1940s Toys: What Did Kids Play With?

1940s-toys

Little boys and girls in the 1940s had much more sophisticated toys than those just a decade older.

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In the early 40s toys were getting more advanced, but they all had sort of a war slant to them. Guns and military type toys were in every little boy’s hands.

Girls were playing house, pretending to be mommy, feeding and clothing their little baby dolls — of which they had dozens to choose from. They had toy brooms, mops, tea sets, irons, ovens — you name it. If mom had it, they made a small version for lil Jane.

Later the games started to call themselves electronic, but they weren’t electronic like we think of them. A game could call itself electronic if it had a blinking light.

Board games didn’t change much, but it was clear as the years progressed that board game makers were trying their best to make the next Monopoly. Chutes and Ladders, which was originally a game in India called Snakes and Ladders, was introduced in 1943 by Milton Bradley.

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Toys of the supernatural were finally starting to break through into the mainstream. Ouija boards and spinning fortune tellers were making their way into living rooms with increasing regularity.

We will be bringing you more info soon, so please pardon our dust as move into to our new home!

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1940s Toys Profiles

1940s Board Games

Board Games in the 1940s »

1940s board games were very popular. Most families had a family game night where they would play Monopoly, cards and other board games.
All Star Baseball by Cadaco

All-Star Baseball Game by Cadaco »

1940s Games: All-Star Baseball by Cadaco is still a really fun game. Using discs and a spinner, gameplay was exciting and the results are realistic.

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30 thoughts on “1940s Toys: What Did Kids Play With?

  1. susan

    My favorite game was Uncle Wiggly. I have , as an adult, collected every year of the game it was made, I think. As early as the 1930’s the first game board, up to one in the 1980’s. It just reminds of the carefree fun as a child. Susan

    Reply
    1. Joyce

      I don’t know what your game was played with, but I played a game called either two- square or four-square, ( depending on the number of players in the game ) where each player is positioned to stand in or near their square and a ball (about the size of a soccer ball) is bounced back and forth in the squares by the players. A player who cannot return the ball to their opponent or causes it to bounce outside of the intended square, is put out of the game and replaced by another player who has been waiting in line for their turn to play in the game.

      Reply
      1. nay

        Also known as hand-ball today. Many a recess passed playing this game. And the “rules” have evolved into something much more complex

        Reply
  2. Pam Egan

    I’m looking for a set of brightly colored geometric blocks that I played with growing up in the early fifties. I remember diamond shapes, square, triangle. The object was to create geometric designs. Does anyone remember these blocks?

    Reply
    1. Joyce

      Yes, I do. I think my younger siblings may have even cut their teeth from gnawing on those brightly colored blocks of wood. You could use the different shapes to create things like , houses, cars, trains, etc. You were only limited by your own imagination.

      Reply
  3. norm

    1943/44 I had a bombing game. a cork board with a map of Europe was placed on the floor. I stood over it with a bombsight . I looked through the sight and aimed at cities on the map. I then pressed a button on the sight to release the bombs. The bombs were standard darts. You got point for hitting the targets. the game would be banned today because of the chance of bombing your feet instead of the cities.

    if anyone remembers the name of the game or the availability, please reply.

    Reply
      1. Garrett DEmpsey

        I had that game, too. I believe that the “bombsight” was an angled mirror which reflected the pattern on the corkboard. The whole apparatus resembled the virtual reality goggles like Occulus Rift so popular now.

        Reply
  4. Sofie

    A friend and I are doing a school project on toys in the 1940’s and we are quite interested in the muscle builder advertisement. What year is from and who manufactured it?

    Reply
  5. Alistair Campbell

    My 3rd birthday…I got a wooden board on two supporting ends. there were holes in the thing and pegs (dowels) and a wooden hammer. You bashed the pegs into the holes and then turned the thing over and hit them again from the other side…hours of fun at that age. Thing is I was told , “It’s your birthday!” so I assumed this toy was called a birthday. Soon after I was taken to another kids birthday party and lo! he had one too. I had no idea at all there were two of them, so I grabbed it from him, and shouted over and over, “It’s MY birthday!” I was taken home in disgrace…the beginning of a life-line sense of injustice in the world,

    Reply
  6. Kathy M.

    I have a toy/game that I found in an estate property several years ago. I have attempted to research it a few times without any success. The name of the game is Catopoolt, and yes, that is the spelling. It is made of wood and glass. You drop the small wooden token onto the catopoolt and flip the lever while maneuvering the the other wooden section inside to catch the token. It say PAT. PEND U S A but there is no maker/mfg name or mark. Any ideas?

    Reply
  7. Eugene Mierzwa

    Late 40s or early 50s. A gray painted wooden ship that when hit by a torpedo would explode. Saw something similar but it also contained a submarine that fired the torpedo. The one I had was just a hand held block with a spring that shot the torpedo at the ship.

