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!

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 oversize boxes with lids on hand (which I salvaged from the recycling pile). So we used the bottom of the boxes 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.

The Slopes are Open

slopes are openWho doesn’t enjoy a good sled run? Especially when you get to ride in a comfy customized sled with a charming canine companion!

companionsAnd behold a white plastic folding table transformed into a delightful sled run, complete with wintry obstacles!

sled run with obstaclesWe read Snow on Snow on Snow by Cheryl Chapman, illustrations by Synthia Saint James (Dial Books for Young Reader, 1994). One snowy, wintery day, a boy and his dog go sledding. But when Clancy the dog gets lost, everyone joins in the the search. Luckily, Clancy is found, and all is well. The story is simple, but the repetitive sentences read like poetry and make it a fantastic read-aloud for kids.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 2” x 4” x 4”)
  • 2 jumbo craft sticks (mine was 7.75″)
  • 2 pipe cleaners
  • 2 small jingle bells
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • A selection of multicultural construction paper
  • A selection of construction paper for hair, dog’s body, ears, and snow pants
  • A selection of patterned paper (optional)
  • 2 pieces of twisteez wire (pipe cleaners work too)
  • 3 mini pom-poms (mine were 1/2″ in diameter)
  • A 1″ x 12″ piece of felt
  • 1 sled run (more on that later!)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Begin by cutting any lids or tabs off the top of your box. You want the top to be nice and open.

box steps 1 and 2Then cut curvy “sled” lines in the top of the box. Make sure the back of the sled is taller that the front. Otherwise, your riders will tumble out!

box step 3Use markers to decorate the outside of the sled, and then hot glue two jumbo craft sticks to the bottom of the box as runners.

sled runnersNext, thread two jingle bells onto a pipe cleaner, and bend and curl the ends like so:

bells Tape the center of the jingle bell pipe cleaner to the front of the sled, and then fold the rest around the edge of the sled and secure with tape.

jingle bell attachmentCut the second pipe cleaner in half, curl both pieces, and tape to the inside back of the sled.

finished sledNow for your riders! To make the human rider, wrap a 2″ x 6″ pieces of multicultural construction paper around the top of a toilet paper tube to create the face. Then wrap a 2.25″ x 6″ piece of construction paper around the bottom of the tube for pants.

Wrap a 2.5″ x 5.5″ piece of patterned paper around the middle of the tube for the jacket. Draw facial features with markers, and then fringe and tape some construction paper on top of the tube for hair. Finish by knotting a 1″ x 12″ piece of felt around the neck as a scarf (I fringed the ends of the scarf too).

If you’d like earmuffs, cut and tape a piece of twisteez wire (or pipe cleaner) on either side of the tube, then hot glue two mini pom-poms on top of the wire.

earmuff stepsTo make the dog, wrap a 5.5″ x 6″ piece of construction paper around a toilet paper tube. Cut and tape ears to the top of the tube. Draw facial features with markers. Attach a pom-pom nose with hot glue. Then twist a piece of twisteez wire (or pipe cleaner) around the neck for the collar. Tape securely.

wire collarYour amazing duo is done! To prepare them for their exciting ride, tilt them back in the sled like so:

tiltTime to hit the slopes! I had two plastic folding tables on hand, so I created two sled runs for kids to master.

sled run 2For the sledding obstacle course, you’ll need:

  • One 6′ plastic folding table. A table with a white plastic top is best
  • Clear packing tape
  • A piece of 10.75″ x 13.5″ white poster board for snow tunnel
  • Several handfuls of polyester fill
  • Several 11″ x 14″ pieces of green poster board for trees
  • Several wood rounds
  • 1 balloon stick or wooden dowel
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue

The snow tunnel is the largest obstacle, so attach it first. Use packing tape to secure both ends (scotch tape isn’t strong enough) then hot glue the polyester fill to the outside of the poster board. Run the sled & riders through the tunnel to make sure the height and width works.

To make trees, curl the green poster board into a cone, secure the cone with packing tape, and then trim the bottom of the cone to make it relatively flat. Attach to the table with packing tape.

treeTo make tree stumps, attach packing tape loops to the back of the wood rounds, then press firmly to the table top.

wood round tape loopsFor snow drifts, grab a hunk of polyester fill, elongate it slightly, and then slap a big piece of packing tape over both ends to attach it to the table. Tape loops just don’t work!

packing tape driftsProp the table up on a chair, bench, or box. We have some short cushioned benches that, in addition to the textured carpet on the floor, kept the table really secure. You’ll have to experiment with this a bit in your story time space.

To assist with steering down the hill, I gave the kids a balloon stick (a wooden dowel would work as well).

steering stickSome kids kept the stick in the back of the sled and walked their sleds down the hill. Others positioned their sleds at the top of the hill, lifted the stick out, and let it fly. One determined lad used the stick to push his sled uphill!

uphillI learned a few lessons about kids and plastic table top sledding hills during this story time. If I was to do this program again, I would:

  1. Not include as many obstacles, or have one table completely free of obstacles for sleds to whiz down.
  2. Have the tunnel be the “starting gate” at the top of the hill instead of making the kids maneuver over to it.
  3. Test different materials for steering the sleds (like wooden dowels, craft sticks, unsharpened pencils, a twig from the backyard) to see which one gives kids the best control.
  4. If you have very young children at story time, lay the sled hill flat on the ground so they can simply push the sled through the obstacle course like this:

flat hill