Expensive, complicated projects that require a lot of prep work or cost a lot of money are hard for me. So I’ve composed a list of fast, easy, fun, yet fairly inexpensive activities to do after each chapter of the book. Some take a little bit of preparation, so read through before beginning.
We like to read the chapter in the evening, and then do the extension activity the next day. But of course you can schedule them any way you'd like and pick and choose which ones to complete.
TIP: Many families enjoy audio books, but I would skip the audio version of The Boxcar Children. The free versions are usually of an older edition of the book, which contains sensitive issues removed from the later edition used by Sonlight.
Chapter 1. The Four Hungry Children
- Visit a grocery store or bakery. Compare various types of bread and discuss the nutritional value of various bakery items.
- Try a few different types of bread. Compare flavors and styles. Rate each to see which your family prefers.
Chapter 2. Night is Turned into Day
- Visit a water fountain.
- Take a moonlit walk.
- Show your children street signs and how to follow the signs home.
- Create a different place to sleep, like the haystack in the story. Try a tent or sleeping outdoors. My girls liked making a blanket pile inside and covering it with sheets to hide under.
Chapter 3. A New Home in the Woods
Although you probably don't have any empty boxcars laying around, you can still have fun by pretending.
- Get a large box to serve as a boxcar and a few toys to represent the children.
- If you have a lot of LEGO bricks, you can build a boxcar out of them. If older siblings are around, they might enjoying adding fine details to make it more realistic. Add mini-figures for each child.
- Drive past a train station. Point out different train cars (you don’t have to know them all). Some basic car types are flatcars, tank cars, livestock cars, engines, cabooses, and the boxcar.
- Visit a train museum, or take a train tour or ride, if available.
Chapter 4. Henry Has Two Surprises
- Discuss animal safety, (never touching a dog while eating, not distracting a service dog, dog allergies, etc). Visit a kennel or pound to see dog types.
- Add a toy dog to your boxcar.
- Go blueberry picking. If that won’t work, get berries from a farmer’s market or store.
- Make blueberries and cream. Enjoy with fresh bread, hard cheese, and milk.
- Explore pine trees. Compare fresh and dry needles.
- Use paper strips or LEGO blocks to make a bed in your boxcar.
Chapter 5. The Explorers Find Treasure
- Taking a trip to a dump didn’t seem very safe for my girls, so we took a trip to a second-hand thrift store instead. We found two household items that would liven up our home. And each girl chose one inexpensive item (like Benny did with his pink cup) and one book.
- Add dishes to your boxcar. A toy tea set, or paper dishes work well.
- Allow your children to help wash dishes after a meal. Even if they aren’t perfectly washed, it’s a good life skill to practice.
Chapter 6. A Queer Noise in the Night
- Henry needed to work to earn money, but we decided to work to help others. I asked each of my girls to come up with one way we can help a neighbor. One girl suggested we help an elderly neighbor unload groceries (she was just returning from the store) and the other suggested we make the same neighbor cookies. We did both.
- The cookies were an extension already, so we sat down and enjoyed freshly baked cookies and milk, just like Benny.
- For a different snack later, we had bread, butter, and jerky. After our meal, we practiced cleaning up.
- Lacing cards and activities can be used to pretend to hem tablecloths, like Violet did.
- Making brooms from sticks isn’t something I’m skilled at, but we do have one for sweeping our yard and cleaning outside. We practiced sweeping—both outside and inside—along with mopping, vacuuming, and squeegeeing.
- Henry helped the doctor wash his car. Your children can try helping an adult wash a car. Or if you’re like me, and that seems like more work than you want (or the weather isn’t cooperating), you can drive through a car wash.
Chapter 7. A Big Meal from Little Onions
- Practice gardening, weeding, or thinning vegetables. If you have no garden, perhaps a neighbor would allow you to help in exchange for a few vegetables to make soup with.
- Gardening isn’t really my thing, so we went to a farmer’s market and I had my girls look choose some vegetables. We brought them home and washed them.
- Make vegetable soup. You can use your favorite recipe, or use the basic recipe in the book with your own modifications for flavor. We don’t like onions or turnips, so we made lentil and vegetable soup. If you aren’t interested in making homemade soup, a can or two of vegetable soup, along with a few vegetables to chop up and add in, are more than sufficient. You can make your soup on the stove, or over a grill or fire. We served ours with thickly sliced French bread, popped in the oven until crisp and crusty.
- Organize a garage (or other area in need of some attention) like Henry did.
Chapter 8. A Swimming Pool at Last
- Most people don’t have a convenient brook to transform into a pool. But we were still able to have fun by pulling out a kiddie pool and letting the girls splash around. In colder weather, a bathtub will suffice.
- Try washing a light item of clothing, like a sock, by hand with your children and then hanging it to dry.
- The boxcar children made a meal of eggs scrambled in butter, with bread and milk. You might enjoy this. For a bit of extra fun, check your area to see if any hens lay different colored eggs. We had a neighbor who sold eggs from a rainbow chicken.
Chapter 9. Fun in the Cherry Orchard
- If you can, try cherry picking. It’s a fun activity with a treat you can take home.
- Eat cherries. You can try different varieties or have cherries with cream or ice cream.
- Mrs. Moore and Mary served cherry dumplings. Make your own cherry dumplings or buy dumplings. My girls weren’t as fond of cherries as I had predicted, so we had apple dumplings instead.
Chapter 10. Henry and the Free-For-All
- Have a race day with your own family or invite friends or neighbors to participate. For fun races, this is a good place to start.
- Make a book like Benny’s. If your child’s isn’t reading yet, make a book with their name and few words that would be important them and let them draw pictures. If they are reading and writing, they can make their own book, or you can write words for them to copy. A stapler and a few pieces of paper are all you need.
- Eat baked potatoes (made either in a fire or in an oven) with toppings of your choice. The boxcar children blackened theirs in fire, then added butter and salt and served with milk.
The Doctor Takes a Hand
- Make a toy bear. You can use a stocking or a kit, depending on the level of crafting you want to attempt. I took the easy way out and purchased each girl a stuffed bear from the dollar store. Have your child name the bear.
- Trim your child’s hair if it’s time.
- Talk about scissors safety: things they should and shouldn’t cut, not running with scissors, not throwing them, etc.
- Violet gets very sick in this chapter, and they need to get an adult to help. This is a good time to discuss what to do if someone is hurt, sick, or abused. You can talk about ways they can help someone feel better (getting a cold compress for them, playing quietly, etc.), and how to call 911 in an emergency (and only an emergency). Practice the steps to unlocking and dialing a phone and using the emergency button.
James Henry and Henry James
- The Boxcar Children meet their grandfather and get to know him. This would be a good time for your child to interview a grandparent, asking for stories about their childhood and things they learned growing up. For a fun memory, you can record this conversation as a keepsake. If you don’t have grandparents available, interview another adult such as an aunt, uncle, family friend, or neighbor.
A New Home for the Boxcar
- The boxcar children found personalized bedrooms waiting for them. Your children can make pictures designing their own rooms for themselves or the boxcar children.
- Go shopping together and purchase something small to decorate their rooms.
After the Story
The Boxcar Children Movie stays close to the story line and is fun to watch. It’s sweet and safe for most young children. The Boxcar Children has many, many sequels. The first 19 are by the original author, and more than 100 other books have been added after that.