Pioneer Themed Activities

Pioneer Themed Activities

from Alice Baker–thank Alice
During the month of July, I try to have a different pioneer-themed activity for singing time each week.

(1)  “PIN THE PIONEER ON THE HANDCART” – This is a pioneer-themed cross between “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” and “Hot & Cold.”  I make a poster with a picture of a handcart, and tell the children that it needs some pioneers to push and pull it.  I select a child, hand them a picture of a pioneer, and instruct them to put the pioneer next to the handcart, while blindfolded.

I use both a traditional blindfold and a small potato sack, so the child can’t see out the bottom of the blindfold.  (The children think the potato sack is hilarious.)

The other children’s job is to guide the blindfolded child to the handcart by singing louder when the child is near the handcart, and softer when the child is away from the handcart.

For the junior primary, I turn the blindfolded child around two or three times, and then face him/her in the direction of the poster.

For the senior primary, I turn the blindfolded child around two or three times, and then face him/her in some random direction other than the direction of the poster.  The blindfolded child has to use audio clues (louder/softer) from the other primary children to figure out where the poster is.


(2)  “HANDCART COMPANY” is very popular with the junior primary.  (I haven’t tried it with the senior primary, and they’d probably be bored silly.)  I tell the junior primary children that they are crossing the plains in a handcart company and will have some adventures.

First, I organize the children into groups of 3-5 and assign each group to a “handcart.”  The “handcart” can be anything that will keep the children reasonably together as they walk around the room:  a hula hoop; a swimming pool noodle that they all have to hold onto; even a piece of yarn tied loosely around the small group.

Then I line up the “handcarts” and have the children walk in a path around the room while they sing.  They then have an adventure of some sort, which varies from week to week.

(2)(a):  In the “CROSSING THE SWEETWATER” variant of Handcart Company, I teach them a little about the Sweetwater River.  A blue marker on the floor becomes the Sweetwater.  The children cross the “Sweetwater” several times while they walk around the room and sing.  If the music stops, any handcart company that is in the Sweetwater at the time the music stops is deemed to have gotten stuck in the mud, and has to be pulled out.  We mime pulling the “stuck” group out of the Sweetwater.  The children call this variant the “falling in the mud” game; it is one of their favorites.

(2)(b):  In the “INDIAN RAID” variant of Handcart Company, I play an Indian who is bent on attacking the handcart company – I use a koosh ball.  They walk around the room while singing and try to avoid my attack.  If the “Indian” successfully attacks a handcart, the music stops and that handcart group must say the next word in the song.


(3)  “PIONEER STOP & GO” – This is a pioneer-themed version of “Stop & Go,” with a twist to catch the children’s attention.  (I assume the reader is familiar with the basic rules for Stop & Go.)  As advance preparation for this variant, I create four signs, with pictures of:  (1) a pony express rider; (2) a stagecoach; (3) an Indian; and (4) a bandit.

I tell the children they are crossing the plains in a wagon train and will meet some people on the way.  If no strangers are present, it is safe to make noise, and they should sing.  If a pony express rider or a stagecoach appears, it is safe to make noise, and they should keep singing.  But if an Indian or a bandit appears, they need to stay very quiet until the danger goes away, and they should stop singing.  Once the Indian or bandit leaves, they should start singing again.

So the bottom line for the rules is:

No sign up = sing.

Pony express rider or stagecoach sign = sing.

Indian or bandit sign = don’t sing.

This variant adds a level of complexity to traditional Stop & Go because the children have to decide from the picture whether they should “stop” or “go.”

(4)“BUFFALO STAMPEDE” – As advance preparation, borrow a few stuffed animals from your children.  The animals should be species that are indigenous to the American West.  I use a buffalo, armadillo, skunk, and bat.  You could also use a bear, rabbit, cougar, mouse, raccoon, rattlesnake, moose, etc.

I tell the children they are crossing the plains in a wagon train and will encounter some animals on the way.  They start out singing normally.  If they encounter a stampeding buffalo, they must stop singing, lest they spook their own cattle into joining the stampede, until the buffalo goes away.  If they encounter an armadillo, they continue singing normally.  (Nobody is afraid of an armadillo stampede.)  After we go through a song with the buffalo and armadillo, I introduce the skunk.  If the children encounter a skunk, they must sing with their noses plugged.  If they encounter a bat, they must wave their arms in the air to shoo the bat away.

After a few rounds, I invite two children up and have them choose one animal each.  The child is responsible for introducing or removing the animal as we sing.  This creates the possibility that the Primary will have to do two things at the same time.  If the buffalo and skunk are both present, the children must stop singing and plug their noses.  If the buffalo and bat are both present, they must stop singing and wave their arms.  If the skunk and bat are both present, they must sing with their noses plugged and wave their arms.  (I have tried doing it with more than two animals, but that becomes too complicated.  I recommend two animals as a maximum.)

A possible variant on Buffalo Stampede is AFRICAN SAFARI, which works exactly the same, except that you use a stuffed lion (either [a] sing really loud, or [b] stop singing until the danger goes away), monkey (scratch under your arms while singing), hyena (sing with your nose plugged, because hyenas are really stinky), giraffe (stand up), etc.