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Games of the 1800s

Here are some old-fashioned, unplugged games that families might have enjoyed in the 1800s. We hope you’ll enjoy them, too!


SNAP!b/w art of hand holding playing cards

2 to 4 players

  • Deal cards evenly face-down
  • Players take turns turning over their top card
  • If a player turns over a card that matches a card already showing, owners of those two cards race to yell “Snap!”
  • Player who yells “Snap!” first gathers all the cards
  • Play continues until one player has all the cards

FUN FACT: Playing cards didn’t have numbers until the 1880s. Before then, players hand to count the suit icons—which would have made Snap much more challenging!


HUNT THE THIMBLE

  • Send all players but one out of the room
  • Remaining player hides a plain sewing thimble somewhere in the room
  • It must be in plain sight (not inside anything or covered up)
  • Other players return and look for the thimble
  • When a player sees the thimble, they quietly sit on the floor without revealing the position of the thimble
  • Last player standing is next to hide the thimble

DON’T HAVE A THIMBLE? Anything about the same size will do. Try a board game token, for instance.


b/w art of woman holding handkerchiefTHROW THE KERCHIEF

  • Stand or sit in a circle except one person in the middle
  • One player tosses a handkerchief to someone across the circle
  • Player in the middle tries to catch the handkerchief
  • All players must keep their feet (or bottoms if sitting) in the same place—they may only lean
  • If the player in the middle catches the handkerchief, they change places with the player who threw it

FUN FACT: In the Middles Ages, people used kerchiefs to cover their heads. That’s how kerchiefs got their name—from the French words couvrir, to cover, and chef, head.


b/w art of buttonWHO HAS THE BUTTON?

  • Thread a button onto a long string and tie the ends together
  • All players but one sit in a circle and take hold of the string, pulling it tight
  • One player takes the button in their fist
  • Players pass the button from person to person
  • Player in the center tries to guess where it is
  • When player in the center guesses correctly, they trade places with the person who was holding the button

ALTERNATIVE: You can also play this game without the string, surreptitiously passing the button from hand to hand. Just don’t drop it!

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