Curriculum - History - Lesson plan: Toy stories

12th March 2010 at 00:00
Primary - Snap back to the past with an old family photo. Get children to look at toys in the picture and discuss the differences between what they see in the 1900s compared with today

What the lesson is about

How do toys differ today from those in the past? This lesson, aimed at primary children aged five to seven, asks pupils to describe the characteristics of old toys based on objects in an old family photo.


- Pupils can describe the characteristics of old toys.

- They can ask questions about toys in the past.

- They can infer information about toys in the past.

- They can recognise similarities and differences between old and new toys.

Getting started

Ask pupils to look at this family photograph that was taken in 1900. Ask them to try to spot any toys.

The toys in the picture are a doll and a horse and cart. Do they still play with toys like these?

A good way to draw comparisons between old-fashioned toys and those of today would be to bring in a modern doll or toy car - or perhaps ask pupils to bring in their own. What are the similarities and differences between old and new?

Go into as much detail as you can. How do the doll's clothes differ; why are the children playing with a horse and cart instead of a car? You could also ask what they think the toys might be made of.

Some background knowledge of old toys would be useful but not essential, although it might help to know what the toys would be made of, such as wood, metal or - in the case of modern toys - plastic.

Taking it further

Focus on the family in the image. You could ask pupils to bring in a photograph of themselves with other people who they consider to be their family. Then compare the two, looking at how they are dressed, the size of their family and other aspects, such as how formal or informal the pictures are compared with the image from 1900.

Alternatively, ask pupils about their favourite modern toy, but keep it secret. Ask them to describe it using shapes, colours and characteristics - can the group guess what it is? Pupils could draw their chosen toy and label it with the words they used to describe it.

What to watch out for

Discussions about toys among five to seven-year-olds are bound to become lively, and the focus will be on playthings, so ensure the lesson stays on topic by bringing pupils back to the picture.

Where to find it

A copy of the picture, together with a worksheet and an interactive whiteboard resource, can be found at The original lesson was uploaded by English Heritage.

Further reading

The Museum of Childhood website has information and images of toys from the 1600s to the present day.

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