Jack-O’-Lantern

jack o lanternThis plump little pumpkin is made out of a roll of toilet paper! I spotted this project in FamilyFun magazine years ago. Their version was undecorated, and they used fabric and felt for the body and leaves. I needed to use cheaper materials, so my version is made with a piece of plastic tablecloth and construction paper. I also went a step further and decorated the front with a grinning jack-o’-lantern face!

You’ll need:

  • 1 roll of toilet paper
  • A piece of orange plastic table cloth (approximately 20″ x 22″)
  • Brown and green construction paper
  • 1 green pipe cleaner
  • 4 pieces of black self-adhesive foam
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Green marker (optional)

Place the toilet paper roll in the center of the plastic tablecloth, and tuck the tablecloth into the hole in the top of the roll. Next, curl a 5″ x 9″ piece of brown construction paper into a tube and tape it. This is your pumpkin’s stem. Stick the stem in the hole in the top of the roll.

Cut a leaf shape out of a piece of green construction paper. Make sure to leave a 2″ stem at the bottom of the leaf (because the stem needs to firmly anchor the leaf in the toilet paper roll). You can use a green marker to draw a little line on the leaf if you’d like.

pumpkin leafTuck the stem of the leaf into the hole. Curl a green pipe cleaner around a pencil, pen, or marker to make a corkscrew, then tuck it into the hole as well.

Finally, cut your jack-o’-lantern’s eyes, nose, and mouth out of black self-adhesive foam and stick them on your pumpkin (or use black construction paper pieces and tape). You can cut the foam pieces in advance, or the kids can “carve” the pieces on their own. I found a little friend in the gallery who was more than happy to demonstrate her carving skills! Awesome.

decorated jackThe nice thing about this project is that when you are done with it, you can remove the plastic and re-purpose the roll of toilet paper. Now that’s a very useful pumpkin!

Quill Pens

quill pensNeed a simple project for a big event? Perhaps these quill pens will do the trick!

Last Saturday, Cotsen hosted a table at Princeton University’s Community & Staff Day event. Because of the big crowds, we needed something simple, fun, fast, and literary. Last year, we made flying books. This year, we decided to make Harry Potter-esque quill pens.

We were, of course, dressed in hats and robes. Even though it was 85 degrees out. Because comfort never comes before costuming, am I right?

wizard robes   You’ll need:

First, twist a sparkle stem into the desired shape. We offered 3 different shapes to choose from (even though some kids made their own shapes of course):

stemsPlace the sparkle stem on top of the feather. Then use masking tape to attach the feather and the sparkle stem to the the top of the pen. You can continue covering the pen with tape if you’d like (just make sure you don’t accidentally tape the cap on). Done!

pen from sideBelow you can see the layout of our event table, including a display pen floating in the upper right-hand corner of the photo. It’s always a good idea to have an example of the project displayed somewhere. That way, kids can see what to expect and grown ups can get a jump on gathering the appropriate supplies.

table side 1On the opposite side of our event tent was a mirror activity. Here, kids could use their newly-created quill pens to do some inverted writing and try their skills at mirror mazes.

table side 2The mirror activity is very simple to put together. We duct-taped 6 bookends to the back of an inexpensive door mirror and stood it up on the table.

mirrorSince we weren’t able to staff the mirror activities during the event, we printed up some display instructions (here are my mirror writing instructions). I put the instructions in a double-sided plastic display stand.

instructionsWe stacked practice paper and 4 types of mazes (which we found using Google images) on either side of the mirror. The mazes were really popular, even with older kids!

boys writingLooking for a few more simple Harry Potter crafts? Try these PVC pipe wands, or this wrist owl (scroll to the bottom of the page to see the owl example). Defense Against the Dark Arts enthusiasts might enjoy this boggart!

Pan Pipes

groverGet your Grover on with these simple pan pipes necklaces! I designed them for a large-scale Lightning Thief event (you can read more about the event, and our awesome Mythomagic deck here). The pipes were part of a “Pan Pipes & Pythagoras” table hosted by Music Together Princeton Lab School. Since we needed to create several hundred sets of pan pipes (event attendance was around 5,000) I needed something inexpensive that would give kids a little taste of tone and pitch.

I considered PVC pipe, empty marker tubes, empty pen tubes…but they were either too expensive, impractical, too hard to cut, couldn’t produce a satisfactory sound, or required way too much prep time. Happily, the solution came when I stopped by Fruity Yogurt, a local frozen yogurt place. In addition to soft serve, Fruity Yogurt does bubble tea, which naturally comes with a bubble tea straw.

strawsBubble tea straws are thicker than your average drinking straw. I tested a few and they were perfect! Not to mention inexpensive and they come in jolly colors!

You’ll need:

  • At least 4 bubble tea straws
  • A small craft stick (for a 4-straw set of pipes, you’ll need a 3″ craft stick)
  • A 28-29″ piece of yarn
  • A ruler
  • A Sharpie permanent marker
  • Scissors and tape for construction

Start by folding the bottom of each straw up and taping it very tightly (some bubble tea straws have pointed bottoms – you can trim the point off if you’d like).

taped straw Place the folded straw next to a ruler, and use a permanent marker to mark the desired  length of the straw. I cut my straws in 0.5″ increments. So the first straw was 5″, the second straw was 4.5″, the third straw was 4″, and the fourth straw was 3.5″.

marked straw I did some experimenting with how long or how short a straw can be before it starts losing its tone. Based on my experiments, I wouldn’t go any longer than 7.5″ and no shorter than 2.5″. Beyond those lengths, the straws seem to lose their ability to hold a note.

Next, knot the yarn on both ends of the craft stick, and reinforce the knots with tape.

attached yarnLine all your straws next to each other in ascending order. Make sure the top (i.e. the open ends) of the straws are even with one another. Secure them with a piece of tape.

taped pipesThen flip the pipes over and tape the craft stick on the other side! Done!

finished pipes