Teaching history to little learners who don’t even understand the concept of ‘yesterday’, ‘today’ and ‘tomorrow’ can be tricky. But guiding them through exploring American history can open a whole new adventure in their minds. Explore the wonders of the past with a transportation-themed adventure tailored for your preschoolers while learning about the covered wagon. This covered wagon craft, otherwise referred to as a Conestoga wagon is a great way to use up recycling materials making it a cheap and EASY craft for kids. Plus, add these great ideas to a fun American history lesson for preschoolers.

– Life Over C's Covered wagon craft for kids

Recommended Grade Level:

Materials for the Covered Wagon Craft

  • a 1-pint milk carton
  • four wheels. We used some extra spice container lids; you can also use water bottle lids.
  • a small dowel or kabob skewer
  • glue
  • brown paint and/or a brown paper bag to cover the sides of the wagon.
  • three pipe cleaners
  • a piece of fabric (or a brown paper bag)
  • glue
  • stapler
  • a piece of string (optional)

Most preschool transportation themes focus on boats, planes, cars, bikes… all the ‘normal’ forms of modern transportation. But you can expand your transportation theme lesson plans to include a bit of history and learn about covered wagons.

Of course, with preschoolers and young learners, you definitely want to keep the topic of American history on their level. So rather than focusing on the dangers of traveling west, sickness and hardship, you can focus on developmentally-appropriate topics instead, like food preparation, camping outdoors, crossing rivers, etc.

Table of Contents

Covered Wagon American History for Preschoolers

So, how exactly do you explain terms like pioneer and covered wagon to preschoolers whose concept of transportation is a city bus, metro or family car?

What is a pioneer?

“Imagine a long time ago, there were special adventurers called pioneers. These pioneers were like brave explorers who traveled far, far to the west in America. It was like going on a big, exciting journey with their families and friends.”

What is a covered wagon?

A covered wagon was like a cozy, little house on wheels, and the pioneers filled it with all the things they needed for their journey—like clothes, food, and even some toys. It didn’t have electricity like some ‘houses on wheels’ that we see today (aka Recreational Vehicles), but was more like camping.

5 American History Activities for Preschoolers

Storytime with Pioneer Books:

Help your preschoolers explore American history with captivating pioneer tales. Choose age-appropriate books that narrate the adventures and challenges faced by those who traveled the vast American continent in covered wagons.

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Journey of a Pioneer

by Patricia Murphy

 

 

If You were a Kid on the Oregon Trail

By Josh Gregory

 

 

Going West

By Laura Ingalls Wilder

2. Transportation Scavenger Hunt:

Foster curiosity and observation skills with a transportation-themed scavenger hunt. As you explore different modes of historical transportation, include the covered wagon as a special item to discover.

Make it a class project by providing magazines and printed photos for them to search through for transportation vehicles. Then make a chart with the pictures that they find.

3. Pioneer Snack Adventure:

Give kids a taste of history by creating a pioneer snack together. From churning butter to crafting cornbread, these kids-friendly recipes offer a multi-sensory experience tied to the pioneers’ way of life.

‘Pioneer’ recipes for kids:

4. Create a Miniature Covered Wagon Craft

  • Supplies for the Covered Wagon Craft:
  • Half Gallon or One Quart Milk Carton
  • Brown Paper Bag, Butcher Paper or Construction Paper
  • 1/4 inch dowel rod
  • Pipe Cleaners
  • Small Piece of Canvas Cloth
  • Staples
  • Glue
  • Optional: Brown Paint

How to make the Covered Wagon Craft for Kids

Step 1: Clean and cut the milk carton.

Cut one side of the milk carton off leaving the ‘base’ of the wagon and the sides. You can leave the slanted top of the milk attached to be the hitch for the horses.

 2. Decorate the wagon.

Because the milk carton had a wax coating on it paint will not stick. Instead, wrap the milk carton with a brown paper bag, butcher paper or construction paper to make it easier to paint. The kids thought it looked more like wood when it was all brown. 

 3. Attach the wheels and axle.

Cut the dowels to be the right size for your milk carton. We used a pin to make a hole in the wagon and push the dowels through. Glue the wheels to the dowels. We were very determined to make wheels that rolled, so I used Super Glue and made sure to keep turning the dowel until the glue on the wheels dried. It’s so much more fun when the wheels move! 

 4. Make the canvas covers for the wagon.

Cut a small piece of fabric and wrap it around pipe cleaners, stapling the pipe cleaners in place. We then bent the cloth-covered pipe cleaners, trimmed them to be the right size, and stapled those in place onto the sides of the wagon. 

simple covered wagon craft for kids

 5. Attach the harness. 

The kids wanted to be able to pull the wagon, so we tied a string to the front axle. 

 6. Find little people, fill the wagon, and travel across the “continent.” 

We had pirates in our covered wagon. They don’t really look like pioneers, but hey, it’s what we had! 

covered wagon craft for kids

More American Crafts Kids Love!

5. Outdoor Covered Wagon Play

Take the learning outdoors with a covered wagon playtime. Set up a small covered wagon structure using blankets or cardboard boxes, allowing preschoolers to role-play as pioneers, igniting their imagination.

 We too have driven across the American continent, but it takes a little bit more hands on understanding to recognize what traveling by foot and in a covered wagon from Iowa to Oregon or Utah would entail. 

The kids was surprised to learn that most kids did not get to ride in the wagon! Making our own “little people” sized wagon was a lot of fun for us.

You can also extended the learning and practice stocking the wagon with “food” and other necessities (referencing the book If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon for ideas!)

For other ways to make a covered wagon, check out this edible version or this printable wagon.

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– Life Over C's learn about pioneers with this covered wagon craft for kids

Transportation Theme Printables for kids

author avatar
Kim Staten Owner and Curriculum Designer
Kim Staten is a mother of four children ages 20, 19, 16, and 12. Kim has taught at the preschool, kindergarten and early elementary levels for 16 years. With extensive experience working with special needs children, including her own children with special needs (Rett Syndrome, autism, anxiety, and ADHD), she creates hands-on curricula and activities that are great for working with children of all abilities in the classroom and at home. Hands-on, accessible activities are her passion. 

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