Great Colonial American Projects You Can Build Yourself
by Kris Bordessa

There’s a lot of fun to be had with Great Colonial America Projects You Can Build Yourself, for both children and adults. There’s history turned into story and sharing, so that even if, maybe especially if, history was never your best subject, you and your kids will come away with stories of your own to share.

Author Kris Bordessa starts out with a short, engaging introduction to the times and people, and then gets right into projects, starting with several to do with Native Americans. She shows how to make your own wampum, for example, in a six step easy to follow project, and through stories, tales, and illustrations lets you in on how and why the natives tribes did so. All through the book, both projects and narrative sections are enhanced by clear illustrations, and the narrative text comes in short sections — no heavy history tome here. There are also sidebars on famous colonists and words to know, and plenty of maps and drawings to make the well organized text come alive. The section on life in a colonial home includes projects on making your own bricks, and dipping your own candles, what kinds of beds colonial children slept on and what thy felt like, and making your own broom to keep the house clean. Colonial clothing and accessories come in for their own section, with projects all the way from making your own yarn and dyes to making a tricorn hat and making a small loom from an oatmeal box. Bordessa then moves things outside, showing you colonial crops, what farm animals the colonists kept, and getting you inot things with make it yourself projects for cider, applesauce, and johnnycake.

Did you know that the fire alarm in a colonial town was most often a rattle? Bordessa explains this and shows how to make your own, in a chapter that covers life in a colonial town. Trades, craftspeople, weather, and other parts of town life in early America are also covered, and then there’s a chapter on colonial communication. It wasn’t the internet or even the daily paper. But there was a lot of communication going on, through letters — you get pointers on this, and a chance to try your hand — ciphers, and codes, early printing presses, and books. You get to delve into all of these subjects on the way to the last chapter, Colonial Kids, where you learn how to make your own marbles, your own whirligig, and your own hornbook. There’s a glossary of terms, a list of useful books and web sites, and an index at the back of the book, too. Most of the projects are ones which an eight to twelve year old would enjoy, and could do with a bit of help or supervision for an adult or older brother or sister. Younger children and older ones could join in on projects the family does together, and many of the projects here would work for that. The stories and sidebars are well presented and engaging, too, so you’ll have fun and learn a lot about colonial life just by reading through and deciding what activities to do. If you’re looking for new ways to spend time with your kids this fall season — or really any season — Great Colonial America Projects You Build Yourself is both a good resource and an engaging read .

Kerry Dexter is a contributing writer at the folk and world music magazine Dirty Linen. and the former folk music editor at She also writes about music, the arts, and creative practice at the award winning blogMusic Road, and her work has appeared in Symphony, Strings, Acoustic Guitar, and other publications.

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