Remarks on Children’s Play” allowed the editor of Juvenile Gazette to discuss the moral and health implications of various games children played in the 1820s. (Kite flying was fun, but illegal.) Oliver seems to have been fond of ice skating: while he warns of the dangers of swinging, of marbles, and of blind man’s buff, he found no dangers in ice skating.
“Remarks On Children’s Play,” from the Juvenile Gazette (Providence, RI: Oliver Kendall, jr)
“Running & Marbles” (February 9, 1828; p. 48)


Is a very natural, healthful and innocent exercise for children. Some little boys have run races on foot for a wager, as horse racers do; this ought never to be done by old or young. All wagers are wrong.



Playing at marbles is a pretty amusement for boys; but they should never make it a game to win each others [sic] marbles.

He that would wish

To play fair,

Must nuckle [sic] close,

[A]nd shoot with care;

First observing

Well the ring;

When the marbles,

Land therein,

And if his aim

Should be true,

He may hit one—

If not two.

“Tops & Blindman’s Buff” (February 16, 1828; pp. 51-52)


Spinning is not an improper play for

p. 52

little boys. They may do this in the house, when the weather forbids to go abroad. To spin the Peg-top, is good exercise for the arms, but it requires care that other little boys do not stand to [sic] near the ring, lest they get hurt.



Though very amusing to the young, & exciting much merriment, blindman’s buff is a dangerous play, and not to be recommended yet should our little ones incline to take a turn at it, it ought to be in some large room, or open place, and the little boy or girl that is blinded should move slowly and carefully lest a broken nose be the consequence.

“Worrying the Cat & Driving the Hoop” (February 23, 1828; pp. 55-56)

Worrying the Cat.

See that little boy

p. 56

worrying the Cat, by setting on the Dog. What a cruel kind of pleasure is this! Surely none but bad, or unthinking boys, can be so wicked as to be pleased with such sport as this; it bespeaks a low mind, or neglected education. Yet how often do we see the poor animals abused by naughty boys with dogs, stones, or the like!


Driving the Hoop.

This healthy exercise & play

Will make boys warm in winter’s day.

See sprightly o’er the verdant ground,

The youth with hoop so nimbly bound.

This is a pleasing incentive to running, and is adapted only to a spacious level ground; but the idle lads of the town have to avail themselves of the wide walks. & those crowded with the passing people; and doubtless, many persons, remembering they once were young themselves, step aside to give the little players room, who in their turn, if they are mannerly, will endeavour to avoid driving their hoops against any one. This exercise was common among the Greeks and Romans. They had little rings or plates of brass fastened to their hoops, to make a jingling noise.

“Flying the Kite & Swinging” (March 1, 1828; pp. 59-60)

Flying the Kite.

What can to youth give more a delight,

Than flying of the paper kite

See, Henry runs: she mounts, she flies!

Huzza! huzza! young Martin cries.

Flying the kite is an agreeable and innocent amusement for the good little boys in summer. Indeed it is pleasing to see so what a height they will soar, and the many curious mo-

p. 60

tions they make, ascending, decending, [sic] &c. seeming to act as if alive. But still it is against the law, for horses are often frightened by them.


Their time to pass in healthful play,

The boys and girls they swing away;

But do take care the rope be fast,

Ere a sad fall you catch at last.

This is a dangerous play, though a pleasant exercise; & all little folks who undertake it, should see that their rope is strong, and made quite fast at both ends. A hay loft, is the saf[e]st place, where a fall by the breaking of the rope, or otherwise, might not break the head or disjoint the bones.

“Foot-Ball & Rocking-Horse” (March 8, 1828; p. 64)


The foot-ball is made much larger than those used with the bat, or hand. This kind of play, if closely followed will give sufficient exercise; & many can be engaged in it at once.



O see this boy with conscious pride,

The Rocking Horse so stately ride;

“Gee up, Gee ho” ho[w] fast he goes

Hold tight! don’t fall & break thy nose.

Small children can amuse themselves very pleasantly in this way, if they are careful not to rock too hard, so as to get a fall and hurt themselves.

“Skating & Jumping the Rope (March 15, 1828; pp. 67-68)


This delightful di-

p. 68

version, and exercise is superior to every thing that can be classed under the head of motion. Like the bird sailing through the air with wings unmoved, the skater glides along as if impelled by the mere energy of his will, gracefully wheeling in all the intricate curves fancy can conceive, securely on the slippery surface that the unpractised foot dares not tread, with a rapidity and ease that astonish us.


Jumping the Rope.

This is an excellent exercise for little boys and girls; indeed it is very pleasing to see with what nimbleness and delight they leap the cord. It is a play very suitable after confinement of 3 or 4 hours to a seat, to exercise the limbs & circulate the blood.

“Bow & Arrow & Hop-Scotch” (April 12, 1828; pp. 83-84)


Bend well your bow, your skill to try,

Then shoot the target in the eye:

’Tis better thus to be employed

Than have the birds for nought destroy’d.

This is an attracting amusement for boys, but a dangerous one, requiring more care than is always taken by youth, and though not used as an instrument of war, yet much harm has been experienced therefrom. We read of one little boy who

p. 84

had his eye shot out by his companion.



The Spartan women we are told,

As well as Greeks, who lived of old;

This play did practice with delight,

And viewed it useful—well they might.

There are various kinds of hopping as an exercise or play; this very simple exercise ranks among the most violent. To continue it for any length of time, requires great exertion, and serves particularly to strengthen the lower limbs. This kind called hop-scotch i[s] much used among little boys. It affords good exercise for the legs, provided the player can change them occasionally, for to hop long on one leg is wearisome.

“Sledding” (April 19, 1828; p. 86)

Riding down hill is a dear bought pleasure. How often do we see the little fellows tugging up the steep hill through frost or snow, pulling their little sleds behind them, which they get upon and away they go; and in a very short time, if not overset by the way, they are at the [b]ottom, and ready for another toil after a short pleasure.

“Hunt the Slipper & Thread the Needle” (April 26, 1828; pp. 91)

Hunt the Slipper.

To hunt the slipper is not near so dangerous as to hunt the tyger; nor is it attended with cruelty. Now here! now there! and who can tell where? is often the question, but when in sight it is often thrown over and gets again into concealment.


Thread the Needle

This is a lively play in which little boys & girls may sport without injury: but if one of the little runners should get a fall, the rest should not run over her, but help her up; and then they will have a right to expect the like kindness in their turn when they need it: for surely one good turn deserves another.

“Tossing the Ball” (May 3, 1828; p. 96)

“If at work, or at play,

You e’er wish to excel,

In whatever you do,

You must strive to do well.’ [sic]

Tossing the Ball

Tossing the ball is a nice amusement for little girls, and it requires a considerable degree of agility to be expert at it. Three or four balls at once has been kept up, & that so prettily by a little girl as to astonish the spectators.

“Climbing & Shuttlecock” (May 10, 1828; pp. 99-100)


Climbing trees, masts, ropes, or the like, after birds’ nests or for mere play is a dangerous employment; and little boys should be very cautious in attempts of this kind, remembering, he that sits low gets no falls, while many by climbing have lost their lives or broken their bones.



This is a kind of amusement that affords an agreeable & healthful exercise for

p. 100

either boys or girls, & is very proper and suitable to occupy the reasonable time allowed as a respite from the needle or study. It is excellently calculated for cold or stormy weather, as it may be performed in the house. There is little or no danger attendant on this sport.

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