Ghostbusters

ghostbustersWhat do you do when your dream house is haunted? Call in a professional ghost remover of course! We decorated a ghost box, whipped up 4 tissue paper ghosts, and then went a-ghost huntin’ in this custom 4-story cardboard house.

exterior houseI hid each kid’s ghosts in various locations in the dollhouse and then invited him/her to find them and tuck them back in his/her ghost box!

ghost in atticWe read Ghosts in the House by Kazuno Kohara (Square Fish reprint edition, 2010). A girl (and her cat) move into a new house but…oh my…the house is haunted by ghosts! The girl, however, happens to be a witch and quickly begins catching the ghosts. After a spin in the washing machine, the ghosts happily become curtains, tablecloths, and cozy blankets. This book was in the holiday section of my local library but it’s so sweet and fun, it really should be read year-round!

You’ll need:

  • A box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9”)
  • Brown masking tape (or a selection of colored masking tape)
  • 2 small pieces of mirror board (approximately 1″ x 1.75″ and 1.25″ x 1.25″)
  • Black permanent marker
  • Box decorating materials – I offered embossed foil paper, patterned paper, construction paper (blue, black, gray, purple, orange, pink), mirror board, small feathers, fabric leaves, white 6″ doilies, foil star stickers, and fabric flowers.
  • 12 squares of white tissue paper (approximately 6.5″ x 6.5″)
  • 4 pieces of white yarn (approximately 6″ long)
  • 1 ghost house (more on that below!)
  • Scissors, tape, and glue stick for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Begin by decorating a box for your ghosts to live in. The exterior should be quite minimal (the interior is where you go a little wild). I went for an old-fashioned steamer trunk with a padlock:

box closedIf you’re using a patterned tissue box, you might want to cover it with construction paper or paint first. Then use brown (or colored) masking tape to create lines on the outside of the box.

To make a padlock, cut a rectangle of mirror board into an upside-down U shape. Use a black permanent marker to draw a keyhole on a square piece of mirror board. Hot glue (or tape) the U shape to the back of the keyhole square. Attach the padlock to the front of the box with hot glue (or tape).

padlockThe exterior of the box is finished, now for the interior! I decided to go for a classic “night sky inside a box” for my ghosts. I lined the inside of the box with black construction paper, added foil stars, and finished the look with a crescent moon.

box openSome kids replicated this look, but others used embossed foil paper, patterned paper, small feathers, fabric leaves, white 6″ doilies, and fabric flowers to whip up some amazing ghost domiciles.

With the box finished, it’s time for the ghosts! Take 2 squares of white tissue paper and lay them flat on top of each other like so:

ghost step 1Then crumple a third tissue square and place it in the middle of the flat squares.

ghost step 2Bunch the flat squares around the crumpled tissue and pinch tightly,

ghost step 3Flip the tissue bunch over and knot a piece of yarn around it to created your ghost’s neck. Trim off any excess yarn and use marker to draw a face. Repeat these steps until you have 4 ghosts.

ghost step 4You have a box, you have ghosts, now for the house! If you’d like to keep it super simple, hide the ghosts in different locations in a room, classroom, or library. You could even turn off the lights and use a flashlight for an extra spooky ghost hunt. However, if you’d like recreate our ghost house, read on!

My colleagues in Firestone Library know to call me if they’re about to dispose of any large or unusually shaped boxes (you can read more about our library-wide recycling program here). So this dollhouse began as a tall, 6″ x 33″ x 41″ box. I also had a couple old archive boxes to use up (you can see more of them in action in this post and this post).

just the boxFirst, Katie and I measured where the stacked archive boxes hit the tall box, and then cut a big hole in the tall box for the archive boxes to slide into. The leftover cardboard was used to make the roof (to which I added some tagboard shingles and a cardboard chimney).

Next, we sliced one of the archive box’s lids in half and hot glued the halves inside the two archive boxes. This created four “floors” in our ghost house. We finished by hot gluing the archive boxes inside the tall box, and added a few pieces of packing tape for good measure.

gluingTo keep the house upright and sturdy, we hot glued a 5.5″ x 17″ x 25.5″ box to the back as a base. We reinforced the connection with lots of packing tape too. We knew it was going to get bumped and bashed by the ghost hunters!

baseNext, Katie used pieces of corrugated cardboard to create the walls that divided the rooms, and tagboard to make the staircases. You can see the whole thing evolving here. And this is only the beginning of the mess we made that day. Oh yes it is.

dana and katie With the basic elements in place, we decorated the interior. For hours and hours. Katie’s son even stopped by at the end of the day to get in on the fun (my favorites are the laptop in the living room and the Angry Birds artwork in the kitchen). But rather than go into excruciating decorating details, here are photos of the different rooms of the house, as well as some ghosts demonstrating various hiding places.

