Jack-O’-Lantern

jack o lanternThis plump little pumpkin is made out of a roll of toilet paper! I spotted this project in FamilyFun magazine years ago. Their version was undecorated, and they used fabric and felt for the body and leaves. I needed to use cheaper materials, so my version is made with a piece of plastic tablecloth and construction paper. I also went a step further and decorated the front with a grinning jack-o’-lantern face!

You’ll need:

  • 1 roll of toilet paper
  • A piece of orange plastic table cloth (approximately 20″ x 22″)
  • Brown and green construction paper
  • 1 green pipe cleaner
  • 4 pieces of black self-adhesive foam
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Green marker (optional)

Place the toilet paper roll in the center of the plastic tablecloth, and tuck the tablecloth into the hole in the top of the roll. Next, curl a 5″ x 9″ piece of brown construction paper into a tube and tape it. This is your pumpkin’s stem. Stick the stem in the hole in the top of the roll.

Cut a leaf shape out of a piece of green construction paper. Make sure to leave a 2″ stem at the bottom of the leaf (because the stem needs to firmly anchor the leaf in the toilet paper roll). You can use a green marker to draw a little line on the leaf if you’d like.

pumpkin leafTuck the stem of the leaf into the hole. Curl a green pipe cleaner around a pencil, pen, or marker to make a corkscrew, then tuck it into the hole as well.

Finally, cut your jack-o’-lantern’s eyes, nose, and mouth out of black self-adhesive foam and stick them on your pumpkin (or use black construction paper pieces and tape). You can cut the foam pieces in advance, or the kids can “carve” the pieces on their own. I found a little friend in the gallery who was more than happy to demonstrate her carving skills! Awesome.

decorated jackThe nice thing about this project is that when you are done with it, you can remove the plastic and re-purpose the roll of toilet paper. Now that’s a very useful pumpkin!

When Life Gives You Lemons…

lemonade standIs there anything better than a refreshing glass of lemonade on a hot day? Served from your very own lemonade stand? Besides being a retail operation, this lemonade stand also involves counting, sorting, and sequential thinking exercises for the young shopkeeper. Yes, it’s a perfect blend of math and…wait a minute! Is that a RED lemon I see on the tree?!?

We read The Red Lemon by Bob Staake (Random House, 2006). Farmer McPhee is enthusiastic about his beautiful lemons and the delightful things they can produce (sherbet! pie! cookies! cakes!). However, while gallivanting through his grove, he discovers a RED lemon. Needless to say, he is outraged and huffily hurls the offending lemon far away, where it lands on a little island. Two hundred years pass, and the McPhee lemon grove is gone. But on that faraway island, a bustling metropolis has risen. Their world famous product? Red lemons, of course.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9”) – a tissue box works too!
  • craft sticks (mine were 4.5″ long)
  • 3 rectangles of tagboard (mine were approximately 2″ x 4.5″)
  • 1 circle of green poster board (approximately 7″ in diameter)
  • 1 paper towel tube
  • 1-2 rectangles of green poster board (approximately 2.25″ x 4″) for bushes
  • 1 corrugated cardboard base (approximately 9.75″ x 13.75″)
  • 3 paper cups
  • 1 wooden dowel
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • 3 small plastic cups (mine were 1.25 ounce clear cups, purchased at Party City)
  • 3 yellow cotton balls
  • 1 drinking straw
  • 1 lemonade stand template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • Flower stickers (optional)
  • Scissors, tape, and white glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

First, use white glue (or hot glue or tape) to attach 4 craft sticks and 3 rectangles of tagboard to the front of the box. I used this part of the activity to introduce (or revisit) the concept of a pattern.

stand base Color the small lemons on the template (be sure to make a red one!) and glue them onto a 7″  circle of green poster board. Then hot glue the circle to a paper towel tube. As you can see in the image below, I left about 3″ of space between the top of the circle and the top of the tube.

back of treeTo make a bush for your stand, cut a bush shape out of a rectangle of green poster board, and then tab it at the bottom.

bushNow to put the set together! First, hot glue the box to a corrugated cardboard base (I used a cake pad, but you can also make one out of a copy paper box lid). Then glue 3 paper cups behind the box (i.e. the side that isn’t decorated with craft sticks & tagboard). Glue the bush to the right of the stand, and the tree to the left. Here’s a bird’s-eye view of the stand with everything glued in place.

