Children taste pioneer life for an hour at museum

There were no cell phones or handheld gaming devices on the Oregon Trail, but pioneer children still managed to find ways to entertain themselves. An upcoming program at the Washington County Museum will introduce modern kids to historic games and activities that were common among children of the West's early settlers.

The program, called “Pioneer Play!,” is part of the museum's summer-long, weekly educational series for children. “Pioneer Play!” runs from 1 to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, July 31, at the downtown Hillsboro museum.

“The games are fun and challenging in their own way,” said Beth Dehn, Education and Folklife Coordinator at the Washington County Museum. “They really get the kids thinking.”

The notion that kids today only want to play videogames is a negative stereotype, she said.

“They have just as much fun trying to catch a ball in a cup,” said Dehn, describing another pioneer game.

In addition to being fun, the activities planned for “Pioneer Play!” are designed to help participants learn more about pioneer life. Candle making is always a popular activity, as children take turns dipping a wick into paraffin wax, eventually building up a candle they get to take home.

Another popular activity is quill writing, which forces children to abandon their keypads for a feather pen and ink well. Participants also learn about how to pack a wagon, and get to try their hand at a few Victorian games.

The activities in “Pioneer Play!” are based on the history in the “Washington County in a Nutshell” exhibit currently on display at the museum. They are designed for children age 8 to 12, but the whole family is invited to participate.

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