Cowboys and Cowgirls

Round up your little cowpokes and have a rootin’ tootin’ good time with this wild west inspired Theme Day.   These activities will suit any kid who likes horses or dressing up as a cowboy or cowgirl.  Also, if you are planning a family vacation that involves horseback riding or visiting a ranch or rodeo you may want to try this Theme Day. We had this Theme Day prior to a day trip that involved a train ride with an organized re-enactment of a train robbery!  Gather ‘round your little buckaroos and enjoy!

Print out the Family Theme Day Planner and decide which activities you’d like to do and in what order.



If your child owns a cowboy hat or boots today would be a good day to wear these items.  For a simple costume tie a bandana around each family member’s neck.



For a Children’s song try “Cowboy’s Dream” which is sung to the tune of “My Bonny.”  Click here for the lyrics and to hear the tune:

Another good cowboy song is “Home Home on the Range.”  Check here for lyrics:

You could also choose your favourite country western song for this theme day.

Try Bruce Springsteen’s “Ponyboy” for another cowboy song.

One of my favourite western themed songs is Bon Jovi’s “Blaze of Glory” (“Wanted Dead or Alive” would work, too).



If your child happens to own a harmonica see who in your family can play the best lonesome cowboy tune.




You can find many free coloring pages online by using your favourite search engine and typing in Cowboy Coloring Pages or print out my  “Howdy Partner!” Coloring Page.



Write out one or more of the following questions in your Family Theme Day Scrapbook or on a piece of paper to glue in your scrapbook:  What was the wild west like?  Would you have liked to live in that time?  What do real cowboys and cowgirls do?  What would it be like to work on a ranch?

 Choose the level of your child:

¨     Toddler – discuss the answer(s) out loud first and have your child draw a picture of the answer

¨     Preschooler/Kindergartener – discuss the answer(s) out loud first and write the answer down for him/her leaving one word for him/her to write out himself/herself with your help. You could also encourage him/her to draw a picture as well.

¨     Early Grade School – have your child either write out the answer himself/herself (encourage phonetic spelling) without your help, or offer to help with spelling each word out loud one word at a time.

¨     Grade School – have your child write a sentence or two on his/her own and then read over and discuss the response.  (You decide whether to correct the spelling or not)

¨     Older Child – have your child write a longer response (paragraph).

¨     As A Challenge – instead of a question ask your older child to write a story or a poem about Cowboys or Cowgirls or the Wild West.


Cowboy Poetry is a real genre developed around  cowboy’s campfires.  For basic information on Cowboy Poetry try here: .  Encourage your little poets to write a simple poem based on Cowboy life.  You cold wait until the Theme Day is complete to give your poets further inspiration.



Print out a Cowboys and Cowgirls Word Search:

Easy Cowboys and Cowgirls Word Search or Difficult Cowboys and Cowgirls Word Search.

Check here for the answer keys:

 Easy Cowboys and Cowgirls Word Search Key or Difficult Cowboys and Cowgirls Word Search Key.



Raid your child’s bookshelves to find any books with cowboys or cowgirls in them.


Go to the library with your child to find some books about cowboys and cowgirls.


Go to the library on your own to find books about cowboys from both fiction and nonfiction to have already on hand for your theme day.  Many libraries allow you to go online and search for titles based on subject (Search for “Cowboys” under “Children’s Books”).  Reserve them if you can to save time.


Try to find some of these nonfiction/learning titles:


· Cowboy Cooking: Exploring History Through Simple Recipes, by Mary Gunderson, Blue Earth Books, 2000 – A great book with history, old photographs and recipes.


· Eyewitness: Cowboy, by David Murdoch, DK, 2000 – Like all Eyewitness Books this one has a lot of pictures and a lot of information making it perfect for older siblings who want details but also younger ones who just like the photographs.


· I Want to be a Cowboy, Firefly Books, 1999 – This is a beginner readers book with simple text and large photographs of horses, cowboys and life on a ranch.


