How to Make Old Pioneer Day Toys

By Deborah Walker
Pioneer children played with homemade toys unless they came from wealthier families.
Pioneer children played with homemade toys unless they came from wealthier families.

Most children living during the 1800s, or in pioneer days, did not have much time to play with toys; they spent a lot of their time helping around the house and farm. Many of the toys pioneer children did have were often made from the leftovers or scraps saved from other tasks. Using their imaginations, children made their own toys. Girls sewed dolls from scraps of cloth or made them out of dried corn husks and string. Boys made cup-and-ball toys from sticks or scraps of wood. Pioneer children used what they had, and they still had fun in their free time.

Make a Corn Husk Doll

Lay two corn husks on top of each other. Use string to tie them together about an inch from the top.

Fold the part above the tie forward and tie with another short piece of string about 1 inch from the folded crease. This becomes the head and neck. Set aside.

Roll one corn husk into a tube to make the arms. Slip the rolled husk through the neck space horizontally. Tie string about 1/2 inch from the end of each arm. This will become the wrists.

To hold the arms in place, tie a piece of string just underneath the arms. Make a waist by tying string 1/2 to 1 inch below this area.

Trim away any excess string from where you made the ties.

Use a marker or crayon to make eyes, a nose and a mouth on your doll. Glue corn silk or yarn onto the head with regular white glue to give your doll hair. Let dry.

Cup and Ball Toy

Poke a hole into the bottom of a plastic film canister. It should be slightly smaller than the diameter of a pencil.

Push a pencil through the hole about 1 inch. Insert the pencil from the outside or bottom of the canister.

Tie a 20-inch length of string to the pencil on the inside of the canister. Tape over the string to make it more secure.

Place a small piece of foil onto the table. Lay the end of the string coming out from the canister onto the foil. Shape the foil into a ball around the end of the string.

Tape around the outside of the hole in the canister where the pencil is inserted. This will help to hold the pencil in place.

Things You Will Need

  • 3 dry corn husks
  • Corn silk or yarn
  • String
  • Marker
  • 1 pencil
  • 1 empty film canister
  • Tape
  • 20 inches of string
  • 1 small piece of aluminum foil