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 one year my sister Jan got one that actually wet and you had to change her diapers. I was kinda envious, although I liked mine too.
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 one year my sister, Jan, got one that actually wet and you had to change her diapers. I was kinda envious, although I liked mine too. If I recall, she was really pretty and a lot limper than Jan’s.
Then, when I got around eight or nine years old we became obsessed with paper dolls. I’ve talked about this before. We’d patiently cut out their clothes that hooked on with paper 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 and I do think that’s where I developed a lot of my talent for writing fiction.
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 as well as look after younger siblings. There were no shirkers when it came to living on a homestead. Every hand counted. Even school was closed when children were needed on the farm at harvest time.
But despite the work load, kids occasionally found a little time for play.
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 (only they weren’t colorful like these in the picture) or they handed their children a pan and a spoon and let them go. I did that too when my kids were little and they loved it. Or a cardboard box. The simplest things held fascination.
Fathers carved toys for their sons and made tops, 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 leftover 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.
Boys also played mumblety-peg and had yoyos. All children loved playing the many variations of chase games. Baseball didn’t come along 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 to play.
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 Xboxes, tablets and phones!
On the news recently, I saw a segment about parents having to put their kids in rehab to wean them off of one game called Fortnite because it’s so addictive. I worry about kids today. What are they going to grow up to be like? Will they think they’re living in a game and that nothing is permanent? So much death and violence too. But that’s off the subject.
My gifts are bought and I’m done. And I’m below my budget so I’m proud of myself. How about you?