What did medieval children do for recreation? Their parents had cards, dicing games like six-ace, and the Philosopher’s Game, but what would a medieval child have played? Play was as important to development then as it is now and it started with toys for babies. Rattles were readily available in the medieval period, as were spinning tops, hobbyhorses, and poppets made of wood, wax and cloth, which became dolls in later centuries. Wealth or lack of it did not preclude children from inventing games to entertain themselves. When the famed Anglo-Welsh monk and chronicler Gerald of Wales was a boy in twelfth-century Pembrokeshire, he and his brother made castles and churches of sand. Medieval hopscotch courts, scratched onto a stone pavement, could be up to one hundred feet. Miniature models of knights, cups, plates, and ewers existed in England from the fourteenth century. As children aged, their games evolved. Noble sons played at war-games, learning techniques with the sword and other weapons. Non-nobility would have trained at archery, as contests became popular in England. Child’s play in medieval times allowed children to mimic adult lives.
|Children's Games, Pieter Bruegel (1560) - |
source: Wikimedia Commons
Lisa J. Yarde writes fiction inspired by the medieval period. She is the author of historical novels set in medieval England and Normandy, The Burning Candle, based on the life of Isabel de Vermandois, and On Falcon's Wings, chronicling the star-crossed romance between Norman and Saxon lovers. Lisa has also written three novels in a six-part series set in Moorish Spain, Sultana, Sultana’s Legacy and Sultana: Two Sisters, where rivalries and ambitions threaten the fragile bonds between members of a powerful family.