This year we are back to celebrating Pioneer Day in the traditional ways. Here in Utah that includes parades, rodeos, barbecues and parties.
But we haven’t always lived in Utah.
Living in Southern California, we had to work a little harder to commemorate those hardy, faith-filled souls who walked or rode the bumpy, dusty 1300 miles in covered wagons, burying loved ones along the way. For the Mormon pioneers answering the call of faith and freedom, the Rocky Mountains provided a cradle to nurture and grow the fledgling faith of the recently restored gospel and community of Christ in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Following the assassinations of the founders, the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother, the Patriarch Hyrum Smith, as well as persecutions of the Saints (including an extermination order by Missouri governor Lilliburn Boggs,) the church pulled up its stakes and walked away. Filling covered wagons with necessities, families left Nauvoo Illinois in the middle of winter and camped in Iowa, then Nebraska. When the U.S. government (who ironically provided no protection when the Saints were being harassed, murdered and driven from their homes) saw a large body of Americans moving west, they requested they prove their patriotism by enlisting to fight in the war with Mexico. With their families stranded on the plains, over 500 men (and a few women and children,) volunteered to take the longest military march in history. Ironically the men wore their own clothes and the money given to the soldiers for uniforms was instead donated to the church and assisted the families in their westward trek.
Several years ago, I hosted a Pioneer Day event for 100 children ages 3 – 12. I did a lot of research and designed activities that would provide a fun learning experience about the pioneer children. This summer I refined my collection and created Pioneer Day fun kits that are selling in my Etsy shop.
Because children learn best when they are having fun, our activities duplicate some of those that pioneer children actually did to help their families get established in their new homes. Each kit includes a clipboard with a faux leather pouch containing crafts and games for children and families. The clipboard side has an 8-page planning guide with dozens of things to do, recipes and games for groups from young children through adults.
Here are photos of the imaginative learning kit for children (and everyone that likes handmade fun!)
A pioneer scavenger hunt, Beango game and rustic notecard are in the kit.
Pounding nails, telling west by the sun, panning for gold like members of the Mormon Battalion who were returning to their families that had traveled to the Salt Lake Valley and many more activities are included. Also, recipes for beef jerky, Dad’s Chili, honey lemonade and several other catering favorites.
It’s never too late to teach children about the pioneer experience.
For more Pioneer Day inspiration, images and ideas, see my Pinterest board: Prairie Princesses and Pioneers