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Games, Hobbies,and Holidays

The simplest (and usually the most boring) pastime for children was walking.

Most children, where circumstances allowed, were given their own patch of garden to look after. This could be very satisfying, but only in the growing season.

The conventional pets are cats, dogs, puppies, hens, chickens, birds, more unusual pets are dormouse, peacocks, parrots, ferrets.

Rural trio of hunting, shooting and fishing
Shooting was not as popular in the early 19th century as it became later, when loading and firing sporting guns became simpler and quicker.
Fishing was a more usual and safer sport for children.
Hunting was an extension of riding, which was an accomplishment rather than a pastime in itself. Like 20th century children learning to ride a bicycle, children in the 18th and 19th centuries, if they could, learned to ride a donkey or a pony (owned, hired or borrowed) and later graduated to a horse.

Criket and other outdoor pastimes

Cricket was well established in 1791, though often played by children to variable rules by teams of variable numbers.

An outdoor amusement not requiring more than one child was kites.

Swimming in a river or pond is mentioned occasionally, and birefly. It was a way of cooling off in very hot weather rather than a popular sport, and, of course, for boys only.

Indoor pastimes

Battledore-and-shuttlecock was safer for ornaments than bat-and-ball, but it was usually played by younger children.

Girls, of course, had dolls, which occasionally suffered from the well-meaning intentions of their owners.

Needle works of some sort was another occupation for girls. It began as a learning process and, hopefully, became an enjoyable pastime.

Stamp colleting became a hobby as more countries followed the lead of Britain's Penny Post of 1840.

Winter Evenings

Long evenings called for pastimes that children of different ages could join in, including music, dancing and card-games.

Simpler pastimes

Most of the children's games required no special equipment at all. They include hide and seek; chasing and catching games like Hunting the Hare or Prisoners' Base; games of physical strength or skill such as Leap-Frog, and hopping on one foot, trying to knock each other off balance. Activities such as swimming in summer and sliding on the ice in winter likewise needed no cash outlay. For "Horses" a child could use a stick instead of a specially made hobby-horse. For skipping, poor children could use a piece of rope too short for any serious purpose. Games of Hopscotch or Ducks-and-Drakes (or skimmers) only needed some suitable stones. Whipping tops and hoops could be home-made, with some help from the village carpenter perhaps. Kites were another possiblility.

Cats and dogs were rarely just pets; most had a serious role in pest control (or in poaching). Beetles and similar small cratures could be caught and made to "race" each other. Flying insects were sometimes tethered or caged - a basketwork cage was not very expensive or difficult to made. Bids-nesting was a seasonal pastime, but required a sharp eye and plenty of leisure time.


Very few suitably interesting books were available for children in the early 19th century. Ballantyne's  Coral Island and Thomas Hughes' Tom Brown's Schooldays both came out in 1857. Treasure Island was not published until 1883.

Plays and Charades

Children in families higher up the social scale sometimes made up a play or acted a charade for the adults to guess the word.


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