· Home on the Range, by John A Lomax and His Cowboy Songs, by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by S.D. Schindler, G.P Putnam’s Sons, 2009 – The true song of John Avery Lomax and his dream to collect old cowboy tunes.


· Rodeo, by Robin Johnson, Crabtree Publishing Company, 2010 – Part of the Horsing Around Series, this book gives a thorough history of all things related to rodeos.


· Skillet Bread, Sourdough, and Vinegar Pie: Cooking in Pioneer Days, by Loretta Frances Ichord and illustrated by Jan Davey Ellis, the Millbrook Press, 2003 – An interesting read since it details the history of what pioneers ate on the trail, including recipes.


· A Visual Dictionary of the Old West, by Bobbie Kalman, Crabtree Publishing Company, 2008  - This is a good book with not an overwhelming amount of information but enough details to help your grade schooler learn a thing or two about the Old West.


· Yippee-Yah! A Book about Cowboys and Cowgirls, by Gail Gibbons, Little Brown and Company, 1998 – The watercolour illustrations and text of this book easily review all aspects of a cowboys lifestyle from clothing to duties.



Here are some picture books:


· Cowpokes, by Carolin Stutson and illustrated by Daniel San Souci, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 1999 – This rhyming book shows how busy cowboys are from dawn to dusk.


· Little Lost Cowboy, by Simon Puttock and illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church, Egmont, 2005 – Cowboy Coyote is lonesome and lost!  He follows the advice of the moon, a snake and a bird and nothing helps.  Will a little toad give him the right advice? This is such a sweet little story!


· A Night on the Range, by Aaron Frisch and illustrated by Chris Sheban, Creative Editions, 2010 – Cole is a 7 year old who really wants to be a cowboy when he grows up so he tries his hand at being one by sleeping under the stars. I love the illustrations in this book.


· Ride ‘Em Cowboy, by Stefan Czernecki, simply Read Books, 2004 – Playful and simply text matched with photographs of wooden toys make this a fun read for a cowboy Theme Day.


· Tiger’s New Boots, by Irene Morck and illustrated by Georgia Graham, Red Deer College Press, 1996—When Tiger gets his own pair of “real” cowboy boots for the annual cattle drive everyone, including Tiger, is too busy to notice them.


· Tornado Slim and the Magic Cowboy Hat, written and illustrated by Bryan Langdo, Marshall Cavendish Children, 2011 – This is a fun book about  a mysterious coyote who gives Tornado Slim a magic cowboy hat as payment for delivering a letter.


· A Wild Cowboy, by Dana Kessimakis Smith and illustrations by Laura Freeman, Hyperion Books for Children, 2004 – The rhyming text tells the story of a wild cowboy’s day but the illustrations show a boy and his brother using their imaginations!




Materials: Cardboard or construction paper, white glue, string (or you can also use buttons or foam stickers), clear tape, tin foil.

Step 1: Cut out cardboard or construction paper into two rectangles about the size of a large belt buckle.

Step 2: Tape the two pieces of construction paper together only along the top  and bottom (longer sides) of the rectangle.  The other two ends should be open leaving space for your child’s belt to loop through the paper!

Step 3: Using white glue have your child lay string , buttons, foam stickers etc. into a pattern.  The more texture and height the better.

Step 4:  Cut out a long piece of tin foil that is the width of the rectangle but is long enough to completely wrap the rectangle.

Step 5: Carefully wrap the tin foil around the rectangle—more than one layer is helpful.

Step 6:  Gently press the fin foil down so that the textured designs form on the tin foil.

Step 7: Tape and seams and let the buckle dry.

Step 8:  Loop your child’s belt through the rectangle and have him/her wear the belt.  Carefully slide the fancy designed belt buckle over the real buckle to hide it. Now have your child put on his/her cowboy hat and a plaid shirt and your child is  ready to ride the range!



