March 17, 2023
Pony Express, California Gold Rush, & Transcontintal Railroad for Kids

Pony Express, California Gold Rush, & Transcontintal Railroad for Kids

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Kids will have fun learning about the westward expansion for kids in this hands-on american history for kids! Start off by learning about the pony express for kids, try panning for gold as you discuss the gold rush for kids, explore the transcontinental railroad with a fun activity, and so much more with this fun history lesson that includes not only history activities to make the lessons memorable, but free history worksheets too! This week 3 of our Westward Expansion Unit is fun for pre-k, kindergarten, first grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, and 4th graders.

Westward Expansion Unit

Westward expansion for kids

This is our 3rd and final week of our Westward Expansion for Kids lesson on American History from 1783-1898.  This fun history lesson for kids is filled with lots of creative ideas for teaching kids about american history. Learn about the pony express for kids– our first post office. Then learn about the transcontinental railroad for kids with a fun, hands-on activity. Finally learn about the gold rush for kids as you talk about gold fever and the California Gold Rush with a fun panning for gold activity. This wild west history for kids is fun for preschoolers, kindergartners, grade 1, grade 2, grade 3, and grade 4 students! Whether you are a parent, teacher, or homeschooler – these fun history activities are perfect for at home, in the classroom, or as a supplement to your homeschool history lessons!

Gold Rush, Ghost Towns, Transcontinental Railroad and Westward Expansion Books

Explore this fascinating time period with these fun-to-read and engaging books for kids of all ages!

First pony express station

Pony Express Activities

We started out by learning about the Pony Express (see books above) and how it carried mail to the west coast during a crucial time in American History – right before the Civil War. It cost $5 for 1/2 an ounce so it wasn’t cheap! Mail took about 10 1/2 days to get from Missouri to California. With the expansion of telegraph lines, the Pony Express was no longer an effective means for delivering mail. The Pony Express was only used for 18 months.

We also were able to take a fieldtrip to see an original Pony Express Station in Gothenburg, NE. I love that homeschooling allows us to take extended fieldtrips off peak season when crowds and prices are down!

hands-on activities and west ward expansion printables and worksheets

Westward Expansion Worksheets

We drew pictures and wrote the last couple pages to his Westward Expansion Book (this is a FREE printable included in Westward Expansion). I may be a little partial, but I thought his drawing came out AMAZINGLY well for a 1st grader!! I am really impressed with the Draw Write Now series.

panning for godl activity in kiddie pool

Gold Rush for Kids

First we learning about the discover of gold by James Marshall on January 24, 1848 in California. We read how people flocked to California anyway they could (land, seas, or river) to try to get a share of the finds. Then we went panning for gold ourselves! I used the brown rice & gold fusion beads from our sensory box and dumped them in our pool. I added some water so they could feel like they were panning in a river/stream too! It had a nice side effect – the brown rice made the water cloudy – even better!! The kids used a dish to scope up the contents and try to sort through the rice (representing rocks/gravel) to find the gold. They had SO much fun!

learning about the first transcontinental railroad in us history during westward expansion

Transcontinental Railroad for Kids

We also learned how the railroad expanded between 1863-1869 to connect the Eastern United States with the west to form the First Transcontinental Railroad.  Once the railroad was completed, it slowly ended the more hazardous stagecoach and wagon caravans. The telegraph lines were actually laid on the railroad right of way as the track was being laid.

There is so much more to the wild west than just cowboys, Indians, covered wagons, and dust bowls. See the rest of our westward expansion activities with everything you need to make history come alive for your elementary age kids! See the rest of our unit here:

  • Lewis and clark for kids – Start out the way with wild west did with the journey of Louis and Clark after the Lousiana Purchase in 1803.
  • Oregon Trail for Kids – learn about the dangerous Oregon Trail and make a salt dough map, covered wagon model, and learn how hard life was for settlers traveling west.
  • Pony Express for Kids plus the gold rush and first transcontinental rail road are just a few of the fun topics explores in this final week of our wild west for kids unit!
  • Free Wild West Worksheets – over 70 pages of math and liteacy skills for kids 2-7 years old with a fun cowboy theme! Perfect to do alongside this history lesson and to keep younger siblings engaged at the same time
  • Oregon Trail Skip Counting Game allows children to practice skip counting with a fun themed activity
  • Westward Expansion Flip Book
  • Dig in to history with this engaging, Wild West History Sensory Bin ideas
  • Geography is Fun with a Salt Dough Map – learn about US geography and features as you mark the path the westward travelers too
  • Westward Expansion for Kids Book to read, color, and learn!

History for Kids

Check out one of or MANY engaging, Free history lessons for kids or go to American History for kids including lots of fun, hands on activities, blank timeline template, and lots more printables. Plus don’t miss historical fiction books for kids arranged in chronological order or Digging into World History Curriculum for the whole family to learn together!

History Lessons for Kids

Check out one of or MANY engaging, Free history lessons for kids

History for Kids

Check out one of or MANY engaging, Free history lessons for kids or go to American History for kids including lots of fun, hands on activities, blank timeline template, and lots more printables. Plus don’t miss historical fiction books for kids arranged in chronological order or Digging into World History Curriculum for the whole family to learn together!



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