Case 9 - Finding Play

Case 9 - Finding Play

I am called Childhood, in play is all my mind…
Sir Thomas More, 1478-1535

A child today is just as likely to play with a stick they’ve picked up off the ground as a specially made toy. The painting Children’s Games by the Dutch artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder shows this was also the case in 1560. It is an extraordinary record of the types of games and playthings children used and made, depicting over 250 children taking part in 80 different activities. Many did not use specially made toys, instead the children have made up games using objects they found.

Many of the toys presented in this section, such as the hoop and stick, are also shown in Pieter Bruegel’s painting.

Toys can never provide a full picture of children’s play. Games such as leapfrog or stick fights leave no trace. The toys in this case were made by adults. They are robust and so more likely to survive. Others were kept and saved by adults for sentimental reasons, sometimes for generations.

KHM-Museumsverband
1560

Children’s Games (Kinderspiele) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1560.

University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology
Medieval (AD 1066 - 1550)

Lead toys have been found from as early as the late thirteenth century and became more... [Read more...]

Chatteris Museum, from the Neville Angell estate
1930s - 1950s

Tin was first used to make toys in the mid-nineteenth century. It was hardwearing and cheap to... [Read more...]

University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology
15th - 17th century

Clay whistles were considered novelties or toys rather than serious musical instruments.

University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology
15th - 17th century

Clay whistles were considered novelties or toys rather than serious musical instruments. Those... [Read more...]

University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology
15th - 17th century

Clay whistles were considered novelties or toys rather than serious musical instruments. Those... [Read more...]

Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery
12th century

Simple bone instruments, such as pipes and whistles have been found in many places across... [Read more...]

Museum of Cambridge
c.1916

Materials used to make toys were in short supply during the First World War so children and... [Read more...]

University of Cambridge Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology
Roman (AD 43 - 410)

A clay doll torso and head. Dolls from the Roman period were usually made from clay and had... [Read more...]

St Edmundsbury Heritage Service
17th - 19th century

Children (and adults) have played with balls for thousands of years. Made from a variety of... [Read more...]

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