Life was far from easy in the 17th Century. For children the main priorities of the day were school and household chores. The whole family had to work and work hard just to make life sustainable let alone comfortable and this included the children so when they did have time to play and “Just be a kid” they relished it. Nowadays the younger generation have things like television, the internet and video games to keep them entertained but life in the 1600’s had no such luxuries. Children back then had to rely on their imaginations and creativity to keep themselves entertained, something that could be argued we have sadly lost in modern Britain, they would use household objects to make throwing and jumping games, they would use their imaginations to conjure up magical mystical lands where they would be transformed into beautiful princesses or fearless dragon slayers and they would make use of the pavements and walls of houses to play marbles, number games and hiding games. Everything they used were things they already had because back then there were no toy shops or factories designing colourful plastic cars or sparkly fairy outfits for them to buy and play with.
The games that young people played in the 17th Century actually helped them to develop skills that would often benefit them later in life as many of the jobs of the time were physically demanding and required a lot of skill. ‘Quoits’ which is a game played with circles of rope and rocks helped to develop aiming and throwing skills, ‘Archery’ was also good at developing aiming skills that helped boys with hunting when they were old enough. A favourite game of the time was ‘Hoops’, girls would toss their hoops in the air doing tricks and catching them with two sticks whereas the boys (quite typically you may think) just liked to run and push their hoops along the street.
There are a few games that originated in the 1600’s that either we still play today or that have been developed over time into some of the more modern games we play today. Another of the favourite games was called ‘Nine Pins’ this is where there were 9 skittles set out in 3 rows of 3 and the children would do their best to knock them down with a ball, this game has had a few tweaks over the years and we now know its modern equivalent as bowling. Kids of the time also played things like ‘Tag’ and ‘Blind Mans Buff’ both of which I can remember playing as a child and even now marbles are a huge craze in primary school playgrounds, these were also an enjoyable pastime for the children of 17th Century.
There were many benefits of these types of pastime. Of course the number games would help mathematics and problem solving skills, jumping, skipping throwing games would keep the children fit and would improve dexterity but one of the main advantages was the necessity to socialise. If you didn’t have friends in the 17th century then it was very difficult for you to play alone as most (if not all) of the games of the time were for two players or more, this forced kids to play and socialise with one another and to develop relationships with each other that would only strengthen as they got older, this again is something that we constantly hear is lacking in today’s society so maybe it would be a good idea to take a leaf from the 17th century manual and get back to spending time with our friends and family face to face.