bird's-eye viewA word about the tree. As you can see, it’s hot glued to the base AND to the side of the box. The double attachment makes the tree extra sturdy (which is especially important if the project has to survive a car trip home).

attaching treeNow for your lemonade stand’s sign! Wrap 2 pieces of colored masking tape around the top of a wooden dowel, then trim the ends into triangles to create 2 flags. Tape the dowel on the right side of the box.

flagsDecorate the rest of the items on the template and add them to the stand. The large lemon sign gets taped to the wooden dowel and the “Fresh” garland gets taped on the front of the stand. We added some flower stickers too (you could also opt to draw flowers on using markers). We had some extra bushes., so I offered kids a second bush to double the landscaping fun.

lemonade stand All that remains is the cash register and your merchandise! You can see the register in the above photo. It does require a little assembly. I’ll demonstrate the steps below with an undecorated register, straight from the template.

First, fold the bottom tab of your register inwards like so:

cash register step 1Then, fold both sides downwards from the base like this

cash register step 2Curl the tab around to meet the opposite side of the register

cash register step 3Then secure the tab with tape. Hot glue (or tape) the register to the top of the stand!

cash register step 4Finally, the lemonade. You might recall that the lemonade stand has 3 paper cups glued behind it. These paper cups are to help kids practice sorting their small plastic lemonade glasses, yellow cotton balls, and mini straws.

cup setupFirst, I showed the kids the sequence in which you need to make a glass of lemonade. Cup first, lemonade second, and straw third (to make the mini straws, simple cut a drinking straw into thirds – my mini straws ended up being about 2.5″ long).

glass of lemonadeWhen your customer is finished, you take apart your lemonade in reverse order, making sure to sort everything back into its proper paper cup. I used yellow cotton balls for lemonade (purchased from Discount School Supply), but you could also use crumpled yellow construction paper. Or red paper – I hear those red lemons are all the rage!

As we stocked the lemonade stand with supplies, we had the kids count out loud with us: 1-2-3 cups, 1-2-3 cotton balls, and 1-2-3 straws. I suggested to parents that they use the stand and some fake (or real) money to give kids a taste of monetary math at home. But for now, let’s simply raise a glass to our lemonade-loving friends!

cheersInterested in other retail opportunities? Check out our ice cream truck and produce stand. Or get historical with our covered wagon & trading post story time! If you’re looking for ways to add a little math to your literacy programs, there are some hints on our Sneaky Math post.

Quill Pens

quill pensNeed a simple project for a big event? Perhaps these quill pens will do the trick!

Last Saturday, Cotsen hosted a table at Princeton University’s Community & Staff Day event. Because of the big crowds, we needed something simple, fun, fast, and literary. Last year, we made flying books. This year, we decided to make Harry Potter-esque quill pens.

We were, of course, dressed in hats and robes. Even though it was 85 degrees out. Because comfort never comes before costuming, am I right?

wizard robes   You’ll need:

First, twist a sparkle stem into the desired shape. We offered 3 different shapes to choose from (even though some kids made their own shapes of course):

stemsPlace the sparkle stem on top of the feather. Then use masking tape to attach the feather and the sparkle stem to the the top of the pen. You can continue covering the pen with tape if you’d like (just make sure you don’t accidentally tape the cap on). Done!

pen from sideBelow you can see the layout of our event table, including a display pen floating in the upper right-hand corner of the photo. It’s always a good idea to have an example of the project displayed somewhere. That way, kids can see what to expect and grown ups can get a jump on gathering the appropriate supplies.

table side 1On the opposite side of our event tent was a mirror activity. Here, kids could use their newly-created quill pens to do some inverted writing and try their skills at mirror mazes.

table side 2The mirror activity is very simple to put together. We duct-taped 6 bookends to the back of an inexpensive door mirror and stood it up on the table.

mirrorSince we weren’t able to staff the mirror activities during the event, we printed up some display instructions (here are my mirror writing instructions). I put the instructions in a double-sided plastic display stand.

instructionsWe stacked practice paper and 4 types of mazes (which we found using Google images) on either side of the mirror. The mazes were really popular, even with older kids!

boys writingLooking for a few more simple Harry Potter crafts? Try these PVC pipe wands, or this wrist owl (scroll to the bottom of the page to see the owl example). Defense Against the Dark Arts enthusiasts might enjoy this boggart!