This blog contains affiliate links. Please see the DISCLOSURE POST for more information.

Homeschooling with Laura Ingall's Wilder and the Little House series

The kids and I started reading "Little House in the Big Woods" last week for the first time.  They're really enjoying hearing about life in the "old days" and all the ways that things were done differently 150 years ago.  It's been a very special time, too, because we all pile on the parents' bed for reading time and have some quiet time as part of our day.  It's been a great way to reconnect with them.

Many of these ideas came from my own reading of the series; however, where possible, I've added links to give you more information about them.  Many of them can be done without extra supplies and don't involve other people, so their perfect for living "self isolated" like a pioneer.

1- Preserve Meat
In my search, I found a blog and podcast called "Pioneering Today."  She has a post about salting, fermenting, and other ways to preserve meat.  The very first chapter of "The Little House in the Big Woods" talks about how the Ingalls family prepares for winter by smoking meat.  Doing a small beef jerky or meat preservation project might be a great hands-on way to teach about life long ago.  For kids, a book like "Farm Anatomy" is a good resource for meat and more.

2- Make Butter
Why is it that as soon as I think about doing things the "old fashioned" way, I immediately want to make butter.  It's very easy to do with either fresh cream or store bough "heavy" cream.  Ma Ingalls grated carrot into her butter for coloring.  Press it into a pretty mold (or use a cookie cutter) to shape the butter into patties for storage and the table.

3- Sew a Scrap Quilt
Gather up all the clothes you are ready to throw out and some scraps from your past sewing projects to sew together this easy quilt project.  It's a very practical way for kids to practice hand sewing as well.  If you need a refresher on sewing yourself, a Youtube video like this one can be very helpful.

4- Play with Historical Dolls
MaryAnne at Mama's Smiles has a fun post about playing with the Queen's Treasures dolls and accessories.  The detail for the toys is just amazing.  I would have absolutely loved to play with something like this as a girl.

5- Make Maple Syrup Candy
In one of the books, the family boils fresh maple syrup to make a candy on the snow.  The family also taps trees to make their own syrup.  You can learn more about the maple syrup process by watching Youtube videos like this one.  There's also a great set of printables ($) for learning the maple syrup process by The Silvan Reverie that you should grab.

6- Go to a Field Trip
Simple Homeschool has an entire virtual field trip on her blog, which features website links and Youtube videos for many of the locations and experiences in the series.  If you have access to a pioneer living history or heritage museum, then a real field trip would be a great addition too!  I enjoyed the 1880's Town off I-90 in South Dakota when I was a child (ok, I still do- it's a bit kitch though).

7- Make a Little House in the Big Woods Miniature Cabin
When I first saw this birdhouse turned log cabin on Instagram, I instantly fell in love with it.  The mom @liberty-lions-academy created this amazing project while her family read through the Little House books together.  It will be a beautiful keepsake for generations too.

8- Dye Cloth with Natural Dye
Several months ago, my kids and I played around with purple cabbage cloth dyeing (not permanent) and how it changes color when exposed to acids and bases.  The kids enjoyed it and have been asking when we can try some dyeing again.  Be sure to research the fibers to dye and the additives you may need to include to make the dye stay on the cloth.

9- Listen to Fiddle Music
Pa's Fiddle is such an important part of the Little House books.  It's almost it's own character and one of the few consistencies in Laura's life.  Since many kids have never heard country fiddle music, the Little House books give us a great excuse for finding and listening to some.  You can even teach them some square dances.  We really enjoy Craig Duncan's albums, which we can hear for free as part of our Amazon Music Unlimited membership (get yours here).  He also has albums for different time periods.

10- Learn about Sod Houses
In the book "The Little House on the Prairie," Laura talks about living in a sod house.  Like most kids, mine know nothing about a hobbit house in the hill (wink), so this series is a good chance to learn more about them.  Click the link to read more about building a mini soddy with your kids.

