Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Crafts for Better Reading

Little House in the Big WoodsFor some reason when I was a child I had no interest in the Little House series. My sister read it and loved it but me? No thanks. I stuck with my beloved Nancy Drew, thank you very much.

However, I ended up with the first book in my hand at the used book store while the kids were looking for something to read and decided I'd read it to Lillian. She was game and soon we were eating up a chapter before bedtime each night.

I found myself completely drawn into the story and loving it as much as Lily--probably because life back in the 1870s was so darn interesting! They made cheese, they built log cabins, they even butchered pigs (every gory detail) and it's all hugely entertaining and enriching (if that doesn't sound too weird).

So I came up with a fun idea for a bit of a Little House obsession. . . .

Little House on the Prairie CraftsI dug out felt and wooden pieces and glue from my craft closet and we made our own Little House dolls (the idea came from our Quiet Family craft a year or two ago). We made Ma and Pa, Mary, Laura and Baby Carrie, complete with their names burned on their bottoms:

Little House on the Prairie Craftsand then a wooden bird house ($4 at Michaels) worked as a little log cabin in the Wisconsin woods. The top was attached with little craft nails and was easy to remove so that you could take off the top and play with the pieces or store them inside. Then Lily painted the house, inside and out, and painted the bottom green. We cut out felt flowers and glued them around the base of the house.

Little House on the Prairie CraftsHere's a close up of the felt pond with lily pads and the horse and cow (also at Michaels) with little peg-leg Laura.

Little House on the Prairie CraftsOnce we made the house and family we made a batch of salt dough (1 cup salt, 2 cups flour, 3/4 cup water) to make furniture, baking it for a couple hours at 250 degrees to harden it.

Little House on the Prairie Craftstwo beds . . .

Little House Craftsfive chairs and a table . . .

Little House on the Prairie Craftsfive teeny-tiny bowls . . .
Little House on the Prairie Craftsand a bathtub/washtub for Ma's washing or Saturday night baths . . .

Little House on the Prairie CraftsBut here's the absolute cutest thing, the one that could turn anyone to jelly and will assure my place in history. A wagon made from popsicle sticks and wood glue:

Little House on the Prairie CraftsObviously we spray-painted everything once it was hardened or glued together, here 's a layout of the cart pieces using a dozen or so popsicle sticks, a skinny piece of dowl and two turned wooden wheels (you could use anything round as a substitute--even milk jug caps). We tied a piece of string to each front piece to drape over the horse's back as a harness.

Little House on the Prairie Crafts
Lillian has a great time playing with her new friends and there have already been many new adventures, usually including Baby Carrie getting lost and Laura saving her (Baby Carrie is her favorite).

You could do similar activities with other great children's books--Charlie and the Chocolate Factory could inspire an entire world of candy creations that the little people could explore, Little Women could have a similar set up to what you see here. The Chronicles of Narnia would be beautiful with salt dough lions and wolves and beavers, and the White Queen would be the best as a peg doll. King Arthur and his knights, fairy tales, the Beverly Cleary books, Winnie the Pooh, the Jungle Books, there are plenty of worlds you could create.

27 comments:

Robin said...

I want one! (I'm not terribly crafty, but I was a huge fan of the Little House series, I can't wait until Maya's old enough for it too.)

Seriously, that is so cute, and a terrific way to encourage interest in reading too.

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Linds said...

Fantastic! I will remember this when my little granddaughter comes to stay. I want to make one now! (But that would be totally missing the point, woudn't it. I will have to wait.Sigh.)

Jeni said...

Oh, wow! I've just started reading Little House in the Big Woods to my 4yo. (She thinks it's called, "The Mary and Laura Book.") I would love to make this for her!

Patricia L said...

You know, in a pinch, you can microwave salt dough. Such a cute little play set.

The Library Lady said...

Hey, but where's Ma's china shepherdess? It should be easy to make one with that salt clay...

When my older daughter was around 9 I played the first CD of Big Woods in the car. She hadn't wanted to read them and I told her "I love these. But if you don't like it, we'll stop"

It starts, as you know with hog killing and I thought "oh, no, I forgot about that--she'll never go for this".

We got home, she got out of the car and demanded "where's that book?"

She's now 15 1/2 and I spotted her re-reading it the other day :)

liz said...

This is so adorable! I'm so glad you're reading the books. I hope you and Lily will go through the whole series together. The other books don't have as much historical substance as Big Woods (actually, Farmer Boy does, and it's my other favorite), but that doesn't make them any less fascinating.

In fact, I've been reading a chapter aloud to my partner, R, every night. We're up to _By the Shores of Silver Lake_. I don't have a baby wagon to play with, though...

Scribbit said...

We're reading Little HOuse on the Prairie right now and Pa just finished the cabin door this morning.

Whew! I was worried the wolves would get them if he didn't get that door on.

Tammy said...

Wow, I'mso impressed! I love it, the creativity is awesome!

Shannon said...

Darn I wish I had girls to read that to. I did read Farmer Boy to my boys and they liked it. Maybe will try reading Little House in the Big Woods to them and then do the crafts.

Shelly said...

I LOVED LHOTP series when I was growing up. I plan on buying the series for my oldest daughter to read to her.

LOVE the crafts you did, amazing!

The Texas Bakers said...

I loved the Little House books! I've even been able to get my boys to read one or two of them. What a great craft idea!

controllingaspicyuniverse said...

You, Michelle, never cease to amaze me!

Daisy said...

I love the Little House Books. We often read them in 4th grade here because the first book is set near Pepin, Wisconsin! My kiddos always run to the map to find Pepin and express disappointment that it's not close enough to visit.

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Jolanthe said...

You are such a cool momma!!! :) Love it all!

Kim said...

We have wonderful paper doll sets from Little House in the Big Woods, Alice in Wonderland, and Secret Garden. But this idea is just awesome (and less delicate in the hands of my 4 year olds!) You always have the best ideas, M!

Lori said...

This is so precious. My daughter was obsessed with the Little House Toddler books about a year ago. They are too cute - the same stories, just broken down into mini story books. We have the entire collection and the illustrator, Renee Graef even sent us two signed copies!

Jane Hamilton said...

Michelle, you really are a Super Craft Mom! How *do* you come up with these amazing ideas?!?! You're kids are lucky.

These toys are absolutely cute-tastic!

tara said...

impressive!

(i totally admit to loving both nancy drew and laura ingalls as a wee one.)

cndymkr / jean said...

Never mind the crafts. Let's talk about Nancy Drew. I read all those books and even read the Hardy Boys. Did you see the movie? It was horrible. Oh well. Carry on.

Joesette said...

Oh my gosh! That is total greatness! Now if only I can replicate it in our world!

BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) said...

So cute. I loved loved the entire series as a little girl but my 8-year-old is now the big Nancy Drew fan!

Megret said...

Adorable! I was a huge Little House fanatic as a kid -- and can't wait to introduce it to my little ones.

mamabearscubhouse said...

i'm gonna pretend for awhile, that that was MY idea.

so cool!!

melinda

Sheila said...

All I can say is, WOW!

daysease said...

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Http://tonguetriedbilinguist.blogspot.com/

celita

Lindsey said...

This is seriously too cute! Love the idea. Especially the custom made chairs out of dough.