Continued from Native American's Page One...
(continued): There is not as much historical information
on Native American toys as there are games. Some speculate this
is because Indian children had few toys due to their nomadic
lifestyle. Constantly traveling due to seasonal changes and migratory
sources of food limited these wanderers to what they could carry.
Toys were not essential to staying alive! Nevertheless, Indian
children did have toys.
Babies had dangling toys to look at and grasp. Dolls were
made from indigenous materials such as cornhusks. Young girls
would decorate their dolls with clothing and beads. Older girls'
mothers taught them skills such as weaving doll mats and making
toy wigwams. Young Indian boys also had toys. They played with
slings, small bows and arrows, spears, and fishing equipment.
Indian boys later learned to make these items and were taught
to hunt small prey.
As you can see, Indian children played with a purpose, and
it was not simply for amusement. Their toys were designed to
teach something useful, and to learn the skills they would need
as adults. Still, there were toys that served no other purpose
than to entertain, such as the "buzzer." This toy was
made with a circular piece of antler bone with two holes in the
middle. It was threaded with sinew that had small wood or bone
handles at the ends. A buzzing sound could be made by holding
the handles and spinning the circular piece by pulling and relaxing
Another amusement activity was making string figures with
a piece of sinew. By tying the ends together to make a loop,
Indian children could weave "webs" with their fingers.
The variations of "web weaving" were many. The larger
the loop, the more designs could be made and the more pairs of
hands could be used. One player would weave the loop around their
fingers any number of ways to make different designs. Another
could also play by moving parts of the loop to create a new figure.
Making "string figures" is perhaps one of Man's earliest
amusements and one that was played throughout the ancient world.
Each string figure usually had a name and the most well-know
name today is "Cat's Cradle."
Historical Folk Toys promotes understanding Native American
traditions by offering craft kits and games that teach and amuse
today's children -- just as parents did thousands of years ago!