Toys of Yesteryear: Do Your Kids Want to Play?

When I do school visits or talk to children about my book WHEELS OF CHANGE they often want to know how kids played and entertained themselves in the early 1900’s.  Without electricity and electronic devices, children of yesteryear had to use their imagination to have a day of fun.  Inventing games and pretend play really hasn’t gone out of style – I witness it every time I visit children on the playground or during their free time.

Toys have changed however.  Many of the things children play with today require batteries and often perform only one function.  Yet there are still some toys that have stood the test of time and continue to be popular.  During my research for the book – set in 1908 – I compiled this list of the top ten toys of the era. Do any of them appear on your children’s list to Santa?

TOP TEN TOYS OF 1900-1920

  1. Teddy Bear (1902)- in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt who, on a hunting trip, had an opportunity to kill a bear and didn’t.
  2. Erector Set- invented by AC Gilbert, a gold medal Olympian in the 1908 Pole Vault.
  3. Lionel Trains (1901)
  4. Lincoln Logs (1916)
  5. Raggedy Ann Doll
  6. Radio Flyer Wagon (1917)                                
  7. Tinker Toys (1914)
  8. Crayola Crayons 8 pack (1903)
  9. Tin Toys
  10. Tiddlywinks

Baseball Cards  (1900)    Ping Pong  (1901)   Jigsaw Puzzle (1909)

Other popular toys included:  Snap Card Game, Playing cards, marbles, checkers, chess, yoyos, wooden tops, dolls.


How many of these toys do your children or grandchildren still ask for today?  When it comes to play, some things just can’t be ignored.


The “Bear” Facts on Collecting.

Three years ago I had the pleasure of meeting a woman who loves collecting Teddy Bears. Jackie Miley – AKA The Bear Lady – from Hill City, SD has a LOT of Teddy Bears.  So many in fact she holds the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most Teddy Bears.  As of 2012, there were more than 7,800 bears in her collection.  What makes this feat even more remarkable is that every bear in the collection is unique.

When asked why she collects bears, Jackie says, “I was raised in foster care and never had Teddy Bears as a kid.  They are a comfort when you’re scared, tired, or hurt. I could have used one so many times growing up. I’m making up for it now.”  Her collection began in 2000 when she got her first “Grandma Jackie Bear” at a Build-A-Bear factory in Myrtle Beach, SC. Jackie now has bears from twenty three countries and all fifty states.

All these bears are housed at TEDDY BEAR TOWN, right across the street from the Super 8 Motel in Hill City. When you walk into the building, it’s impossible not to smile at the sight of bears, bears and more bears.  They cover every inch of wall, floor and ceiling space. The hardest part is deciding which bear you like best.

One small corner of Jackie’s collection.

So, if you’re thinking of starting a collection, here are a few tips from Jackie: Collect something you care about. Set a goal. (Her first goal was to collect the same number as the population of Hill City, which was 780 at the time. ) Keep track of where and when you get each item, and any other unique details. Most important: Have fun! Take it from the Bear Lady, it’s never too late to start collecting.

Jackie Miley – Collection Curator – can be contacted where she works, at the Super 8 Motel on 109 Main St. P.O. Box 184, Hill City, SD 57745-0184

The Guinness Book of World Records web site is: