Not all children may relate to Lincoln’s love of reading and learning, but I think most of those who can’t may well relate to his love of jokes and tricks. Abe and his step-mother, Sarah, liked to trick each other, and one of the famous stories is about the day Abe left muddy footprints on the ceiling of his family’s farm house. You can tell the children the story (see below) and then let them make their own “muddy foot-prints” on the ceiling of your classroom. Leave them up until Open House and your kids can tell a great story to their parents. This may be something they remember about Abraham Lincoln that will make him just a little more real to them.
Abraham Lincoln was the son of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks Lincoln, but his mother died when Abe was young. His father then married a widow, Sarah Bush Johnston, and brought her and her three children home to his farm. She became Abe’s stepmother. Sarah was very good to her stepchildren. She supported Abe in his great desire for reading and learning. Abe grew very close to Sarah.
Sarah was a kind, but firm mother, who loved to laugh. She and Abe liked to play tricks on each other. Abe was a very tall boy—he was six feet and four inches when he was eighteen. His head almost touched the ceiling of their farmhouse! His mother joked, “Abe’s so tall he leaves footprints on my ceiling!”
One day, Abe had a great idea. While his mother was out shopping, he got his brothers and sisters together and had them stick their bare feet in the mud outside the house. Then he held them upside down and made muddy prints all over the ceiling. He said his step mom took a broom to his head when she saw the mess all over her ceiling, but the twinkle in her eye told him she was amused!
Abraham was very close to Sarah for all of her life. He took care of her and the farm until she died. The last time he saw her was in 1861, just before he moved into the White House.
You can visit the house where Abe lived with his stepmother, Sarah, at the Lincoln Log Cabin Historic Site, in Illinois.
Here’s a download for you of the story of Abe’s_Muddy_Footprints. It contains images of Abe and Sarah, and the cabin he was born in. (This is not the same cabin talked about in this story.) I hope you and your students will enjoy sharing one of Abe’s boyhood pranks as you study about this very important president!