This week for our preschool storytimes, Casey and I teamed up with the Iowa City Parks & Rec department to explore stories, games, crafts, and even chores common during the time of the pioneers. Despite the heat and humidity and bug bites, the kids enjoyed learning about the history of the cabins on Wednesday. On Thursday, we were rained out. Sigh. But, kids still enjoyed books, songs and games, as well as building our own indoor cabins with Lincoln logs.
First we did a quick tour of the log cabins. Justin from the Parks Dept. was our resident expert, and he explained that the City Park log cabins are examples of log building forms and sizes that were commonly used in Johnson County and Iowa City prior to Iowa statehood. The Double Log Cabin was built in its current location in 1913 in Upper City Park and the Single-Room Log Cabin, which was originally built in 1889 at the Johnson County Fairgrounds, was moved to Upper City Park in 1918.
The kids were able to look around the outside if the cabins and peek inside the windows, but Justin explained that in the near future, within 2 years, the cabins will be restored to their original glory, and visitors will be able to tour the inside and see how pioneers in Iowa lived. With the cabins’ recent listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the city has allocated capital project funding for immediate restoration of the foundation, roof, logs and interior.
For storytime, we read three books that captured the spirit of the pioneers. Mrs. McNosh Hangs Up Her Wash by Sarah Weeks is a silly story about a woman who gets a little carried away hanging her wash. We talked about how a lot of time as a pioneer was spent taking care of farm animals, and shared the lift-the-flap book Peek-a-Moo by Marie Torres Cimarusti. Our last selection was a Laura Ingalls Wilder picture book called My Little House 1-2-3 in which Laura counts objects found on the frontier and in the pioneer life of her family. We also played several rounds of “Find the Button,” sang “Ring around the Rosie,” and used our egg shakers to sing about a chicken who lays eggs called “I Know a Chicken.”
After storytime was over, the families that attended had lots of options for activities to supplement their exploration of pioneer life. The Parks Dept. brought potato sacks for races, yarn to make yarn dolls, wooden stilts, and hoops and sticks for the traditional children’s game Hoop Rolling.
Nancy brought a wash bin, washboard and clothes for children to experience pre-washing machine laundry day, as well as rugs and sticks to beat out the dust. Overall the families, librarians, and Parks crew really enjoyed the steamy morning of simpler times. And now the community has the restoration of the log cabins to look forward to in the near future!