Potato Race Anyone? Play like a Victorian while you Social Distance!

"There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor." ~ Charles Dickens

We're all in this together, not a single one of us remains unaffected by the Coronavirus Pandemic, and we must get through it. Over the past few days I've spent a lot of time thinking about what in the world I am going to do with my children! If you're a parent I know you have too. I've seen tons of posts on Facebook dolling out advice about how to handle the situation.



Play Like a Victorian


Some are super scheduled with color coded charts that fill every hour of the day. Others take the opposite view and recommend giving your kid no schedule or screen time limits. I'm not going to tell you what to do, that's your choice. Every kid is different and we're all adults. We can figure out to manage our families just fine. I am going to give you a little bit of historic trivia and suggest some crazy Victorian games you can play with your kids. These games will get you out in the backyard or garden (as an English Victorian would say) and will cause laughter and good humor; which of course the aforementioned Charles Dickens would certainly approve!


Dickens was a Victorian writer whose famous books include A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations. Raise your hand if you remember the 90's movie of Great Expectations starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke! Anyway, he's a typical Victorian. The average Victorian kid was doomed to a life of hard work, probable sickness, and not much fun. Remember Tiny Tim from A Christmas Carol? Briefly stated, A Victoria was someone who lived under the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901)


Most Victorian kids wouldn't have had the luxury of playing the games I'm going to list. That's to say they never got to play games, but there would have been very limited time for play. The kids who did get to play them were the children of the wealthy and upper middle class. These kids also would've had a nanny and/or governess to oversee a lot of their time. A governess was a live in teacher (some families would hire male teachers as private tutors). Remember in the 1800's public schools like we have today were not a thing. Kids were educated at home (if they were even educated). Super rich families could afford to, and sometimes did, send their kids off to boarding school. But, that wouldn't happen until around age 12. Before that the governess (or mom) had the job of educating the little tykes.


No screens meant more books and outside time, and a Victorian kid would've spent a lot of time in the garden playing, painting, or reading. Some of the games we played come from the famous Kate Greenaway. She was a Victorian children's book author and illustrator (using wood cuts) who wrote the aptly named Kate Greenaway's Book of Games. I actually have a copy left over from my childhood. After a long search, through my somewhat disorganized bookshelves, the book was not located, so I downloaded the kindle version for $4.99. This is a great option if you're interested in looking at the book.



A woodcut from one of Kate Greenaway's books


1. The Potato Race


The rules:


Two people compete in the race at a time


Place two rows of 12 potatoes side by side, place them about 3 feet apart


Place a basket (wicker is preferable remember in the 1800's plastic wasn't invented!) in between the rows at one end


Give each participant a spoon


The object is to be the first to get all the potatoes into the basket using the spoon to carry each potato, one at a time.








2. Soap Bubbles


Make your own soap bubbles- 6 cups of water to one cup of dish soap. If you want want less soap halve or quarter this recipe. I quartered the recipe and we have a TON left over, tomorrow we are going to experiment with other objects around the house to try to make even BIGGER bubbles! Then dip a clay pipe into the mixture and blow through it make bubbles. Obviously, I don't think any of y'all have a clay pipe lying around... lol. We used metal straws and it was historically appropriate substitution.









3. The Drawing Game *


Give each child a piece of paper and provide some drawing materials at the table. Each child will then draw a picture of an event (this could be something historic/famous or something from experience). Example- "Halloween" or "Our first trip to Disney". After the drawings are finished pass the drawing around the table. Each child will write on the back of the picture what he/she thinks the other child drew. After everyone has looked at each picture have a laugh discussing what everyone thought the pictures were of! Call it Victorian Pictionary!






4. Oh Great Queen/King


The boys surprised me a little bit by how much fun they had with this one. I really didn't think they would like it.


The rules:


One child stands on a stool (or anything that will allow him/her to be elevated) and plays the role of king/queen. The other children line up, single file in front of the king/queen.


The first child in the line looks up at the queen/king and says "Oh Great King/Queen I bow down to thee", then the king/queen tries to make the other child laugh. He/she wants to make him/her laugh so that he remains king/queen. If the other child keeps a straight face he/she becomes the queen/king.




If you play any of the games let me know! If you purchase Kate Greenaway's Book of Games let me know what games you try!



* from Kate Greenaway's Book of Games