Jeff Johnston is a medieval reenactor and avid history fan. He is also the publisher at Living History Publications.
Keeping Kids Busy Is the Key to Successful Parenting
Keeping your kids busy has always been the goal of parents from all ages. A busy kid means the parent can get work done. While it is generally agreed that modern children are spoiled with the number of toys and the variety of toys, it has always been true that adults made toys for the sole purpose of keeping kids out of their hair. For SCAdian parents bringing toys to an event is a good idea, but why not keep the spirit of the event, and let the kids join in on the magic of time travelling to the medieval era, by bringing medieval toys for them to play with. Use it as a teaching moment to increase your children's knowledge of history, and give them a point of pride at having documentable toys. From personal experience my daughter loved to show off her knowledge of history, both at events and in the classroom back in mundania. The variety of toys that work for the SCA is endless, and here are a few simple ones you can think about, along with instructions on how to make them.
Rag dolls are common throughout history and throughout almost all regions. They are simple dolls stuffed with rags, grass, sawdust, and/or pretty much anything laying around, the fun comes in the different clothing made for the doll. Often in history making simple rag clothes for the dolls was the first sewing a girl would do before moving on to more complex projects. These dolls were often very simple designs, while facial designs were probably embroidered on many most extant examples do not have any facial features.
Rag Doll and Rag Doll Clothing Pattern Links
- Traditional Rag Doll DIY - A Beautiful Mess
Grandparents are such a special thing. Growing up, my grandma would take me shopping, play ANYTHING I wanted (sorry, Grama!), and teach me little sewing projects. I remember making my first doll with her. She didn't really look like the one pictured
- Doll Patterns - Over 100 Doll Tutorials and Patterns to Sew
Doll Patterns to sew. Using your originality and one of the 100 free doll patterns and tutorials, you can sew a new play-friend for your little one.
- Free Doll Pattern Download and Instructions for Simple Rag Dolls
Free doll pattern to download plus complete photo instructions for how to sew a simple rag doll with yarn hair and an embroidered face. An excellent project for beginning sewers.
- Free Cloth Doll Patterns and Tips @ Cloth Doll Connection
A collection of Clothing and Doll patterns
- Rag Doll Sewing Pattern
Rag Doll Sewing Pattern
- British Museum - Rag doll
This doll is fairly well-proportioned, and has a head and a body. The arms are made from a long roll of linen attached at the back. The doll is made of made of coarse linen and is stuffed with rags and pieces of papyrus. Coloured wool, now faded, was
Spinning toys are always fascinating, to child and adults alike. Tops were common throughout the middle ages and came in a variety of types. One of the more common was a whip top, which had a small whip you used to keep the top spinning. Tops were generally made of wood, although sometimes of clay, until the Victorian era in which tin tops with a built in spinning mechanism became a fad. These simple toys are easy to make, can keep children amused for hours, and are perfectly period.
An event in Ramshaven we once made tops as site tokens and everyone who came got a hand decorated top. The tops themselves were easy, we simply cut out a bunch of disks out of a sheet of plywood using a specialized drill bit which also drilled a hole through the middle, used a short piece of dowel which we put a bit of a point on using a pencil sharpener and stuck the dowel into the center hole with a bit of wood glue on it. Then each one was custom painted. This is also a great idea for a kids craft at events, have unpainted versions with some acrylic paint and have the kids decorate their very own top.
Tops were also sometimes used in games as random number generators just as dice are. These tops were called teetotums and are used for games such as put and take and the jewish game of dreidle.
Extant tops and other top related links
- Pole lathe Spinning Top - YouTube
Robin Fawcett is one of England's most eclectic pole lathe turners and green woodworker, his range of products and the skill required to create them is truly...
- A hoard of 16th and 17th century children's toys | Irish Archaeology
A most delightful archaeological find: an entire hoard of 16th and 17th century children’s toys, found at Market Harborough parish church, England
- Child's spinning top from Pompeii | Medieval board games | Pinterest
This Pin was discovered by Michael James. Discover (and save!) your own Pins on Pinterest. | See more about spinning top, pompeii and children.
Balls are another great toy to bring to events. Kids love balls because they are so versatile, depending on the size of ball you can play catch, football, soccer, or a host of other games. Medieval balls came in a variety of styles, footballs were often inflated animal bladders, obviously that is out, but one of the easiest styles of balls is simply leather or cloth filled with rags. Felted balls were also common and are quite easy to make.
One of the simplest designs is to cut out two circles approximately the size of the ball you want to make and one strip that is about half the width of the ball and as long as the diameter of the balls. The pattern on the right shows what the pieces should look like. Sew the strip to each circle around its diameter which will leave a hole where the short edge of the strip is for stuffing. Stuff the ball until it is the desired toughness and then sew the hole shut.
Even More Balls
Great documentation on medieval balls
- Make a medieval stuffed ball
Balls made of leather or fabric, stuffed with scraps of cloth, are known from early medieval archaeological finds and continued to be in use throughou...
- Medieval Toys: Leather Balls - Atenveldtus Glorious
This site replaces the previously printed special issues of the kingdom newsletter, Atenveldtus Glorious.
GI Joe may have been insanely popular during the 80's, but toy soldiers are not a new phenomenon. As long as little boys have looked up to their dads going off to war there have been toy soldiers. Sometimes simple wood carvings, sometimes ornate soldiers with kung-fu grips. Figurines could come in all sorts of designs, horses and other animals, soldiers, and pretty much anything else you'd expect. A common one found is a design in which the soldier can sit on a wooden horse with wheels to joust with others.
Action figure goodness
- An Ancient Roman Articulated Doll Found in the Sarcophagus of a Mummy of an Eight-Year-Old Girl
- Hurstwic: Games and Sports in the Viking Age
Great article on viking sports and games, near the bottom are expamples of viking toys including figurines.
So many more
While I have listed a few toys that fit within the SCA period this barely begins to scratch the surface of the subject, board games, tops, dice, knucklebones, and so many more toys were common throughout the SCA period. Regardless of the childs age an appropriate toy can be found without jumping to an obviously out of place toy.
Now I am certainly not suggesting you leave your toddlers favourite toy, the one they simply can't live without, simply to keep the flavour of the SCA going, but I am suggesting you let your kids in on the magic of the SCA as well.
This article was written for the Avacal Games Guild
© 2015 Jeff Johnston
Jeff Johnston (author) from Alberta Canada on February 07, 2015:
Well to be fair the outer covering on the dolls rotted off.... they were probably much cuter when it was new
peachy from Home Sweet Home on February 07, 2015:
Thise dolls look like voodoo dolls