Civil War era children enjoyed simple toys and games powered only by their imagination.
Circle games, singing games, and group activities were enjoyed by all ages. And children of different ages played together. The older children were expected to watch out for the young ones, and to include them in their play. Girls joined in all the rough play and fierce competitions as boys did. Only when they reached maturity were they expected to develop into demure damsels, as boys were expected to become gentlemen.
Most children had dolls and toys that were home made from whatever materials were on hand. Corn husk dolls and dolls made of home made cloth and scraps were the norm. Little girls often had their first sewing experiences creating dresses, hats, and quilts for their dolls. They often had embroidered or button eyes and might have been stuffed with feathers, cotton or even straw.
Only a few privileged children might have lovely dolls with porcelain or wax heads and limbs, however, they didn't stand up to active play.
Stuffed Animals were common, but were made of fabric, not fake fur. For little boys, soldiers were crafted of wood and fabrics.
Wooden toys were usually building blocks, toy soldiers, wagons, animals, cup and ball toys, jacobs ladder, pull toys wooden guns, cannons, swords, hobby horses and even carved whistles.
Many games that remain popular today were played back then: Blind Man's Bluff, Hide and Go Seek, and Duck, Duck, Goose, Squeak Piggy Squeak, Drop the Hanky, playing cards, Blind Man's Bluff, Hide 'n Horsy, Jacks and Marbles, Yo-Yo's, and Hide and Go Seek. Little girls loved to play house while boys threw old blankets over tree limbs to make tents to play under. Older children and adults enjoyed 20 Questions, Anagrams and Charades. The board game LIFE was created in 1860 and it's popularity spread quickly.
Singing games were very popular among the younger children. They included games such as Pop Goes the Weasel, Farmer in the Dell and Ring a Ring of Roses.
Children also had instruments and noisemakers such as drums, whistles, bugles, rattles and clackers, horns and cymbals.
Children would get together to play a popular new sport called Baseball. Races, Croquet, and Graces, which is is a fun game played with ribbons tied to hoops and rolled with sticks.
Basically the Make Do spirit was alive and well in this simple but turbulent time. Even though chores were many, children found time to play and stretch their imaginations, swim in a nearby pond, lay on their backs in the grass and see what shapes the clouds would make for them today.