11- Read the Whole Little House Series
Is it possible to do a theme unit on Laura Ingalls Wilder without reading the original books?  Maybe, but why?  I don't think we'll read all 9 of them now, but I know they're good material when the kids are ready to read them.  Get them all by clicking the colored text above.  Also available in Kindle format.

12- Cook with The Little House Cookbook
From Johnny Cakes to Maple Candy, get all the prairie recipes in one place.  Perfect for a theme unit on Westward Expansion or Laura Ingalls Wilder.  This would make a good gift idea for a newlywed couple or homeschool family.

13- Learn More with The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion
This seems like it would be a good book to use for homeschool family as it covers all 9 books and includes activities and comprehension questions for each chapter.  There are even sections that talk about the facts of Laura's life from the fiction that she put in her books.

14- Read Who Was Laura Ingalls Wilder?
Part of the popular "Who Was?" series, this book about Laura Ingalls Wilder talks about her life and motivation to write her children's books.  There are 80 pictures from her real life included too!

15- Make Projects from My Little House Craft Book
Is it possible to have too many pioneer craft projects?  Nope!  Especially if you're looking for things to go along with a Little House theme unit.  Get this book to learn how to do all sorts of fun little crafts.

16- Enjoy A Little House Picture Book Treasury
The Little House Picture Books cover some of the most beloved stories and illustrates them with heartwarming and gentle pictures.  The treasury combines six individual picture books like "Christmas in the Big Woods" and "Going to Town" into one volume, making it perfect for gifting.

17- Play with Queen's Treasure Pioneer Doll
Wow!  I would have loved this pioneer doll as a girl!  I had many American Girl dolls, but no Little House ones.  These dolls come with dresses and bonnets, just like Laura wore.  Look for all the Queen's Treasure dolls and accessories for your little pioneer.

18- Treasure this 18" Doll Covered Wagon and Sleigh
This doll wagon not only fits two 18 inch dolls, it also converts from a summer vehicle to a winter sleigh.  The wagon bed is large enough to allow two dolls to sleep inside and comes with a storage box for all of Laura's supplies.  Horses must be bought separately, though

19- Wear a Pioneer Bonnet
I don't know that my daughter has had the pioneer girl dream yet about running through the prairie with her bonnet hanging down her back yet, but I did when I was a girl.  If your daughters have the same dream, get them a bonnet by clicking the link above.

20- Write with Chalk on a Chalkboard
Embrace some "green" old fashioned schooling options with chalkboards and chalk.  It's a great chance for kids to experience Laura and Mary's school methods.  It's also possible to get a McDuffy Reader if you want to show your kids the textbook that the girls used.

21- Learn to Sew a Button
This blog has a super helpful printable for teaching kids how to sew on a button.  In pioneer days, people didn't get rid of clothes because a button fell off.  Instead, kids learned how to mend their own clothes and continue using them.  Teach kids this old fashioned, but very modernly green, skill to help equip them for their entire life.

22- Study Plains Indians
The Little House book have been critisized and even pulled from the shelves because of Ma Ingalls racism and far of Native Americans.  Instead of hiding these attitudes from our kids, we should teach them about the past and help them to see the truth.  Dive into some good books and help kids understand the conflict between the Native populations and the settlers.

23- Learn Cat's Cradle
I remember learning and playing this simple string game as a child, and am looking forward to teaching my kids soon.  Literally, the only thing you need is a long enough piece of string, yarn, or something similar.  Carry one in your purse so you can practice the still when you have times of waiting like lines, appointments, and more.  If you and your kids enjoy the string games, pick up a few books and learn something new.

24- Make a No-Sew Rag Doll
One of Laura and Mary's most treasured possessions was their rag dolls.  This blogger has a really simple tutorial on how to make a dolly out of scraps of fabric.  When I was a girl, I remember learning how to roll a hanky doll.  I'm just now realizing how much of my childhood was influenced by these books.

