American History Hands on Activities

These American History Hands On Activities go along well with Sonlight curriculum's Core 3, 4 and combined 3 & 4.

American Indians

Make your sons a breech cloth using fake leather and they can decorate it by sticking beads onto the cloth.

Make coil pots from clay.

Make Indian musical instruments.

Some may not be comfortable with this but you can make an Indian Totem pole. You can use old boxes for this. Tape together as high s you want and paint each box section as you wish.

My sons have loved making bows and arrows. We used flexible irrigation tubes and fishing gut for the bows. We used garden sticks for the arrows. Please be careful to guide your children’s play.

Make your own moccasins. Full details can be found in the fantastic resource book Pioneer Crafts by Barbara Greenwood and Heather Collins.


Make a “coon-skin” cap

Purchase some fake fur from a material shop. Measure around your child’s head. Cut out a “tail” piece. Make a circle large enough to cover the crown of the head. Stitch together or use “Sew Simple” glue.

Take a nature walk and look for tracks. Remember to take your nature journal and field guides along to sketch the tracks you find.

My son’s Cub’s guide shows how to take a plaster or paris cast of a large track. If you cannot find a large track you can imitate this at home.

  • Trace quite deeply into some soft sand a “footprint” of an animal of your choice.

  • Place a firm rim around the track (this can be irrigation piping that has been split or strong cardboard.

  • Mix your plaster of paris to directions

  • Pour the paris mixture into the rim area, leave to set.
  • Listen to the music of “Davy Crockett” here and sing along

    Take a mapping trip. Ask your children to draw a map to a familiar place. Make this easier for younger children. Then either walk, bike or drive according to their directions having them note where they have forgotten points or gone wrong in their directions.

    Make a nature collection bag. Frontiersmen had a bag that they would fill with edibles or healing herbs and other collectables as they went. You can then use this on your next nature walk. Be sure that your children do not take plants etc from places where it is prohibited.

    How to:

    Purchase 60 cm of strong canvas or fake leather per child. Fold in half and stitch along the two open sides. Plait some string or wool to make a shoulder strap. Allow your children to decorate with fringes or fabric paint.

    Have a trail signs treasure hunt. Using sticks lay out a trail for your children to follow to find their way to their lunch outside. (If you are in Winter then you can do it inside too)

    Visit a Museum and look at the stuffed animals and other nature collections.

    Pioneer Crafts

    Make “hasty pudding” recipe at the Heart of New England website

    Make your own yoghurt, butter and cream cheese.

    Yoghurt can be made by purchasing unpasteurized full cream milk. Heat this in a large pot until it is foamy. Watch carefully so that it does not boil over. Take off heat and allow it to cool until you can hold your little finger in it for the count of ten. Whisk in 1 small container of shop bought yoghurt with live AB cultures. Pour into sterilized glass containers with lids. Place the containers into a cooler box with blankets all around the containers overnight. In the morning you will have delicious creamy yoghurt.

    To make cream cheese you can take some of the yoghurt and working on a draining board pour it into muslin clothe. Tie it up in a bundle and allow it to drip over a bowl until it begins to become more solid. (About 2 hours). Remove from the muslin and store in an air tight container. You can eat it as is or mix in herbs, black pepper, pepperdews or even avocado pear.

    Butter is made by churning cream. You can blend cream by hand or with a hand mixer until it starts to form butter. Pour off the buttermilk. Add salt is you wish and store in the fridge.

    Make a rug by cutting up and braiding old sheets and material. If you do not have a lot you can make a small one for a dolls house.

    If you have older children who are inclined to sew then make your own rag doll. You can take this a step further by using the Homeschool Estore's Rag Dolls of the World patterns.

    Make a tin can lantern. Half of the fun is actually using this so be sure to go out one night with your lanterns.

    How To:

  • Take a large clean tin can. Make sure there are no sharp edges. Freeze some water inside it to make it easier to punch holes.

  • Mark out your design on the can. Using a hammer and nail or other sharp instrument punch out a pattern on the sides of your tin can.

  • PLEASE be very careful and supervise your children constantly. The inside of the can will have many sharp edge when the design is punched.

  • Set a candle in the bottom of the can. Add a wire handle over the top.

  • Try your hand at soap carving. Again be careful and watch your children.

    Dye some clothe or a white T-shirt. You can use shop bought dyes or try the pioneer way – Onions - yellow, Beetroot – red or Marigold flowers – brown.

    Other ideas

    Another book which is a great go-along for these studies is Pioneer Sampler by Barbara Greenwood and Heather Collins. If you have children who like paper dolls, then the American Pioneer Family Paper Dolls may be just right for them.

    Other Sonlighters have found great success with History Pockets and Hearts and Hands History kits.


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