Childhood Simplicity “Little House Style”

little house books

I recently came across an interesting article A Child’s Play is a Job Well Done where Katie Kimball describes beautiful old values children had back in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s day.

Here are some of her nuggets!

“A trowel, yard gloves, and a child-sized wheelbarrow instead of a motorized jeep allow our children to work alongside the parents, making outside play an opportunity to learn the value of a job well done, rather than the thrill of pushing yet another button.

The imagination doesn’t need many tools to be inspired. We’re determined not to let our children’s imaginations be confined by toys that structure their play.

Let us also live real lives and teach our children how to do real work, trusting that they, too, were created for more than just pretending.”

Here are my thoughts about Little House inspired childhood simplicity ~

Handmade toys

My daughters marvelled at Laura in Little House in the Big Woods who played with a corn cob doll while Mary had a real rag doll.  They could really appreciate Laura’s joy and delight when she received her first beautiful, handmade doll.

My 11-year-old received a ‘Make Felt Toys’ book along with a box of felt off-cuts for her birthday.  She now makes beautiful felt toys for gifts and for herself.  I made the girls a rag doll family instead of Barbie dolls.  This is one of my girls’ favourite toys.  In The Little House the girls made and played with paper dolls.  We also have a whole range of paper dolls.

For several years now we have made each other Christmas and birthday gifts.  Instead of store-bought presents, we make personal gifts.  My eldest daughter excels at making homemade cleansers, bath salts, facial scrubs and shower gels with just a few ingredients.

Have a no toys birthday party, but learn a deep lesson of service instead.  We made recycled toys for our last birthday party which we donated to a playgroup in a rural town.

Handmade clothes

One of the most touching Little House stories was how Ma made the girls new Sunday dresses using fabric she bought for herself.  What a labour of love!  She sewed at night after everyone was asleep.  In Farmer Boy my girls were amazed that the girls carefully unpicked their dresses, turned them inside out and re-sewed them so that they looked new.apron garden

In this age of cheap, store-bought clothes, that barely last a season, it is easy for modern children to lose appreciation for their clothes.  Do you have a hand-me-down-bag?  We do.  My girls love to search through it at the start of each new season to see what will fit.  I recently turned my husband’s favourite shirt collar over to hide the chaffing and wear and tear on a shirt he cannot bear to part with!

Play with little or ‘nothing’

Laura and Mary, along with all the other children in the Little House stories played happily outside when they had completed their chores.

My younger 2 children can play with absolutely no toys.  They can play anywhere and anytime.  Their games are usually original, creative and imaginative.  Of course, they love dress-up clothes and some toys, but they love to run, sing, play and laugh outside.

My eldest is 15 years old and she keeps herself busy and creatively occupied.  If she is not sewing, then she designs, sketches, reads and writes letters.  (She and her friends send each other full, detailed and beautifully decorated letters!) Encourage your children to start a pen pal friendship.

No one in my home is allowed to say, “I’m bored”.  I tell them that those are words of children who are not creative or original and my cure for boredom is WORK!

Simple Entertainment

The modern child is used to being entertained!  Back in the Little House days, there were no children’s programs or entertainment except the annual village fair and occasional parade.  Visitors were the source of all the news and interest. At night Pa played his fiddle and sang, while Ma darned and the children lay in bed and listened.

Imagine a life with no TV.  Or have you taken the plunge and switched it off?  We have not used our TV for several years, but we do watch DVDs.

Stories are free.  Read books aloud.  Read and enjoy plays, share tales that inspire.

Play family games at least once a week.

Everyone helps around the house

Daily chores and weekly cleaning is part of life. Everyone helps and we all work together to keep the house clean.  Every night someone bakes the bread.  On our farm, there are days when we all stop to help dad with the sheep, or some other farm activity.

I do use a chore chart – something Mrs Wilder did not do!  This is an area of character training.  My children must learn to do their chores first, to do them diligently and with the right attitude.

Katie Kimball says,

“I give my preschooler a real broom, squirt bottle of vinegar water, an old towel and a little bit of instruction, instead of a child’s playset that won’t clean anything.”

She rightly suggests that instead of playing, children roll out real dough and mimic real life.  She promotes productive play.

Farming for food, cooking and baking

Everyone who has ever read Farmer Boy has eaten more!  This book describes mouth-watering, delicious meals, and almost all the farming is for food. The girls helped Ma in the kitchen, while the boys worked with the livestock.

