In the days when Queen Victoria reigned, the type of games and entertainment varied on one’s socio-economic status, as well as age and gender. Towards the middle of Victoria’s rule, the economy was well off, as were the citizens, who learned to balance work and play. This meant that regardless of socio-economic status, most Victorians were able to enjoy the time spent on leisure activities among friends and family.
Children’s Games & Activities
Again, depending on socio-economic status, Victorian era homes were either filled to the brim with lovely toys or sparse with rag dolls and basic wooden toys.
Popular toys for infants and toddlers included rocking horses, doll houses, and Victorian dolls, which were the equivalent of today’s Barbie Doll.
Another popular toy was the Bilbo Catcher & Ball, also referred to as Cup & Ball. Made out of wood and string, the object of the game was as simple as the materials it was made out of! The object of the Cup & Ball game is to swing the wooden ball into the cup. However, this is not as simple as it appears to be. The Cup & Ball game taught balance, but most importantly, patience.
Older children played games that are still popular today, include: chess, dice games, cards, and dominos. Marbles, jacks, spinning tops, and chalkboards were also well-liked activities for children of all ages.
Adult Games & Activities
Often, the less fortunate Victorians would gather at each other’s homes where the hosts and guests joined in such activities as charades, dancing, games, fireworks and piano sing-alongs. Often, they found themselves making and enjoying their own and entertainment. Hunting and fishing not only provided food for their families, it was often a popular recreational activity on Sundays.
Those who were of a higher status took part in attending well-known theaters, such as The Adelphi Theater (also known as the Strand). There, Victorians could enjoy music, opera, theater, hypnotism, ghost conjuring and more.
Other popular games and activities for adults included: card games, bathing, swimming, horseback riding, football, cricket, lawn tennis, croquet and bicycling. Bicycling was not only a hobby for some, but also a method of inexpensive transportation for most. Lawn tennis was a game most middle-class Victorian women participated in, where both Victorian men and women participated in croquet.
Since Victorians did not travel far, except during the summer to travel to resorts, spectacles from different areas of the world were brought to them. This included strange and exotic animals from Africa and Australia, including elephants, monkeys and kangaroos.