The book is a 3rd/4th grade reading level and would interest kids 3-11ish.
We met at a park near a train museum for most of the activities, and then headed over to the train museum. If you are in the Los Angeles area, Travel Town Museum at Griffith Park is a free museum with a boxcar the kids can look at and passenger cars they can roam in and trains they can see. (Here’s a list of train museums in North America.)
Because the book is about independence, I tried to set up most of the stations to give the kids an opportunity to do some independent activities.
We also had a race. I was going to have them put numbers on their shirts, but it seemed excessively complicated. So, I just had them run. I had a goblet that we’d had in our mud kitchen wrapped in aluminum foil for the silver cup and a quarter for the money. And only one winner, just like in the book.
Directions: “Welcome! Grab the bag with your name on it. Your passport should be inside. If you haven’t made a passport yet, grab one! Put your name inside and draw a picture of yourself in the square. As you go to each station, you’ll see letter stamps to stamp your passport. Have fun! Bon Voyage!” (I put this on a sign that I put up each time.)
Supply list: table, tablecloth, bags with names on them and passports inside, blank passports on the table, box of colored pencils, name tags for kids and parents, chalkboard sign my husband makes and the directions sign.
Directions: Grab one piece of jerky, and start searching the dump for a pink cup like Benny and a spoon. Once you find them, you’ll need to head to the river to wash it so you can have some blueberries and cream! (The river is the drinking fountain. 🙂 )
Once your cup is clean, scoop out some blueberries – if you want cream, dump your berries into your cup and scoop on some coconut cream. If you used your pink cup, clean it out at the river, dry it off and put your cup and spoon in your bag.
Supply List: (put directions, jerky and blueberries on welcome table), jerky, blueberries, coconut cream or any milk product, enough pink cups for each child, enough plastic spoons for each child, milk (we had so many dairy issues, I just whipped up some cold coconut cream), stamp pad, letter stamp “B,” dump items (I put sand toys, mud kitchen supplies, plastic recyclable stuff, pink cups and plastic spoons), and something to put the dump items on (I used an old plastic paint tarp like thing, and I just brought all the corners together to carry it into the car and to the park).
Directions: You can make your own stew for a snack when you get home or maybe even for dinner! Before touching your food, run to the bathroom and wash your hands with soap. Cut into small pieces: one carrot (the carrots have been cut into four pieces, so you’ll need to cut four) and one turnip slice. Grab an onion, and using scissors, cut up small pieces of the green ends. You may need to use a knife again for the white part. Put your vegetables in the Ziploc bag and put them in your brown bag. The directions for the soup are in your bag! PS: Cooks get to sample their food any time they want!!
Soup For One Directions
- Get a pan.
- Put one cup of broth in it (If you don’t have broth, put 1 1/3 cups of water in and any spices you like, and then simmer it with some spices for about 5 to 10 minutes)
- Put the vegetables in it (not the onions yet, though).
- Add some salt, garlic and any other spices you like.
- Put the pan on the stove and turn the burner to high.
- Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and let the water simmer until the veggies are soft. (about ten minutes)
- Put it in a bowl and eat!!
Supply list: table, table cloth, stamp pad, letter stamp “o,” carrots (peeled, ends cut off, cut into half lengthwise and then half lengthwise again, put a damp cloth or paper towels in a bag with them), turnips (peeled, ends cut off and cut into not thick slices put a damp cloth or paper towels in a bag with them), and green onions/scallions, cutting boards, knives (I had regular dinner knives, sharp enough to cut food, but not kids…although very young kids will have a hard time using them, especially with carrots. So, I also put out plastic putty knives which are easier for those not quite adept at knife use yet, because they can hold them with two hands.), kid’s scissors, and Ziploc bags. (If I’d been at my house, I would’ve put out a water cooler and some soap for them to wash their hands there.)
My 4 year old was all about doing all the instructions herself. In fact, she wanted to do it two days in a row!! She loved turning the stove on and off. And the soup was delicious!! I can’t believe how good a soup it was. I think the turnips must’ve done it. I never knew turnips would be so good!