25- Study the Plant Life Cycle
The Ingalls are an agricultural family in a way that very few of us are in this modern age.  Reading through the Little House books is a great time to add in some science in the form of a plant life study.  Your family could study everything from the seeds we eat to how plants grow, decomposition, worms, parts of a plant, and more.  This one is sort of a struggle for me because my "brown thumb" has never enjoyed plants and gardening, but I did manage to write a watermelon life cycle printable recently.

26- Go Fishing and Build a Trap
Fishing, trapping, and hunting are a big part of how the Ingalls family got their meat.  A Little House study is a good excuse to go on a day fishing or hunting trip.  The whole family can learn how to identify animals by their tracks and scat.  Older kids can explore how Native populations hunted and what they used each part of an animal for, while younger kids can play pretend fishing games.  Watch this video to make your own snap trap like Pa used or build an elf, leprechaun, or unicorn trap from one of these books.  This would also be a good chance to learn about fish life cycles and freshwater fish, too.

27- Care for a Horse
It's hard to believe that there was ever a time when people didn't use cars and airplanes to travel, but horses were a huge part of Laura's life.  If you know anyone with horses or have a 4H in your community, call them and ask if you can shadow them to learn about caring for horses.  Some time spent grooming a horse can help your family get a better understanding of how much work animals were for the Ingalls family.  Expand the lesson to study about horses and other mammals, too.  You can find Montessori 3-part matching cards for the Safari Ltd Horse breeds toob on this blog, which is great for sensory bins and pretend play.

28- Bake Bread
On the prairie, if you wanted bread, you had to make it yourself.  If you've never made bread with your kids before, click the above link for a tutorial.  You can even get 1840's Oregon Trail sourdough starter for free through the mail!  If bread making is a normal occurrence, perhaps now would be a good time to study yeast as a fungus and living organism.  Another expansion would be to harvest, extract, and grind your own wheat flour.

29- Play with Trains
The world of both settlers and Native Americans changed forever when the railroad arrived.  Take some time to play with trains, talk about trains, and go on a field trip.  Many places around the USA and world have train museums and places where you can still ride on steam trains.  Older kids can research the building of railroads in the 1800's, immigration, and the environmental impact.  Click the above link to get a steam train model to learn how they work.

30- Learn Braille
In the series, one of the characters becomes blind after an illness.  Besides talking about blindness, acceptance, and disabilities, a theme unit on the Little House books could also include an exploration of braille.  Kids could learn the braille alphabet and write their name by poking holes in a paper to match the alphabet.  This picture book in braille would be a good addition as well.  It's a good time for a discussion on other disabilities as well.

31- Play with the Little House Paper Dolls
Paper dolls encourage fine motor skills, patience, gentle care of belongings, pretend play, and more.  Your children can act out their favorite parts of the books with these traditional paper dolls.  Perfect for road trips too.

32- Relax with the Little House Coloring Book
Is there anything more relaxing then shutting off your brain and coloring?  This would be a great thing for kids to do while you read to them, or for the whole family to do while listening to the audiobook.  Add in some watercolor pencils for a lovely gift.

33- Learn more with The World of Laura Ingall's Wilder book
This book dives into the historical and geographical landscape of the Little House books with maps, letters, diary entries, and more.  Geared more toward teens and adults, this would be a good way to get older kids involved.

34- Play with this 18" Doll Coffee and Dining Set
The miniature dining set is great for kids who love to play with dolls, collectors, and displays.  I love the paint job on the dishes and the realism.  See it for yourself by clicking the colored text above.

35- Build a House with Lincoln Logs
We had Lincoln Logs as a child, and I remember playing with them and learning how Pa build their log cabin.  It's one thing to read about how Pa cut notches in the logs so they'd fit together and another thing to do it yourself.  Grab a box for your own home for hands-on learning!

