Toys in the past

Analysing the artefact

What is this?

Question: Have a look at the object. How big do you think it is?

Question: What do you think it is made from?

Question: Now you can see the actual size of it, what do you think it was used for?

Did you know? People have been playing this game for thousands of years! The Ancient Greeks wrote about it, and archaeological evidence shows that the Aztecs, Romans and Ancient Egyptians did too1.

Early European settlers saw Aboriginal children playing with toy boomerangs, spears and digging sticks, and AFL is believed to have developed partly from the Aboriginal game known as “Marngrook”2.

Some other games that have been played for thousands of years include:

  • Handball
  • Noughts and crosses
  • Spinning tops
  • Playing cards
  • Dice
  • Chess
  • Snakes and Ladders
  • Dominoes
  • Skittles (like bowling)
  • Quoits

Instead of buying toys and games from shops, people made their own at home from whatever they had.

Make your own peg doll

In the past, children like Annie and Ena Sherwood from Rouse Hill Estate often made their own toys using simple materials found around the house.

One toy that could be made easily by children was a peg doll, using a wooden dolly peg and scraps of fabric. Try making your own peg doll, using recycled materials from your home or classroom.

You will need

  • Wooden dolly pegs (one per student)
  • Assorted craft materials (yarn, string, fabric scraps, raffia)
  • Fine marker pens or pencils
  • Pipe-cleaners, cut into short lengths (optional)
  • Craft glue

How to make your peg doll

  1. Use a marker pen or pencil to draw a face on the dolly peg.
  2. Dress the dolly peg in scraps of material. For example, you might use one piece of fabric to make a dress, or two smaller pieces to make a shirt and pants.
  3. Use a small amount of glue to fix the fabric in place.
  4. To create arms (optional), wrap the pipe-cleaner around the peg just below the head, and bend to make elbows.
  5. To make hair, glue string or yarn to the top of the head, of the head, or draw it on with a marker pen or pencil.


1 figure | British Museum; Knucklebones - JHU Archaeological Museum;Knucklebones | National Museum of Australia (

2 marn_grook.pdf (; Indigenous influence on AFL creation confirmed by historical transcripts, historian says - ABC News; Marn Grook: The Game | National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (

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