Then and now: toys

Our session uses original and replica toys from the Museum of Liverpool’s handling collection to examine toys that people in the past played with. Children look at how toys have changed through time by examining their materials, colours and how they've been made.

This workshop is available on Wednesdays at 10.15am, 11.30am and 1.15pm.

Workshop details

The workshop begins with considering favourite toys and introducing chronology through investigating the Toys timeline in the History Detectives gallery. Differences in materials, design and technology are explored and how these provide clues about the age of the toys. Various toys are arranged on a mini timeline based on their materials and technology.

Pupils work together to use their knowledge of materials, technology and design to sort a range of toys into 'older' and 'newer'. 

The workshop finishes with an opportunity for free play with a range of older and newer toys.  Pupils are encouraged to try toys that are unfamiliar to them before choosing their favourite toy and explaining their choice. 

Practical information for your visit

Visiting the Museum of Liverpool - information for groups (pdf)

Image © Gareth Jones

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

  • Explore idea of ‘old’ and ‘new’, and the differences between them.
  • Recognise that toys from the past are different from toys of today.
  • Recognise the differences between ‘older’ and ‘newer’ materials.
  • Understand and talk about the similarities and differences between toys of the past and toys of today.
  • Understand museums can be used to find out about toys from the past.
  • Speak about everyday objects in the past.
  • Decide if an object is ‘older’ or ‘newer’.

Attitudes and values

  • Have an understanding of how people’s everyday lives in the past were different from their own.
  • Understand why it is important to think about the past and ask questions.

Creativity, inspiration and enjoyment

  • Ask questions about toys and objects from the past.
  • Think about how they play and how people in the past played.
  • Use toys from our collection to think about how they would create their own toys.
  • Think about what choices they might make if they were putting objects into a museum

Activity, behavior and progression

  • Work as part of a group to discuss difference and sort objects into ‘old’ and ‘new’
  • Organise toys chronologically.

 Skills development

  • Ask questions of objects and use this information to form an idea and have discussion about the past.

Curriculum links

Key Stage 1 - History

In this session pupils will-

  • develop an awareness of the past, using common words and phrases relating to the passing of time.
  • discover where the people and objects they study fit within a chronological framework and identify similarities and differences between these in different periods.
  • use a wide vocabulary of everyday historical terms.
  • ask and answer questions, choosing and using sources to show that they know and understand key features.
  • understand some of the ways in which we find out about the past and identify different ways in which it is represented.

Key Stage 1 - Science: everyday materials

  • distinguish between an object and the material from which it is made.
  • identify and name a variety of everyday materials, including wood, plastic, glass, metal, water, and rock.
  • describe the simple physical properties of a variety of everyday materials

Key Stage 1 - English: spoken language

Pupils should be taught to:

  • listen and respond appropriately to adults and their peers
  • ask relevant questions to extend their understanding and knowledge
  • use relevant strategies to build their vocabulary
  • articulate and justify answers, arguments and opinions
  • give descriptions, and explanations for different purposes, including for expressing feelings
  • maintain attention and participate in conversations, initiating and responding to comments
  • use spoken language to develop understanding through imagining and exploring ideas
  • speak audibly and fluently with an increasing command of Standard English
  • select and use appropriate registers for effective communication.

Fundamental British Values


  • Children take a role in discussions and listen to each other.
  • Children have opportunities to make collective decisions – for example in deciding how to sequence toys in order of age.

Individual liberty

  • Children are encouraged to voice their opinions appropriately and listen to others with respect.
  • Children have opportunities to make their own decisions about choosing toys as well as understanding that they are to be shared. 

Tolerance and mutual respect

  • Children are encouraged to respect the feelings and opinions of others as well as the Museum of Liverpool and its collections.