36- Play with Safari Ltd Wild West Toob
Is it possible for me to write a blog post without referencing a Safari Ltd product?  I don't think so!  The wild west toob is good for pretend play and sensory bins.  The toob figurines are good for so many things, especially when combined with my Montessori-inspired 3-part matching cards.  I have cards for almost all the toobs, so be sure to click the link and grab them.

37- Erect a Square Pyramid Tent
I'm pretty sure tipis didn't have paned windows, so this is most definitely not a tipi.  However, it's a fun tent for pretend play and a cozy place to read the Little House books.  If square pyramids aren't your thing, a pillow fort would work just as well.

38- Don these Pioneer Costumes
These costumes are great for pioneer events or just running around town.  As I said before, I would have loved something like this as a kid.  Get the boy costume by clicking this link and the girl one by clicking the upper link.

39- Read about A Kid's Life During Westward Expansion
I believe this book focuses more on the Oregon Trail era than strictly the 1800's, but a lot of the historical context should be similar.  I think most kids would be amazed how much kids had to help to keep the family functioning and surviving.

40- Study a Prairie Girl's Guide to Life
This is exactly the type of book that I would have loved to have as a girl.  It features 50 activities to learn about Laura's world and life as a pioneer.  It also talks about the common language expressions of the time and how to survive in that time period.  It would make a great gift for a preteen or teenage historical fiction fan.

41- Learn about Bees
There seems to be no limit to the amount of things you can do with bees.  From life cycles to pollination, hives, honey, and more.  You could probably do a whole day just with beeswax crafts.  If you have people in your area who keep bees, you could go on a field trip and see bees in real life.   Get the bee life cycle cards for free here.

42- Wash Clothes with a Washing Board
When I think about pioneer days, the first thing in my mind is the wash board!  Especially if you have kids like mine who love to play in the water, this would be a great activity to address the concept of "then" vs "now."

43- Pull Taffy
When Laura is a teen, she goes to a taffy pulling party with her friends.  Recreate the fun of making your own candy with this fun, kid-friendly recipe.  Great for birthday parties, homeschool co-ops and classrooms!

44- Make Johnny Cake
In case you don't know (cause we didn't), Johnny Cake is cornbread.  Ma Ingalls put the crackling from the butchered pig in her pan.  You could use bacon or sausage for an equally yummy treat.  Click the link for a recipe.

45- Make a Pig Skin Bladder Ball
The Prairie Primer is a great resource for homeschool families that may want to dive further into the stories with chapter by chapter lessons.  You can view several of the activities by clicking the colored text.  Everything from dissecting an owl pellet to studying about the animals in the woods, to preparing for winter, and much more.  Get the curriculum here.

46- Learn How to Tell a Good Story
One of the primary ways of entertaining each other during the winter was through storytelling.  Although the art of oral tradition has mostly faded away, learning how to tell (and listen to) a good story is an important skill to know.  A game like Storycubes can give you a good place to start with reluctant storytellers.

47- Find Medicinal Plants
Pioneers had very little access to doctors and the "patent" medicines of the time, so many relied on their knowledge of plants as medicine.  Click the link for some ideas or check out a game like Wildcraft for applying herbal knowledge to illnesses and ailments.

48- Build a Covered Wagon
In "Little House on the Prairie," the Ingalls family moves across the countryside to build a new house.  They travel by covered wagon.  You can build one for yourself out of popsicle sticks like the one in link or buy a kit for even easier assembly.  For an extra challenge, build a larger one outside.

49- Dip Beeswax Candles
Alanzo's mother in "Farmer Boy" makes candles for her family with beeswax.  My family has rolled beeswax candles this year, which the kids really enjoyed.  It's more authentic, though, to dip candles.  You can get a tutorial by clicking on the link.  Your kids will get a lot of satisfaction from creating this craft that they can gift to their loved ones or use at home.

50- Use an Outhouse
Although a modern camping trip is nowhere near as isolating and difficult as pioneer living, it gives kids a great opportunity to build a campfire, cook over an open flame, and use an outhouse.  Leave the electronics behind, read the "Little House" books in the moonlight, and spend time together.

