In order that the "Children's hour" - when the young folk leave nursery and school-room after tea and come downstairs to be amused until nurse or fraulein comes to announce bed-time - may really be, as it should, the happiest time of the day, the wise mother leaves nothing to chance. She keeps a collection of special toys and picture-books in the drawing-room, and a few appliances for simple amusements which can be played without too much noise or disarranging of furniture.
She also makes a point of keeping ready a little stock of new ideas for amusing games, tricks, and catches, that she may introduce them on some long, wet afternoon to the nursery folk, or for a time when the children, convalescent after some childish ailment, are perhaps inclined to fret and wrangle. Then one of these "bright ideas," produced at the right moment, acts like a charm in dispersing the clouds and restoring sunshine.
Planting the reel is an excellent game, which can be played by any number of children, from two up to a dozen.
The only accessories needed are some empty cotton or silk reels - one for each player - and a length of coloured ribbon, which must be fastened on to the carpet with a couple of drawing pins to make a barrier behind which the players stand.
The reels must each have a distinguishing number - written on a wafer or scrap of stamp paper, and stuck on the top, or, if preferred, they may each be stained or painted different colours.
To begin the game, each child takes a reel in the right hand, and, standing behind the barrier, drops down on to the left hand, and, stretching out along the floor, plants the reel as far away as can be reached. This done, the player must recover an upright position behind the barrier with the help of the left hand alone, and without having allowed the feet to cross over the barrier. The player who succeeds in planting the reel farthest away wins the game, which can be equally well played, impromptu fashion, with the reels of cotton and a hank of tape that any workbasket will furnish
Planting the Reel The object of the player is to plant the reel as far away as can be reached by the hand, the feet being behind the tape starting point,
Blow the feather is another good game, for which the only accessories required are a big sheet and a coloured feather.
The players sit cross-legged in a circle or oblong on the floor, and draw the sheet up to their chins, so that it is stretched out in a perfectly flat surface, and only the heads of the players show above it. The umpire places the feather in the middle of the sheet, and the fun begins!
The players divide into sides, and the object of the game is for one side to blow the feather over the edge of the sheet between the heads of their opponents. The battle is generally won through one side becoming breathless and utterly collapsed with laughter at the sight of the ridiculous faces made by their adversaries as they blow.
A brightly-coloured feather, plucked from a feather boa, or shed by a parrot or a cockatoo, is the best sort to use in this game. Where a wide hall, corridor, or empty room is available, or where a sufficiently large space can be conveniently cleared in the drawing-room, impromptu Indoor badminton, played with a penny shuttlecock, and bats cut with a sharp penknife from a sheet of stout cardboard, will keep the children happily engaged for hours.
A "net," consisting of a wide piece of white tape stretched across the room, must be fixed at a height of at least four or five feet from the ground, over which the shuttlecock must be tossed backwards and forwards by the players.
The scoring may be managed as in ordinary Badminton (described in another part of Every Woman's Encyclopedia), or by the simpler plan of awarding victory to the players or side whose score first reaches ten.
A Five Senses Competition. The touch test. Every competitor, blindfold, must pass a test in each of the five senses. Success is scored by marks
In an emergency an old cardboard book-cover makes a satisfactory bat, armed with which, in nursery days, the present writer has played many a closely contested match.
Pass the penny is a most exciting game, for which at least eight players are needed, and none being less than seven or eight years of age, or the penny is more apt to be dropped and lost than passed quickly to a neighbour.
To begin the game two small, firm-legged tables will be wanted, besides as many chairs as there are players. The players are seated on chairs arranged in two rows facing each other, and the tables are placed one at either end of the double row. The top table acts as both starting point and winning post, and behind this the umpire is stationed.
Each side has a penny, and in order to begin the game these two pennies are placed one at either side of the top table close to the edge.
When the umpire cries "go," the two rival players facing each other next the table take up the pennies in their left hands, and, transferring them swiftly to their right hands, pass them to their neighbour's left hand to be transferred to the right, and so on clown the line until the bottom table is reached.
The players next the bottom table ex-change the pennies from left hands to right, and put them down upon the table mat the ring of the coins can be beard before transferring them from hand to ad up the lines again, to be put down on the top table from whence they started
The race between the two sides - if neither side drop their penny - is, as a rule, so close as to be almost a tie, so that the umpire must watch the game most keenly in order to be able to decide which side first gets the penny back to the table from which it started.
A five senses competition is another excellent way of amusing children. Each competitor has to pass five tests in sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Each one has a card bearing his or her name, upon which the marks won in each test are recorded, the prize being awarded to the competitor who gets the highest total.
For the sight test a tray bearing 20 small objects - a bottle, penknife, pencil, ornaments, photograph-frame, for instance - and covered with a cloth, is placed in the middle of the room, and each child comes forward in turn to gaze upon it for one minute before retiring to write down a list of as many objects as can be remembered.
The hearing test. The competitors are all blindfolded, and half a dozen familiar noises are made in their presence. The fire is poked, a silk petticoat rustled, water poured from a jug into a glass, etc. The bandages are then taken off, and each one writes down how he or she believed the noises were made.
For the smelling test the contents of not fewer than six stone gingerbeer-bottles, each one numbered, and containing either lemonade, vinegar, coffee, or some other familiar fluid, must be guessed by the competitors.
For the touch test a number of household commodities, such as currants, cloves, tin-tacks, rice, flour, and jam, are placed in jars and tins, and each competitor has to feel the contents of every one blindfolded, while a "grown-up" records each of his guesses for him on his card.
With A Fork, without.
looking at the plate, is an amusing dessert game for two children.
Each child is provided with a plate upon which repose two glace cherries or a couple of dates, and a silver fork.
The children are bidden to gaze into each other's eyes, so that neither can look down at the plates, and, with forks held erect, to attempt to prong and eat the cherries one after another. The player who first suc-
Mock Fortune-telling with a pack of cards. This catch invariably causes much amusement ceeds in doing this wins the game.
Mock fortune-telling with a pack of cards causes much merriment. A victim is chosen, and asked to sit on the floor while the fortune - teller makes a circle of cards round him. "You want to know your past, present, and future?" queries the fortune-teller. "Yes," the victim will doubtless reply.
"Your past is, you sat down in that ring, your present is, you are sitting there now, and your future is, you will have to get up again!" she declares, to the surprise and delight of the assembled children.