The Toys Children Played with in the 1800s

Step back in time to the 1800s and discover the fascinating toys that captivated children’s hearts. From dolls to soldiers, wooden toys to mechanical wonders, explore a world of play that was simple yet full of imagination.

Step into a time machine and travel back to the 1800s, where the hustle and bustle of technology and rapid innovation were yet to grace the lives of children. In an era that thrived on simplicity and imagination, the toys that filled the hearts and minds of young ones were vastly different from what we see today. From humble wooden rocking horses to enchanting porcelain dolls, let’s take a glimpse into the world of play in the 19th century.

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Dolls have always been a beloved toy among children, providing hours of imaginative play and companionship. In the 1800s, there were several types of dolls that were popular among children.

Traditional Rag Dolls

Traditional rag dolls were a staple in many households during the 1800s. These dolls were typically made from scrap fabric and stuffed with cotton or other soft materials. The simple design and handmade charm of rag dolls made them a favorite among children. They often had embroidered faces and yarn hair, giving them a warm and friendly appearance.

China Head Dolls

China head dolls were another popular type of doll in the 1800s. These dolls had porcelain heads and limbs, while their bodies were made of fabric or leather. The porcelain heads were intricately painted with delicate features, providing a lifelike quality to the dolls. China head dolls were often dressed in elaborate outfits, reflecting the fashion of the times.

Penny Wooden Dolls

Penny wooden dolls, also known as peg dolls, were a more affordable option for children in the 1800s. These dolls were made from turned wood and painted with simple facial features. They were called “penny dolls” because they were sold for just a penny apiece. Despite their modest appearance, penny wooden dolls offered endless opportunities for imaginative play.

Wax Dolls

Wax dolls were considered a luxury toy in the 1800s. These dolls had heads and limbs made from wax, which gave them a realistic and delicate appearance. The wax was often tinted to give the dolls a natural skin tone, and their hair was made from human or animal hair. Wax dolls were highly prized possessions, cherished by children and often passed down through generations.

Toy Soldiers

Playing with toy soldiers has always been a popular pastime for children, and the 1800s were no exception. There were several types of toy soldiers that children could choose from during this time.

Lead Soldiers

Lead soldiers were the most common type of toy soldiers in the 1800s. These figurines were made from lead or other metals, and they were often painted in vibrant colors to depict different regiments and military uniforms. Lead soldiers allowed children to recreate battle scenes and engage in imaginative play.

Tin Soldiers

Tin soldiers were another popular option for children in the 1800s. These soldiers were made from tinplate, which made them lightweight and durable. Tin soldiers were often painted in bright colors and featured intricate detailing, enhancing their visual appeal. They were a favorite among children who wanted to create their own armies and engage in strategic battles.

Composite Soldiers

Composite soldiers were a more affordable alternative to lead and tin soldiers. These soldiers were made from a mixture of materials, including sawdust, glue, and resin. The mixture was molded into shape and then painted to resemble soldiers. While not as durable as their lead and tin counterparts, composite soldiers still provided children with the opportunity to engage in imaginative play and create their own military scenes.

Wooden Toys

Wooden toys were a popular choice among children in the 1800s, offering durability and a timeless appeal. There were several types of wooden toys that found their way into the hands of children during this era.


Whirligigs were simple wooden toys that involved spinning and twirling motions. They were usually made from a wooden handle and a spinning body, often in the shape of birds or other animals. When the handle was turned, the body would spin around, creating a mesmerizing effect. Whirligigs were not only entertaining for children but also served as decorative pieces in gardens and yards.

Handmade Marionettes

Handmade marionettes were a popular form of entertainment in the 1800s. These wooden puppets were strung on strings and controlled by a puppeteer. Marionettes were often intricately carved and painted to resemble different characters, such as clowns, animals, or historical figures. They provided endless possibilities for storytelling and imaginative play.

Jacob’s Ladders

Jacob’s Ladders were wooden toys that featured a series of hinged blocks connected by ribbons or fabric. When held from one end, the blocks would cascade down the ribbons in a continuous loop, seemingly defying gravity. Jacob’s Ladders fascinated children with their mysterious movements and provided a tactile and sensory experience.

Wooden Tops

Wooden tops were a simple and timeless source of amusement for children in the 1800s. These tops were made from a solid piece of wood, often with a pointed end and a flat surface. When spun with a string or by hand, the top would rotate rapidly, creating a buzzing sound and a whirl of colors. Wooden tops were not only fun to play with but also encouraged hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.


In the 1800s, games were a popular form of entertainment for both children and adults. These games not only provided amusement but also taught valuable skills such as strategy, coordination, and social interaction. Here are some of the games that were commonly played during this time.

