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Colonial Toys


In the 1700s, toys were becoming a more common part of a colonial child's life. Toys provided the opportunity to learn both physical skills needed later in life and social virtues such as sharing, patience and careful stewardship of possessions. Learning about the lives of children of the past can help modern children connect and empathize with their ancestors. Toys especially emphasize that while the world is always changing, some things have stayed the same through generations. In this lesson, students will analyze pictures of colonial toys to determine the type of toys available, what they were made of and how they were used.


In this lesson, students:

  • Analyze photographs of colonial toys to determine what they are made from
  • Draw conclusions about the social status of the owners of each toy
  • Compare eighteenth-century toys with those of today



  1. Display the Colonial Toys Images for the class using a projector, interactive white board, or document camera. You may also wish to pass out copies of the Colonial Toys Images to students. (Note: Due to image availability, some of the toys are 19th century artifacts, but they are very similar to toys produced in the eighteenth century.)
  2. Introduce the lesson by explaining to students that they are looking at pictures of toys like the toys used in the colonial period. As historians it will be their job to analyze the photographs and gather information about toys during this time. Note: few toys survive from the eighteenth century, since children were not always careful keepers of their possessions and many were made of materials that have not stood the test of time. The toys pictured here are much like those from the eighteenth century, but may be nineteenth-century examples.
  3. Distribute the Toy Chest Analysis Worksheet to each student and allow 10–15 minutes for students to answer the questions.
  4. Ask students to share their worksheet responses in a teacher-guided class discussion. (See Teacher Answer Key for possible answers and photograph identification.)

Lesson Extensions

Students can design and produce an original toy using a minimum of three common household resources. They should then present their toy to the class, discussing the material used and demonstrating its operation.

Make your own corn husk dolls using directions found at

This lesson was written by Dee Besl, Cincinnati, OH, and Sharon Sobierajski, Buffalo, NY.