• Pioneer Fun

    The pioneers worked hard, but they also had fun. They liked to play games just like children today. Try a few of their games with your friends.

    Fun Facts

    Button, Button. One favorite game was “Button, Button,” which is similar to “Hot Potato.” Children sat in a circle and passed a button from hand to hand, chanting, “Button, button, who has the button?” When they stopped chanting, a child sitting in the middle of the circle had to guess who was holding the button.

    Who Has the Thimble? One child closed her eyes while another child hid a thimble somewhere in the room. The first child began searching for the thimble while the other children said, “Hot,” as she got closer to the thimble, or “cold,” if she was far away. Once the child found the thimble, another child was chosen to be the seeker.

    Cat’s Cradle. Played with a piece of yarn tied at the ends to make a loop, a child placed the yarn over his outstretched hands. By pinching and sliding his hands through the yarn, he could make a design. This game can be played by one person or two. Here’s a video to learn more.

    Paper Dolls. Paper dolls were popular because they were simple, inexpensive, and portable. Mothers sometimes drew dolls and clothing for their children or cut figures from magazines and catalogs.

    Checkers. Checkers, a game that’s similar to chess, is still popular today. Pioneer children often made their own checkers game with small pieces of wood and a board.

    Marbles. Marbles, especially “cat’s eyes” were prized possessions. Children placed the marbles in a circle on the ground. Each child took a turn flicking a marble with his finger, trying to hit his opponents’ marble out of the circle (sort of like pool). The person with the last marble left in the circle was the winner.

    Jacks. Jacks was a simple game involving a rubber ball and small metal stars (jacks). The child dropped the ball and picked up a jack before catching the ball again. With each turn, the child had to pick up one more jack than the last time. If the child missed the ball, she was out.

    Hoop Rolling. Children rolled the hoops from wagon wheels and other machinery across the ground, steadying it with a stick. The point was to see how far and fast the hoop could go before it fell.

    Potato Sack Races. Children made toys from anything readily available at their homes and farms, including burlap sacks used to ship and store potatoes. Children climbed inside the sacks, pulling them up around their legs. While holding the sacks up around their waists, they hopped madly. The winner was the first person to cross the finish line.

    Learn More

    Discover other pioneer games to play with your friends.

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