A Short History of Childrens Games

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Some children’s games have been played for hundreds of years and have traditionally been passed down. Swings existed on the island of Crete in 1600BC and the game of jacks, also known as onesies, five stones, snobs, or knuckle bones that involves throwing up and catching five or more jackstones was played by the ancient Greeks.

Blindman’s buff as it is called in England, or in US blindman’s bluff, in which the person who is ‘it’ wears a blindfold and tries to touch other players without being able to see them was played in Tudor times in England by King Henry V111’s courtiers.

As social attitudes changed many games went out of fashion and others, especially those that involved cruelty to animals disappeared. These included cock fighting and bear and dog baiting which were at one time considered to be games. Some games became more structured and had rules which made them more formal, so they became less entertaining and less popular.

Jack stones

Jacks or Knucklebones Source: Wikipedia Creative Commons

Changes in technology have greatly influenced the history of children’s games. For example, the discovery of rubber and its import to Europe in the eighteenth century led to the manufacture of new types of balls which could bounce, and ball games became very popular with new ones being invented all the time. Changes in cultural and trade ties introduced completely new ideas like the kite from China.


Kites  Source: Wikipedia Creative Commons

In the seventeenth century the first manufactured games were originally designed to instruct children. Geographical games like the one where countries were cut out and had to put back in the correct place in the world, led to the invention of the jigsaw puzzle.

Many old nineteenth century games are still distributed and played. These include ludo and snakes and ladders which was originally an Indian morality game in which players were rewarded for landing on virtues (up the ladders) and penalized (down the snakes) for landing on non virtuous squares. The game was changed to reflect the values of Victorian England and first publish in Britain in 1892.

Snakes and Ladders

Snakes and Ladders   Source: Wikipedia Creative Commons

Monopoly, which was first developed in 1933 is one of the most popular board games of all time.

In recent years children’s games have changed beyond all recognition and most games are available for computer, or games console. Board games are less popular among older children who prefer the fast moving virtual world of the electronic game with the virtual opponent and all the sounds and colors of moving video. There is scarcely a family with teenagers which does not have some kind of electronic game, be it a computer games, Wi, Nintendo, X-box, or whatever.

These games are becoming more and more realistic and complex in content and although traditional board games are still available in the stores, it seems that it is nostalgic adults that purchase them, rather than children.


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Posted on Mar 21, 2012
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