Pan Pipes

groverGet your Grover on with these simple pan pipes necklaces! I designed them for a large-scale Lightning Thief event (you can read more about the event, and our awesome Mythomagic deck here). The pipes were part of a “Pan Pipes & Pythagoras” table hosted by Music Together Princeton Lab School. Since we needed to create several hundred sets of pan pipes (event attendance was around 5,000) I needed something inexpensive that would give kids a little taste of tone and pitch.

I considered PVC pipe, empty marker tubes, empty pen tubes…but they were either too expensive, impractical, too hard to cut, couldn’t produce a satisfactory sound, or required way too much prep time. Happily, the solution came when I stopped by Fruity Yogurt, a local frozen yogurt place. In addition to soft serve, Fruity Yogurt does bubble tea, which naturally comes with a bubble tea straw.

strawsBubble tea straws are thicker than your average drinking straw. I tested a few and they were perfect! Not to mention inexpensive and they come in jolly colors!

You’ll need:

  • At least 4 bubble tea straws
  • A small craft stick (for a 4-straw set of pipes, you’ll need a 3″ craft stick)
  • A 28-29″ piece of yarn
  • A ruler
  • A Sharpie permanent marker
  • Scissors and tape for construction

Start by folding the bottom of each straw up and taping it very tightly (some bubble tea straws have pointed bottoms – you can trim the point off if you’d like).

taped straw Place the folded straw next to a ruler, and use a permanent marker to mark the desired  length of the straw. I cut my straws in 0.5″ increments. So the first straw was 5″, the second straw was 4.5″, the third straw was 4″, and the fourth straw was 3.5″.

marked straw I did some experimenting with how long or how short a straw can be before it starts losing its tone. Based on my experiments, I wouldn’t go any longer than 7.5″ and no shorter than 2.5″. Beyond those lengths, the straws seem to lose their ability to hold a note.

Next, knot the yarn on both ends of the craft stick, and reinforce the knots with tape.

attached yarnLine all your straws next to each other in ascending order. Make sure the top (i.e. the open ends) of the straws are even with one another. Secure them with a piece of tape.

taped pipesThen flip the pipes over and tape the craft stick on the other side! Done!

finished pipes

Furry & Fabulous

glamsterWhy be a hamster when you can be…a GLAMster! With the proper hat, accessories, and a stunning pair of sunglasses, become a hamster who is sure to get noticed.

We read Glamsters, written by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel and illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic (Disney-Hyperion, 2008). It’s the big annual sale at Hamster World, and Harriet the hamster is worried that she and her sister Patricia won’t get noticed. When Harriet spots a magazine article about “glamsters” lining the bottom of her cage, she thinks she’s found the solution. She transforms herself with “high gloss-and-glo fur volumizer,” a new hat, and funky whisker extensions. Yes, Harriet’s feeling pretty glamorous until Patricia wakes up from a nap, sees Harriet, and screams. Definitely NOT the reaction Harriet was expecting. Patricia helps Harriet get back to normal and, best of all, the two hamsters get noticed by a lovely new owner. Just by being themselves.

You’ll need:

hamsterWe’ll begin with the hamster. Wrap the outside of a large oatmeal container with brown construction paper. Cut the feet from a square of tagboard (or brown poster board). I cut little toes as well.

hamster feetHot glue the feet to the bottom of the oatmeal container. Next, cut the hamster’s bib from the template (the bib is the white “fur” that forms the hamster’s tummy, cheeks, and forehead). You can leave the sides of the bib just as they are in the template, or you can use scissors to cut ruffles in the sides to resemble fur.

hamster bib rufflesHot glue (or tape) the bib to the front of the oatmeal container. Arms are next! The arms are  2 tagboard rectangles that are rounded at each end.

hamster armsAttach the arms to the body with hot glue (or tape). Hot glue on a pom-pom nose and a pair of wiggle eyes. Use markers to add a smile. Finally, use brown construction paper to make a pair of ears, and then hot glue (or tape) them on. You’ll notice that the ears are attached on the front of the container, above the eyes, and at a slight angle. This is so the hamster’s ears won’t interfere with the hat.

