Fun literature activities and lesson planning for teaching kids LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS by Laura Ingalls Wilder - LitWits Workshops - activity - prop

Big Woods: Chopped!

Who’s got the decorating flair of Martha Stewart, the cooking chops of Bobby Flay, and the survival instincts of Bear Grylls? Ma Ingalls, that’s who. We’re pretty sure that no one on the DIY Network could even hold a candle (or a lantern) to her inimitable homemaking skills. In Little House in the Big Woods, she does an impressive job making the most of little — remember hog-slaughtering day? She literally uses that pig from head to tail! She’s also got a knack for making ordinary things quite special with things like carrot juice and red flannel (!).  So, we thought, what better way to get in her little calfskin boots than with a Big Woods “cooking” competition, making the most of strange  ingredients?  Little House in the Big Woods just screamed “CHOPPED!” to us (or was that the Big Woods themselves?)

This fast-thinking activity got kids using their imaginations, working as a team, and seeing potential in the ordinary. Here’s how you and your kids can do it, too!


The LitWits Kit for LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS by Laura Ingalls Wilder - LitWits WorkshopsSUPPLIES

  • metal pan lid
  • two baskets and cloths to cover them
  • two jars or snack bags of cloves
  • two apples
  • two snack bags of cracklins
  • two jars of maple syrup (add an antique label if you like)
  • recipe/illustration form, 1 per team + pencils



  1. Tell the kids that Ma’s use of everything (and making the most of it) reminds you of the cooking show ChoppedExplain the show’s concept to the kids:  chefs compete to make a fabulous dish from four weird ingredients in just a few minutes, and the dish that the judges like least gets “chopped” (that chef is eliminated).  Tell them they get to compete in Ma Ingalls’ version!
  2. Divide the kids into two teams (or more — it’s fine to all share one basket, since there won’t be any actual cooking; for that matter, each child could participate individually. Whatever works for you!) Place a covered basket in front of each. Tell them that at your signal they’ll whisk off the cover and huddle to brainstorm a dish (we told our kids they could huddle anywhere in the room). They’ll write down the recipe and draw a picture of the completed dish, as imagined. They can add up to five new ingredients, but they must “use” all four in the basket.
  3. Ask each team to choose a book-appropriate name (Wild Wolves? Stinging Wasps? Big Bears?), a recipe writer, and an illustrator.

The LitWits Kit for LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS by Laura Ingalls Wilder - LitWits WorkshopsDIRECTIONS

  1. Say “Chefs, open your baskets!” and watch the fun begin!  You can play some of Pa’s fiddle music (you can purchase the official collection) to keep the mood festive.
  2. After 20 minutes (or however much time you allow), countdown from 10 and say “Hands up! Step back, chefs!” Then ask each team to present their recipe and show their illustration. Give lots of serious judge-like responses to each dish. Pretend to confer with other judges (you can just turn your head and mumble “confer confer confer”), then turn back to the kids and say “We have reached a decision!”
  3. Collect the recipes and put them under a pan lid. Say “Whose dish has been chopped?” and lift the lid, which reveals — nothing, because you have yanked all the recipes away as you lifted the lid, and hidden them behind your back. No one is chopped! It’s a tie! Everyone’s a winner! Pass out maple sugar, one bite of which is easily worth $10,000.


To see the rest of our Little House fun just click here!  For now, anyone can have full access – no registration required or anything. Go check it out, and get a sense for what our kits are like. Nothing this exciting and helpful has come around since Pa rented that new-fangled threshing machine! And visit our store for LitWits Kits for other great books.

Becky Kimball

  • Harrow Strickland

    December 29, 2017 at 7:09 am Reply

    I am absolutely in LOVE with your site and your concepts! Bought the Witch of BBPond unit to use in my classroom. We read it every year. I discovered the unit on Pinterest a little late in the process of our reading, and was only able to implement the Dilemmas activity, but will definitely be using it all next year (especially blueberry cake!) with my 5th graders. I don’t teach Litte House in the Big Woods (I do LHotPrairie), but the Chopped concept is RIGHT up my alley!! Just wanted to say thanks for all you do!

    • Jenny Walicek

      December 29, 2017 at 10:04 am Reply

      Harrow, you’ve just made our day — what a heartwarming “first response”! Thank YOU, not just for these kind comments but for the extra effort you put in to make literature appealing and memorable. We truly believe that teachers like you, who help kids see the value in great books, are changing the world for the better. Thank you for letting us know that the ideas and materials we worked so hard on are helping you!

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