Historic Games and Tricks

Boys playing football.You've probably heard that kids in the past had less time to play than kids today, and also didn't have very many toys. That's mostly true - because people had to make pretty much everything they used, everyone was very busy, and kids had a lot of chores. Even with all their chores, though, kids found plenty of time to have fun, and they found ways to have fun even if they didn't have special toys. So next time you are bored, round up a few friends and try out some of these games!

Ducks Fly

One of the players is the leader, who names the flying animal, and whom all others have to imitate. So the leader says, "Ducks fly," then everyone (including the leader) uses their hands and arms to show how a duck flies. Then the leader names another flying bird (or animal): "Robins fly." Eventually the leader names something that doesn't fly: "Dogs fly," and anyone who moves his or her hands to imitate flying is out.

Laughing Games: Honey, If You Love Me, Won't You Smile?

The point of this type of game is for the person who is "It" to make another player smile or laugh. "It" must choose another player to try to make laugh by saying something silly, or by saying the phrase in a funny or silly way. For example, "It" says to another player, "Honey, if you love me, won't you smile?" (For added effect, "It" can be on his/her knees, or in any other pose to try to make the other person laugh.) The other person must reply, without laughing or smiling, "Honey, I love you, but I just can't smile." If "It" succeeds in making the other person laugh, the other person becomes "It;" if not, the same person must try again until s/he succeeds in making someone laugh.

Genteel Lady

Girls running and frolicking.This is a memory game. The first player says, "I, genteel lady, always genteel, come from the genteel lady, always genteel, beg leave to inform you that my ship has just come in from China laden with [something starting with the letter "A," like "apples"]." The next player says the same thing, but has to add something starting with "B," so that the ship from China is "laden with apples and buttons." Whenever anyone makes a mistake, s/he has to take a pencil and wear it in the hair or behind an ear, and no longer calls herself a "genteel lady," but rather a "one-horned" or "two-horned" lady, depending on the number of pencils s/he has.

Blindman's Buff

This was a very well-known game, and can be played indoors or outdoors. One person is "It," and is blindfolded and turned around three times. Then "It" must try to catch one of the others. Whoever is caught becomes "It."

The Puzzle Word

One player goes out of the room; and the others agree upon a word, which he or she is to find out by asking questions. "Does the thing you have named fly?" "Does it walk?" "Does it sing?" "Does it speak?" "Does it grow?" etc. If the player cannot guess the word from the definitions given, he or she must pay a forfeit (give up something or do something silly at the request of the other players).

Trick: The Sentinel Egg

Lay a looking-glass upon a table; take a fresh egg and shake it for sometime, so that the yolk may be broken and mixed up with the white. You may then, with a steady hand, balance it on its point, and make it stand on the glass. This is would be impossible to do while the egg was in its natural state.

Trick: The Conjuror's Joke

Take a ball in each hand and stretch your hands as far as you can, one from the other; then say that you will put both balls into one hand without bringing the hands near each other. If any one disputes your power of doing this, just lay one ball down upon the table, turn yourself, and take it up with your other hand. Thus both the balls will be in one of your hands, without their approaching each other.

*For more games and tricks, look for these historic books that have been reprinted for children today: 

The American Boy's Handy Book by D.C. Beard. 1882, reprint 1983 by David Godine.

The American Girl's Handy Book by Lina and Adelia Beard. 1887, reprint 187 by David Godine.

Games and Songs of American Children by William Newell. 1883, reprint 1963 by Dover Books.

The Girl's Own Book by Mrs. L. Maria Child. 1834, reprint 1992 by Applewood Books.

The Boy's Own Book by William Clarke. 1829, reprint 1996 by Applewood Books.