Get It Together

get it togetherYou are gazing at the most recent addition to my crafting toolbox. Plastic envelopes! Or, to get technical, poly string envelopes from OfficeMax (the ones pictured above are the “check” size at 5.5″ x 10″). A pack of 5 costs $10.

I love these things. Why?

Our projects often involve little bits and pieces we prep in advance. During story time, as we progress through the project, we have to continually pause to hand out the little pieces. This can take precious time away from crafting (especially when you have large crowds to navigate through). So I started putting all the little pieces together in envelopes and handing an envelope to each kid at the start of the project. Here’s an envelope in action a taxi cab story time:

taxi envelopeI’ve used the envelope system on a number of projects (this mouse clock, this beekeeping set, this bottle airplane, this paint set, this bed tray, and this wooly mammoth, for example). Since the envelopes are plastic, it’s very easy to wipe off stray marker and/or glue. If you don’t have paper or plastic envelopes handy, you can always drop the small pieces into cheap plastic cups (like I did at this candy factory story time).

And while we’re on the topic of organization, I definitely recommend art caddies for keeping your tabletop supplies in check! I bought mine from Discount School Supply. A set of 4 colors cost $25. They are “classroom grade” and practically indestructible.

art caddyHowever, when it came time to put together a home art studio for my kids, I went with a cheaper $4 version from Michals craft store. The plastic is thinner and the carrying handle isn’t quite as comfortable, but all in all, they’ve held up pretty well!

As you can probably guess, I like to be organized. Way organized. In fact, I’ve turned organization into a super power. The way I see it, I don’t want to spend time hunting for my scissors. I want to spend as much time as possible being creative. If I know exactly where my scissors are, I don’t have to give it another thought. Apply this principal on a larger scale and you get my library’s art supply cabinet:

art cabinetHere, supplies are sorted into plastic bins, dish tubs, copy paper boxes, salvaged paper trays…you name it! For oddly sized or bulky objects (like pom-poms), I use plain old plastic storage bags with zipper closures. I also have a neat-o scissor rack I wrote about in this post.

You would think I would be tidy while crafting, but no. During the process of creating a project or piece of art, I make a total mess. I spread out everywhere, tossing things right and left, gently shedding curls of paper and sticking bits of tape to my pants. Just look at the crafting carnage that was generated during the building of this haunted house.

tremendous messBut when the job is done, everything goes back in its proper place. I cannot leave my office a mess at the end of the day. And I can’t start a project with a messy office either. It’s weird, but somehow I make this organization/creation contradiction work for me.

One final tip! Since I don’t have any counters or spare table space in my program area, I work off an old book truck. All the supplies are prepped and ready to go, and I just roll it right into the workshop area during the program. It also doubles as a portable hot glue station.

book truckSometimes, however, even this humble book truck has its moments of glory…

horse and riders

All Hail the Cab

taxiNeed to catch a cab in NYC? No problem! We made some pull string taxi cabs and picked up some passengers in a noisy – and most definitely doggy – traffic jam!

We read The Adventures of Taxi Dog, written by Debra and Sal Barracca, and illustrated by Mark Buehner (Dial Books, 1990). A stray dog’s life is changed forever the day Jim the taxi driver adopts him. Instead of being alone and hungry, Maxi now proudly wears a red bandana and helps Jim with his fares. From Sadie the Broadway singer to a young couple expecting a new baby (any minute!), Maxi loves his new life in New York City!