51- Research Wolves, Cougars, and Bears
There are several stories in the Little House series about encounters with wolves, cougars, and bears.  If your kids are unfamiliar with these big North American animals, reading through this series might be a good time to learn more about them.  Click the link for picture books about wolves, search Disney Plus or Netflix for videos with the animals, and check Pinterest for more learning ideas.

52- Compare Long Rifles with Modern Guns
In "Little House in the Big Woods," Laura Ingalls Wilder talks about all the steps involved in pouring bullets and loading Pa's long rifle.  My kids don't have a lot of exposure to guns, but a lesson on the differences between Civil War era rifles and modern guns would be very interesting for kids who are interested in weapons.  Since hunting is such an important part of the books, this would be a good time to introduce kids to shooting and gun safety.

53- Punch a Tin Lantern
A tin can with a candle inside was considered a "child-safe" lantern in pioneer days.  Laura carries one to help her mom with the milking.  Kids can hammer nails into a cleaned tin can to make a pattern that will shine beautifully with a light inside.

54- Make a Clove Apple or Orange
There are many aspects of a "A Little House Christmas" that could be adapted for a modern age.  From simple, handmade toys to oranges in the stocking, the pioneer life was very different from our own.  Kids will enjoy making a nod to pioneer life with a clove apple decoration, which will smell sweet all season and not rot.

55- Research Scarlet Fever
In the series, one of the characters gets scarlet fever.  As you read about the quarantine and fear in the family, you can also research the disease in modern day and the cure for it.  Children might also enjoy reading "The Velvetine Rabbit" to hear a different perspective on he sickness.

56- Watch the Little House on the Prairie TV Show
I'm a bit young to have seen the series the first time it ran on TV, but I do remember seeing reruns.  Families that enjoy the books may enjoy the the show as well.  Check Google for where you may be able to watch it for free.

57- Make Popcorn Balls
Alonzo's family eats apples and popcorn together as a family.  You can make popcorn for your family or take it one step further and make popcorn balls.  A bulk popcorn popper, although it's not authentic, will make the process a lot faster.

58- Make Soap
Authentic pioneer soap would involve working with a dangerous chemical called lye.  To avoid this danger and make the project more kid-friendly, you can start with soap that has already been made (or soap base) and adding your own ingredients to it to change it up a bit.  Click the link for a tutorial.

59- Play Pioneer Games
Children across all ages have played games.  Pioneer children had simple games with very few toys, but they still knew how to have fun.  Teach your kids some of these new old games to give them yet another way to understand the past.

60- Process Wool
Alonzo's family had sheep and talked about sheering them in "Farm Boy."  Your kids can get wool roving to card and spin into yarn.  Once you have yarn (or buy some at the store), you can weave it into a fabric.  If you use 100% wool (unworsted) yarn, you can felt the fabric after weaving it to make a pot holder.  Learn more about sheep by clicking the link.

61- Go on a Pioneer Trek/Reenactment
We're not Mormon (Later Day Saints), but I don't think they're the only ones who do pioneer (Oregon Trail) reenactment.  It would be a great opportunity to introduce kids to pioneer life, some of the hardships of the trail, and life away from our modern conveniences.  If this is something that interests you, click on the link and Google for groups near you.

Wow!  That was a really long blog post.  When I started it, I didn't think it would be this comprehensive or overwhelming.  I hope I've given you lots from to chose from it you're studying the Little House books with your family.  Let me know in the comments if I missed any great ideas!

Pin It!


  1. Thanks so much for sharing my book, The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion. While you wait for its release this summer, you might want to visit my blog I have lots of activities and history there, too. :)


Post a Comment - Start Your Free Trial

Popular posts from this blog

Foster-to-Adopt Party Theme Ideas

100 Indoor Heavy Work Activities to Burn Energy