Play Your Way Through the 20th Century

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A few years ago, we decided to study the world history in the 20th century for an entire year. There is just so much that happened during those 100 years, and there are many people still alive with stories to tell of the 1900s.

I want my kids to love history so I come up with creative ways to bring other time periods alive for them. The 20th century is so easy because there are photographs, videos, movies, and TV shows we can look at and watch. We can also find lots of pictures of hair styles and fashion from the 1900s.

For more info on using TV shows to learn about the 1900s, read my blog post “Watch Your Way through the 20th Century TV” at

For more insight on 20th century movies, read my blog post “Watch Your Way through the 20th Century Movies” at

One thing my family really enjoys with all history is for me to find games to play together. For example, chess is a game that was popular in the Middle Ages. American pioneers played checkers on the prairie.

We decided to add some fun to our studies with games and toys. The kids loved it! Would you like to try it out?

Here are some of the things we did to bring the 20th century alive for the whole family.

First Decade (1900s)

The turn-of-the-century, or first decade of the 1900s, was back in a more simple time. Jigsaw puzzles and ping pong were both introduced, as well as the Teddy Bear. The Teddy Bear was named about President Teddy Roosevelt who refused to shoot a little bear cub on a hunting trip. Crayola also introduced their crayons.

We set up a card table with a jigsaw puzzle to work on together. We also did some coloring using Crayola’s fancy big box of crayons.

Second Decade (1910s)

Raggedy Ann debuted with a sweet series of books. I had a Raggedy Ann doll as a kid. Tinker Toy, Lincoln Logs, and Erector sets appeared. We had fun building on different days with all three. They are really fun to play with!

Third Decade (1920s)

Winnie the Pooh debuted in the 1920s along with miniature golf which first appeared in the USA in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

We made our own miniature golf course in the back and side yards. Then using old clubs and a ball, we played our way through.

Fourth Decade (1930s)

LEGOs® appeared in Denmark so we played LEGOs® – spreading a mass of them across the dining room table. Another night we played Monopoly, which by the way was forbidden by Hitler as being too “Jewish.”

Fifth Decade (1940s)

Slinky® and Silly Putty appeared in the 1950s. However, we decided to have a game night because the 1949s brought us Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Scrabble®, and Clue®. That was a fun night!

Sixth Decade (1950s)

Frisbee® and the Hula Hoop appeared in the 1950s. We played with the Hula Hoop and Frisbee® outside together one day. Wow! They are both great exercise. My waist was sore!

Seventh Decade (1960s)

GI Joe was invented in 1964. We played GI Joe leads the girl dolls to safety during the Vietnam War.

Eighth Decade (1970s)

The Rubik’s Cube® was invented by a Hungarian professor trying to help his kids understand spatial geometry in 1974. The next year pet rocks were all the rage.

Most of us did not like the Rubik’s Cube. It was too hard, but my son loved it! We found rocks, painted, named, and turned them into pets. Even so, we couldn’t figure out why they became a fad!

Ninth Decade (1980s)

Care Bears™, Cabbage Patch Kids® (dolls who came with birth certificates), and Pound Puppies™ were all introduced in the 1980s. Nintendo Entertainment System also debuted in 1983. We decided to play Nintendo®.

Another thing we did that was very popular in the 1980s was to play Uno® and eat Doritos™. We did both!

Tenth Decade (1990s)

Furby® and Tamagotchi™ came out in the 1990s. Catan® debuted in Germany in 1995 and continues to be popular. We played Catan®. We also went roller blading, a fad in the 1990s.

For more resources to study the 20th century, read my blog post “20th Century Resources Your Family Will Love” at

Until next time, Happy Homeschooling!


Meredith Curtis, homeschooling mom, writer, speaker, and publisher, loves to encourage families in their homeschooling adventure. She is the author of Travel God’s World Geography, Travel God’s World Cookbook,  and HIS Story of the 20th Century. You can check out her books, curricula, unit studies, and Bible studies at Read her blogs at and listen to her at Finish Well Podcast.

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"Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).