Victorian Era Toy

Click to view or print the pattern and instructions for this craft.


In the early 1800s, American children had very few toys.  Toys were given to children on special occasions, like Christmas or birthdays.  Toys were very expensive, so even rich kids only had a few of them.  Popular toys for wealthy children included rocking horses, doll houses, tea sets, toy soldiers, and train sets.   Toys with moving parts were extra special.  The Zoetrope was a spinning toy that made still pictures look like they were moving.  The kaleidoscope was a toy you could look through to see a design then twist or shake to make a new design.  Rich kids also had wind-up toys.  (Battery operated toys weren’t invented until the 1960s.)  

For kids who were not rich, toys were handmade by parents or other relatives.  Children from non-wealthy families had toys made from cloth and wood scraps.  There were cloth-peg dolls for the girls and wadded cloth kickballs for the boys.  Kites were also made from cloth.    Sometimes toys were whittled out of wood.  A spinning top, jump rope handles, or toy soldiers were carved from wood.  There were also moveable toys made from wood.  These toys didn’t have a motor or a key for winding.  They needed to be moved by hand. 

Because children had so few toys, they carefully guarded the ones they owned.


This “hungry chickens” toy is an example of a Victorian toy that a woodworker might have carved for a child. 

It works best if you print the pattern on cardstock paper or glue it onto posterboard.   If you want to make the toy look like it’s wooden, color it with crayons, then lightly paint over it with brown watercolor paint.  Let it dry before cutting out the parts and assembling them.

When and if your students complain about how boring this toy is, tell them to imagine this is the only toy they own.

3-D Sewing Sampler

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In the 1700s, girls learned basic sewing skills by making sewing samplers.  A sampler is made by stitching a strand of embroidery thread into a piece of fabric using a sewing needle.   The word sampler comes from a French word that means example.  The sampler was an example of a person’s sewing skills.  Sewing was a necessary skill during this time period.  Most families sewed their own clothes, bedding, and curtains.  Learning to sew well gave wealthy girls family pride.  It gave poor girls a chance to earn a living.

Cross-stitch is a type of hand sewing in which x-shaped stitches are used to form a pattern or picture.  It’s one of the easiest needlework stitches.  A cross-stitch picture requires planning.  The sewer has to count their stitches carefully to make sure the letters and numbers are the same height and are spaced equally.


In this activity, your students will use a paper grid to plan how they’d make cross-stitches to sew their name on a piece of needlepoint fabric.  (If you can provide an embroidery hoop, thread, and needle, each student can practice making the cross-stitches to form the first letter of their name.)  But just using the paper grid to plan how to stitch the letters will be difficult for many students.  They will get an idea of how hard it is to cross-stitch numbers, letters, and other shapes onto a piece of fabric.  When they complete the project, they’ll have a cool pop-up nametag to display on their desk.


There is no written documentation of who sewed the first flag.  But several relatives of Betsy Ross have testified to having heard family stories of the flag’s creation.  Betsy Ross was an upholsterer by trade.  It was not uncommon for upholsterers to be tasked with making flags.  Betsy Ross knew George Washington.  She’d sewn buttons on his jacket.  They also went to the same church.  No one else has come forward with claims about who created the first flag.  It was most likely Betsy Ross.

The colors of the flag are red (for valor and hardiness), white (for purity and innocence), and blue (for vigilance, perseverance, and justice).   The original 13 stars represented the 13 colonies.  They were sewn in a circle to signify that the colonies were equal in importance.

Colonial School Hornbook

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The families who settled in New England in the 1600 and 1700s wanted their children to be educated so they could read the Bible and participate in local town meetings.  Families did most of the teaching, but towns with 50 or more families had to, by law, provide a an elementary school, known then as a Dame School, for the children. 

The Dame School teacher was generally a woman who often taught from her home.  She taught boys and girls to read and write.  Each student had a hornbook.  The hornbook was a piece of wood shaped like a cutting board with a handle.  It had a transparent sheet of horn attached to the front to protect the lesson which was printed on parchment paper.  A strap of leather was attached to the handle, so students could hang the hornbook from their belt or wear it around their neck.  Each student was required to learn the alphabet, phonetic sound patterns, numbers, and the Lord’s Prayer.  Once you knew all of the information on the hornbook, you were done with Dame School.