Living Room

ghost in living roomDark closet under the “grand” staircase (spooky eye stickers courtesy of Katie’s son)

closet under the stairsSmall Staircases

ghost on stairsBedroom

ghosts in bedroomBathroom

ghosts in bathroomLaundry Room

ghost in laundry roomAttic (complete with Amityville windows)

ghosts in the atticAnd here is a photo of the tremendous mess we made during the building of the ghost house. Oh yeah.

tremendous messDuring story time, kids could play the ghost hunting game as many times as they liked. I came up with some pretty creative new places to hide ghosts (like the overhead light fixture in the kitchen, and the roof).

ghost on roofAt the very end of story time, interested parties put their names in a hat and the winner took home the ghost house! If, however, you’re still yearning for more dollhouses and miniatures, mosey on over here to see some truly spectacular Harry Potter creations.

Worth the Splurge III

box portraitI use a fair amount of boxes for my projects, and what wonderful boxes they are!

While said projects can be done with tissue or household boxes, I admittedly splurge on these 100% recycled gift boxes from Nashville Wraps (the “economy matte white” ones are shown above). Why? Oh, let me count the ways:

  1. They’re packed flat, which makes them super easy to store (and since my storage is limited, this is a huge plus).
  2. They offer a blank template to begin with (instead of having to cover a tissue box with white paper, for example).
  3. They hold up really well to marker, crayon, tape, white glue, glue sticks, and hot glue.
  4. These dandy boxes also come in brown, which I’ve used to make this adorable little produce stand, this fantastic boat hat, this splendid garden, this candy factory, this bouncy bed, and this creepy carrot basket.
  5. They’re 100% recycled! And I love me some recycling.

So, how much of a splurge are these boxes? Well, if you want to buy a case of the white 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9” size (which I use pretty often – see this monster feet project, this dog project, this ice cream truck, this robot marionette, and this dragon), you can buy a case of 100 for $26.50. That’s 27 cents a box. Pretty good!

They come in different sizes of course. I used a white 4″ x 4″ x 4″ box for this dentist project, this hot air balloon project, and this floating island. You can buy a case of 100 for $15.90 or, 16 cents a box.

Shipping can add some cost. The good news, however, is that Nashville Wraps offers flat rate or free shipping (plus a small handling fee) when your order reaches certain levels. I take advantage of this by estimating what I need for a year and placing one BIG order to get a break on shipping. The cases of boxes easily stack in a closet or under a table. Nice!

Spooky Old Classic

spooky old tree with kidsReady to do some daring exploring? All you need is a lantern, a map, and a classic book!

We read The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree by Stan & Jan Berenstain (Random House, 1978). Three little bears journey to a spooky old tree, daring to explore an old stair, an alligator-challenged bridge, a secret hall, and finally, the Great Sleeping Bear.

This was one of my favorite picture books when I was a kid, and when 2 extra-large recycled boxes graced my doorstep, I knew exactly what I was going to to with them. Create a spooky old tree for kids to explore!

Our spooky (but not too spooky) adventure begins with a glowing lantern…

lantern…and ends with a key hunt inside the spooky old tree!

spooky tree interiorYou’ll need:

  • 1 standard clear (or opaque) plastic cup
  • Glow-in-the-dark foam dough, glow paint, or a LED candle (optional)
  • tagboard circle for a lantern base (should be slightly larger than the mouth of the cup. Mine was approximately 3.5″)
  • 1 tagboard (or poster board) strip for lantern handle (approximately 14″ x 1.25″)
  • Markers for decorating
  • Scotch tape
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • 1 beverage cap
  • Hot glue
  • 2 sparkle stems
  • 1 spooky old tree map template, printed on 11″ x 17″ paper
  • 1 spooky old tree (read on for construction details!)

To make the lantern, begin by putting the glow-in-the-dark material inside the cup. I had some leftover glow-in-the-dark foam dough (from a program 3 years ago!) so that’s what I used. But you can also paint something that will glow, use a LED votive candle, or simply skip this step.

Decorate the tagboard circle with markers. When finished, tape (or hot glue) the circle over the mouth of the cup. Then flip the cup over so it’s resting on its tagboard base.

