Ok, time for a history quiz! Its a fun one, I promise, and no, you didn’t need to study ahead of time. For the past couple of weeks, the staff at CCHS has been getting the Luykas Van Alen House ready to open for the season. The house has no heat, so it gets “put to sleep” for the winter, while there are no tours going on. That means that the dust covers have to be taken off the furniture, the floors swept, and the small items on display in the house have to be put back in place. I tried to help out a bit, and I noticed something: there are several items that were used just for babies and children in the house. Not only that, but they aren’t too different than the things that we use today!
So, I thought a bit of a challenge was in order. First, I’ll post photos of three of the items that are in the Luykas Van Alen House, that were used by babies or children. Try to guess what each one was used for, and think of a similar item that we use today. After you’ve made your guesses, keep scrolling down for the answers.
#4: (Note: this item is not from CCHS’ collections, but it is possible that there would have been one like it used in the Van Alen House. This one is from the collection of the New-York Historical Society. You can learn more about it here.)
How do you think you did? Here are the answers:
#1: A cradle, for a baby to sleep in.
#2: A miniature pottebank. A large shelf like this was used in the house to hold dishes and cooking tools. You can see that this one is small, since it is next to a regular size chair. The Dutch liked toys for their children that were smaller versions of things that they would use when they were grown-up. That way, they could practice some of the skills they would need when they were older. Do you have (or did you have when you were younger) a play kitchen? Similar idea!
#3: This tool was called a loopwagen by the Dutch. It was used just like the baby walkers we use today, to help toddlers learn to walk. Did you notice the wheels on the bottom? If you stood a toddler up in the middle, they could use their legs to roll around the house, but the loopenwagon would help hold them up.
#4: This toy actually has several different functions: the bells make noise when you shake it, like a baby rattle, the coral on the end was good for babies who were teething, and the end has a whistle to make noise to entertain the baby.
So how did you do? Do you think you would rather use today’s toys, or ones like the Van Alen Family would have used in the 1700’s and 1800’s?