angled ear Your hamster is finished, now for some glamorous accessories! For the hat, I prepped a bunch of simple white origami hats. Start with a 9″ x 12″ sheet of construction paper:

hat step 1

Fold the paper in half downwards

hat step 2

Now fold the upper right-hand corner towards the middle of the paper like so:

hat step 3Then repeat with the upper left-hand corner.

hat step 4Fold one side of the bottom up

hat step 5Then flip the hat over…

hat step 6And fold the remaining side up at the bottom.

hat step 7Flip the hat back over, open it at the bottom, and secure it with 2 staples.

hat step 8The hat is ready, let the hamster makeover commence! I offered patterned paper, embossed foil paper, sparkle stems, craft-ties, heart stickers, small feathers, and dot stickers, as well as the Bling Bin. I also tested some glitter tape out on this project. I was dubious about its claim to not shed glitter, but it actually wasn’t too bad (see my issue with glitter in the FAQs).

Kids make hats, necklaces, belts, purses, ties, briefcases, etc. The final touch, however, was a pair of sunglasses. Color and cut a pair from the template, and perch them on your hamster’s pom-pom nose. Perfect dahling.

As you can imagine, we had some super glamorous hamsters at story time. I captured a few quick poses in my photo studio, and Katie whipped up some exclusive magazine covers…

Harper's HamzaarHAMQRolling WheelGood HamsterkeepingCheeselingersSqueek

 

Shadow Play

shadow playWe made these fantastic shadow puppets as part of To Be Continued, our chapter book story time for kids ages 6-8. We had just finished reading The Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows by Jacqueline West (Dial, 2010).

Olive Dunwoody and her parents have just moved into an old house. And the house doesn’t like it. The house’s previous owner, Mrs. McMartin, was involved in witchcraft, and not very nice witchcraft at that. The house wants Mrs. McMartin, and the rest of her dark family, back. Olive soon discovers that she can enter the house’s enchanted paintings. She also discovers a trio of talking cats (who totally rock), a be-spelled boy named Morton, and the nefarious plans of Aldous McMartin, the evil patriarch of the ancient McMartin family. Can Olive and her friends fight off the shadows? This book is spooky, exciting, funny, and kept the kids in the group on the edges of their seats (or pillows, rather).

You’ll need:

I made two example puppets – a cat (because the cats are such fantastic characters in the book), and a ghost. But the kids could make anything they wanted. We had cats, ghosts, dragons, zombies, and some sort of monster with a detachable brain. Oh yeah.

The kids started by using markers to sketch their puppets on a sheet of tagboard. They cut the entire figure out first, and then made specific cuts on the portions they wanted to manipulate later (such as cutting the tail off and reattaching it with a brass tack).

cat with brass tacksWe used the hole punch to make eyes (you can use scissors to cut eyes and mouth holes too). I had some tissue paper, twistez wire, pipe cleaners, and cellophane handy to add some texture to the shadows as well.

cat with whiskersWhen it came time to put the sticks on the puppets, we used a wooden dowel as the central stick and a lighter bamboo skewer for the moveable part. We attached the sticks with tape.

One hint about the stick placement. It’s best to attach the stick that manipulates a part of the puppet (like an arm or tail) at a slight angle. This will give it a better range of motion.

cat with sticksHere’s my ghost puppet. I made one arm moveable, cut out the eyes and the mouth with scissors, and added tissue paper drapery.

ghost puppetFor the grand show, I lowered all the shades, turned off the lights, and fired up the overhead projector (you can read more about the joys of overhead projectors here). I pointed the projector at wall and…magic!

finished puppetsNeedless to say, we had a total blast playing with our shadow puppets. The program ran for less than an hour, but it would have been interesting to keep it going for a few more – experimenting with different types of puppets, textures, and launching into spontaneous narratives. There are some interesting multicultural angles to shadow puppetry as well. Hmmm…maybe a more extensive weekend workshop is in order?

more shadows