Because there was no TV back then, families had to find their own forms of amusement and since most free time was in the evenings,
inside games were a major source of this.
Childrens games were not limited by any formal rules; every district had their own set of limits.
Games using home-brew equipmentConkers was a game played with horse chestnuts. These were collected from trees and the three or four large seeds inside were hardened by drying for several weeks before using them. A hole was drilled through the conker and a string threaded through. Kids (mainly boys) played a game where they each took turns to swing at the other player's conker with their own, in the hope of breaking their opponent's conker.
Hopscotch and skipping were both played almost exclusively by girls. Hopscotch was played on a grid drawn on the footpath, with a piece of broken tile or wood, while skipping was played with a piece of rope often retrieved from the tip or from the boat-moorings in the canal.
Bottle tops of various colours had certain values according to their colour, but these values varied in different schools and areas. In my area, gold or silver bottle tops were highly prized, while red,blue and green ones were less valuable. They were used in lieu of marbles, and played in the same way. The advantage was that you didn't need to buy them - they were found on the street!
Catapults (shanghais or gings in Australia) were a boy's pride and joy. A forked stick, a strip of rubber from an old bike tube, a small leather pad and some strong twine were all that was needed for one of these. They were used for hunting rats on the local tip, for gang-wars, and shooting contests.
Billy-carts were things that only fortunate kids were able to build. If a baby had just graduated from a pram and it was no loner needed, half the battle was won: wheels were the major requirement, and pram wheels were ideal. Larger wheels such as bike wheels tended to collapse when cornering, and smaller wheels didn't give enough ground clearance or speed. Wood for the frame was usually available from discarded boxes and crates. The hardware, including nuts, bolts, washers and string were a bit more difficult unless your father happened to work in a hardware-related industry. A fine-looking billy-cart like this would be the envy of every kid in the neighbourhood, and would guarantee the owner great prestige and authority. This one even has a handbrake! Every one I rode on had only a footbrake, operated by placing your foot against a wheel or scraping it on the ground! I guess this kept our "live-in" cobbler in a job!
Bows and arrows were also popular, and target-shooting contests with tins or other objects were common.
By the time we arrived in Australia, "rockets" were in vogue. These were straight sticks with a point at one end and 2 splits at the other. Two pieces of cardboard were bent and inserted into the splits as fins. A small groove was cut around the stick just in front of the fins. The user had a piece of string with a knot in one end, which he wrapped around the groove and held the other end of the string and the sharpened end of the rocket in the other. Using the string as a sling to give extra momentum the rocket would be launched and could travel several house-widths.
Tin can phones were made by piercing the centre of the bottom of two cans with a nail and connecting the two cans with a string through the holes. One child held a can to their ear while the other one, a little distance away, held the other to their mouth and with the string tight, spoke into it. This was heard by the other child. They took turns to talk and to listen.
Stilts came in two forms in my area: tin-can stilts, made from two tin cans. Two holes were made in the bottom of each, and a loop of string attached. They were used upside-down, by holding a loop
in each hand and walking. The other type involved a bit more work, and was made from two wooden sticks with a footrest screwed on near the bottom. The user held the top of the stick and placed one foot on each footrest to walk.
In my childhood, my parents had very little "recreation" time, but somehow found time to take us on family walks to parks and similar places.