Now for the lantern handle! Decorate your handle with markers or colored masking tape. Then use scotch tape to secure the handle near the BASE of the lantern. Some kids will be tempted to tape the handle to the top of the lantern, but that makes it too tippy.

taped handleUse colored masking tape to create decorative bands at the top and bottom of the cup. Hot glue a drink lid / bottle cap to the top of the lantern. Finish by wrapping one sparkle stem around the base of the lantern, and the other sparkle stem around the beverage cap.

lantern capWith the lantern complete, we embarked on a map making project. I gave the kids a spooky old tree template, and asked them to draw what they thought the inside of the tree looked like. For inspiration, I taped color copies of pages from the book (featuring the hall, the bridge, the moving wall, etc.) on the surrounding walls. When the maps were finished, my assistant hid them around the gallery and invited the kids to go on a “map hunt.” While this was going on, we got the tree ready for action.

And now (duh duh DUH)…THE TREE!

spooky old tree I’ll start by saying that you do NOT, of course, have to create a tree like mine. A large box with a hole cut in it, a darkened room, a table draped with a dark tablecloth – all of these thing will do just as well. Kids will have fun no matter what. You also don’t have to have a hidden key game. Crawling through the tree with your glowing lantern is a fine adventure.

However, if you DO want to make a tree like mine, fire up the hot glue gun and let’s get started!

You’ll need:

  • 2 large boxes (mine were 32″ x 26.5″ x 22″ and 25″ x 25.5″ x 24.5″
  • 1 roll of craft paper
  • 1 box cutter
  • Packing tape
  • Hot glue
  • 4 small clear plastic cups
  • 4 LED votive candles
  • White, brown, black, and yellow poster board
  • Black marker
  • 1 large piece of tagboard for key reinforcement & key sleeves
  • 1 key template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 1 set of metallic Sharpie markers (optional)

I used the smaller box for the “entry tunnel” and the larger box for the “key chamber.”

boxesUsing the box cutter, cut matching rectangular holes in one side of each box. Push the two boxes together so the holes are connected, then tape and hot glue the boxes together securely. Now the boxes are connected by an interior “doorway.”

Wielding your box cutter once more, cut doors at each end of the joined boxes. One door is the entrance, the other door is the exit. I decorated the entrance door with a black poster board and added yellow eyes.

spooky tree entrywayThe exit door isn’t decorated on the outside, but I did cut a small rectangular “keyhole” in it. Here’s an interior shot:

spooky tree keyholeNow it’s time for the “bark” on the tree. Cut a big piece of craft paper:

branch sheet Roll and twist it into a tall cone-like shape (i.e. so the base is wider than the tip).

rolled branchThen hot glue the wider part of the “branch” to the box.

glued tree branchRepeat until the tree is covered! I must admit, I pooped out after the first box, and simply wrapped the sides of the second box with paper. But as you can see, it still looked great!

spooky tree side view

If you want to see this tree building technique used on a smaller scale, check out this post.

Now, on to the interior of the tree! In the interest of time, I only decorated the key chamber. I left the entry tunnel undecorated. I used the white and brown poster board to create two spooky bear portraits with frames. Then I hot glued them to the walls. As you can see, I didn’t make them too spooky. Because it’s easy to get a little hysterical in a dark, tight room with flickering candles. So you don’t need super-scary bears glaring at you too, eh?

bear portraitsNext I hot glued plastic drink cups to the upper corners of the room and plunked an LED votive candles in each cup. Instant wall sconces!

Finally, I used a black marker to add some details to the exit door. Here’s a birds eye view of the key chamber.

interior room bird's eye viewHere’s the entrance view again.

spooky tree interiorAnd here I am hot gluing everything (only burned myself once)!

dr. dana gluesThe final step is the keys! To give the keys more texture, I colored them with metallic sharpie markers. Then I hot glued them to tagboard for extra reinforcement.

keys on tagboardDuring story time, I knew was going to be repeatedly hiding the keys in a dark, very cramped place. I also knew I was going to drop a key someplace irretrievable. So I made “key sleeves” out of tagboard, slipped the keys inside, and hot glued the sleeve in the hiding places.

key sleevesHere’s one key sleeve glued in a crack in the ceiling:

ceiling keyAnd another key sleeve glued behind a bear portrait

portrait keyI placed the third key (with no sleeve) in a wall sconce

wall sconce keyNow we were ready! My assistant staffed the entry door, and I staffed the exit door. One by one, kids crawled inside the spooky old tree to find the hidden keys and stick them through the “keyhole” I had created. The key in the keyhole was my signal to open the door and let them “escape.”

Originally, I was going to have kids find all three keys. But we were so crowded that day we only had time for one key. One girl was a little scared, so we opened both doors wide and let her crawl through without stopping. She did it, and then circled back in line to do it again! I was very proud of her!