What Games Did Pioneer Children Play?

Pioneer children played many games similar to ones children play today, including variations on duck, duck, goose; hopscotch; checkers; cat’s cradle; and types of tag. Because pioneer families did not have room for large toys, games had to be small or not require any equipment.

One popular game for pioneer children was called drop the handkerchief. In this game, children would sit in a circle, and someone designated “it” would drop a tissue behind a seated child who then had to chase that person to try to reclaim the seat (a predecessor to duck, duck, goose). Blind man’s bluff was popular with pioneer children, as it is now, and required a blindfolded child to reach out and tag one of the players who surrounded him or her in a circle.

Hopscotch and checkers were popular, as were dominoes, jacks and marbles. Other games that were popular then and remain so today include cat’s cradle, I spy and 20 questions. Some games that have decreased in popularity include rolling a wooden hoop along a path with a stick and a game called fox and geese, where one child would play the fox and chase the others without being able to stray from the path of a wagon wheel in a snow bank.