Behold, Yon Shield

sword and shieldAdventure calls! But before you gallop off into the wild woods, arm thyself with a sturdy shield and magnificent foam sword! We made these as part of To Be Continued, our story time for 6-8 year-olds. The book we read? Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke (Chicken House, 2006).

On the eve of her twelfth birthday, Igraine’s biggest problem is that she’s never had an adventure and will therefore, never become a knight. But danger is about to descend upon her home, Pimpernel Castle. Osmund the Greedy and his castellan, Rowan Heartless, have declared war. They want to capture Pimpernel Castle and claim its magic singing books. Igraine’s parent (who are both tremendous magic-workers), could typically handle such an intrusion but…they’ve accidentally turned themselves into pigs while finishing Igraine’s birthday gift (an enchanted suit of armor). Now Igraine must sneak past an invading army, gather the ingredients for the reversal spell, and return to save the castle!

There’s also a Ancient Greek variation for this project. Just scroll to the bottom of the post to check it out!

You’ll need:

  • A 10″ x 14″ rectangle of corrugated cardboard (I used a cake pad)
  • A selection of
  • 2 strips of heavy-duty poster board (approximately 1.75″ x 12.5″)
  • Hole punch
  • A box cutter
  • 2 brass tacks
  • 1 shield emblems template, color printed on 2 pieces of 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 foam sword (more on that below)
  • Scissors for construction
  • Hot glue

First, use the colored tape to decorate one side of the shield. If you don’t want to use tape, simply use markers (or use both). Cut the desired shield emblems from the template, and hot glue them to the shield.

To make your shield’s arm straps, circle both strips of heavy-duty poster board around your forearm. Don’t make the straps too snug! You want your forearm to be able to slide in and out of the straps easily. Tape both of the loops closed, then punch a hole in the middle.

arm loopUse the box cutter to cut two slits in the front of your shield, right in the middle. Push brass tacks through the slits.

front of shieldSlide the holes of the arm straps onto the brass tacks, then open the brass tack’s prongs to secure the straps in place.

back of shieldFinally, use masking tape to cover the prongs and secure the arm loops.

taped shieldAll you need now is a foam sword, and you can find instructions to make a super easy (and super inexpensive) foam sword right here.

We did an Ancient Greek variation of these shields at a Lightning Thief event. I purchased bulk cases of 16″ cake circles. Kids used metallic ink pads, shape stamps, and metallic markers to decorate them. The arm straps were rigged in exactly the same way as the knight’s shield described above.

shield tableWe called the table “Story Shields” and used the art activity to introduce hoplites, the citizen-soldiers of Ancient Greece. A soldier’s armor typically included a helmet, breastplate, greaves, sword, spear, and a circular shield called an aspis or hoplon. Often, the shields were colorful and emblazoned with family symbols, tributes to the Gods or heros, or they bore the symbol of the hoplite’s city-state

We invited kids to design their own personal shields. The activity was wildly popular…we went through over 750 cake circles!

greek shieldLooking for more connections? Lightning Thief fans can try this game of Mythomagic, or these awesome pan pipes. Brave knights can find dragons, herbal amulets, or how about a comedic sidekick?

Buzz Worthy

buzz worthyPut on your splendid beekeeping hat and follow an oatmeal container bee to a flower! Today, we’re collecting nectar, taking it back to the hive, and turning it into something delicious!

We read A Taste of Honey by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace (Winslow Press, 2001). A golden jar of honey prompts Lily the bear to ask her Poppy a series of questions about its origins. Where does honey come from? Well, where does it come from before it’s put in a jar? Where does it come from before it’s purchased at the store? And before that? And before that? In addition to being a clever succession of questions and answers, this book is stocked with facts about beekeeping equipment, protective clothing, honey harvesting, beehives, varieties of wildflowers, and more!You’ll need:

  • 1 large oatmeal container
  • Yellow construction paper
  • 2 long strips of black construction paper (approximately 2.25″ x 18″ each)
  • A 5.25″ circle of yellow construction paper
  • 2, 1.5″ circles of black construction paper
  • 2 yellow dot stickers
  • 6 pipe cleaners (2 black, 4 any color you’d like)
  • 1 bee wings template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 plastic fedora (I purchased mine from Oriental Trading Company)
  • A 1.5″ x 22″ strip of white poster board for hat band
  • 1 little bees template, color printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • A 12″ x 32″ piece of white tulle
  • 1 “Find the Nectar” game (more on this later!)
  • Scissors, glue, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

finished beeWe’ll start with the bee! Wrap a large oatmeal container with yellow construction paper, then wrap two strips of black construction paper around the container to create stripes.

