By Lynnie Stein / October 12, 2022

Grandmother’s Playthings… Strong & Amazing

Did you know that the wide variety of toys and books you have and see in shops everywhere haven’t always been available. Children from yesteryear received only a few toys each year – and yet considered themselves very happy. Another big difference was due to the fact that there were no plastic toys because plastic had not been invented.

Back when our grandma’s were young, we had so much smaller Eco-footprints.

So they must have been doing something right.

The simplest toy, one which even the youngest child can operate, is called a grandparent.

  • Families were larger then so there were more essentials like clothes and shoes to buy, and more children to buy for.
  • Toys in say the 1920’s would have included colourfully painted tin tea sets, strong iron and wood wheelbarrows, mecca no sets, wrought iron dolls perambulators (prams, would you believe) and dolls made from wood fibre (they were said to be unbreakable) and celluloid.
  • Other popular toys included water and metal pop pistols, tin buckets, spring tops, tricycles, rocking horses, little red wagon, hula hoops, and for the older children sporting gear like tennis racquet’s, hockey sticks, rope quoits and boxing gloves and punching bags.
  • Most of the children’s playthings and games found in toy boxes were homemade.
  • Earlier, children were visually more dominant, partly because they constituted a larger percentage of the population, and partly because cramped dwelling conditions were not conducive to playing indoors and television was not yet invented.
  • Today, in many places, indoor activities seem to be more the norm.
  • Some traditional children’s games are in the process of dying out.
  • Efforts have been made to reintroduce old games to children today, but the success of such revitalization are very uncertain.
  • Some games simply disappear because they depended on easy access to certain everyday objects which are not available today, e.g. discarded cloth sacks (to step into and make a jumping race) or barrel-hoops (to roll along the streets, steering it with a stick).
  • Children would be happily playing outdoors – hop scotch, elastics, hula hoop, handstands, jump the frog, marbles, knuckles, skipping ropes, ball juggling, ball games –  tunnel ball, follow the leader, red rover.
  • Town-ball which the boys would of made the ball and bat – the ball unravelled by the boys from old yarn clothes, and covered with leather.
  • Books were all hard cover, and included lots of annuals like Boys Own Annual, Chums, Little One’s Annual, Chatterbox Annual, Blackie’s Children’s Annual 17th Year 1920.
  • Books for girls had dubious titles: Little Maid Marigold, Infelice, Heart of a Friend and Munition Mary as well as classics like Little Women and Good Wives.
  • Favourites like The Voyages of Dr. Do little.
  • The still popular – The Complete Mother Goose Book, Nursery Rhymes, Melodies and Jingles.
  • The Classic Children’s Book, The Railway Children, and My Dollies Story Book from 1921 and Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
  • Ask your grandparents or elderly friends about their favourite toys when kiddies, the types of games they played and the books they read.
  • A great suggestion for a teacher that a project on this subject would be very educational! 
  • In the days when the word ‘toys’ didn’t mean high-tech plastic contraptions requiring a dozen batteries and an engineering degree to operate, our grandma’s were experts at keeping kids occupied with things made at home.

“Children don’t need more things.

The best toys a child can have is a parent who gets down on the floor and plays with them.”

~ Anonymous
  • Why not take a page out of grandma’s (recipe) book and make play dough out of organic flour, salt, cream of tartar, coconut oil, and natural vegetable / fruit colouring, or make simple ‘slime’ putty using nothing but cornflour, water and natural colouring.
  • Large cardboard boxes make great cubbies and cars, while shoe boxes can be used as theatres for puppets made out of old socks and felt.
  • And if you’re feeling extra creative, grandma knitted and sewed toys from material scraps.
  • Grandad made building blocks from otherwise unusable bits of wood.
  • Today, there are certainly plenty of concerns regarding toy safety, product safety, and environmental oversight.
  • Toys made in China and maybe, the most abused word – natural.
  • While certainly not all products made in China are unsafe and toys labelled natural often are, parental perceptions may play a big part in how successful these new toys are.

  • The plastics used to make many of your children’s favourite toys are petroleum based.
  • The worst kinds are the “flexible” plastics that also contain phthalates, a particularly noxious group of chemicals… opt for wood (particularly FSC certified) or second hand toys to reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Toy Tips, the fanatically independent testing group.
  • Toy Tips works for the consumer!
  • On this site, you’ll find researched product reviews, articles and tips to stimulate the intellectual, social, physical and individual personality development of the child.

I think all toys should be invisible.

Not only would they improve children’s imaginations, but they’d also be really affordable.


Scissors, Paper, Stone

A very old game that deserves reviving!

  • This is a hand game, based on guessing which ‘object’ your opponent is going to ‘throw’!
  • It is a game for two players, using their hands to represent one of three objects: scissors, paper and stone.
  • Two fingers in a V represents scissors, an open palm is paper, and a clenched fist stone.
  • Each player hides their hands behind their back and, at the count of three, the hands are bought from behind their backs with one of the three postures adopted.
  • The rules of the game decide the winner – scissors cut paper, paper covers stone, stone blunts scissors.
  • For example, if one player chooses paper and the other stone, the ‘paper’ is the winner.
  • You can keep score by using points or forfeits.

The best toys are like unicorns.

They include enough horse to seem real, but enough horn to become magical.


Tin Can Stilts

  • Punch two holes on each side of two large clean cans, of the closed end of the can.
  • Cut a piece of string for each can, making sure each is long enough to come to the children’s waist. Pull one piece of string through the holes of the can.
  • Do the same with the other can.
  • Decorate with paint if desired.
  • Hold the ends of the strings and walk.


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