Maine Toys and Games 50-75 Years Ago

As you are purchasing the latest popular “toys” for children on the upcoming holidays, stop to think how these toys have changed in just the last 50-75 years.  Television is bombarding us with the latest electronic gifts of this season.  Fifty to seventy-five years ago in Maine very few people even had television to see such advertisements!  And, if they did have a TV, the number of channels was limited to three at the most even with a large antenna and rotor on the roof or “Rabbit Ears” on top of the set!  Children spent very little time watching television compared to today.  The first children’s show in Maine was the popular puppet, Howdy Doody!  How many remember the opening song, “It’s Howdy Doody time?”

Children were outside and active everyday.  After “supper” children in a neighborhood gathered to playhideandseek Hide and Seek, kickKick the Can, Giant Steps, Red Rover, Simon Says and Duck Duck Goose.  It was safe to rungames1 around the neighborhood and some games like Street Hockey were played in the street.  As dark approached, the mothers would call their children or ring a bell announcing it was time to come home.

Because safety was not an issue in those days, children were more independent.  At a young age, they could walk or ride their bikes to a neighborhood store, school or a friend’s house to play.  They learned to make good decisions and solve problems on their own.

Indoorpickupsticks games included Jacks, Pick up Sticks, dominoes Dominoes, Checkers, Mr. Potato Head, Rag Dolls, Yo-Yos, Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, Dress Up, Comic Books, Paper Dolls, Tops and View-masters.  For contemporary  children it is hard to imagine having fun doing these things.  The lack of video games, ipads, television cell phones, etc. forced children tojacks spend more time outside and play creatively.  They used their imaginations to create games from what they found.duckduckgoose

Families took car trips and played games with their children as they traveled.  Games included I Spy, Searching for License Plates, Counting Cows (you doubled the number if you passed a church and lost them all if you passed a cemetery) and singing songs.

The elementary school playgrounds offered other games.  Jumping Rope was big and the children jumped to wonderful rhymes such as:

House to let,

Apply within,

When I go out,

Mrs  ? (surname of next child) comes in.


I had a little puppy,

His name was Tiny Tim.

I put him in the bathtub,

To see if he could swim.

He drank up all the water,

He ate a bar of soap.

The next thing you know,

He had a bubble in his throat.

In came the doctor

(person jumps in)

In came the nurse

(person jumps in)

In came the lady with the alligator purse.

(person jumps in)

Out went the doctor

(person goes out)

Out went the nurse

(person  goes out)

Out went the lady

With the alligator purse.

(person goes out)


Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, turn around,

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, touch the ground,

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, go upstairs,

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, say your prayers,

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, switch off the light,

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, say goodnight.

Goodnight, Teddy Bear, goodnight.


Polly in the kitchen,

Doing a bit of stitching,

In came a bogeyman,

And frightened her away!


All in together girls,

Very fine weather girls.

When I say your birthday

Please run out.

January, February, March, etc.


Hopscotch was popular.  The pattern was drawn in the dirt with a stick.  If you played on the sidewalk, the pattern was drawn with a piece of chalk.  The chalk was often pocketed from the classroom blackboard!

Marbles were played on the playground.  Children had a cloth bag to hold their marbles and they often traded marbles with friends.games3

Ball Against the Wall games could be played by an individual or a group taking turns.  Girls were more likely than boys to be drawn to this activity.  The accompanying rhymes determined how the game was played.  The following defines common actions with the small pink rubber ball.

Plainy:  The ball is simply thrown against the wall and caight.

Clappy:  As for Plainy, but clap hands when the ball is in the air.

Rolley:  Roll arms over one another when ball is in the air.

To Backey:  Clap hand behind back

Hippy:  Place hands on hips

Tippy:  Touch the ground

Jelly Bag:  The two hands are held together at the wrists and the fingers are spread wide to catch the ball.

Basket:  Weave and lock fingers of both hands together, with the knuckles facing backwards to you; the ball is caught in locked palms or “basket.”

The following rhyme includes the above actions.  “Plainy, clappy, rolley, to backey, Hippy, tippy, a jelly bag and basket”


Farmer in the Dell was a circle game that starts with one child, the farmer, in the center.  Another popular circle game was “Ring Around a Rosie, Pocket full of Posies,Ashes, ashes, We all fall down.”


Skipping was a favorite game and it too was done to rhymes like the one below.

Charlie Chaplin went to France

To teach the ladies how to dance.

First he did a heel-toe, then he did the kicks,

Then he did the rhumba, then he did the splits.



Ice skating was a winter activity that most children enjoyed.  They skated on local ponds, flooded school playgrounds and flooded backyards.  The ‘rinks” were often lighted and they skated in the iceskatingevening as well.  No one complained about having to help shovel the snow off the ice or the occasional frostbite in a toe!  Sidewalk skating was done with the metal skates that buckled over your shoes.

These games and toys are a far cry from the games and toys used today!  AS you have children around for the holidays or home on school vacation, try playing some of these games of the past with them.  They may actually have fun!