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9” – a large tissue box works too)
  • 2 plastic cups (mine were Walmart brand 5 oz clear plastic)
  • A 30″ piece of string or yarn
  • Yellow construction paper
  • 1 taxi parts template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 4 black poster board circles (mine were 2.75″ in diameter)
  • 4 orange dot stickers
  • 1 taxi cab roof template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ yellow card stock
  • 2 small strips of silver metallic poster board (approximately 1″ x 4.75″)
  • 1 rectangle of silver metallic poster board (approximately 2.5″ x 3.75″)
  • 4 silver metallic dot stickers
  • 4 red dot stickers
  • 1 large gemstone
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • 1 taxi driver and dog template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white paper
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

First, cut a rectangle out of the box’s lid (if you’re using a tissue box, flip it over and cut the rectangle out of the bottom of the box). It might be a little difficult to see in the image below, but my rectangle is cut slightly off center. There is approximately 3″ of space above the cut, and 3.5″ of space below the cut. The shorter, 3″ space will be the taxi’s “backseat,” and the longer, 3.5″ space is the taxi’s “hood.”

taxi box cutMy cut created a 2.5″ x 5″ rectangle, but your cut will vary according to the size of the plastic cups you’re using. You want the cups to rest snugly in the box. Later, these cups will become your taxi riders’ “seats.”

cup placement But DON’T tape the cups to the box just yet! Set the cups aside for a moment and cut the roof from the template. Tape the roof to the box like so:

roof attachmentYou’ll notice that the front legs of the roof get taped to the “dashboard” of the taxi, and the back legs of the roof get taped to the very back of the taxi box. Next, knot a 30″ piece of string on one end, and tape the knot to the top of the taxi’s hood.

pull string on taxiNow cover the hood, front, back and the sides of the taxi with yellow paper. Tape (or hot glue) the long and short checker strips from the template to the sides and roof of your taxi. Tape (or hot glue) the black poster board circles to the sides of the box for wheels, and add some orange dot sticker hubcaps. Now put the plastic cups back into the taxi, and secure them to the box with tape.

completed side of taxiOn to the front of the taxi! We used 4 metallic dot stickers to make double headlights, a strip of silver metallic poster board for a bumper, and a rectangle of a silver metallic poster board for the grill (I rounded the top of my grill and used marker to add grill lines). A large gemstone hot glued to the top of the grill adds a nice pop of color. The “On Duty” sign from the taxi parts template gets folded along its dotted line, then taped to the roof. Finally, I found some old white office file stickers in the art cabinet, which we turned into license plates (or you can use scraps of paper, and tape or glue them to the bumper).

front of taxiTo the back of the taxi we added: 4 red dot sticker tail lights, a silver metallic poster board bumper, a license plate, and a fabulous “I ♥ NY” bumper sticker (also created out of old office file stickers).

back of taxiThe final step is to color your driver and dog template pieces, and wrap each of them around a toilet paper tube. Drop them into the plastic cup seats.

dog and driverWhen the taxis were finished, it was time for our “traffic jam” activity! First, I collected all the dogs and lined them up on a windowsill. When I shouted “GO!” the kids pulled their taxis over to the windowsill, found their dogs, popped them into their taxis, and zoomed away. It sounds simple, but we had a lot of kids at story time that day, resulting in a stupendous traffic jam.

As you can see, the fastest taxi arrived at the dogs first…

taxi pickup 1It was quickly followed by another taxi…

taxi pickup 2More taxis started to arrive…

taxi pickup 3And more…

taxi pickup 4Pretty soon we had a full-on crazy NYC traffic jam!

taxi pickup finalI made a sound file that combined honking horns and barking dogs, looped it for 4 minutes, and burned it to CD. I played the CD during the activity, adding to the chaos and fun!

When Chicken Pox Totally Rox

pox totally roxNo one likes to get sick…unless you have our special strain of story time chicken pox! These pox are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. But, just in case you’re still feeling under the weather, we have a cozy bed tray and get well card for you!

bed trayWe read Goldie Locks Has Chicken Pox, written by Erin Dealey, and illustrated by Hanako Wakiyama (Antheneum Books, 2002). Poor Goldie. She’s absolutely covered in chicken pox, and her little brother has decided to be a total pest while she convalesces. He demands to connect her dots with crayons, whines that she’s eating all the ice cream, and teases her relentlessly about her “polka-dots.” Finally, Mother steps in to break things up. But justice has already been served. There’s a new case of chicken pox in the house, and guess who has it?

