The tales of the original mountain men who called the rugged terrain of the United States home throughout portions of the 19th century are now stuff of legend. Teach children about this fascinating chapter of hunting, trapping and survival in America's history by planning enjoyable and educational games and activities.
1. Animal Scavenger Hunt
Teach children about the types of animals mountain men subsisted on by planning an animal scavenger hunt. Create a list of animals mountain men commonly consumed, processed or tanned, such as including bison, beaver, elk and deer. Escort the children to an animal preserve or zoo and hand each a list. Search the zoo for the animals on the list and instruct the kids to mark them off once discovered. Once an animal is found, discuss why it was vital to the mountain man's survival. For example, the mountain men used beaver pelts for clothing and trade. Elks provided meat and hide that the mountain men either used themselves or traded for other goods.
2. Trapping and Trading
Teach the children about the vital role trapping and trading played in a mountain man's life. Divide the kids into teams of two, three or four participants, depending on the group's size. Designate half the teams as “mountain men” and give them slips of paper featuring items often trapped and processed, including beaver pelts, elk meat or squirrel meat. Designate the remaining teams as representatives of trading companies, and provide them with slips of paper featuring objects mountain men needed to survive, such as “tools” and “weapons.” Instruct each team to acquire a certain number of pelt slips, meat slips, tool slips and weapons. Allow the kids to trade slips with one another until all have enough slips to survive the winter.
3. Constructing Log Cabins
Lead the children through the process of constructing the cabins mountain men required to survive the winter, only on a much smaller scale. Hide boxes filled with a wooden toy log cabin tips in the woods. Divide the children into teams and provide each a map into the woods. The map leads the kids to the toy log cabin kit, which they must build in a set amount of time, such as 30 minutes. The team that's able to find the log cabin kit and build it successfully are the winners.
4. Campfire Tales
Telling tales around the campfire is one of the ways mountain men entertained one another during cold winter nights. Encourage the kids to create their own tale of mountain men around the campfire. Instruct one child to begin the tale by giving the mountain man a name and back story. For instance, the mountain man's name is James and he moved from France to the United States to trap beavers. Instruct the next child to continue the story for one minute. The story continues until each child has added to the mountain man's tale. Ask one adult to complete the tale, and give the mountain man story a happy ending.