One of my favourite things about being a homeschool mom is learning right alongside my kids. So when my nine-year-old asked to learn about pioneer life after we tackled foraging and wilderness skills, I was eager to jump right in!
And you know what I found? That there are a whole lot of online resources for adults as well as children to help with learning some pioneer crafts and old-fashioned skills. That’s why I created a big list of 75 Online Homesteading and Self-Reliance Resources. You’ll find a link to it down at the bottom of this post.
If you’re ready to try some hands-on activities to supplement your pioneer unit studies, here are seven to get you started.
1. Making A Corn Husk Doll
In one of the Little House on the Prairie unit studies we worked through I found a reference to corn husk dolls. Little girls would use fabric scraps to “dress” corn husks and use them for dolls.
As we’re right in the middle of corn season now in North America, now’s the time to make a corn husk doll after serving up corn on the cob for dinner.
Artisan soaps are all the rage at farmer’s markets and upscale boutiques, but pioneer soapmaking was much less glamorous. It was easily an all-day affair that would require pioneer families (okay, most of the time it was the mother of the family) stirring hot cauldrons of boiling animal fat over an outdoor fire.
Keep soapmaking with kids simple by using this easy soap recipe in your kitchen.
Back in the days before electric light (or even gaslight) pioneer families had to make their own candles – also from animal fat. And like soapmaking, it was a hot, stinky, and potentially dangerous activity. Today making candles with kids is much easier because you can order supplies (beeswax sheets or granules and wicks) from Amazon and use your stovetop or microwave to get the job done!
4. Braiding Rugs
Make a braided rug using your family’s worn sheets and clothing. This pioneer craft has become popular again and there are many video tutorials and online resources to help you get started. This braided rug placemat is a fun activity for kids ages six and up.
A post about pioneer crafts has to include quilting! Like braiding rugs, this was another way for thrifty pioneers to use up old clothing and material. Once children have mastered basic sewing, let them try their hand at a simple nine-patch quilt, as Laura Ingalls did in Little House on the Prairie.
6. Making Pemmican
One of our favourite parts of learning about pioneer life in Canada and the United States is discovering what early settlers ate – especially when they were travelling long distances. Without drive-through restaurants along the trail, travellers depended on food that was light and wouldn’t spoil – like pemmican and hardtack. Try making pemmican with meat and berries as a fun pioneer food activity.
7. Churning Butter
This might be one of the simplest pioneer crafts to try at home – and even your preschoolers can get in on the fun. And the best part? You don’t need any fancy equipment or even an antique butter churn. As long as you have milk and some eager kids ready to shake things up, you can make butter in a jar!
Learning these old-fashioned skills is a great way for parents and children to better understand a little of what was involved in pioneer homemaking.