Next, stick 2 yellow dot stickers onto 2 circles of black construction paper. These are your bee’s eyes. Tape (or glue) the eyes onto a large circle of yellow construction paper. Draw a pointy nose and smiley mouth on the circle, then tape (or hot glue) it to the lid of the oatmeal container. Curl both ends of a pipe cleaner and tape it onto the container to create your bee’s antennae.

bee faceTo make the legs, cut 2 black pipe cleaners into thirds and bend each piece into a loose, inverted “Z.”

bent pipe cleanerAttach the pieces to the sides of the oatmeal container with tape.

bee legsCut the wings from the bee wings template, fold each wing upwards along the dotted line, then tape the middle of the wings to the back of your bee. Done!

wingsSet the bee aside for a moment, it’s time for the hat! Use markers to decorate a strip of white poster board, then wrap it around the hat like a hat band. Cut some bees from the little bee template (at our story time, each kid got 6 bees). Attach 3 of the bees to the ends of curled pipe cleaners, then tuck the bottom of the pipe cleaners into the hat band. The remaining 3 bees can be taped directly to the plastic hat. The final touch is to wrap a long piece of white tulle around the hat. Secure the fabric to the back of the hat with tape.

hatYou can stop here, or you can proceed to the “Find the Nectar” game! Here’s how we made it…

flowersFirst, Katie made 4 amazing flowers (2 blue, 2 red) out of poster board, tissue paper, construction paper, and pipe cleaners. The flowers were taped (using nice strong packing tape) onto 40.5″ pieces of PVC pipe. Later, the PVC was wrapped with green masking tape and adorned with green poster board leaves. At the center of each flower was a plastic cup to hold nectar. Because little hands would be repeatedly bumping into the cups, Katie secured each cup to the poster board with a brass tack.

flower with brass tackFor the beehive, Katie raided her basement (nicknamed “The Magic Basement” for all the unusual and useful things she unearths from it) and found this 13.5″ x 17″ styrofoam block used to ship wine.

wine shipping styrofoamKatie was already coloring the front of the styrofoam with yellow highlighters when I snapped this picture. The highlighter pens worked a treat, but there were lots of squeaky, scratchy, pens-on-styrofoam sounds. Eeeee! Next, Katie added a yellow poster board facade to the hive, lined the holes with rolls of yellow construction paper, and added 6 little bees to the front.

beehiveDuring story time, I placed the hive at one end of the gallery, and “planted” the flowers at the other end of the gallery. Each flower cup was loaded with a single yellow cotton ball to represent “nectar.”

nectarI split the kids into two teams – Red Flower Team and Blue Flower Team. Each kid on the team had to fly his/her bee to the flowers, find the 2 flowers that corresponded with his/her team color, remove a ball of nectar from each flower cup…

bee game collectionAnd then zoom back to the hive and deposit the nectar inside!

bee game drop offGranted, you could way simplify this game with a set of cups representing the flowers and a shoe box covered with yellow paper representing the hive. But sometimes, you just get a hankering to make giant flowers.

Two important things about the game:

  1. Just put one cotton ball into a cup at a time. If you stuff the cups full of nectar, some kids will be tempted to grab everything, leaving nothing for the other bees! During our game, we had Miss Joani next to the flowers, patiently reloading the cups with nectar.
  2. Make sure to emphasize that this is not a race. It’s all the bees working together to collect nectar for the hive!

Hair Chalk Challenge

hair chalk reviewOur kid tester Hope is back once again! In this exciting installment, she’ll be reviewing and comparing two types of hair chalk: Alex metallic hair chalk pens (for ages 8+, a five color package retails for approximately $10 ) and Kiss Naturals hair chalk (for ages 6+, a two color box retails for approximately $13). Take it away Hope!

Hi everyone! The Kiss Naturals hair chalk is described on the box as an “All natural DIY craft making kit.” I would have to agree with this statement! You mix together the ingredients and let it set inside molds to make a chalky material. The Alex version took a different twist – glittery chalky “pens” (the pens were really just chalk holders). Definitely less DIY than the Kiss Naturals. Just pop off the little plastic covering.

The box for the Kiss Naturals chalk was a little misleading. The front of the box showed two sticks of chalk in a bold red and blue. However, the package had a small sticker that said the box contained supplies for orange and purple chalk, and the actual molds for the hair chalk were heart shaped, not rectangular.

kiss naturals hair chalkThe Alex chalk pens were in a clear package, so you could see each product. This clear packaging is helpful, especially on a cosmetic product [Dr. Dana notes: the larger boxes of Kiss Naturals hair chalk, which contain 6 colors, do have a clear window on the front that displays the contents].

alex hair chalk pensThe Alex pens had some directions inside the package, and the directions only had two steps in English! There were three total pictures with directional captions. Each one had a foreign language caption, but only two had English captions. Two of the pictures were almost (but not quite!) identical, but only one of those pictures had an English caption! Talk about confusing!

alex directionsThe Alex pens also included a tiny comb to use in your hair. The comb was so small, it seemed more suitable to use on an American Girl Mini Doll’s hair than human hair, but as we didn’t want to ruin a hairbrush, we decided to try our luck with the tiny comb.

