Add this pioneer rag doll westward expansion activity to the BEST Westward Ho Unit Study and Lapbook. It’s just too cute.
And if you love the Little House on the Prairie series, or just pioneers in general making a no sew pioneer rag doll is a perfect hands-on activity to learn a little about the culture back then.
Your child will be creating art, doing a little math, learning history and geography, working those fine motor skills, learning basic skills, and having fun while doing it.
While kids today have technology at their fingertips, during pioneer times toys were simpler and less expensive.
For instance, one favorite of little girls was rag dolls.
Too, they were sometimes sewn and more elaborate. And a simple one could even be made from a square handkerchief.
With all the bells and whistles of today’s toys, your children will certainly enjoy making and playing with a simple pioneer rag doll.
Besides it can be made with just a few dollars or free if you already have the scrap fabric on hand.
Further, if you were a reader as a child the chances are you remember Laura Ingalls little corn cob doll wrapped in a handkerchief named Susan.
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Oh how Laura loved and cherished her!
Similarly, small children who set out with their family to cross the Oregon Trail must have clutched their little simple ragdolls to their chest.
They drew comfort from them over every bump, sickness, broken axle, and excitement of wild new lands
And as they slept in snug beds in fresh new pine cabins that whispered “home” they drew their dolls closer.
Let’s try to capture a little of that innocent, but rugged childhood spirit of the pioneer child with this easy no sew rag doll craft.
Also, what a sweet memory you will make with your little one while you create one of these dolls and teach them basic life skills.
Encourage your child to do as much of this project as possible – cutting, measuring, tying, and folding so they can get the most from this project.
Next, to get started look at this easy supply list.
- 14” x 10” square of muslin or other light fabric
- 3- 1”x12” muslin strips
- 2- ¼”x6” muslin strips
- Scrap patterned fabric
- Cotton batting or cotton balls
- Ruler/measuring tape
Then look at these directions.
First, lay the light muslin fabric out flat and place a small handful of cotton batting or about 4-5 cotton balls directly in the center.
Pinch fabric around the cotton and give it a half twist, tie off tightly just below the cotton with one of your muslin strips, cut off the excess.
Then, line your 3 12” muslin strips up evenly, knot off one end, and then braid all the way to the other end. Finish it off with a knot.
After that, open your doll skirt and place these braided strips centered up against the underside of the head.
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In addition, fold the skirting back down and knot it just below the arms to separate the bodice from the skirt and also this will help to hold the arms in place.
Then, move on to make the sun bonnet.
Begin by cutting a triangle that is roughly 10” at the widest end, and wrap around the head making the point stick out over the face. Knot it under the chin.
Lastly, finish off your doll by cutting a rectangle out of scrap fabric 10”- 12” long, and 6” tall.
Cut into the fabric ¼” down and 4 ½” in on each side to create an apron shape like this.
Don’t worry about being exact, this is a rag doll after all!
Finally, tie the apron around the waist with the strings that you made and your doll is ready to cuddle and enjoy.
Further, if you want to extend the learning, have your child research other toys that children used in pioneer times.
For instance, ask a question like which of these toys do you think they would have taken along on long journeys during westward expansion?
Additionally, have your children research various fabrics and patterns that were popular in those days like gingham and broadcloth.
Older children can delve into learning about how those fabrics were made or the cost of making a doll or a dress in that period.
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Another great thing about this activity is that it works just as easily for a one on one project at home as it does as an activity for a large co-op.
Finally, try these other hands-on activity to create a fun unit study.