Spinning Tops & Gumdrops captures a time when `imagination, skill, and daring’ was the source ofchildren’s play. Quoits and jacks, hide and seek,cricket with a kerosene tin for a wicket, dress ups and charades, can all beseen in these appealing images. Children climb trees, run races, and buildrafts to sail on the local waterhole, happily absorbed in the play of their ownmaking. This was also a time when school yard disagreementswere sorted out with fists and `the loss of a little claret’. A time when children could view publichangings, and premature death was frequent, especially taking the very youngand vulnerable though dysentery, whooping cough, or diphtheria. The word`mollycoddled’ has its origins in the mid-nineteenth century, butcertainly cannot be applied to the colonial children depicted in Spinning Tops & Gumdrops. Children were often required to work – many atadult jobs – to the neglect of their education, and photographs show childrentaking part in rural life, tending animals, milking, and harvesting crops. Inthe cities, too, we see factories using cheap child labour to satisfy theincreasing demand for mass produced shoes and clothes, to bake bread, and toprocess food. Many youngsters foundthemselves `in service’ to the growing middle class. One story is told of aninnovative girl who earned pocket money by collecting leeches for the localdoctor. There weredistinctive gender roles in colonial Australia, and associated dressconventions. As a practical solution to ease toilet training, boys generallywore dresses until five or six years of age, seen in the photographs shownhere. Only then they were `breeched’ that is, put into breeches. Meanwhile,girls’ dresses became longer as they approached womanhood, coinciding with agreater emphasis on modest behaviour and a reshaping of their activity andeducation to gain home-making skills. The lasting impression left by thecontemporary accounts, photographs, etchings, and paintings of colonial children in Spinning Tops & Gumdrops is theirpossession of qualities of resilience, self-sufficiency, and acceptance of theirlot. Perhaps it was through lack of choice, or of knowing no other. Nevertheless,these were qualities that put them in good stead for the challenges many facedin their adulthood. Interestingly, these are qualities on which contemporarysociety still places a high value, but which today seem a little more elusive.