The instructions said to separate a section of hair and rub the chalk on it. As my helper assistant, Em, held out a section of my hair and ground some yellow Alex hair chalk into it, I tried not to yelp! The hair chalk, despite Em’s heroic effort, barely left a trace of color, and to make matters worse, it smelled like vinegar! We tried several different colors of the Alex pens, but they ALL smelled like vinegar! The only solution was to keep it away from my face while grinding it in my hair so I couldn’t smell it!

tiny combEm then ran the little comb through my hair. It got caught in the slightest knots in my hair. SUPER UNCOMBFORTABLE!!! In the end, the Alex pens left an okay amount of color, but it most noticeably left what looked like colorful dandruff in my hair!

yellowThe Kiss Naturals chalk was not much improved. As I mentioned above, it’s a DIY project. When you open the package, it comes with two little baggies of pigment, a tiny spoon, a little measuring cup/beaker, a bottle of purified water and what appear to be rubber ice cube molds (those are the hair chalk molds).

Okay everybody! It’s time for the most interesting part of the review: the witch hazel CONFUSION!

The front of the Kiss Naturals box has a cartoon picture of the items in the box. Nice feature! I noticed that the little bottle on the front of the box was labeled “Witch Hazel.” I got excited! I’d read about witch hazel in books, and was interested to see how it would work in a cosmetic product. Interestingly enough, however, the little bottle inside the box was labeled “Purified Water,” and the directions also said to use water. Why did the directions say water, and the box say witch hazel?

mistake on boxAfter opening the bottle and smelling it, the Pop Goes the Page team determined that it was not witch hazel. Why wasn’t it? Was there a typo on the box? Or did the company send the wrong bottle and directions? Definitely something a consumer should know!

In the end it didn’t matter, because as Em and I whipped up the lavender chalk, I completely missed the bottle of water and used tap water. By the time I saw the bottle of purified water in the bottom of the package it was too late! After mixing the pigment with the (tap) water, we poured it in the mold. Taking a glance at the directions, we realized that the chalk had to sit for FOUR hours!! FOUR!! Two hours in the mold, and two out of the mold. After two hours inside the mold it was completely hardened, and we decided to use it. Whether or not it set quickly because of the tap water I am not completely sure.

hair chalk heart However, much the same events followed with the Kiss Naturals chalk as with the Alex pens. Em ground the chalk into my scalp. OW!!!!! After going through this cosmetic torture, Dr. Dana pointed out that Kiss Naturals suggests applying the chalk to wet hair (Dr. Dana also noticed that the Alex pens definitely say dry hair). I don’t know if this would have made a difference but, in the end, despite Em’s efforts, the chalk left my hair a pale white-lavender color. NOT PLEASANT! Especially not after Em had ground it into my hair! I wonder if the chalk would have been more easily applied to wet hair?

Then it was the moment of truth: The washing of the hair!

That night, I turned on the warm water and started scrubbing my hair. And scrubbing. And…well you get the picture. The Alex product definitely took more scrubbing to get out. Without a doubt!  That’s when Kiss Naturals came through for me. Their product washed out easily, without any trouble at all!

Now it’s time for the SCORES!

All in all, the Alex pens score was…
Comfort :  3/10
Style/Color: 5/10
Smell: 1/10

Pros: Colorful. I loved how there were more color choices!
Cons: TERRIBLE smell, not easily applied, took a bit of scrubbing to get out of my hair.


All in all, the Kiss Naturals chalk score was…
Comfort: 3/10
Style/Color:  4/10
Smell:  10/10 (no odor)

Pros: NO SMELL!!!!!!!! DIY project. I really enjoyed being able to mix up a purple concoction! It was like being in Macbeth, but no gory stuff! WASHED OUT QUICKLY AND PAINLESSLY!
Cons: Not easily applied, faded color

So as far as style goes, the Alex pens took the cake. But it was a very stale cake. Neither of the two hair chalks tested are hair chalks I would recommend, because of the discomfort they caused. It didn’t help that the Alex pens had pictures of supermodel-gorgeous kids on the front! Talk about saying you’ll get glam hair, and getting glitter dandruff!

hair streaksSo out of the two hair chalk products tested, neither was a completely satisfactory product! If I had to pick one of these products to recommend, I would actually recommend the Kiss Naturals chalk over the Alex pens, only because the Kiss Naturals chalk was dry and odorless, whereas the Alex pens left me with a soggy, sore, dandruffy-appearing head.

Though a little uncomfortable, this hair chalk might be a fun rainy day project for someone, even if hair chalk isn’t really my thing. Just look out…you may see me whistling this song down the road someday…

“I’m gonna wash that chalk right outta my hair, I’m gonna wash that chalk right outta my hair, and send it on its way!”


Many thanks to Hope for providing photos, and to Em for her invaluable assistance!