• Jennifer Sartell

Homeschool: Early American Peg Dolls for Independence Day


I love using peg dolls in our homeschool! Especially for history. It gives my daughter a historical character that she can interact with. She can play out the scenes from history and get familiar with the historical figures on a very personal level. George Washington is no longer just a name in a book, but a character who rides Schleich horses into the Battle of Trenton and crosses the Delaware in a Lego boat.





You can make peg dolls for your children to play with, or better yet, involve your kids in the creation process! Peg dolls can be as simple or as complicated as you like. They all start with a blank wooden doll-shaped form that's ready for creative expression!





While I am writing this, my daughter just brought Benjamin Franklin to me and a stack of small pieces of paper that she had cut. She remembered that Mr. Franklin owned a printing press and thought we should add that to his accessories.

Benjamin Franklin with Kite

There's also a LOT of learning that goes in to making peg dolls. To make these figures, we researched clothing of the period. We learned about tri-corn hats (which we re-created with a pom pom and a circle of felt.) We learned about waistcoats, knee breeches, and knickers. We learned about the wool that the clothing was made of. We also learned about the wigs that were worn during the colonial times.



George Washington


There's also learning in the painting, cutting, gluing, sewing, measuring and coming up with ideas to make John Hancock's side curls, (brown pipe cleaners) or Benjamin Franklin's bi-focals. (gold wire pulled from Christmas ribbon). There's a lot of engineering involved too. How to make a hat, how to get the arms to hold the fife and drum. We made Betsy Ross' first flag too big and it didn't fit in her arm span.



Betsy Ross


When we do a history unit, I try to really immerse Evelyn in that culture. While making the fife and drum dolls, we listened to fife and drum music, which led to John Phillip Sousa marches and on to who wrote the Star Spangled Banner. I love this kind of learning, where one thing leads to another and natural curiosity leads us down an organic research path.



Revolutionary Period Fife and Drum Marching Band


We also utilize our local library and read LOTS of books on our subject. I had this amazing Benjamin Franklin pop-up book as a child, and I've passed it down to Evelyn, I was so happy to see that you can still get a copy on Amazon! (The Remarkable Mr. Franklin by Benjamin Whitley) We also watched the 1953 Silly Symphony cartoon Ben and Me about the story of Benjamin Franklin told through the eyes of a mouse.







We also studied the painting and artist who painted Washington Crossing the Delaware. It was my daughter's idea to use the Lego oars, which then got the Lego men involved from the pirate ship collection.



Washington Crossing the Delaware, Peg Doll and Lego, 2022


Washington Crossing the Delaware, Emanuel Leutze, 1851

It's hard to give specific instructions on how to make these exact peg dolls. It would be silly to send you out to get the same felt, pom poms, pipe cleaners etc. because a whole section of the creative process would be spoiled. Instead, I encourage you to go to your local craft store (or even Dollar Store) and pick up a few basic supplies. You can make your dolls as simple or as detailed as you like. I've seen some beautiful peg dolls that are just painted with acrylic paint, and they work amazing!



John Hancock with Declaration of Independence and Quill


But most importantly, know that you DON"T have to be an artist to make peg dolls. My daughter is 5 and made this doll (below) all by herself. It's clearly Abraham Lincoln. if a 5-year-old can make Lincoln, you and your kids can make peg dolls too!





Below is a good basic list of supplies:


The blank wooden peg dolls (My favorite are the dolls from Michael's Craft Store, but you can get more for less money on Amazon)

Acrylic paint (basic colors: red, yellow, blue, black, white)

pipe cleaners (for arms)

small wooden beads (for hands)

soft felt (for clothing)

yarn or wool (for hair)

low temp glue gun

glue sticks

scissors

paint brushes

drill with 1/16" drill bit (to make the arm holes)


You can make a lot of peg dolls with this short list of supplies. I plan on writing a "Basic Peg Doll" post soon. My best advice is to lay down some newspaper and all of the supplies in front of your kids and let them create! I think you'll have a lot of fun and be surprised at what kind of character's your kids come up with.



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