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Play & Learn 18th Century Games to Develop 21st Century Skills

In the 18th Century, children probably did not have much free time to play. Yet, the connections between play and learning were well understood on a practical level. Most children were educated by their parents, at home, and skills were learned through hands-on practice and/or playing with toy versions of tools. Social skills were learned while working together with other children or family members to complete household chores and also while playing games. Since few manufactured toys were available, children learned to create their own toys using their imaginations and objects that were readily available.

Today, just as in the 18th Century, when a child is asked why they “play”, the simple and brilliant answer you will likely get is “because it is fun”. Few argue that play is fun, but play is also important for a child’s development. Why is play so important? Simply stated, play is the way children learn.

Through play, children learn about themselves, their environment, people and the world around them. As they play, children learn to solve problems and to get along with others. They build their creativity and leadership skills. Play develops skills children need to learn to read and write. Play in early childhood is the best foundation for success in school. As a child learns to reach, grasp, crawl, run, climb and balance, physical skills are developed. Dexterity develops when the child handles toys or other objects.

Vocabulary increases as a child plays and interacts with others. A baby's cooing games with parents evolve into the language skills of a child sharing stories. Learning to cooperate, negotiate, take turns and play by the rules are important interpersonal lifetime skills, all of which are learned by playing.

Positive play experiences develop positive emotional well-being. When children feel secure, safe, successful and capable, they acquire important components of positive emotional health. Sharing play experiences also can create strong bonds between parent and child. Both solitary and social play are necessary for a child's development. A child can play with a building toy alone and in the process, develop independence, self-sufficiency and persistence. Playing with the same toy with others, the child acquires social skills such as sharing, empathy and cooperation.

Try these “Play & Learn” activities to learn how children played in Colonial America and to make some simple toys that are just as fun today as they were in the 1770’s. You and your child may discover a new interest, understand history a bit better, or learn new skills for the best reason of all….because it is fun.

Build You're Own Wooden Spinning Top
Make You're Own Colonial Whirligig Toy
Play Inspired by Nature: Acorn Tops
TEACHER RESOURCE American Girl: Caroline Learning Guide

TEACHER RESOURCE Exploring Science In Colonial AmericaUsing Primary Sources to Recreate Ben Franklin’s Experiments in Electricity

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