    Reply
  8. Elizabeth Mangano

    Anybody know just how the Arco Sno-Ski Skates were supposed to attach? Was there a weight limit/shoe length limit? the box says “Children 3-11”

    Reply
  9. Henri Shields

    I have a plastic bank of a cat it’s marked Tip Top , made in usa.any info. on the company or circa would be greatly appreciated. Thank You.

    Reply
  10. Pam smith

    Does anyone remember whip and top ?played in the school play ground ,it took skill to keep the top spinning by whipping it with the stick which had a piece of string attached.

    Reply
  11. maureensmith

    I remember in my early years I used to play wiggle waggle and used to always win wit my grandpa and we had so much fun. it was certainly funny when grandpa lost and it used to be my most favorite game everrrrr!

    Reply
  12. Kyle

    What about games released just before America went to war such as 1940-41 and maybe even 1942? Before America went to war France fell and Germany almost had the upper hand on Britain but got bogged down by Russia. I wonder if any shortages happened before we went to war officially? One shortage I read was tiny little American flags ironically made in Japan was curtailed in June of either 40 or 41 whenever the crisis in China was at it’s peak. Travel Visas were also discontinued and any Americans over there were told to come home.

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  13. Kristin

    1940s toys for boys: guns, real ones & boys very young were taught how to use them safely & to respect potentially fatal consequences of their misuse. Radios & electronics: boys 11,12 yrs old- sometimes younger & also older learned REAL crafts: building working radio sets- the hard way from scratch! They were WAY harder to build then than now, one had to learn electronic theory & really know mathematics & have and know how to use tools like drafting tools, etc. Boys – yes, boys & not men would build quality wood furniture. Any search on archive.org will bring up books popular for young people 80 years ago – look and see what children could do way back then. They imagined children today would be more sophisticated today – “futuristic” basically mini-scientists, but the opposite happened- today’s kids don’t know anything 🙁 By the way, I am not a child of the ’40s – I am a child OF parents from the ’40s. Hearing what my mom and dad could do back then, what normal children did back then is simply extraordinary in any child today. Remember Obama’s “clock boy”? who really didn’t make anything- he just took the cover off a Radio Shack clock radio, and put it on another? yes that is all he did- he made nothing. Unless a non-working piece of junk is “something”.
    In my youth I modded a boombox so it could receive air radio traffic from the towers & pilots. No one taught me, but this was the kind of tinkering kids did then. Fun stuff! Yes it worked- I had zero electronics knowledge & no idea what I was doing, but the way things were made back then, you could easily take things apart & tinker with them.
    Mid-century girls crocheted, knitted, sewed & 40% of girls clothing was made at home- EVERY girl- not just country girls. Girls watched and helped mother cook, bake and sew. It was not embarrassing or dorky to have mother-daughter matching dresses. The big thing then was “re-use”. Don’t forget their was rationing – rubber, paper was collected for the war drive. You had to use ration cards for everything, even gas & tires- if you had four good tires on the car and one good spare, any more good tires you had to turn in- and people did! Everyone pitched in for the war effort and they were happy to do it. Children sold lemonade & crafts and donated the profits to many causes. Kids were much involved in community efforts, bettering things and they didn’t just talk, they did.
    Another good reference for seeing what 1940s kids toys were- check out old issues of Popular Mechanics & Popular Science. Oh! I forgot insect collecting- boys mounted insects under glass just as researchers do today. They collected butterflies, different leaves from trees in their area- nature was big. Stamp collecting was a thing too. More so than toys were events- baseball games, as spectator and player. Boys learned things they would use in adulthood: mechanics, woodworking, electronics- not so much useless toys that served no purpose. A boy’s fabulous Christmas gift: microscope, or telescope.

    Please email me for more if you want it. I research American sociological history half the time I am awake. Thank you.

    Reply
  14. Bonnie Weiss Neidermann

    does anyone remember toys from the 1950s that were rubber molds that you filled with plaster. They were soldiers or cowboys I believe and then my 4 brothers and I would paint them when the molds came out dry. I would love to see or have one of these again. We spent many hours playing with these.

    Reply
  15. Marsha

    We had plastic army men as well as plastic horses and cowboys. My dad did a lot of carpentry, so our blocks were odds and ends from two by fours that he used on his projects. My brothers and I played for hours using the blocks to build ranches and buildings for the plastic pieces, and then moving them around.

    Reply
  16. Garrett Dempsey

    In the late ’40s-’50s cowboy outfits and silver pistols which “fired” rolls of paper caps (tiny firework charges) were very popular for young boys; they usually were sponsored by such movie stars as Roy Rogers or Hopalong Cassidy (Bill Boyd). BTW, I believe that Boyd’s character got his name from the fact that he had a wooden leg and limped in the early novels upon which the character was based.

    Reply

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