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7) What did children do in our park?

7) What did children do in our park?

What did children do in our park?

1) Background information

In the very first parks, provision for children was limited. They were expected to be accompanied by adults, be well-behaved and not touch anything when in the park. Groups of children entering on the own were often viewed with suspicion and not encouraged.

Large parks usually had open spaces in which children could play and perhaps fly a kite, but generally ball games were not allowed, as were bicycles in some – for those who could afford them.

Attractions for children generally included feeding ducks or animals, going out in a boat on the lake with their parents, sailing model boats, or visiting aviaries, butterfly houses and pets’ corners. Most sporting facilities for were for adults, and any participation depended upon the rules of the park and when they were not reserved for adult only use.

Some parks installed rides or miniature railways on which children and their parents could pay to ride (for those who could afford to do so).

Children were welcome at special events, such as fairs or circuses, but again, only with accompanying adults. For their amusement, there were attractions such as Punch and Judy shows, magicians or clowns.

Later, councils became aware of the need to create more facilities for children, including installing playground equipment. Such equipment became common to parks throughout the country for decades and can be seen in images in play parks from the past . In some parks separate playgrounds were created for boys and girls, not to keep them apart, but because boys had tended to dominate the use of equipment. Other new features included sand pits and paddling pools.

What did children do in our park?

2) Sources of information

Use photographs, postcards and documents as sources to show what children did in parks. Images in what people did in parks and play parks from the past show children taking part in different pursuits in a park.



Old postcards of your park may show children. They can look very posed owing to the long exposure needed in early photography.

Image: © Wolverhampton Archives & Local Studies



Photographs can be less formal and show children engaged in more active or fun pursuits. Look at what they are doing or playing with. Compare with children’s play in your park today.

Image: © South Shields Local Studies Library


Use old photographs to compare play equipment to that in your park today.

Image: © Liverpool Record Office

Documentary sources



Documentary sources can reveal what children did in your park, including what they should not be doing!

Image: © South Shields Local Studies Library



Look out for old posters advertising events for children that might have been held in your park.

Image: © Wolverhampton Archives & Local Studies

What did children do in our park?

3) Activities in school

Use old postcards and photographs to look at what children are doing. Ask parents or grandparents for any. If none are available, look at images in what people did in parks.

Describe what children are wearing in old postcards. Would all children have been so well-dressed or appeared to behave so well? Point out that these postcards were sold as souvenirs, and purchasers would not want images of unkempt children misbehaving.

Research some of the games that children might have played in the past. How many are still played today in your park?

Compare play equipment with what is in your park today. Look at materials used. Examine aspects of health and safety.

What did children do in our park?

4) Activities during your visit

Laminate old photographs showing people in your park. Take them with you and recreate the scenes. Take photographs for comparison back at school.

Talk about how children in the past would have spent a day or afternoon in the park. Visit different locations they would have also visited.

Play some of the games that children might have played.

Make a ‘period’ picnic to take with you.