January 14, 2005

Little House on the Prairie Lesson Plan

Another friend and I have been talking about how much the kids enjoy these books and I offered to pull together some resources. As we live in the heartland we will be planning trips to her homes and museums as well (though many will have to wait until the spring) such as this one we took this past summer to Little House in Big Woods.

Here are some of the Little House on the Prairie series resources and lesson ideas I found. Some could be made into entire curriculums or Little House unit studies.

Little House History

Visit Laura's Past Homes

Simple map of her travels

Interactive journey

Time line

Slideshow of museums and locations

Activities and Lesson Planning Resources

Lesson plan ideas by subject

Prairie Primer Resources

Songs and Lyrics from the books
Activity sheets

Build a pioneer town

Make a boys straw hat

Quilt pattern - you could do this with material or magazine pictures

Counting book

Crossword and Word find puzzles

Prairie Primer - this is a substantial purchase - 40.00 but it seems to be well reviewed and well cited, personally we have not used it.

Activities to Do

Make butter
butter made the old-fashioned way (churning!) We shake the heavy cream
in a jar as we chant:

Come butter come!
Come butter come!
Peter standing at the gate
Waiting for a butter cake.
Come butter come!

Venn Diagram and Wall Quilt

Discuss that even though the people of this time period went through many hardships,
they still found various ways to find joy in life. Using the background information above, tell the class the forms of entertainment that Laura Ingalls Wilder had on the frontier. After discussing these forms of entertainment, have the students list different forms of entertainment in their community on the board. Students may need to look at brochures and phone books of the community to give them ideas. As a class, make a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting the similarities and differences in the
entertainment during Laura's time with the forms of entertainment found in their community.

Give each student an 8X8 inch square cut out of construction paper. Squares should be different colors. Using the list of entertainment forms from their community as a reference, students should create a poster advertising entertainment activities
in their community on the quilt square. After students have completed their poster, they will display their projects by putting together a patchwork quilt with their squares. (Adapted from Mahoney, A. [1996]. My Town's Wall Quilts.[On-line]. Available: online

Quilting was a popular craft among pioneer women in the 1800's. Patchwork quilts were also made by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This should be mentioned as the reason the students are putting their posters in quilt form. This will be a visual dichotomy between our time period, and Laura's.

activity taken from

Corn Cob Dolls

1. Save your corn husks and silk hair from your corn on the cob. Dry
them in the sun for 3-4 days. (You will need around 13 leaves per

2. On the day of doll making soak them in warm water for about 10 minutes.

3. To make the head: crumple a husk into a ball (about the size of a
large marble) . Fold another husk over the ball like a large hood.
Gather the husk snuggly just under the ball and tie tightly with
string. We used jute rope. The husk should extend several inches
below the tie.

4. To make the arms: Roll up a husk in a pencil. Pull the pencil
out keeping the husk tightly rolled like a drinking straw. Place the
arms in between the husk that extends below the tie. The arms should
be centered just below the head. Then take a crumpled up piece of
husk and place it under the arms inside the extended husk piece. Tie
the husk pieces together below the stuffing to form the waist.

5. Now to make the shoulders: To make your doll more sturdy take two
pieces of corn husk. Criss cross them on either side of the head and
over the arms. The husks will be criss crossed on the front and on
the back of the doll like sashes. Tie again at the same place on the

6. Now to make the skirt (The skirt can easily be turned into pants
for your sons): The skirt is attached to the doll upside down.
First make the back: take three large smooth husks and spread them on
the table like a fan (the leaves will overlap). Place the doll face up
over the point of the fan. The skirt appears to be upside down behind
her. Tie tightly at the waist. Do the same for the front. Carefully
bend the husks down over the tie and voila you have a skirt. To turn
into pants just separate your skirt into two and tie at the bottom.


In the book Little House in the Big Woods, Pa carves with wood. A much
safer idea is to give children soap and butter knives to carve with.
Jonathon (9yo) really enjoyed this.

Science experiments to explain what sap does

OSMOSIS: All trees draw water from deep beneath the ground right up
into their leaves, acting like a natural pump. Many trees are over
50m tall and pump hundreds of litres of water a day. You can suck a
drink up through a straw, but trees cannot use this method.

Experiment 1

To find out how difficult it is to suck up water, carefully join
together straws with sticky tape. The longer the straw, the more
difficult it is for you to suck up the drink. The best mechanical
pumps can only manage 10m.