In our modern-day, children have almost no concept that meat is from an animal that had to be slaughtered, or that milk comes warm and frothy from a cow that someone sat milking.  Our modern food is instant, sterile and detached from reality.  Farming is hard work; it is often smelly and dirty, but there is nothing so wonderful than home-grown meals made from scratch!

If your family live in a city or suburb, why not create an urban homestead?  My friend Wendy and her family have transformed their suburban back yard into an incredibly productive homestead!  She writes in her blog of her gardening and growing, and provides wonderful recipes and inspiration for meals, preserves and frugal tips.

We need our children to learn to cook and bake.  They should learn to freeze, pickle and preserve food when it is abundant.  Baking should be a joy and pleasure, but cooking a well-balanced meal from scratch is a wonderful life skill!

Travel simply

I love the descriptions of the slow Wilder family trips to town or to visit friends.  Everyone sat on the wagon; happy, talking, singing, listening and thinking. Ma prepared a simple picnic basket with healthy, simple food; fresh bread, hardboiled eggs, and some cooked meat.Picnic Food

Nowadays, children are buckled in and plugged in and switched on.  Modern cars are fitted with DVD players, children and parents travel, each listening to their own iPods.  When the family stop for meals, it is usually fast food; hit and run.  Others pack snacks which are packaged, refined foods.

We should spend some time the night before cooking and wrapping some healthy alternatives.  A lovely lunch box with fresh sliced carrots and cucumbers, some cherry tomatoes, some meal balls, cheese cubes and eggs will fill the stomach and keep the sugar levels low.  Or make sandwiches and finger food and stop along the way for a leisurely picnic.

Times have changed and sadly we have lost many wonderful values. Let us prayerfully return to a simple and precious lifestyle … Little House style!

What values can you suggest?

Blessings, Nadene

12 thoughts on “Childhood Simplicity “Little House Style”

  1. Pingback: Revisiting “Little House” and dress-up | Practical Pages

  2. Oh my goodness, I feel the same way! For me another thing that stands out in the Little House books is the rhythmic quality of their days, the way Ma always does the washing on monday, the ironing on tuesday, the churning on wednesday, etc. She had so much work to do in order to feed her family, and yet it was also much simpler because of that rhythm. Also, all the wonderful storytelling and music-making that was a part of their daily family life, how beautiful! 🙂


  3. Pingback: play | Pearltrees

  4. We love the Little House books! My son was just reading Little House on the Prairie this afternoon and ran downstairs to ask if we could have cornbread for supper b/c they eat cornbread a lot in the Little House books.

    I appreciated reading your post and thinking about some of the values I hope my kids are picking up from these books. The past two Chirstmases I’ve made a point of borrowing and reading A Little House Christmas Treasury with my kids. This book is a collection of Christmas stories excerpted from the Little House books. I hope that sharing these stories will help my children appreciate and be thankful for little things.


  5. Wonderful post! I have been reading, thinking and learning alot about living a more simple life over the past few months. This year I am making most of my Christmas gifts. Looking forward to future posts.


  6. Excellent post, Nadene! I love the rag dolls. I made something similar for my now 23 and 21yo many, many years ago. I was expecting baby #4, and made a doll for my dd, then 7, that had clothes to velcro on. I made several sets of clothes and then a little bag shaped like a house to put them in. For my son, then 6, his was a boy doll also with several sets of clothes. His bag to keep them in was shaped like a firetruck. I wanted to make more clothes, but, alas, baby #4 arrived the next day, 3 weeks early! The children were delighted with their dolls. We still have them! Now my last ‘baby’ who is 5, would love these little rag dolls you made. I am going to start working on them soon. Thank you again for all the time you take to share a part of yourself and home with us.

    I think a large part of values changing frankly, is due to the technology overload. It is up to us parents to be able to handle all the information overload of today and help our children use this ‘high speed’ technology prudently.



  7. Hi Nadene, I’ve been following your blog for almost a year now and so often have felt the desire to comment because I really sense your heart and it is soooo precious… The Laura Ingalls Wilder thing really got me — since I was five years old it’s been my dream to live a “Little House” life — and now I have it on a farm in Limpopo of all places!!! Hubby and I have just bought our daughter the box set of Little House and it has been such a blessing to her — and to me to see her experiencing the same ‘simple and precious lifestyle’ that captured me so many years ago.
    God bless you and your precious family


  8. What an invigorating post, Nadene! Lovely lovely lovely!

    It reminds me that I just have to read the series again to my young un – the only one who hasn’t had the series read to him yet!


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