Teaching Cleveland
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Elementary School Edition: K-5

Lesson 12

Homemade Toys of the 1890s


Students will become familiar with some of the toys that children in the 1890s made for their entertainment, using creativity and readily available materials.


  • Handout -- Instructions
  • for Thunderbolts - tissue paper Whirligigs - construction paper, penny
  • for Birds & Butterflies - tissue paper, wooden toothpicks
  • for Daisy Fan - white paper 28" long X 51/2 ", crayons, glue, 2 popsicle sticks, rubber band
  • for Kite - tissue paper, 2 sticks (4ft. & 3ft.), string


  1. What types of toys did children play with or create in 1896?
  2. What did these toys require of students' skills, knowledge?

The toys and activities described in this lesson were found in a variety of childrens' activity books or were suggestions in magazines from the 1890s. They were activities that children could play without purchasing a manufactured toy and could therefore be played with by most children of the 1890s. Children of the Victorian Era also played with manufactured toys found in toy departments or catalogues such as the Sears, Roebuck and Co. They played with cast-iron banks, still and mechanical toys, push toys and pulls toys, as well as the ever popular dolls for girls.


  1. Begin by asking students what toys they like to play with? What is their favorite? What do they need in order to play with these toys? (electricity, specific skills, equipment, etc.) List these on the board.
  2. Ask students if they have ever played with toys that they have made? What were they and what did they need in order to play with these toys? Make a comparison between the needs for the two types of toys. Ask students to speculate why children would want to make their own toys. Any advantages to making your own toys? Skills required?
  3. Distribute copies or using a transparency, read through the examples of toys children made in the 1890s. Have students create one or two of these toys in class. Groups could be assigned different toys and then share their creations.
  4. Allow students time to play with the various toys. Discuss their experiences with the toys and what it might have been like to be a child in the 1890s. Are these toys fun to play with today? Why or why not?

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