After Dame School, girls stayed home to learn to cook and clean.  There were mothers who wanted their daughters to continue to learn, so they taught them at home.  Boys could go on to grammar school to learn Latin and to prepare for college, ministry, or law.  Families supported the schools with money, food, and firewood.  If your family couldn’t afford to help with the cost of school, you could still attend, but you had to sit in the back of the classroom.


This hornbook craft is definitely not a replica of the ones used in colonial times.  It’s the same shape and it has a lesson on both sides.  Side one includes the alphabet and some of the phonics patterns from the original hornbook.  It also has a story about the Pilgrims for your students to read.  The story was, of course, not part of the original hornbook.  The other side of the hornbook is a Mad Lib.  Also, obviously, not part of the original hornbook.

Your students can color their hornbooks, cut them out, and punch a hole in the handle.  They can attach a piece of yarn or ribbon and loop the hornbook around their belt.

Solar System Mobile

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Renaissance astronomers made many discoveries about our solar system.  From the time of the ancient Greeks, people believed that the Earth was at the center of the universe and all of the planets and stars, including the sun, revolved around our tiny planet.  But Renaissance astronomers used mathematical measurements and charted nightly observations to prove that wasn’t the case.  They measured the movements of the planets over time and learned that the planets were actually revolving around the sun.  Not many people believed them.  In fact, Galileo Galilei, was put on trial for sharing this idea. 

In 1543, Polish astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus, through observation and mathematical calculations, realized that the movement of the planets was better explained if the Earth and other planets moved around the sun.  He also noted that the Earth spins on an axis.

In 1571, 23 year old Danish astronomer, Tycho Brahe, built his own observatory on an island in Denmark.  There he recorded his observations of the planets and the stars.  *Here’s some Brahe gossip that your students will love:  As a young man, Tycho Brahe got into a sword fight with a classmate.  The classmate accidentally cut off half of Tycho’s nose.  To cover the injury, Tycho Brahe glued a gold nose onto his face every morning.

In 1600, Johannes Kepler of Germany met Tycho Brahe and became his assistant.  Kepler applied mathematics to Brahe’s research.  This gave a clearer, more data driven, concept of how the planets moved in space.  Kepler is known for the three laws of planetary motion and his theory of the planets moving in elliptical orbits.

1n 1610, Italian astronomer, Galileo Galilei, improved the design of the telescope.  He used it to observe the craters on the moon.  He saw four of Jupiter’s moons.  And he noticed the oval rings around Saturn.  After studying the solar system for a long time, Galileo agreed with Copernicus—the Earth and the other planets were in orbit around the sun.  He wrote a book about the motion of the planets around the sun.  This theory was different from the belief long held by the Roman Catholic church—that the Earth was at the center of the universe.  They put Galileo on trial and locked him up.  He was 69 years old.


The Solar System Mobile craft is very easy to make.  It will give your students an idea of where the planets are in relation to the sun, the size of the planets compared to the sun, and the colors of the planets.  You can even have your students draw the moons (satellites) orbiting around each planet. 

We printed the sun on yellow paper and the solar system on purple paper.  This saved time on coloring.

Long-toed Shoes

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During the Gothic period, cities showed off their wealth by building giant fancy cathedrals.  People showed off their wealth by wearing fancy clothes and long-toed shoes.  It’s possible that the tall spires on the cathedrals inspired the long-toed shoes; known as Crakows because they originated in Krakow, Poland.  The shoes are also called poulaines.  Poulaine refers to the long pointed tip of the shoe. 

Cobblers were the shoemakers who made shoes for commoners and peasants.  It was the cordwainers who made shoes for the rich.  In those days, shoes were not made to fit each foot.  The left and right shoe were exactly the same.  The shoes were made of leather.  Rich people’s shoes had elaborate patterns and embroidery.  Everyone else wore plain leather shoes.  Because the shoes were made entirely of leather, they could easily be ruined if the wearer walked on a muddy road or stepped in a puddle.  To protect the soles of the shoes, people wore wooden patens under their shoes to keep them dry.  Patens were a flat piece of wood with two wedges of wood on the bottom.  People tied the patens on their feet, over their shoes, with leather straps.

The pointy-toed shoes were very impractical.  Sometimes the toe of the shoe was so long, the wearer had to stuff it with hair or moss to help it hold its shape.  