Instead, trees use a method called osmosis to force water upwards.
Osmosis works because there is a difference between the sap, or juice,
inside the roots and the water in the ground outside. Sap contains
large amounts of sugary substances. Ground water contains only tiny
amounts of dissolved nutrients. We say that sap is more concentrated
than the ground water. Osmosis forces water from the soil (where
concentration is low) through minute holes in the root skin to inside
the root (where concentration is high).

Experiment 2

You will need: large potato, chopping board, peeler, knife, teaspoon,
2 shallow dishes , water, sugar and food coloring (optional).

1- You will need a large, smooth potato about 10cm long and 6cm
across. Carefully peel the potato using a chopping board to protect
your work surface.

2 - Cut the peeled potato in half and then slice off the rounded ends.
You will now have two round potato slices. Each slice should be
about 3cm thick.

3 - Use a teaspoon to scoop out a hollow in each potato slice. Place
each slice in its own shallow dish and fill the dishes with water to
about 1cm in depth.

4 - Half fill both hollows with water and food colouring. Add 1/2 tsp
of sugar to one hollow. Cover and leave for one day.

5 - The level of liquid in the sugary hollow has risen. Osmosis has
made more water move into this potato from the dish. The level in the
other potato has not risen.

Tough-walled tubes carry the water up the trunk and into the leaves.
The water evaporates from the leaves through tiny holes. As it
evaporates, more water moves up to take its place.

Experiment 3

Trees and other plants move water upwards through tubes called xylem
vessels. You can easily see these tubes in celery. Cut 1cm from the
end of a stick of celery. Put the stick into a beaker of colored
water for one day. Cut across the bottom of the stem to get a good
view of the xylem vessels.

Activities taken from


  1. Did you know that there's an actual Little House curriculum called The Prairie Primer available through Cadron Creek? www.cadroncreek.com. I haven't used it, but a friend of mine is currently using it and really enjoys it. They also have a curriculum for Anne of Green Gables and The Chronicles of Narnia.

  2. I did know about the curriculum but I generally try to focus on free and online available resources when I do my planning. But thanks for sharing. Anyone use it? I did look at it. But wondered if it was really worth the 45 dollars it costs. Anyone use it and think it is?

  3. If they like the Little House stuff, they will probably like Anne of Green Gables stuff, too. I remember that I loved every one of those books when I was younger, although that was nearer to middle school.

  4. I hope you enjoy the lessons. I may do a few this year as well, I'm hoping to go to Missouri in September for the festival. Her last home was in Missouri at Rocky Ridge Farm and it's now a museum. That's also where she and Almanzo are buried.

  5. I agree with you about the free resources, which is why I don't have the Little House curriculum. I've been interested in the Anne of Green Gables study guide for my oldest daughter because she loves the books, but, again, it's cost prohibitive. I struggle between spending too much time researching these things on the computer and spending too much money on materials we may never complete. On the other hand, other hand, other hand, though, I do want to support women who *have* done the research and are attempting to support their families through their hard work...just not at the expense of my own budget.

  6. You have some great ideas! I'm a homeschooling mother too. Thanks!

  7. Wow, just grinning in awe here! We do a lot of carving, but that's just b/c Zorak's a grumpy old codger from the late 1800's, posing as a modern-day engineer. ;-)

    I love the dolls! We need to make those! The rest of it looks so nicely laid out, too. I have to go before I suck the boys into doing unit studies! LOL!


  8. Wow, Tenn, you never cease to amaze me! What a lot of great ideas you pulled together. Little House books are HUGE here so we will definitely be incorporating some of the activities, etc. Also hoping to get to some of the historical sites this summer.

  9. Anonymous4:25 AM

    Wow! Thanks for the great information! I'm looking forward to exploring your site as we are homeschooling using the same methods...or should I say inspirations, as you (w/a little other mixed in as well...lol) Thanks!

  10. Faith4:25 AM

    Wow! Thanks for the great information! I'm looking forward to exploring your site as we are homeschooling using the same methods...or should I say inspirations, as you (w/a little other mixed in as well...lol) Thanks!

  11. Anonymous7:07 PM

    thanks for your ideas-for all of you-I teach and you can find TONS of resources, teacher pages, vocabulary, tests, etc..my FIRST graders are getting ready to read Little House in the Big Woods-so I am doing all my homework and thank you for all your ideas, projects, and such -best of luck -wendy

  12. We homeschool and are currently using the Prairie Primer Curriculum. I started a blog that I add to each week but it has lots of resources if anyone is interested - http://welovetheprairieprimer.blogspot.com/