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Small world room

Doll's house miniature of Sudley House in glass case

Making the world smaller

Just like today, children in the past enjoyed playing with toys that were miniature versions of real things. They included scaled down animals and people. Toy horses, cows, sheep and other farm animals were popular, while wild animals, including bears, monkeys and elephants were also represented. Miniature people took the form of dolls, especially tiny dolls' house dolls, and toy soldiers with which boys played war games or re-enacted battles. Even the home was miniaturised in the form of the dolls' house, but only the better-off families could afford them.

The much-loved teddy bear, invented in 1903 by the German firm of Steiff, was copied from a newspaper drawing of a real bear cub.

Transport in miniature

Miniature trains and ships were extremely popular in the late 19th and early 20th century with both children and adults, but they were expensive and well out of the reach of poorer children. They had to make do with cruder wooden versions, rather than the finely detailed metal examples.

Boys' and girls' toys

Miniature toys played another role too. They were often used, as they still are today sometimes, to re-enforce gender roles. Girls were encouraged to play with small sewing machines and boys to play with building blocks to make tiny houses.