Group of smiling children.
Group of smiling children.

Children often occupy their leisure time in play, but the types of play often differs from decade to decade. The 1930s was the midst of the Great Depression, and children commonly resorted to creating their own games with the few toys they had. Activities were often imaginative and toys homemade or very cheap, yet children were still able to enjoy their free time.

General Entertainment

Tv with antenna.
Tv with antenna.

Owning a television was not yet widespread in the 1930s, so children sometimes listened to radio serials such as the comedy "Amon n’ Andy" and the drama “Empire Builder.” Children also read comics, including newspaper strip serials featuring Mickey Mouse, which began in 1930. Action Comics magazine was also popular and featured the 1938 debut of Superman, ushering in the Golden Age of comics.

Toys

Yo-yo.
Yo-yo.

Popular toys of the 1930s included Yo-Yos, wooden wagons, pick-up sticks and bolo bats, which are wooden paddles with rubber balls attached by an elastic string. These could cost anywhere from 10 to 25 cents. Bicycles were also popular, and some children constructed their own scooters from orange crates and roller-skate wheels. Boys often played with metal army soldiers and meccano sets. Meccano sets were metal construction sets that allowed children to build structures and machines in a type of free play. The 1930s also saw a rise in the popularity of Ryder BB guns. Meanwhile, girls often played with plaster or porcelain dolls and sets of dish service or housewares. Wooden table and chair sets allowed girls to build their own creative scenarios.

Games

Scrabble game.
Scrabble game.

A number of board games were developed in the 1930s that are still around today. Scrabble was created in the early 1930s, and Monopoly was released in 1935. Checkers, chess and ring-toss were also often played. More open-ended games such as hide-and-seek, tag and Simon says were also popular in part because they were free and could be played anywhere by anyone. Children also spent time outdoors in neighborhood settings and engaged in imaginative, open play. In the winter sledding and skating were popular outdoor activities.

Organized Activities

Baseball team.
Baseball team.

Organized sports were rare outside of school settings, but children did play games in pick-up fashion, including baseball and hockey. In school volleyball was a popular sport, while spectating boxing and wrestling was common. The Boy and Girl Scouts of America also occupied children’s time by teaching them the values of citizenship and community. Boy Scouts taught outdoorsman skills and in 1930 began the Cub Scouts, allowing younger boys to participate in the organization. Meanwhile, the Girl Scouts sponsored depression relief efforts in the form of food drives, donations of clothing, creating wooden toys and sewing quilts.They also began selling their signature Girl Scout cookies in the 1930s.