How to Use Dolls to Teach History

Last week, the girls and I did some work learning about Biblical Abraham. Back in the day, when I was learning about this with the older children, I had made dress up clothes, and full size accessories such as a travel roll up bed. My older three loved dress up and pretend play right up to their teens. My younger two, not so much. So I had to rethink things a bit to suit them.

Last week was a bit of a light bulb moment for me. I have been throwing together dress up for their dolls, linked with whatever culture we were studying. Funnily enough, both girls enjoy imaginative play with dolls. They can’t wait for each set of clothes to be ready, and are always at my shoulder checking up on the progress.

Stonehenge Fashions

Last week I took it a bit further. We were learning about Abraham and his move to Egypt from Ur in Mesopotamia. As we were chatting about the lack of motorised vehicles to take them, and how they would have needed to travel by foot or by animal, I suddenly had the idea to create things for the dolls to demonstrate the history I was trying to teach.

I was blown away by how successful this actually was, and the amount of input and reflection I had from the girls. This was a great way to learn, and, on account of the smaller size of the doll, it was much quicker and cheaper to make clothes and accessories!

Anyway, back to Abraham and his traveling. In the olden days, during old testament times, travelers would have needed to travel with their house, their clothes, their beds, their table, their food… well you get the idea

So after making some travelling clothes for Abraham and Sarah, we turned our attention to making a roll up bed, a bag come picnic table and a tent. Some were more successful than others. All helped the girls to learn something about travel back in Biblical times.

Roll-up Bed

Abigail was in charge of the roll up bed. First she measured out the size needed on some double thickness scraps of felt:

Then cut the two rectangles:

Abs began sewing up all the sides bar a small area for stuffing:

Once she had finished, she turned it the right way in and stuffed it. We didn’t have any dried grass, so we used the stuffing from an old pillow:

Here is the bed:

and with Abraham trying it out!

We used some brown strips of felt to tie it up and to give it a holding strap:

Cool, eh?

Traveling Bag/Picnic Rug

Becca was in charge of making the travelling bag/picnic rug. We only had enough pink felt to use, so the colour wasn’t too authentic, but no matter. We used a needle and wool to create a fairly accurate circle. The circle needs to be larger than you think it is going to be:

She then folded it into quarters and snipped some triangles just inside the circumference for some rope to go in:

and threaded some cotton ribbon through it:

She then pulled both ends to create a bag of sorts:

We tied it to a stick:

Here is the rug in use:

The Tent

Flushed with the success of so many creative endeavors working so well, I bounced into making a tent for our dolls. I mean, how hard could it be? Five sticks, some cord and a piece of cloth. Simple, right? Uh, no, as it turns out it was harder than it first seemed. Yet, in a way, this was where the most learning took place; let’s face it, putting up a full sized tent would have been much harder than the teeny tiny one I was feebly attempting to erect!

I began by trying to attempt to attach the sticks with some rope. Here I failed. So I bought me some gaffa tape and tried again:

In this, I had some success. And by success, I mean the five sticks stood up (albeit using the walls to stabilise). However, once the material was added, it all fell down in a heap:

Hmm. I tried and I tried. The girls helped. We all failed miserably. But that was when Abs wondered out loud that it must have been a really hard thing to do back in Biblical times, if we were struggling with five twigs and a piece of material! Yup, she had a point. I wasn’t going to be defeated by a tent. I was in the 21st century, and that meant I also had a daughter with a laptop table, which looked like a ready made tent. I grabbed a thick piece of wood, attached it to the wall and moved the table in front of it. Finally I threw a table cloth over it all, pulled up some of it to make a door, and voila, a tent:

We added the bed roll, and the picnic rug:

Whilst I was fighting with the tent, the girls were making some bowls, cups and plasticene food:

The girls learnt loads and had hours and hours of fun:

Great fun and educational too!

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