This long-toed shoes craft will give your students an idea of what it would be like to walk around in shoes with toes that are much longer than your foot.  It takes about fifteen minutes to color and assemble one shoe.  If you have time, you can have the kids make two shoes, but one is enough to experience the ridiculousness of wearing a shoe with a super long toe. 

For added fun, you can have a Gothic shoe fashion show.

Medieval Catapult

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A catapult is a medieval device used to hurl objects into and over castle walls.  Catapults were able to hurl 300 pound boulders as far as 1000 feet.  The big rocks would eventually break through castle walls so the opposing army could enter the castle.  But rocks weren’t the only things medieval armies hurled at castles.  Sometimes they loaded their catapult with buckets of hot tar to set fires inside the castle.  They also loaded the catapult with stinky garbage or diseased corpses to drive out the people who were in the castle.



The earliest known catapult was invented in ancient Greece by a man named Dionysius the Elder in 400 BCE.  He designed the catapult to operate like a giant crossbow.  Instead of using arrows as ammunition, his catapult shot sharpened logs.


The mangonel is a standard catapult with a long wooden arm and a bucket for flinging objects.  The mangonel could be as large as a truck, so it was built on wheels to make it easier to transport.


This catapult has a long wooden arm with a sling on one end and a counterweight on the other.  They were still used during WWI to launch projectiles over trenches.


The catapult craft isn’t a scientifically working catapult.  It will give students an idea of what the medieval catapults looked like.  After they’ve made their catapults, your students can use them to play launching game.  Set up an area where your students can launch their payload of pom-pons or crumpled paper balls into a cardboard box.  You can even decorate the box to look like a castle.

To make this craft you’ll need a large popsicle stick, a water bottle lid, a small rubber band and a 5” dowel for each student.  You’ll also need a hot glue gun to glue the bottle lid to the popsicle stick.  The craft works best when printed on cardstock paper.

Handwritten Book

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                 The printing press didn’t exist in the early Middle Ages, and yet, there are beautiful books from that time period.  The books of the early Middle Ages were made entirely by hand.  The pages were vellum or parchment made of specially treated animal skins.  Each page was handwritten in Latin, mostly by religious people; monks or nuns.  The pages were illustrated, decorated, and illuminated.  Illumination made the pages look like they were glowing.  To illuminate the artwork, the writer brushed on gold or silver leaf and bright mineral paints.  Finally, the book pages were stitched together and bound in a leather cover.  The books were stored in libraries of the European monasteries.  Hand-copying books was very time consuming.  Copying the bible took about 15 months.  But copying books was necessary to preserve knowledge.  Monks often traveled to other monasteries to copy the books from their libraries.


                 The Pied Piper of Hamelin is an ancient story, a legend, from the town of Hamelin, Germany.  The main character is called the Pied Piper because he is a musician who plays a pipe.  And the word pied means multicolored clothing.  No one knows exactly when the story was created, but there are a lot of theories about its origin.  Some people think it began as a story of hope.  During the Middle Ages, many towns were hit by terrible plagues that spread because of large rat populations.  It’s likely that a storyteller invented a tale of a magical man who had the ability to make the rats go away.  But the other aspect of the story, the moral, gives the story a meaning that applies today:  Keep your promises or something bad might happen.


The purpose of this craft is to give your students an idea of how time consuming and difficult it is to copy text onto blank unlined pages. You can decide how complicated you want the craft to be. Just doing the craft in the most basic way; the writing, layout, and stitching the pages together, will take at least an hour.

If you want to make the book look like it has a leather cover:  1.  Crumble a 10X13” piece of tissue paper.  Un-crumble it and spread it flat with your hands.  2.  Spread watered down school glue (1 part water + 1 part glue) on the book cover page with a paint brush.  3.  Lay the tissue paper over the glued book cover page.  Spread it flat with your hands.  4.  Sponge brown and black paint over the tissue paper.  5.  Let it dry.  Trim the excess tissue paper from the edges.

Greek Theater Mask

Ancient Greek Theater Masks Craft
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The ancient Greeks loved theater.  They had two theater festivals each year that lasted all day for three days.  Businesses were closed on festival days.  Everyone  was allowed to attend — even prisoners and women.  The plays were performed in large outdoor theaters.  There were two kinds of plays: comedies and tragedies.  The comedies made fun of everyday people and politics.  The tragedies dealt with serious subjects like war.  The actors wore tall boots and heavy robes to make themselves larger than life.  They also wore large masks that were created to give the audience an idea of their character’s age and personality.  The masks had funnel-shaped mouths to amplify the actor’s voice.  