And she ate it all!! It was so good, we are going to have her make it for the next family dinner. 🙂
I put the following three activities on one table, but could have had them spread out more if I were at home.
Directions: Fill your cup with water. Dip your potato in and then pull it out and scrub all the sides of it. Dip it in your water again, scrub again. Dump your water on the roots of a nearby tree (away from us though!). And then rinse your potato off in the “river.”
Once it’s been cleaned and scrubbed, stab it with a fork a few times so that it doesn’t explode when you cook it!! Wrap it up in a piece of aluminum foil. When you get home, bake it in the oven and have it with your soup! (Cook: 350 degrees until it’s soft enough to poke a fork through it.)
Supply list: table, table cloth, stamp pad, letter stamp “x,” potatoes, aluminum foil squares, potatoes, and vegetable brushes or scouring pads (I was going to have vegetable brushes be the take home fun item, but I couldn’t find any that weren’t exorbitant individually or way more than I would ever want in bulk. Even the dollar store didn’t have them!! So, I ended up getting 1o of these at the dollar store, and they worked great.)
Bread and Butter
Directions: Take a slice of bread and put some butter on it. Do you remember how the kids did it? If you don’t, here’s a hint: Your spoon is your knife! It is very difficult to clean off butter with just water, so throw your spoon away into the plastic bag. Thanks!!
Supply list: table, tablecloth, stamp pad, letter stamp “c,” sliced bread, and butter
Work Like Henry!
Directions: Grab a bag and pick up some trash to help keep the park clean! When you think you’ve picked up enough, throw it away and go wash your hands with soap.
Supply list: table, tablecloth, plastic bags, stamp pad, and letter stamp “r,” (This one would only work if you were in a public place, unless your house/yard is terrible! 🙂 But, if I were at home, I might’ve had them weed or water or wash backyard toys.)
Writing Like Benny
Directions: Write like Benny!! He wrote SEE ME. If “see me” is your caption, what’s your picture? If you’d like to add to the sentence, you can do that too!
Supply list: table, tablecloth, stamp pad, letter stamp “a,” writing paper, an example sheet with “See Me” on it, and crayons/colored pencils/markers.
Directions: Grab a hammer and a nail and try out hammering it into the wood. Just remember to watch what you are doing so that you don’t hit your finger instead of the nail!
Supply list: wood boards, hammers, and nails
Directions: Grab a roll of paper and a baggie. In the baggie is a type of drawing tool called charcoal. It will look similar to how writing and drawing would look with a burned stick! It also will get your fingers dirty, so there’s a little wipe for when you are all done.
When you get to the museum, you’ll see lots of trains. Try and find the boxcar that looks just like the ones the kids lived in. Take a moment to draw what you see. Or, write what you see. Or draw or write anything you want! If you want to smudge the color a little, use your napkin to smear the charcoal.
When you finish, find me, drop off your charcoal and grab one last treat!
My daughter’s drawing, which I was pretty impressed considering she didn’t actually do it at the museum, just in our backyard the next day. 🙂
Here’s my grandmother’s recipe for molasses cookies — now she wasn’t a baker, so I can only assume she got this in a cookbook or magazine, which I will be more than happy to give credit to if anyone knows where it came from.
Good Bye Table
Directions: Thank you for coming! Please leave your passport in the box below. Please take a book (one per child). See you next time in Switzerland! (I have this on the back of the chalkboard in wet erase marker, so I can change some parts, and not have to write the rest every meeting.)
Supply list: box for passports, books for the kids to take home (these are just books I no longer want or have found for very cheap), and the sign.
PS: There is a cartoon rated G movie of The Boxcar Children streaming on Netflix. You can also buy it on Amazon. It’s pretty much exactly the same story, very few differences. My daughter has watched this on Netflix for the last three days!! She loved it!
To see what inspired some of my ideas and more ideas you might want to try, see my Book Theme: The Boxcar Children Pinterest board.
Photo Credit: Basheer Tome