Materials:  Construction paper (or recycle by using an old cereal or cracker box as we did), a star cookie cutter (or you can draw the star by hand but tracing is easier), a pencil, child safe scissors, markers or crayons, gold glitter, white glue, a safety pin (or you can by pins with sticker backings at a craft store), tape.


Step 1: Trace a star onto your construction paper using your star cookie cutter.

Step 2: Draw rounded tips on the star.

Step 3: Have your child (or help your little one) cut the star out.

Step 4: Have your child decorate the star using markers.

Step 5: Have your child apply white glue and then sprinkle gold glitter over the white glue.

Step 6:  Let the glue dry.

Step 7: Once it is dry you can attach a pin. Craft store pins with sticky backings are the easiest (but they don’t last long so I’d suggest apply white glue as well).  You could also use a regular large safety pin by gluing or taping an extra piece of construction paper cut into a small strip onto the back (only glue or tape the two ends).  Loop the safety pin through the strip of paper.

Step 8: Let your little cowboy wear the pin.  “Now, thars a new Sherfiff in these parts!”



Materials: A copy of my Wanted Notorious Outlaw Poster Printable, pencil, marker or crayons.


Step 1:  Have your child draw and colour a picture of his/her own made-up outlaw.




Materials: Water colour paints, white paper, black paper, green paper, black marker, paint brushes and a jar of water, old newspapers or plastic to protect your work space, art smock or old clothes, glue stick, child safe scissors.


Step 1: Talk to your child about the colours of a sunset.  You could also show him/her a picture of a sunset.  Then have your child use sunset colours to paint a piece of white paper.  (If you don’t have water colours or don’t want the mess you could always use crayons for a similar effect).

Step 2: Let the page dry.

Step 3: Meanwhile, have your child cut out some hills on a piece of black paper that fits over the white paper (you may have to trim so it will fit).

Step 4: Have your child draw a picture of a cactus or two on green paper (you may have to draw for younger kids).

Step 5: Have your child glue the black hills onto the bottom of the painted paper.

Step 6: Now have your child glue the cactus onto the hill.

Step 7:  Have your child draw prickles on the cactus using the black marker.

Step 8: Display or glue into your Family Theme Day Scrapbook.



Materials:  White paper, black marker, black paint, grey paper, white glue, silver glitter, paint brush, old newspapers or plastic to protect your work space, art smock or old clothes, glue stick, child safe scissors.


Step 1: You can show your child pictures of black spotted cows before you begin this craft.  Then have your child draw splotches onto the white paper using the black marker.  They don’t have to be perfect and they don’t have to be the same shape.  Encourage creativity! (My Youngest was very pleased that he added a “Harry Potter” lightning bolt to his cow pattern!)

Step 2: Have your child paint in the splotches using black paint.

Step 3: Have your child draw a horse shoe on the grey paper (you could show a picture to help them do this or draw it yourself.  I found that by folding the paper in half and drawing one half I could create a symmetrical horseshoe by cutting the folded paper together.  This appealed very much to my perfectionist Eldest Son).  NOTE: We didn’t have grey paper so I had my boys use grey paint to colour the horseshoes.

Step 4: Have your child decorate the horseshoe using paints, markers, stickers, etc. and then add some white glue and sprinkle silver glitter on top.

Step 5: Let the horseshoe and cow pattern dry and then glue the horseshoe to the other sheet.

Step 6: Display or glue into your Family Theme Day Scrapbook.



NOTE: Livestock branding is used to identify cattle.  Check here for some history:

Materials: Jar lid or bottle lid,  foam stickers, child safe scissors, red paint and paint brush, paper to cover work space, art smock or old clothes, white paper or coloured paper, pencil crayons or markers or crayons, glue stick.

Step 1: Brainstorm together as a family to create your own symbol to represent your family.  If you owned cattle this symbol would be your brand to mark which cows were yours!  We opted for a “W” for our last name “Wright” and thought  this symbol “^” could represent our house!

