I recently purchased a book titled Cold Meat and How To Disguise It, by Hunter Davies, and it is filled with historical ideas of how to save money. In it he shares advice on being thrifty with food, domestic help, children, clothing, health and money, particularly pertinent to those years of World War that resulted in severe rationing.
One of the sections that caught my eye was the chapter on children and the discussion on how to amuse them cheaply. One quoted source was the book Indoor Games for Children and Young People (1912), and it divulged all sorts of interesting (and cheap) games to play with children.
One was called Tinkle Tinkle:
In this game, all the players are blindfolded except one, whom it is their object to catch. The unblindfolded player must carry a little bell which tinkles with every movement of the body, thus revealing his or her whereabouts to all the other players, who are all making frantic efforts to catch the holder of the bell.
Another called Nursery Football:
Football can be made grandly exciting in the nursery if played in a realistic way, as is possible if you follow these directions. Take an ordinary hen’s egg and blow it, by making a small hold at each end and blowing through one hole until all the inside of the egg has been forced into a cup at the opposite end. When this has been done, paint the empty shell in nearly leather-colour as possible with water-colours. When it is dry draw with pen and ink the sections and lacing so as to make it look as much as possible like a real football. Now erect your goal-posts. Four stools with answer the purpose quite well, or even chairs, although the latter are apt to get rather in the way. As in ordinary football the players divide into sides, the object of the game to get as many goals as possible. The ball (or rather egg-shell) is blown across the floor by means of palm-leaf fans. Great care must be taken not to tread upon the ball in the excitement of the game. The score is carefully kept by the umpire, the ball being returned to the centre after each fresh goal.
And another called Window Games, which has several variations:
If there are two or three of you, the best plan is to divide into sides, then, if there are two windows, one side can take one window, and one the other. One side must take all the articles passing up the road, and other everything going in the opposite direction.
Then there are points awarded or lost for seeing particular things passing down the road. Some of the things listed are a baby in a perambulator, a [chimney] sweep, a butcher’s cart, a piebald horse, a woman on horseback, a tinker, and a child with a hoop. Most notably, “No matter which way he may be walking, the side who first sees a solider wins the game.”
There is another that I quite like the sound of, called Silence (something any parent appreciates!), and a whole range of ideas for Home Stage Entertainments. The book concludes with various table games suited to young adults because “over the walnuts and the wine there comes a lull in the conversation, all the general topics of the day have been used up, and on the party there falls a silence that no one cares to break. Then it is that the knowledge of some eccentric form of amusement comes in useful.”
Quite an interesting read, especially for those winter days when the kids are climbing the walls!
Note: The title of this post, “Children and What To Do With Them”, is taken from a book of the same name published in 1881. Unfortunately I cannot find any online links to it.
Sources and Relevant Links
Indoor Games for Children and Young People, (first published in 1912) 1922 edition, edited by E.M. Baker. – read online