Category Archives: Kids

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Children’s Games

Why do children play games?

Is it just to pass the time or do they have another significance? The philosopher Bertrand Russell thought that “it is biologically normal that they should, in imagination, live through the life of remote savage ancestors”. A rather bleak assessment! Piaget, the specialist in child development, thought that they allowed children to “assimilate reality” in a safe environment.

Children playing a traditional wooden game

You can play some traditional games in Thame Vicarage at COAM

Two thousand years ago the Greek writer Julius Pollux refers to two games which are still played today – Hide and Seek and Ducks and Drakes (skimming flat pebbles over water). Moreover, in AD 60 a Roman writes about two shepherds playing best of three at Rock, Paper, Scissors. What are now seen as games for young children were once played by older ones too. In the 18th Century and early 19th Century in Britain, boys of secondary school age were playing Hopscotch, Puss in the Corner, Marbles, and Leap-frog.

The names of the games vary wildly through time and place. For example, there are dozens of names for the player who chases the others in Tag, e.g. Het, On it, King, Mannies, Tiggy, Touch, Under, and many, many more. Rock, Paper, Scissors also has other names such as Hick, Hack, Hock and Ding, Dang, Dong.

At COAM, we have two permanently marked out Hopscotch games, one in the garden behind the entrance to the museum and the other next to Thame Vicarage. The “scotch” part of the name here means a scratched line used to mark out the sections. It is a very ancient game, in some opinions Roman or pre-Roman. It certainly exists in at least twenty-five countries all over the world and on every continent. It is not only a children’s game, although in the UK it has become so. In Poor Robin’s Almanack of 1707 we find: “Lawyers and Physicians have little to do this month, and therefore, they may (if they will), play at Scotch Hoppers.” Until the middle of the twentieth century the paving stones of our streets were often decorated with chalk lines by children making a hopscotch game, the chalk lines taking the place of the scratches or scotches that can be used to indicate the squares. The rules of the game vary widely across the country, the essential point being to move a small stone over the grid and hopping to avoid the lines “scotched” on the ground.

Girl on hobby horse

Children can play on the hobby horses at COAM

In Thame Vicarage there care modern examples of one of the oldest playthings of which we know. It is recorded that Aegeilias, King of Sparta, who died in 361 BC and Socrates, the great philosopher, were both found entertaining their children by riding a hobby-horse. The hobby-horse or cock-horse is simply a stick with reins at one end, with or without a horse’s head attached. Our hobby-horses have heads! You could even use your sister’s hair as reins as seen in this German lithograph.

Skipping is a universal children’s game and often accompanied by rhymes to maintain the rhythm. There are many hundreds of such rhymes. Some are very simple: “Salt, pepper, mustard, vinegar”. Others are more complex, such as:

“Ice-cream, a penny a lump
The more you eat, the more you jump!
Eeper Weeper. Chimney sweeper,
Married a wife and could not keep her.
Married another
Did not love her,
Up the chimney he did shove her!”

“Mrs Brown lived by the shore,
She had children three and four,
The eldest one is twenty-four
And she got married to the man next door.”

Written by Roger Coode, Museum Volunteer

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Christmas Gift Guide

Our museum shop is packed full of lots of goodies that make would make great stocking fillers for kids this Christmas so we’ve put together a gift guide. Every purchase made in our shop helps to support the Museum.

Wooden Keyring

Wooden Wildlife Keyrings £3.50

Christmas Stamp

Wooden Christmas Stamps £2.50

Christmas YoYo

Wooden Christmas YoYo £2.50

Wooden Wildlife Bookmarks

Wooden Wildlife Bookmarks £3.50

Wild Weather Book

The Wild Weather Book £10.99
Loads of things to do outdoors in rain, wind and snow – great for every child’s imagination!

Viking Pin Badge

Viking Pin Badge £2.50

Medieval Bracelet

Medieval Bracelet £2.25

History Transfers

History Transfers £2.75


Nature’s Gift Necklaces £3.25


Nature’s Gift Bracelets £3.25

Mega Bug Viewer

Mega Bug Viewers £6.50

Sticky Slug

Sticky Slugs £2.00


Diablo £10.95

Juggling Balls

Juggling Balls £5.95

Pretty purse

Pretty Purse £3.00

Geode Pieces

Geode Pieces £1.60

Tin YoYo

Tin YoYo £2.70

Wooden knitting doll

Wooden Knitting Doll £5.95

Wooden Loom

Wooden Bead Bracelet Loom £10.95

Wooden Bead Bracelet Loom

Wooden Wool Loom £8.50

Colourful Windmill

Colourful Windmill £3.50


Bag of Magnets £2.50

The Museum shop is open Saturdays and Sundays 10am – 5pm until 6th December (excluding Saturday 7th November when the site will be closed for filming).

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Things to do in the summer holidays

The 2019 summer holidays are almost upon us and we’ve got lots planned to keep the family entertained over the summer months.

Outdoor Games Trail

The team have been busy creating a variety of self-led trails for our 2019 season. The trails are designed to engage children in the history and nature found around the Museum. Every day during the summer holidays the whole family can take part in our interactive outdoor games trail. Play some traditional and giant games such as skittles, chess, hopscotch, giant dominoes and more!

Things to do in the summer holidays - meet our costumed inhabitants

Costumed Inhabitants

From 18 July until 2 August there will be a costumed inhabitant portraying 18th century life in our Leagrave cottage. Find out what food they ate, how they cooked, what activities they used to do to keep themselves occupied and see her amazing drop spinning skills!

Things to do in the summer holidays - living history ragged Victorians

Re-enactments and Living history

Every weekend throughout the summer holidays we’ll have a special re-enactment or living history event. Including Ragged Victorians, Medieval Warbow, Tudor Courtroom and Wellington’s Army.
Find out more

Terrific Tuesdays

Every Tuesday from 30th July until 27th August is a Terrific Tuesday. During the summer months our Terrific Tuesdays will each be themed with a different element earth, air, fire, water and the final Terrific Tuesday of the summer will be about all the elements. Our Terrific Tuesdays our planned by our Learning Team, who arrange a variety of themed activities including crafts, games and hands-on activities such as cooking as clay modelling. All activities on our Terrific Tuesdays are included in the standard admission price or free to our Annual pass holders.

Candle Making

Our candle making hut is open every day through out the summer holidays. Visitors can make and decorate their own beeswax candle to take home. There is an additional charge for candle making.


The Museum has three different orienteering courses all of varying difficulty. You can download our orienteering maps for free from here or purchase a map pack in the ticket office. You can take part in orienteering at the Museum on any day.

Sensory Trail

We have a sensory trail around the site to encourage our visitors to explore our site with all their senses. You can pick up a free map from our ticket office or just look out for the prompts around the site.


We’re excited to be introducing have-a-go-archery to the Museum’s collection of activities. It’s still in its early days but we hope to have some sessions up and running for the summer holidays. Keep an eye on our website and social media pages for details of when you can take part.

Other Family Activities

There are 37 reconstructed historic buildings at the Museum, a working historic farm with livestock, woodland and adventure playground. You can find out more about what’s available for families daily at the museum here.


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