So Doggone Cute

itty bitty homeDo not adjust your monitor. The cuteness you are seeing is correct. That is an itty bitty dog proudly standing in front of his bone house in a field of daisies. Inside the house – an itty bitty sofa, rug, wall art, table, lamp, and book too!

We read Itty Bitty by Cece Bell (Candlewick Press, 2009). Itty Bitty is a very very tiny dog. One day, while on a stroll, he discovers an enormous bone. Soon Itty Bitty has hollowed out the bone (and added windows and a door to boot). But the bone is so big and empty, it just doesn’t feel right. So Itty Bitty goes SHOPPING! In the “Teeny-Weeny Department Store” he selects a table, rug, sofa, lamp, and book (don’t miss the hilarious selection of book titles on the teeny-weeny shelves). Once everything is arranged inside the bone, there’s no denying it. Itty Bitty has found his very own, perfectly cozy, incredibly pleasing, brand new…home.

For our story time activity, we made bone houses with carrying handles. But we also created some magic bucks and went a-shoppin’ for furnishings at a series of kid-sized retail stores!

retail shopsYou’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9” – a large tissue box works too)
  • 1 box cutter
  • 1 bone template, printed on 8.5″ x 14″ paper
  • 1 large rectangle of white poster board for bone (mine was 6″ x 12.5″)
  • 1 strip of white poster board for handle (mine was 1.5″ x 15″)
  • 1 house template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • wooden spool (approximately 1″ tall)
  • 1 paper baking cup
  • 1 plastic sample cup
  • 2 wooden beads
  • 1 small box (mine was 2” x 3” x 3”)
  • 1 piece of construction paper, any color (mine was approximately 3″ x 4″)
  • 2 small pieces of kitchen sponge
  • A selection of patterned paper
  • 1 magic bucks template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white standard paper
  • 1 set of retail stores (more on that later!)
  • Scissors, tape, stapler for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Before we embark on the project, a quick word about the bone template. Believe it or not, we tested 6 bone prototypes before Katie finally struck on a model that worked. You’ll notice that, on one side of the template, the bone bulges outwards and the bottom of the bulge is flat. This allows the bone to be flush with the bottom of the box. So bulgy flat part = bottom of the bone.

boneOn to the house! Use a box cutter to create a doorway in the front of the box, and a small window on each side.

house window and door cutsTab the ends of a strip of white poster board, and staple the tabs to the underside of the box lid (if your box doesn’t have a lid, attach the ends of the strip to the sides of the box). Your box house now has a carrying handle.

Using the template, trace and cut a white poster board bone. Lay the bone on top of the box (and make sure to line the bulgy flat part flush with the bottom of the box). But – before you hot glue the bone to the box, use scissors to cut a little door in the poster board, directly above your box’s doorway. Then hot glue the bone to the box.

door stepsThe final touch to the exterior is the shuttered windows (you’ll find them on the house template). I had the kids color and tape them on either side of the front door.

On to the furniture! We prepped most of the furniture and accessories in advance, and then “sold” it in our teeny-weeny retail shops. I’ll provide instructions for how to make the furniture and accessories first, and then describe the order in which they were sold in our shops.

To make a lamp table, hot glue a paper baking cup “table skirt” on top of a plastic sample cup. The “lamp” consists of 2 wooden beads hot glued together (I used unpainted beads so the kids could decorate them later with markers). The little book (which is a teeny-weeny copy of Itty Bitty of course) is on the house template. Cut it out, add a few blank pages, and staple everything together. Here’s what a finished table, lamp, and book look like:

finished lamp tableTo make a couch, cut a small box down until it resembles a straight-backed couch with armrests:

couch stepsFold a small piece of construction paper, then glue (or tape) it inside the couch. Add 2 comfy sponge cushions.

finished couchThere are also 4 wall art frames on the house template – they can be colored in and attached with tape (or glue). The final item on the template? An itty bitty dog! That gets colored as well, and hot glued to the front of a wooden spool.

wooden spoolNow it’s time to SHOP! The shops can be as simple as tabletop stores set up in different areas of your classroom or program area. I just happened to have 3 extra large boxtops on hand (which I salvaged from the recycling pile). So we used them to make store fronts.

Basically, we cut a flap in the box and folded it down to create a counter. We reinforced the ends of the counter with tissue boxes, and then decorated the outside with colored masking tape, poster board, and dot stickers.

storefront constructionThe last step is making some money! I handed each kid 3 undecorated “magic bucks” from the template and told them to decorate the bucks. When everyone was finished coloring, they grabbed their houses (the carrying handles made them perfect shopping baskets) and hit the stores. At “Little Lamps” with Mr. Ian, a magic buck earned the shopper a lamp and a book.

shopper at little lampsAt “Fine Furniture” with Dr. Dana, a magic buck went pretty far – you got a couch frame, a piece of construction paper for upholstery, 2 sponge pillows, and a lamp table.

shopper at fine furnitureAt “Rah! Rah! Rah! Rugs!” with Miss Joani, a magic buck earned the holder one “rug” (i.e. a piece of patterned paper) and wall art frames.

shopper at rah rah rah rugs When story time was over, we had a drawing for patrons who were interested in taking the story fronts home for more playtime (and there were plenty of takers!). With the shopping completed, kids took their purchases back to the program area to do some intense interior decorating. I had to snap a photo of this little house. Look at that fancy Itty Bitty!

fantastic house exteriorShe added a bed and a bookshelf to her house too!

fantastic houseMuch later that day, I spotted an Itty Bitty house proudly being walked down the street by a father and daughter. It’s always fantastic to see the projects out and about after story time.

