What Games Did the Pilgrim Children Play?

Simple children's games in America haven't changed much through the centuries.
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With their hats, wide collars and stringent way of life, you might think that children today would not recognize the games Pilgrim children played. However, they are much the same as today's children's games and are easy to recreate for students who are studying the lives of early American settlers and their culture.

1 Indoor Games

Pilgrims played checkers.
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Pilgrim children had board games, and "draughts" was their name for checkers. Played much the same as it is today, checkers hasn't changed much except for the materials used to play the game. In Pilgrim times, there weren't as many rules as there are today. Boards were handmade, of course, and draughts were only played after the day's work was done. Pilgrim adults liked their children playing draughts as it exercised their minds.

If you've ever played tic tac toe, then you'd recognize a game of "naughts and crosses." Naught is an old English word for zero, and crosses is how the Pilgrims described an X. Paper was much harder to come by as the early American settlers had to make it themselves, but young children enjoyed this game as much as they do today.

2 Outdoor Games

Hide and seek.
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"All hid" is, of course, hide and seek. This game could be played indoors or out, but more than likely Pilgrim parents, much like today, encouraged their children to take it outside.

Lummelen, a Dutch word, is know today as keep away. Hop frog — or leapfrog — was also very popular and would be recognized today by many children at recess.

Pilgrim children also blew bubbles, played on stilts, used tops, ran hoops and played marbles.

3 Word Games and Puzzles

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Pilgrim children were fascinated by tongue twisters. Called "gliffes," this game was usually played in the English and Dutch languages. Here is a sample: "Dick drunk drink in a dish. Where's the dish Dick drunk drink in?" Old-fashioned riddles were also very popular and gave the children a chance to solve a puzzle as well as entertain them.

"Knicker box" was a game of skill where the participant tried to control a marble rolling through a wooden box. It involved a series of small wooden arches, and the objective was to get the marble all the way through the maze of arches without having it roll back through the one it just passed through.

4 Games Played with Adults

Caber toss.
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Pilgrim parents occasionally would join in with their children in group sports. One sport in particular was "stool ball," which involved a three-legged dairy stool that the participants would try to knock over with a leather ball while another defended it with a wooden bat.

"Pitching the bar," a contest of strength, was much like today's caber toss in Scottish games and involved tossing a long, thick pole end over end. The winner was the person who could throw it the farthest. This game was probably reserved for older children, but it was great fun for the Pilgrims as a test of strength.