The earliest Greek plays included a large chorus and dealt with the lives of gods and goddesses.

Aeschylus (525-456 BC) He reduced the size of the chorus and made bigger parts for individual characters.

Euripides (484-406 BC) He introduced characters with recognizable problems and personalities.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) He built suspense in his tragedies.

Aristophanes (450-388 BC) His comedies poked fun at the politics and people of the time.

In 320 BC the architect, Polykleitos, built a theater that could seat 13,000 people.  Everyone in the audience had an equal view of the performers.  The sound quality was amazing.  Plays are still performed there today.


Greek theater masks were made of cloth, covered in plaster, then colored.  If you want to make this craft seem as if it were made using this technique, you can have your students scribble horizontal and vertical lines over the mask using a white crayon.  Then have them brush over the mask with watercolor paint.  They can paint the mask parts page in the same way.  Just remember to have them dab the excess water off of their paper so it won’t wrinkle.  Wait for the mask and parts to dry before cutting out the pieces.


Click to view or print the pattern and instructions for this craft.

Lamassu from the Citadel of Sargon II


The lamassu is a human-headed winged bull.   It is a Sumerian protective deity.  Enormous pairs of Lamassu were carved into giant slabs of stone and placed at the entrances of the brick citadel (fortress) built for King Sargon II.  Sargon II was the king of the Assyrian Empire.  The Assyrians borrowed their ideas from the Sumerians, but they reimagined them to make them their own.

The Lamassu is a relief sculpture, which means it’s a sculpture that’s attached to the stone it was carved from.  The lamassu was carved to appear strong and steady from the front, but from the side, it looks like it’s walking forward.  It was meant to look powerful and menacing.  The cuneiform writing underneath the Lamassu is a warning to all who enter.

Stone Masons were the artists of the Mesopotamian empire.  They carved the relief sculptures into stone slab and walls.  Their art was made to glorify the gods and kings.

If you want to make the lamassu look like the relief sculptures at the entrances of Sargon’s citadel, you’ll need to make a pair of them and create a paper arch to attach to them.  We made our paper arch by cutting a sheet of paper in half lengthwise and gluing the halves together at the short ends,  Then we arched the paper and placed a lamassu at the bottom inside of each side of the arch.  You can stand a small action figure between the arches to get a feeling of how large the lamassu really are.

Neolithic Settlement Diorama


The Agricultural Revolution

Agriculture is farming.  Farming started a new way of life.  As you recall, the people of the Old Stone Age were hunters and gatherers.  Because they found their food, they had to travel, by foot, to places where food was available.  This made life difficult.  Over time, people realized that the seeds of the plants they were gathering could be placed in the ground to make new plants.  That started a new way of life.  The families of the New Stone Age were able to settle in one place and grow their own food.

A Settlement is a small village. The people of the Neolithic Age chose to live near water because all living things need water to survive.  They used the materials that nature offered to build their houses.  Settlements that were built in areas that had lots of trees, used the branches and leaves for home building.  If the area had lots of dirt, homes were built of mud-bricks.  Planting crops provided most of the food, but people still hunted and gathered food when they needed to.

Domestication means to grow or to tame.  As mentioned, plants were domesticated.  Seeds were dried and sorted.  The best seeds were planted.  Also, animals were domesticated.  Settled people began to feed and tame various animals like cows, goats, and sheep.  Early on, they realized that placing a circle of stones around a group of sheep would keep the sheep in place.  The sheep wouldn’t step over the stones.  The animals were used for food and clothing.  Cows and goats provided milk and meat.  Sheep were shaved and their wool fur was woven into cloth.

The settled life gave people time to think and discover.  There were many new inventions like looms for weaving, pottery for carrying and storing food, and sewing needles made of bone that were used to stitch fabric.  Dyes for fabrics were made from various plants.  Farming tools were invented.  It’s likely that the wheel was invented in the late Neolithic Period.

Print this craft to make a Neolithic village for your display table.  If you have several students, have everyone color the hut on page 1.  You can have your students draw their own people and animals for the display, if you’d like.  You can also add rocks, plants, and sticks to the scene to make it more interesting.