Lesson Plan

Toy, Tots and Tafts

Children playing victorian toys.
Young children experince playing with old toys.
NPS Photo


This lesson examines how William Howard Taft and his siblings spent their family recreations growing up in Mount Auburn during the 1850's time period. William Howard Taft and his family valued the simple things in life from reading Aesop's Fables, playing with old wooden toys, to strongfamily values displayed to him that would lead him to become a very important figure in American History.


  • Compare and contrasts the different recreational activities in which a Victorian family would use for entertainment.
  • Understand the importance of family relationships.
  • Practicing life - long skills such as hand -eye coordination demonstration the use of toy tops, Jacobs Ladders, tiddly - winks, a trapeze acrobat, and a tea set.



The taft children played with many types of toys most were made from wood and string, some all wood with moving parts.Williams Grandfather made quite a few toys while living in the Taft home atop Auburn Ave.


Discuss with your class that toys made during the early 1800's were much different than toys of the 21st century. Have students apply their skills by demonstration in front of the class or in small groups. Some toys recommended are the following: Ball and Cup, Jacobs Ladders, Spindle -Tops, and any other wooden toys from that era that you may be able to provide for the class to experience.


Generate a list of old toys from the Victorian Era as well as more modern day toys. Combine the names of the toys together on the dry - erase board and have students to decide which of the toys are old versus which ones they think are more modern toys.

Example: Ball and Cup Transformers           Spindle - Tops

               X Box 360         Tiddly Winks            Checkers

               Brats                 G.I. Joe Soldiers      Building Blocks