Let’s Get Hooping:
Games You Can
Hoops were popular toys until the early part
By Karen Robuck
of the twentieth century.
Does your co-op have a history fair each year? Does your city or town have a historical fes- tival such as Founders’ Day?
Do you need a new way to make history
interesting? Enter one of the world’s oldest known toys—the hoop.
In early America, as in ancient times,
children’s hoops were made of metal.
Many may have been repurposed from
old wagon wheels. In the 1800s handmade
wooden hoops, possibly made from old
barrels, were used as children’s toys.
Hoops were popular toys until the
early part of the twentieth century. The
hula hoop has been popular off and on
since the 1950s, but the games played
with the traditional hoop have been all
but forgotten, showing up occasionally
at history festivals or as part of May Day
festivities at the Seven Sisters colleges.
And of course, hoops may earn a scene
or two in historical movies and television
shows, such as the Founder’s Day episode
of Little House on the Prairie (Season 1,
Probably the oldest hoop game is Hoop
Racing, also called Hoop and Stick. Pictures of children rolling hoops have been
found on artifacts in Ancient Greece and
Rome. The Greeks considered rolling a
hoop good exercise for those who were
not physically strong. In the United States
and England, hoop-rolling was most popular in the 1800s and early 1900s.
Both boys and girls raced hoops, al-
though not always together. Each racer
had a large hoop that he or she rolled
with a long stick, or skimmer. They raced
a course marked with chalk. The winner
was the first one to run the length of the
chalk, turn around, and return to the
The Game of Graces
This game was played primarily by girls.
(Boys played only if they were told to or
its name implies, it was intended to help
girls and young ladies develop the graceful posture considered important to the
To play, two girls faced each other, and
each girl held a stick in each hand. She
crossed the sticks to form an “X.” One
girl would hang a small wooden hoop
over her sticks, pull the sticks apart, and
send the hoop flying. The second girl
would try to catch the hoop on her sticks.