Open accessibilty tools

Acrobat toy (about 1900)

100 years ago, most toys were made of wood, metal, paper or china. Today most toys are made of plastic, nylon or foam.

Talking about old toys

Use the questions below to talk with children about the acrobat toy. Talk about the image here, or use the questions to explore a similar toy you or the children may have brought in to your classroom or setting.

Try turning it into a game. Look at the toy for one minute and then take it away or close your eyes. How many details can you remember? Look again:

  • What did you remember?
  • What did you forget?
  • What else can you see this time?

This is a moving acrobat toy, sometimes known as a ‘torsion’ toy.

  • The toy’s arms and legs are loosely attached to its body so they can move.
  • The toy can swing and flip around the bar at the top – like an acrobat, or a gymnast.
  • The acrobat moves and flips when you squeeze the sides of the toy.

This video of another moving acrobat toy helps to show you how it works.


This toy is over 100 years old.

  • This toy would have been played with by children a very long time ago – before your grannies and grandads were born.
  • It would have belonged to a child from a family who was quite rich.
  • Today, the acrobat toy belongs to Preston Park Museum who take good care of it.
  • It’s made mainly of wood. There are also some strings attached to the bar at the top which help it to move.
  • Before plastic was invented, lots of old toys were made of wood.
  • Do you have any wooden toys?
  • What can you think of that is still made of wood today?

Over 100 years ago, when this toy was made, acrobats were very popular. People would buy tickets to go and watch them. Imagine this toy acrobat came to life at night and put on a fantastic show for all the toys in your classroom.

  • Who would come to watch?
  • What might they use from your classroom to help them leap high in the air?

Explore through play

Set up a toy shop in your setting or classroom.
Children could help sort the toys into different types – wooden toys, moving toys, cuddly toys…
They could make labels and a sign – what will you call your shop?
Perhaps your shop also has a toys workshop, making toys to sell.


Split pin acrobats

Children can use split pins to create their own moving paper acrobats, or a different toy such as a teddy bear or a doll.

They can draw and cut out their own design, or use our template and step-by-step guide here.

Make a display of their acrobats, or other toys, in different poses – some might even be flipping through the air.

Toy pairs

Use our grid of ‘Toys and games from our past’ to make a pairs game.

  1. Print out two copies of the grid – you can find it here.
  2. Glue the grids onto card and cut out each image, to make 12 pairs of old toys.
  3. Mix up the images and lay them face down on the table.
  4. Children take it in turns to turn over two cards.
  5. If the cards are a pair, they keep them and have another go.
  6. If the cards are not a pair, they put them back exactly where they found them and it’s the next person’s go.
  7. The player with the most pairs at the end wins.

Encourage children to talk about the toys while they are playing the game. What are they called? What do they look like? What are they made of? What do children think of them? Would they like to play with them..?

Try making a similar game, matching each image to the toy’s name.