You’ll need:

  • 1 corrugated cardboard base (I used a 9.5″ x 13.5″ cake pad)
  • 1 small paper plate (mine was 7″ in diameter)
  • 1 paper bowl
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • A selection of patterned tape
  • 1 paper napkin
  • 1 plastic spoon
  • 2 rectangles of yellow tissue paper (approximately 5″ x 6.25″ each)
  • 6 pieces of white yarn (approximately 5″ each)
  • 4 tiny squares of orange craft foam (approximately 0.5″)
  • A rectangle of tagboard (approximately 4.25″ x 4.5″)
  • A small square of yellow self-adhesive foam (approximately 1.25″)
  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • A selection of patterned paper
  • 1 flower template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 green drinking straw
  • 2 small rectangles of stiffened felt (approximately 1.25″ x 1.75″)
  • A piece of string (approximately 4″ long)
  • A small rectangle pf white card stock for tea bag label (approximately 1″ x 2.5″)
  • 1 paper cup
  • 1 small strip of white poster board for teacup handle (approximately 0.75″ x 4″)
  • 1 blue cotton ball (or a small piece of blue tissue paper)
  • A large piece of white card stock, folded like a greeting card (approximately 5″ x 7.5″)
  • 1 sheet of red dot stickers for the “Everyone Has Chicken Pox” game
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

labeled bed trayThe bed tray has many pieces, but the assembly is a snap! The only thing we prepped in advance was the tea bag. Otherwise, the kids put together all the the pieces themselves. Begin by decorating the borders of the corrugated cardboard base, plate, and bowl.

step 1 tray plate bowlTo make “soup,” gently crumble two yellow tissue paper rectangles and place them in the bowl. Add 6 white yarn “noodles” and 4 orange craft foam squares of “chicken” (or “tofu”).

chicken soupPut your soup bowl on top of the plate, and tuck a napkin and plastic spoon next to it. To make buttered toast, cut a rectangle of tagboard (or brown poster board) into a toast shape, then use a brown marker to color the border of the toast. Add a pat of self-adhesive foam butter (or simply draw the butter on with a yellow marker).

buttered toastTo make a flower vase, wrap a toilet paper tube with patterned paper (or use white paper you’ve decorated with markers). Next, color and cut the flower from the template. Note: the flower on the template is double-sided. As you see in the image below, you cut both flowers out as one piece, making sure to cut up to the edges of the dotted line:

cut flower templateTape a green drinking straw to the bottom half of the flower…

taped flowerThen fold the template along the dotted line, bringing the top half of the flower down to match the bottom half. Secure with tape, and stick the flower in the vase!

Time for tea! We’ll begin with the tea bag. First, hot glue a 4″ piece of string to a square of stiffened felt. Hot glue a second square of felt on top of the first. To make the “label” for your tea bag, fold a small rectangle of card stock in half, then hot glue the free end of the string to the bottom half of the card stock. Fold the card stock over the string, and hot glue in place. Decorate the tea label with markers!

tea bagTo make a teacup, cut a paper cup down until it is about 1″ tall. Decorate the rim with colored masking tape and/or patterned tape. Tab the ends of a small strip of white poster board to create the handle, then attach the handle to the inside and bottom of the cup with tape (or hot glue). Drop a blue cotton ball (or a crumpled piece of blue tissue paper) into the cup, then set the tea bag inside.

finished teacupFinally, use markers to draw a get well card on white card stock. When the card is done, assemble the items on your tray. Some kids wanted me to hot glue everything to their trays, others wanted most of their items loose. You’ll definitely want to hot glue the flower vase to the tray. Otherwise, the top-heavy flower will keep tipping the vase over.

Ready to get sick? Setting our bed trays aside, we gathered in the story time area to play the “Everyone Has Chicken Pox” game. Basically, every child was given a half a sheet of  Avery red dot stickers (meaning each kids received 12 dot stickers total):

chicken pox stickersWhen I said “Go!” the kids had to run around, sticking a “pox” on different people in the room (including adults!). When everyone was good and sick, we returned to our bed trays to get “better.”