Ancient Roman toys were as wide and varied as Roman childrens’ own imagination. Also, as is to be expected, many toys mimicked real-life grown up situations which the children would one day find themselves actually living; for example dolls for girls or wooden swords and horses for boys.
The toys available would also depend from the child’s own social rank in Roman society and time available. Children born into slavery may well find themselves working in the fields or helping in the household at a very early age.
Common toys, games and passtimes would include:
- Ball games: Pilae. There are frescoes of children playing ball in fact as well as adults playing some sort of hand ball, Greeks playing something that looks like hockey and so on.
- Hoop and stick – Trochus
- Wooden, wax or terracotta dolls
- Wooden military apparel such as swords, shields and horses.
- Marbles (actually played with nuts such as hazels) The game of marbles with dried nuts was so closely associated with childhood that they formed part of festivities such as marriage or becoming of age.
- Board games such as Latrunculi or Reges, including the well known game of noughts-and-crosses (there’s one scratched in a step at the Roman Forum)
- Pets. Dogs are often shown as pets in both frescos and tomb stones of children. Other animals could also be pets, for example birds or farm animals such as ducks.
Team games were also well known, possibly involving a ball or mock battles.
For a little more about ancient Roman entertainment: ancient Roman entertainment and games.