When we study this time period, I include as many colonial games and hands-on activities as possible as a way to bring Colonial America to life for my older kids.
In Colonial times children were expected to help the family by working around the house or farm. Children knew it was important to support their family and build skills they would need when they grew older. Often they would look for ways to make their work fun by turning their jobs into contests with their brothers and sisters. When they did have free time children would play outside or make simple toys with scraps of wood or cloth.
When your family studies the early days of our country be sure to take some time to enjoy these Colonial games with your children.
Marbles – In Colonial Times children would have played with marbles made of stone or clay. There are many different marble games. For a simple game 1) draw a circle on the ground with a stick, 2) each player places a marble in the circle, 3) players take turns trying to knock marbles out of the circle (using their large marble), and 4) players get to keep the marbles they knock out of the circle.
Whirligig – This simple toy was made with a button or small piece of wood (these days you could use cardboard) and string. We have made these on several occasions and I am always surprised how much fun the kids have with these toys! Your children can decorate the whirligigs with markers or color pencils for a little added fun. Directions for making your own Whirligig are found in our Discover the 13 Colonies Study Guide
Nine Men’s Morris – This is a board game for two players. To make your own game you will need a piece of paper, a pencil/marker and 18 small game pieces (small rocks or checker pieces will work).
- On a piece of paper, draw 3 concentric squares then draw 3 dots on each side of each square (at the corners and midpoint). Draw a straight line to connect the midpoints of the 3 sides.
- Players take turns laying their game pieces on the vacant dots.
- When all 18 pieces are down players take turns sliding 1 piece along a line to a vacant dot.
- The goal is to make a row of three pieces, or block the other player from making a row.
- When a player makes a row of three pieces on a line he/she removes one of the opponent’s pieces from the board.
- When a player has just two markers left on the board, that player loses the game.
Quoits Game – This is what we know as ring toss or horseshoes. For this activity you need rings (usually made of rope or iron) and stakes. Players take turns tossing their rings onto a stake. If your ring goes onto the stake you receive 2 points, if the ring leans against the stake you receive 1 point. The first player to reach 21 points wins.
Outdoor Running Games – Children in Colonial Times enjoyed many of the same outdoor running games children still play such as tag, leap frog, hide and seek and Blindman’s Bluff. These games are wonderful because they don’t require any special equipment, just a group of children and room to run!
For even more learning ideas about Colonial Times, be sure to check out our series Early American History – Activities for Kids where we share a wide variety of ideas to help your family learn about the early days of our country.