I also received this e-mail from a mom:

Thank you very much for the program yesterday! My kids have been playing with Itty Bitty and his house non-stop since yesterday. He’s gone on a car trip, a boat trip (in a river and across an ocean), and he slept beside my son’s bed.

This e-mail brought a HUGE smile to my face. I’m still smiling actually.


From ITTY BITTY. Copyright © 2009 by Cece Bell. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Purrfect Pet

purrfect palRecently, it occurred to me that we’ve done story time projects with dogs, monkeys, chicks, ponies, mice, hamsters, butterflies, birds, crocodiles, bugs, rabbits, and chickens in hot air balloons…but no CATS! To correct this egregious oversight, I present you with the purrfect cat story time.

We read Hookwinked by Arthur Howard (Harcourt, 2001). Mitzi (who is a witch) adores creepy things. So when it’s time to find a pet, she heads to the creepiest store in town. She selects a toad. But all the toad wants to do is eat bugs. She returns the toad and gets a pair of bats. But all the bats want to do is hang out with each other. She returns the bats and leaves the store, completely discouraged. The next day, however, there’s a scratch at her door. It’s an adorable little kitten. Naturally, Mitzi is disgusted by the kitten’s cuteness, but she agrees to let it stay one night because it’s raining outside. That night, the kitten stays by Mitzi’s side as she hunts ghosts, purrs on Mitzi’s lap during a scary movie, and licks Mitzi’s chin when she reveals her deepest fears. Mitzi’s heart is won, and she realizes that looks aren’t everything!

You’ll need:

  • 1 small oatmeal container
  • Construction paper
  • A rectangle of tagboard (approximately 4.25″ x 6″)
  • 3 pieces of twistez wire (or very thin card stock strips) approximately 4.5″ each
  • A small rectangle of self-adhesive foam (approximately 1.25 ” x 1.5″)
  • 2 wiggle eyes
  • A 16″-18″ piece of ribbon
  • A small circle of card stock (approximately 1.5″ in diameter)
  • Scissors, tape, and glue stick for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hole punch
  • Hot glue

First, wrap your oatmeal container in construction paper (we offered black, white, orange, and gray). Cut the hind feet out of a tagboard rectangle, then glue the tagboard to your choice of colored construction paper. Trim the construction paper to fit the tagboard feet. Your tag board hind feet are now covered with construction paper on one side.

back feet stepsSet the feet aside for a moment, and cut a tail out of your choice of colored construction paper. Our tails were 2.25″ x 12″ rectangles and they looked great. Round one end of the rectangle, then wrap the tail around a marker to give it an awesome curl.

Hot glue the hind feet to the bottom of the oatmeal container, then hot glue to tail on top of the feet. To keep the tail anchored and less likely to tear off, I suggest hot gluing at least 3″ of it to the feet.

glued feet and tailTo create your cat’s front feet, cut two, 1.5″ x 4.5″ rectangles of construction paper, round one end of each rectangle, and then fold the rounded ends up to create paws. Hot glue (or tape) the legs to the front of the oatmeal container.

front legs attachedTo make the cat’s furry bib, cut a 4″ x 4.25″ rectangle of construction paper into an upside-down bell shape, then cut little ripples on the edges to create “fur.”

bibHot glue (or tape) the bib to the front of the cat. Make sure the bib covers the tops of the front legs, but also leaves room for your cat’s face.

bib attachedUse a marker to draw a smile on your cat and little “toe lines” on it’s feet (metallic Sharpie markers work great on black construction paper). Next, bunch together 3 pieces of twistez wire (or 3 very thin card stock strips) and tape them over the mouth like so:

whiskersCut a piece of self-adhesive foam into a cat nose and stick it over the whisker tape. Hot glue a pair of wiggle eyes above the nose, and hot glue (or tape) a pair of construction paper ears next to the eyes.

nose, eyes, and ears The final touch is your cat’s name tag. Punch a hole in a circle of white card stock, then decorate the circle with your cat’s name. Thread a piece of ribbon through the hole and tie the ribbon around your cat’s neck. Invite a few friends over for a grand night out.

purrfect gang

And there you have it…a splendid cat story time! I wonder what animal’s next? We’ve already covered flamingossquirrelslong-haired rainbow yaks

Bone Up On Your Storytelling

dia de los muertosA few years ago, the Arts Council of Princeton asked my library to submit a piece for their Dia de los Muertos exhibit. The result was the crazy kaleidoscope you see before you.

The base of was made of two recycled archive boxes (with 20 small boxes hot glued to the sides). We used construction paper, shiny cardboard mosaic tiles, patterned paper, foil leaves, miniature plastic gems, and tissue paper. By “we” I mean myself, 4 University students, and 1 Rare Books staffer. It was a “drop in anytime and decorate” sort of project, and over the weeks the layers just kept building.

My favorite part, however, is the skeletons. Princeton University student April Lee drew 20 little skeletons for the base pieces (and I hot glued 20 little books in their hands). But she also crafted the 3D skeleton figurines you see on the top – an adult skeleton reading to skeleton kids. They’re made with card stock and wire. The book being read to the eager youngsters? A fully skeletonized version of The Cat in the Hat of course. Isn’t April amazing? You can see another one of her projects – a fantastic Mythomagic deck – right here.

There were several other pieces in the exhibit as well. But here’s the one that completely won my arty, crafty, re-purposing heart:

Skull by Maria EvansIt’s a giant skull made of chicken wire and coffee filters. Coffee filters! Over 2,000 of them! The artist is Maria Evans (who also happens to be the Artistic Director of the Arts Council). Beautiful.

If you’re looking for an interesting and artistic skeleton with a little Dia de los Muertos flair, take a look at this fellow! Also of possible interest – these super simple kid-safe lanterns.