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Weave Story, History, and Delight: Making Baskets

In an earlier post, we explained how books can spark great ideas and actions. The Boxcar Children series has proven that true for us. A couple months ago, I started reading this series to my kids. They aren’t able to read chapter books on their own yet, but they are ready for more in-depth plots and character development. In short, they are loving their personal Audible powered by Mom. But this post isn’t just about reading aloud. It’s about recognizing what kids find fascinating during story time, and then making the words on the page come to life. We’ve found that this motivates kids to dive back into good books.

One such story time which really fascinated and engaged my kids: The Yellow House Mystery. The third book of The Boxcar Children series, The Yellow House Mystery tells the story of the Alden family children who embark on an extended camping expedition in Maine with their older cousins. At one point in the journey, the children meet a beautiful Native American (referred to as “Indian” in the text; it was published in 1953) who is weaving a basket. The kids are amazed at her skill and want to learn how to weave baskets, too. As she teaches them, they suddenly realize their youngest brother had wandered off and went missing in the woods. They rely on the knowledge and calm strength of their Native American guide to show them his most likely path astray. After following footsteps and other clues to his whereabouts, they are finally reunited. The kids are grateful for their newfound friend, and recognize how she went from being a friendly artist to wise rescuer.

My kids love all of the mysteries and adventures in The Boxcar Children series, but this story particularly piqued their interest. Intrigued by the Alden kids’ amazement over basket weaving, they begged to make baskets just like the Native American woman. That was my cue: “fascination” and “bringing words to life.” Adding to the excitement of seeing my kids engaged, I saw basket weaving as a wonderful opportunity to teach them a foundational layer in European settler and Native American relations.

So we hunted online and found these kid-friendly basket weaving kits. Two days later, we were following in the footsteps (er, finger steps?) of the Boxcars kids’ Native American basket weaver. This “craftivity” provided a fun fine motor exercise, as well as a tangible representation of a story we read. It now serves as a “catch-all” for those random little trinkets that kids inevitably collect .

Unlike the pejorative phrase “underwater basket weaving” (referring to supposedly silly college classes), basket weaving above water is a worthy challenge for little and big fingers alike! So join your little ones as they attempt the task. If they get frustrated or lose their “zigzag,” let them know you’re learning together and leaning on each other’s strengths, like “E Pluribus Unum”! We figured it out. We know you can too!

Note: While this story and craft represents an uplifting subset within the Native American and European settler relationship, it does not make the important distinction of tribe nor does it address the stained history of those relationships. This is not whitewashing; this is intentional. We at Primerrily take the approach of laying a basic foundation before layering on complexities that are best introduced at more cognitively developed ages. Parents will know best when their kids are ready for those talks. Someday, we will talk about the thousands of Native American tribes that existed, as well as the partnerships with and betrayals of European settlers, eventually leading up to the Trail of Tears. But not today. Today, we will work to lay the constructive foundation on which these other challenging truths can settle.


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