Carousel of Champions

carousel of championsWant to take a spin on an amazing carousel? Ride on Duck, Horse, Golden Fish or everyone’s favorite…Gator! Thanks to a little brass tack, this carousel actually turns!

We read Gator by Randy Cecil (Candlewick, 2007). At the amusement park, a carousel spins, and Gator is the happiest animal on the carousel. He loves the lights, the wind in his face, and the laughter of the children. But when business slows and the amusement park closes, Gator becomes lonely and sad. He decides to leave. He travels through a deep, dark forest, falls into a stream, and stumbles upon some relatives in a zoo who are a lot bigger and scarier than he is. Completely disheartened, Gator slumps on a bench, crying. But suddenly, he is spotted by a little boy and his father, who recognizes Gator from the old days. Encouraged, Gator leads a crowd back to the carousel, which leaps to life once again, surrounded by the sounds of laughter and happiness.

You’ll need:

We’ll build the carousel’s spinning mechanism first. Decorate the sides of a small box with colored masking tape and patterned tape (or markers). Don’t decorate the lid of the box and definitely don’t tape it shut. You’ll need to open the lid in a few steps.

baseUse a box cutter to make a little slit in the top of the box’s lid, right in the center.

slit in boxThen make another small slit in the center of a cake circle.

slit in cake padPush the brass tack through the slit in the cake circle. Next, open the lid of the box and push the brass tack through the slit on the lid. Open the prongs of the brass tack to secure it in place.

platform to baseClose the lid of the box, and tape it shut. The spinning platform for your carousel is done!

finished platformThe next step involves a paper plate, but I wanted to say a quick word about the plate before we get started. You’ll definitely need a sturdy paper plate with a deep well and sides that slant upwards. The cheaper, flatter paper are simply too floppy, especially when you need to attach the carousel animals later. So think sturdy! That said, punch 4 holes in a paper plate. When punching your holes, keep them close to the edge of the plate like so:

holes in plateHot glue a paper bowl to the top of the plate. You now have a canopy for your carousel!

canopyDecorate the canopy with colored masking tape and patterned tape (or just markers). If you cover your holes with tape while your decorating, don’t worry. Just re-punch the holes when you’re done.

decorated canopyCut a paper towel tube down to 8″ and wrap with patterned paper (or white printer paper). Don’t, however, wrap the paper all the way to the top and bottom of the tube. Leave a little bit of the tube exposed at both ends. This will make it much more sturdy when your hot glue the tube to the platform and the canopy of the carousel.

poleHot glue 2 mirror board ovals to the sides of the pole (these carousel “mirrors” are optional, but the kids really got a kick out of seeing themselves reflected in them). Now hot glue the tube to the center of the platform. Then hot glue the canopy to the top of the tube. Use lots of hot glue…you don’t want this coming apart later! Your carousel will now look like this:

finished canopy and platformTime to attach the carousel animals! I’ll use the horse as the example for the steps below. First, cut and color the horse from the template. You’ll notice that the horse has a tab extending from its top and bottom. Each tab has a circle on it, as well as a dotted line. Use a hole punch to punch out the circle, and fold each tab along the dotted line.

horse tabsThread a drinking straw through the holes, and add a piece of tape to the back of the animal to keep it from sliding down the straw.

horse on poleIf you get stuck using clear plastic drinking straws like I did (I had a bunch leftover from this Cinderella program) you can use colored masking tape to add stripes to it. Just make sure to leave the very top and the bottom of your straw tape free.

To attach the horse to the carousel, stick the top of the straw “pole” through a hole in the carousel’s canopy. The pole might stick up a little, but that’s totally OK.

top of poleNext, line the bottom of the pole up with the carousel’s platform. Punch a hole in the platform, right underneath the bottom of the pole.

punched hole bottomTo keep the pole from slipping downward, stick a piece of masking tape over the hole, but put the tape on the underside of the platform. Sorry about the awkward photo, but here you can see the underside of the platform, with 3 punched holes covered by pieces of red masking tape:

tape on platformNow drop the bottom of the pole into the platform hole. The pole will stick to the masking tape, but I highly recommend putting a little hot glue in the hole before you slide the pole in, just to keep it extra secure. You can also skip the hole punching and simply attach the bottom of the pole to the platform with masking tape.

Finally, cover the canopy hole with masking tape to make the pole nice and snug. Repeat the above steps with the remaining 3 carousel animals.

horse final tapingDecorate the carousel with metallic dot stickers, embossed foil seals, and foil star stickers (anything shiny really). Hot glue a jumbo pom-pom to the top of the canopy, and hot glue 2 large gemstones on the sides of the pom-pom. If you want to add a bit of ruffle to your carousel’s canopy, cut the rounded edges off 2 coffee filters, and hot glue (or glue stick) the filters to the underside of the paper plate canopy.

final touchesTo spin your carousel, hold the box base firmly in your hand, grab the platform, and turn! These turned out awesome, but if I was to do this project again, I would change 2 things: 1) I would cut all the carousel animals from the template in advance so there was more time to color and assemble the carousel; and 2) I would make the carousel animal templates double sided so they would look good from all angles. If you’d like to try doubled-sided animals, here is a reversed carousel animals template. Just slide the reversed image onto the corresponding pole, secure with tape, and you’re good to go!

Looking for a circus to go with the carousel? Take a look at this little big top! Or perhaps you’d like some delicious fairground refreshments?