Step 2: Cut out foam stickers to create your symbol.  We found an alphabet sticker for the letter “W” and cut another sticker to create our “^”.  Stick these stickers to the top of your jar or bottle lid.

Step 3: Next, have your children draw a picture of a cow to brand.  My Youngest wanted to draw so he used a pencil and pencil crayons for his cow.   My Eldest decided to make a collage picture.  He cut out shapes to create an easy cow (medium oval for the head, large oval for the body,  two small ovals for the ears, two white horn shapes,  for rectangular strips for legs and a tail); he then glued the pieces to another sheet of coloured paper and added a strip of green that he fringed to create grass.   Lastly, he used a black marker to draw details like the cow’s nostrils and eyes.

Step 4: Dip your paint brush in red paint and paint the symbols on your jar lid.  Don’t over paint or it will be goopy. 

Step 5: Carefully press the jar lid, symbols facing down, onto the picture of the cow in order to brand it!

Step 6: Let the paint dry and then display the art or glue it into your Family Theme Day Scrapbook.




Cowboy Egg Pop-eye:

NOTE: I have always called this type of breakfast a “pop-eye” as that was the name my mom gave me when I was a child. Whatever, you may call it, this is a great egg breakfast for your kids!


Ingredients: Bread, a small cup, an egg,  relish, cheddar, small grape tomato or red pepper piece, spreadable margarine or butter.


Step 1: Put a frying pan onto your stove top on medium heat.

Step 2: Use the small cup as a cookie cut out and firmly press it onto the centre of your bread slice and then twist.  This will cut out a circle of bread from the slice.  Keep both pieces.

Step 3:  Spread butter or margarine onto the bottom of each piece of bread and place them butter down onto the warm frying pan.

Step 4:  Gently crack an egg and pour the egg into the centre of the slice of bread into the hole.  If your stove top is hot you may want to lower the heat.  Cover the pan with a lid or if you don’t have a lid that fits use a cookie sheet (that is what I do)!

Step 5: Keep checking on the frying piece of circle bread (the smaller piece) and once it is getting toasted flip to start to toast the other side.

Step 6: Once the egg is cooked to your child’s preference, use a flipper to gently remove it form the pan and place it on your child’s plate.  Remove the smaller circle toast as well.

Step 7: Cut the circle toast in half to create the top of the hat and then cut the other half into two strips that will be the bottom of the hat.  Place the toast pieces over the egg portion to create the hat of the cowboy.

Step 8: Fish out two large pieces of relish to make two green eyes on the cowboy.  You could use other vegetables or even olives for this as well.  Place the relish eyes on the egg to make a face.

Step 9: Cut a piece of cheddar cheese into a nose and place on the egg.

Step 10:  Cut the tomato or red pepper into a smile and place on the egg face.

Step 11: present the cowboy to your little cowpoke for a healthy start to the day!



English Muffin Cowboy:

Ingredients: Toasted and split English Muffin, peanut butter (or other nut butter or honey if there are allergies in your family), cheerios (or other cereal or raisins), a cashew (or another type of cereal if there are allergies in your family),  an apple.


Step 1: Spread peanut butter (or other topping) onto your newly toasted and split English Muffin.

Step 2:  Cut one half of the English Muffin in half to be the top fo the cowboy hat.  Cut one half of that half into two strips to be the bottom of the hat.

Step 3: Place the English muffin pieces onto your child’s plate to create a cowboy with his hat on.

Step 4: Use the Cheerios as eyes, the cashew as a nose, and a slice of apple as the smile.

Step 5:  Serve up some smiles!


Serve some refreshing lemonade (preferably homemade) on the side.



Frank and beans:  Make some canned beans and add some chopped hot dogs. You could also roast some hot dogs over an open fire.


Soup and Corn bread muffins would be another good cowboy lunch, as would canned beans and biscuits.


Chili and corn bread would work well for this Theme Day as chili was often served on chuck wagons.  I made vegetarian chili using sweet potatoes and made mini cornbread muffins (from this recipe )

Wagon wheel pasta would be another option for a Cowboy Theme Day.

