Kids grow­ing up in Scott County today would like­ly have a hard time with carry­ing buck­ets of wa­ter from a well each day, and they would prob­a­bly rath­er play with some dig­i­tal gadg­et than a home­made toy.

But those chores and sim­ple toys were once the re­ali­ty for most chil­dren in the area.

The Scott County His­tori­cal Society will high­light how child­hood has changed since the mid-1850s in its new ex­hib­it “Games and Chores: Grow­ing up in Scott County,” which opens May 28 at the Stans Museum in Shakopee.

“One thing that I do re­al­ly love about this ex­hib­it is that it is crammed full of things,” said Kath­leen Klehr, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor at the Scott County His­tori­cal Society. “It’s not a gi­ant space, it’s a small­er space, but there’s just so much to see and learn. It’s a rich, rich ex­hib­it.”

There have been ma­jor life­style chan­ges — less farm­ing — and man­u­fac­turing ad­van­ces that made toys more ac­ces­si­ble for families to buy over the past 160 years. But in many ways, liv­ing in the coun­ty is also still the same, Klehr said.

“People still like to play games,” she said. “Just like kids still do chores today, like make your bed, clean your room. May­be it is not the same type of chores, but they still have to do work.”

There are two parts to the ex­hib­it: work and play. Both fo­cus on how life would have been in the past, as seen through the eyes of kids grow­ing up in the coun­ty. Each will have inter­ac­tive com­po­nents for visi­tors to try chores and games that were com­mon in the past.

On the work side, visi­tors can learn about the tough­er parts of early Scott County life. For in­stance, the ex­hib­it will have an inter­ac­tive piece about carry­ing buck­ets of wa­ter for daily liv­ing — a task of­ten rel­egated to kids, said Theresa Nor­man, cu­ra­tor of ex­hib­its and col­lec­tions.

“Kids will be able to see how many trips carry­ing buck­ets of wa­ter were need­ed for bas­ic tasks,” Nor­man said.

The ex­hib­it also in­cludes school in­for­ma­tion. It will fea­ture stor­ies and in­for­ma­tion about how many chil­dren at­tend­ed school vs. work­ing and how those stat­ist­ics have changed over the past 160 years.

“Going [to school] past eighth grade was not very com­mon at all — even com­plet­ing grade school was not very com­mon,” Klehr said. “It was all about work and sup­port­ing the fam­i­ly then.”

On the play side, the ex­hib­it in­cludes his­tori­cal pic­tures, oral his­tories and home­made toys from the era. People can play with toys, like a rep­li­ca of an 1850s-style log cab­in toy, and sup­plies to make pa­per dolls, a­mong oth­er ac­tiv­i­ties.

Open­ing cel­e­bra­tion

The ex­hib­it opens with a cel­e­bra­tion at the mu­se­um from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thurs­day.

Keep­ing with the child­hood theme, root beer floats and oth­er treats will be served.

Dur­ing the e­vent, visi­tors can also try ac­tiv­i­ties that won’t be avail­able for the full run of the ex­hib­it. Kids will be able to play games and do chores to win prizes and visi­tors can try churn­ing but­ter.

The par­ty is free with the cost of mu­se­um ad­mis­sion, but peo­ple can en­ter for free if they bring a new or gen­tly used toy to do­nate. Dona­tions will be giv­en to The Toy Corner, which pro­vides toys to chil­dren in need in Savage, Pri­or Lake and Shakopee.

“It’s a nice way for us to give back to the com­muni­ty by part­ner­ing with some­one else to pro­mote what they do with some­thing that we do,” Klehr said. “It’s a great part­ner­ship be­cause this is about games and toys, and even today a lot of kids don’t have toys.”


Jan­ice Bitters is a Twin Cities-based free­lance writ­er.