Parlor Games

Parlor games were indoor games that were played in the comfort of one’s home. These games were often enjoyed by the whole family and provided a source of entertainment during long winter evenings. Some popular parlor games included charades, word games, and card games. These games encouraged creativity, communication, and critical thinking.

Blind Man’s Bluff

Blind Man’s Bluff was a popular outdoor game during the 1800s, especially among children. The game involved one person wearing a blindfold, while the other players would scatter and try to avoid being caught. The blindfolded player had to rely on their sense of touch and hearing to locate and tag the other players. Blind Man’s Bluff was not only fun but also helped children develop their sensory awareness and spatial orientation.


Graces was a game played with two people, typically young girls. The game involved using wooden sticks or “grace hoops” to pass small hoops back and forth. The aim of the game was to pass the hoops between partners without dropping them. Graces required skill, coordination, and precision and was often seen as a graceful and feminine pastime.

Hoop and Stick

Hoop and Stick was a popular outdoor game that involved guiding a wooden hoop along the ground with a long stick. The goal was to keep the hoop rolling for as long as possible without letting it fall. Hoop and Stick required agility and hand-eye coordination and was a favorite among children, particularly in open spaces like gardens or parks.

Nine Men’s Morris

Nine Men’s Morris was a strategic board game that dates back to ancient times but remained popular throughout the 1800s. The game involved two players who took turns placing their counters on a grid of intersecting lines. The goal was to form rows of three counters while blocking the opponent’s moves. Nine Men’s Morris challenged players’ planning and strategic thinking skills, making it a favorite among older children and adults.


Backgammon is one of the oldest known board games and has been enjoyed for centuries, including during the 1800s. The game involved two players who moved their counters around a board according to the roll of dice. The objective was to be the first player to remove all their counters from the board. Backgammon provided a combination of luck and strategy, making it a popular choice for both children and adults.

Mechanical Toys

Mechanical toys were a fascinating innovation in the 1800s, bringing movement and excitement to playtime. These toys were often powered by clockwork mechanisms or springs and delighted children with their animated actions.

Mechanical Banks

Mechanical banks were a novelty in the 1800s, combining play with the concept of saving money. These banks were designed with various mechanisms that would come to life when a coin was inserted. For example, a mechanical bank might feature a figure that would pop up or a small animal that would move when the bank was activated. Mechanical banks not only encouraged children to save money but also provided an entertaining way to do so.

Clockwork Toys

Clockwork toys were another type of mechanical toy that relied on winding up a spring or a clockwork mechanism to create movement. These toys often took the form of animals, such as ducks, rabbits, or horses, and would move in a lifelike manner when wound up. Clockwork toys were a marvel of engineering and offered children a glimpse into the world of mechanics.

Music Boxes

Music boxes have been enchanting people for centuries, and the 1800s saw the development of intricate music boxes designed specifically for children. These boxes featured a clockwork mechanism that, when wound up, would play a delicate tune. Music boxes often had intricate designs and were cherished by children as precious keepsakes.

Jumping Jacks

Jumping jacks, also known as nodding jacks or dancing jacks, were whimsical mechanical toys that delighted children with their animated movements. These toys typically featured a wooden figure with movable limbs. When the attached string was pulled, the figure would “jump” or dance, captivating children with its lively antics.

Horse Toys

Horse toys have long been a favorite among children, and the 1800s saw the development of various horse-themed toys that provided endless opportunities for imaginative play.

Rocking Horses

Rocking horses became popular in the 1800s as a safe and enjoyable alternative to riding a real horse. These wooden horses were mounted on curved rockers and could be “ridden” by children. Rocking horses not only provided physical exercise and coordination but also allowed children to pretend they were on exciting adventures, galloping through fields or racing to the finish line.

Carousel Horses

Carousel horses, also known as merry-go-round horses, were a common sight at fairgrounds and amusement parks in the 1800s. These beautifully carved and painted horses were mounted on rotating platforms and could be ridden by children as the carousel spun around. Carousel horses were often adorned with intricate details and vibrant colors, adding to the enchantment of the experience.

Pull-Along Horses

Pull-along horses were a popular toy for younger children in the 1800s. These toys featured a wooden or metal horse on wheels, complete with a string or handle for pulling. Children would take delight in pulling their horse along, imitating the act of riding or leading a horse. Pull-along horses encouraged imaginative play and provided younger children with a sense of autonomy and control.

Toy Tea Sets

Tea parties have long been a favorite pretend play activity for children, and the 1800s saw the emergence of toy tea sets that allowed children to immerse themselves in this elegant tradition.

Porcelain Tea Sets

Porcelain tea sets were a luxurious option for children in the 1800s. These sets were made from delicate porcelain and often featured intricate designs and gilded accents. Porcelain tea sets were highly coveted by children who wanted to emulate the refined rituals of their elders. They provided an opportunity for children to practice social etiquette, creativity, and imaginative play.