Anything barbecued could also work for an open fire tasting dinner.

Serve with Root Beer for a special treat.



Sheriff Star Cookies: Make your favourite sugar cookies using a star cookie cutter.  Paint with yellow tinted icing and add little candy balls at the tips of each point.

Serve some gingersnaps as I read that they were used on  cattle drives etc. as they lasted longer.




Print out my Cowboys Past and Present Printable Worksheet   and together as a family to brainstorm the differences between Cowboys of the past and the present.  You can do this activity while you are reading nonfiction books about cowboys. 


For some info on the wild west try here:

For some kid friendly activities try this site:




Broomstick Horse:  let your child’s imagination soar by giving them a broomstick as a horse!

Rocking Horse: If you have a rocking horse or other horse toy this would b the prefect day to play with them.


Lasso Practice:

Use a skipping rope or piece of actual rope and try to loop simple objects like a chair or a toy.

Water Gun Target Practice:

This activity works best in warmer weather as it is an outdoor one.  Make a simple target by drawing with chalk on a fence and then have your little cow pokes try to hit the target.   I suppose if the weather is colder you could have your kids play in the bathtub!

Panning or Digging for Gold:

Cowboys in the Klondike used to pan for gold. Fill up a bucket with sand and hide some pennies it.  Offer your kids a colander and a larger bucket or tray (if you don’t have access to a sand box) so that he/she can sift away and find the “gold!”


If you have a horseshoe game set or know a park where one is set up this would be a fun activity to do for your Cowboy Theme Day!



Q: What do you call a happy cowboy?

A: A jolly rancher.


Q: Why was the cowgirl a lot of laughs?

A: Because she was always horsing around.



Who’s there?


Ya who?

I didn’t know you were a cowboy!


Q:  Why did the cowboy buy a dachshund?

A:  Because he wanted to get a long little doggy.


Q: Why did the train robber take a bath?

A: Because he wanted a clean getaway!



Who’s there?


Sheriff who?

Sheriff (Share if ) you want to make friends!





Search through your child’s DVD/ video collection (or visit your local library before hand or the Video Store) to find your child’s favourite shows with cowboys in them.

For young children try this title:

· The Wiggles: Cold Spaghetti Western

· The Backyardigans: Polka Palace Party

For cowboy related movies try:

· Home on the Range (a group of cows tries to capture a greedy outlaw to earn the money needed to save their farm).

· Toy Story (features Woody the Cowboy) and Toy Story Two or Toy Story Three (Adds Jessie the Cowgirl)!



Many ranching communities host rodeos.  If you live near one you could attend that.

You could also take the family horseback riding  or just go visit a farm or ranch that is open to the public to pet some horses.

See if you can find a company near your that offers a train with a wild west train robbery.   We went on one and it was a blast!

Visit an Old Fort near your community for some more old fashioned fun.

Go to a local petting zoo to see the ponies for an additional cowboy outing.


Stick ‘em up!

Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions, Stettler, AB

Photo: C Wright

Cowboy Coloring Page

A Cowboy Poem,

by my eldest son (aged 10)

Cowboy Word Search

Cowboy Journaling

Belt Buckle Craft

Sheriff Pins

Wanted Poster (by my 6 year old son)

SunsetJ.jpg SunsetT.jpg

“Into the Sunset” Scenes

HorseshoeT.jpg HorseshoeJ.jpg

Lucky Horseshoe Crafts

Branding Craft on a Collage Cow

Branding Craft on a Drawing of a Cow

Cowboy Inspired Food

Cowboys Past and Present Printable

EditOctoberExtra2012 002.jpg Sept2012 006.JPG

  Sept2012 021.JPG JulyFun2012 227.JPG

Wanted Poster (by my 10 year old son)

Visit an Old Fort for some more old fashioned fun.

Fort Edmonton, Alberta

Photo: C Wright