring. I’ll never forget the smell of a new box of crayons. Great post, sister!

    • Hi Jan……Glad you enjoyed my post. I knew it would bring back lots of memories. We really had some great times back then. Yes, I remember those rolls of coloring books. I guess Mama got tired of buying new ones so fixed us up good. I remember that doll that wet. That was a marvel.

      Love you, sister!

  4. I really enjoyed your post and I also spent a lot of time playing with paper dolls. We would play with them until their clothes would stay on any more. I also played with Barbie dolls a lot and also jacks. I threw my back out a couple days before Christmas so it wasn’t a good Christmas for me this year. Trying to do to much I guess. It is better but not back to normal yet.

    • Hi Quilt Lady……I’m glad you enjoyed my post. Every so often we need to revisit our childhood and remember the joy. Sounds like your paper dolls got a workout like mine and Jan’s. We never moved on to the Barbies. Those didn’t interest us. Oh dear! I’m really sorry about your poor back. I’m sure you’ve been in excruciating pain. I pray it gets better real soon and you’ll be back to your normal self.