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Happening History – KS1 Victorian Toys & Games

Location(s)South East, East and Central England
Key StagesKS1, KS2, KS3, KS4
Special SchoolsYes
Public Liability5,000,000
Enhanced DBSYes
FeesPlease contact us with details of your requirements
Administration Service Administered by the provider

More about this Workshop/Service and the Provider

This workshop was created to support learning about toys & games for KS1 students. The display is very hands-on and every child has the opportunity to play with all the toys. It looks at what toys were made from, and toys of the rich & the poor.

Age group: Keystage One, 5 – 7 year olds

Workshop time: 1 hour

Max number of students: 30 per workshop

Number of workshops per school day: 3 maximum so 90 students max per day.

Workshop area: School hall, dining room, gym or other large indoor space. Display items can be moved to the side during lunchtime if required.

Teacher requirement: 2 adults (but the more the merrier!), one of whom must be a teacher. Teaching assistants are great.   Parents are also welcomed.  Adults will be required to help children learn to play and supervise behaviour.

We are dressed as Victorians and introduce ourselves to the children.  We explain what is meant by Victorian, using drawings and photos of the queen, explaining how long she ruled for and how much life changed for children during that period.  At the beginning of her reign, many children worked from a very young age but by the end, all children from 5-12 had to go to school.

We also talk about what some of the toys were made of then and how different they were compared to now, no plastic, electronics and batteries for Victorian children but bone, rag, paper, wood and metal.  We also explain that if you were rich you might have some very nice toys but if you were poor, your toys would be very simple and you might only have one toy.  We explain all the toys.  The children are then split into 2 groups and will rotate around the 2 areas of the hall with us.

Before the start of each area, the toys are explained to the children and any safety instructions are given.

AREA 1 – Toys of the Rich – optical toys and automatons & mechanical toys
Optical toys were a new invention during Victorian times and would ultimately, collectively lead up to the making of the first movie at the end of the century.  These inventions very quickly became toys for the rich and those with expendable income to play with. 

Thaumatropes or ‘Turning Wonders’ as they were otherwise known were the earliest of these inventions.  Although they didn’t understand at the time how these toys worked, they called it ‘the persistence of vision’.  Although the 2 images are on opposite sides of the disc, when it’s spun, they appear as one image to our eyes.  Boxes of thaumatropes were sold as toys and our thaumatropes are all recreations of originals.

  Zoetropes were invented just a few years prior to Queen Victoria’s succession to the throne in 1837 but became hugely popular in the 1860s.  Many people are familiar with them.  A strip of images, akin to those in a flick book are placed inside the drum and when the drum is spun, the looker peers through the slits in the side of the drum.

Praxinoscopes were a later reinvention of the zoetrope and work on a similar basis but use mirrors placed in the centre of the drum to reflect the images rather than looking through slots.  They are actually much clearer and easier to see than the zoetrope and more people can watch them at once. 

The Toupie Fantoches was the next invention along similar lines, but it was invented in the 1880s.  It works in a similar fashion to the Praxinoscope but is in the form of a pyramid.  Discs with 4 pictures on are placed above the Toupie and the reflection is then watched in the mirrors.

3D Stereoscopes are surprisingly a Victorian invention.  Many adults are familiar with plastic versions of them from their childhood but the first 3D stereoscope was invented just a year into Victoria’s reign in 1838 by Sir Charles Wheatstone.  Our stereoscopes are of a later style invented in 1861 and are called the Holmes stereoscope.  Our stereoscopes are originals and our stereograph slides are all reproductions. Although the 2 images look the same they are minutely different, as they are taken on a camera that has 2 lenses and takes 2 photos an eyes width apart.  As each eye is looking at a slightly different image this gives an impression of 3D, very similar to how a modern 3D movie works.

Kaleidoscopes were invented in the early 19th century, by David Brewster.  Our reproduction kaleidoscope has three mirrors inside arranged in a triangle format with pieces of coloured glass inside. The whole kaleidoscope is turned and a myriad of different patterns is produced. 

Automatons have been around for 100s of years.  Sadly we can’t afford some of the elaborate beauties out there but we have some simple wooden automatons that the children can play with to understand how they work.  We have a magician automaton, a rat catcher and a simple automaton with ghosts that pop up and down. 

Mechanical toys
We’ve vaguely styled this area mechanical toys as most of the toys in this area will do something.  It contains such toys as the pecking chicken toy, which has a ball attached to it with a string and when the ball is swung the chickens heads peck.  Our acrobat toys are operated by squeezing the wooden bars and the acrobats will then spin around and do amazing acrobatics on their bar.  There are cups and ball toys, puppets, jack in the boxes, pull along toys, rag dolls, tiddlywinks and the amazing Jacobs ladder, which is endlessly fascinating to the kids.  We show them a neat trick that can be done with this toy. We also have some bone tiddlywinks.

 AREA 2- Active toys
This section contains toys that require a little more activity to play with and contains 2 sets of skittles, 2 sets of quoits, marbles, hobby horses, bar skittles, shove ha’penny, skipping ropes and a stick and hoop toy.  The children are encouraged to play together in the various games such as taking turns to knock down the most skittles, hoop the most quoits or win the most marbles.  

We gather everyone together at the end to talk about what their favourite toys were. what was different about Victorian toys compared to their toys?  What was the same?  What were the toys made of?



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