The artwork for the carousel animals was inspired by Randy Cecil’s amazing, warm, and wonderful illustrations. You go Duck!

Go Snail Go

racing snailOn your mark…get set…GO! The race is on with these fantastic pull string snails and tabletop race track. But it’s not speed that counts in this event. Sweet victory goes to the slowest snail in the race!

go snail goWe read Snail Boy by Leslie McGuirk (Candlewick, 2003). Meet Snail. He’s as big as a pony! Being big and extremely rare, Snail spends most of his days hiding from snail hunters. At night, he is plagued with nightmares about being captured. But one day he has an inspiration! If he can find just the right owner, he’ll be safe from snail hunters forever. Venturing to the park, Snail spots a boy and introduces himself. While the boy is reluctant to have a giant snail as a pet (snails are way too slow for his tastes), Snail finally convinces him by performing some excellent tricks. Plus, he has a private clubhouse on his back! The two friends ride off slowly, slowly, sloooowly together.

The boy in the story is reluctant to adopt Snail because of his lack of speed. I thought it would be fun to have super slow snail races to show that slow is just as fun as fast!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large rectangle of tagboard for snail body (approximately 2″ x 11.5″)
  • Hole punch
  • A 68″ piece of yarn
  • 2 small rectangles of tagboard for eye stalks (approximately 0.5″ x 2.25″)
  • 2 squares of white poster board (approximately 5.5″ x 5.5″ each)
  • 1 small box (mine was 4″ x 4″ x 4″)
  • A Bling Bin
  • 1 wooden dowel
  • Construction paper (we offered orange, green, yellow, red, and purple)
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • A 28″ piece of ribbon
  • A 2″ gold embossed foil seal (or use metallic paper)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

We’ll start with your snail! Round both ends of a large rectangle of tagboard. Fold the rounded rectangle twice – once to create your snail’s head, and twice to create your snail’s neck. Your snail’s body should now look like this:

snail step 1 Punch a hole in the snail’s body, right at the base of the neck. Thread one end of a 68″ piece of yarn through the hole, and tape it tightly to the snail’s body.

snail steps 2 and 3Round the ends of 2 small rectangles of tagboard and tape (or glue, or hot glue) them to the back of your snails head. Use markers to draw a pair of eyes on the ends of the stalks.

snail eyesNow for the shell! Round three sides of a white poster board square. Use a marker to draw a spiral on the shell. Repeat with the other white poster board square.

shell stepsHot glue a box to the top of your snail’s body, and then hot glue both pieces of shell to the sides of the box. The flat part of the shell pieces should align with the bottom of the box. Don’t let it extend beyond the bottom of the box, or your snail will have trouble sliding later.

snail shell step 2 and 3Finally, use markers and the Bling Bin to decorate your snail’s shell! We also whipped up a flag for demonstrating your team spirit. It a 9″ triangle of construction paper taped to a wooden dowel with colored masking tape. Decorate the flag with markers if you like.

flagNow for the race track! We created our track on a 6′ plastic-topped table (the same type of table we used to make these sled runs actually).

race track First, I used colored masking tape to create 3 racing lanes, a starting line, and a finish line. I also used the tape to number the lanes (you can see the numbers in purple all the way to the left on the picture). I attached 8 wooden dowels to the sides of the table using packing tape, and then I strung the dowels with kite string. Katie and I used colored masking tape to make flags along the kite string (just double a 2″ piece of tape over the string, then snip the tape with scissors to make it triangular). We finished by attaching construction paper flags to the dowels by the start and finish lines.

Ready to race? Have the kids place their snails behind the starting line in lane 1, 2, or 3. Then have them walk down the table to the finish line and stand in their snail’s lane. Leaving the snails at the starting line, deliver the long pull strings to the waiting hands of the snail jockeys. A quick tweet of a starting whistle, and they’re off! The slowest snail wins!

super snailThe hilarious thing about this activity is that it’s nearly impossible for kids to go slow in a race. Especially when people are waving flags and yelling in excitement. Most of the snails burned down the track in seconds. But some snails were Olympians of slowness. You can see one of the record breakers in the photo above, finally approaching the finish line.

The prize was a gold medal on a ribbon. We mounted a 2″ gold foil seal on a circle of poster board, then taped a 28″ piece of ribbon to the back. Everyone received a gold medal for finishing, regardless of how their snails placed in the race!

medal

Cheshire Cat Grin

cheshire cat grinSomething to smile about! I designed this Cheshire Cat project for an Alice in Wonderland program. It’s quick, easy, and the results are frabjous!

You’ll need:

First, select a grin from the template and use markers to color it. Glue (or tape, or hot glue) the smile to a jumbo craft stick. Make sure to leave about 1″ of space at the top of the stick for your whiskers and nose.

grin step 1Pinch the centers of the twisteez wires together, then secure them to the stick with masking tape. If you can’t find twisteez wires, use very thin strips of card stock for whiskers. I wouldn’t recommend using pipe cleaners. The ends can get rather sharp when you cut them, and that’s not good for a project that is held close to the eyes.

grin step 2Shape a square of self-adhesive foam into a cat nose, then peel and stick on top of the masking tape. You can also use regular foam and adhere the nose with hot glue.

grin step 3Trim and curl the whiskers (or leave them straight), and you’re done!

grin step 4Hold the project to your face to become a cat with a grin, or hold it away from you to demonstrate a grin without a cat!