Tin Tea Sets

Tin tea sets were a more affordable alternative to porcelain sets. These tea sets were made from lightweight tin or metal and were often brightly colored and decorated with popular motifs of the time. Tin tea sets were durable and portable, making them suitable for outdoor play or during travels. They allowed children to host their own tea parties, fostering social interaction and imaginative storytelling.

Paper Tea Sets

Paper tea sets were an inexpensive and disposable option for children in the 1800s. These sets were made from lightweight paper or cardboard and featured printed designs that resembled porcelain tea sets. While not as durable as porcelain or tin sets, paper tea sets offered a convenient and accessible way for children to engage in imaginative play and host their own tea parties.

Educational Toys

Education was highly valued in the 1800s, and toys played an important role in facilitating learning and development. Here are some educational toys that were popular during this time.


The abacus is one of the oldest known calculators and was widely used as an educational toy in the 1800s. The abacus consisted of a wooden frame with rows of colored beads that could be manipulated to represent numbers and perform arithmetic calculations. The abacus helped children develop their math skills, including counting, addition, and subtraction.

Spelling Games

Spelling games were a fun and engaging way for children to practice their literacy skills in the 1800s. These games often involved matching letters to form words or arranging letter tiles to spell out specific words. Spelling games encouraged children to expand their vocabulary, improve their spelling, and enhance their reading skills.

Geography Puzzles

Geography puzzles were a popular educational toy in the 1800s, allowing children to develop their knowledge of different countries and geographic features. These puzzles typically consisted of a map, often made of wood or cardboard, that could be assembled by fitting together pieces representing different regions or countries. Geography puzzles not only taught children about the world but also honed their problem-solving and spatial awareness skills.

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Outdoor Toys

In the 1800s, outdoor play was an essential part of children’s lives, and there were various toys that allowed them to engage in active and imaginative play.

Skipping Ropes

Skipping ropes have been enjoyed by children for centuries, and the 1800s were no exception. These simple yet versatile toys provided children with a fun and active way to exercise and improve their coordination. Skipping ropes could be used individually or in group games, fostering social interaction and friendly competition.


Kite flying was a popular outdoor activity for children in the 1800s. These airborne toys, often made of lightweight materials such as paper or fabric attached to a wooden frame, provided hours of entertainment as they soared high in the sky. Kite flying allowed children to experience the wonder of flight and develop their fine motor skills and spatial awareness.


Marbles were a favorite pastime for children in the 1800s, offering endless possibilities for games and friendly competitions. These small, round glass or clay balls were rolled, tossed, or aimed at targets in various marble games. Playing marbles helped children develop their hand-eye coordination, strategic thinking, and social skills.

Hula Hoops

While hula hoops gained popularity in the 1950s, the concept of hoop rolling or hoop tossing was enjoyed by children in the 1800s. These hoops were typically made from lightweight materials such as willow or rattan and were rolled or tossed using sticks. Hoop rolling offered a fun and active way for children to engage in outdoor play and develop their coordination and fitness.

Puzzles and Brainteasers

Puzzles and brainteasers have always captivated the minds of children, and the 1800s were no exception. These toys challenged children’s problem-solving skills and critical thinking abilities.

Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles

Wooden jigsaw puzzles were a popular pastime in the 1800s. These puzzles consisted of a wooden board with a picture printed on it, which was then cut into various interlocking pieces. The challenge was to fit the pieces together to recreate the original picture. Wooden jigsaw puzzles were not only entertaining but also helped children develop their spatial reasoning and logical thinking skills.


Tangrams were an ancient Chinese puzzle that gained popularity in the 1800s. These puzzles consisted of a set of geometric shapes that could be rearranged to form different shapes and figures. Tangrams encouraged children to think creatively and spatially, as they had to visualize and manipulate the shapes to solve different puzzles.

Sliding Puzzles

Sliding puzzles, also known as sliding tile puzzles, were a popular brain-teaser in the 1800s. These puzzles consisted of a board with numbered or patterned tiles that could be moved by sliding them in a specific direction. The objective was to rearrange the tiles into a specific order or pattern. Sliding puzzles challenged children’s problem-solving skills, concentration, and patience.

In conclusion, the toys children played with in the 1800s encompassed a wide range of options that catered to different interests and developmental needs. From dolls and toy soldiers to wooden toys, games, mechanical toys, horse toys, toy tea sets, educational toys, outdoor toys, and puzzles, children had a multitude of options to choose from. These toys not only provided entertainment but also encouraged creativity, social interaction, physical activity, and cognitive development. The toys of the 1800s hold a timeless appeal, and many of them continue to captivate the hearts of children and collectors alike.

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