La Cucaracha

cockroach pizza boxDon’t panic! Those are FAKE cockroaches winding their way through a pizza box maze. The roaches crawl beautifully, thanks to a hidden magnet wand positioned underneath the box. This project is from To Be Continued, our story time for 6 to 8 year-olds. It was a big hit!

We read Measle and the Wrathmonk by Ian Ogilvy (Harper Collins, 2004). Young Measle Stubbs lives in a grim house on an abandoned street. His legal guardian, Basil Tramplebone, is a very strange man. He always wears black. His skin is ghostly pale. And oddly, whenever Basil goes outside, a raincloud follows him. But up in the attic of Basil’s horrible house is the world’s most amazing train set, and Measle desperately wants to play with it. He throws together a wild plan to get into the attic – and gets caught. While Measle certainly expects Basil to be angry, he doesn’t expect Basil to shrink him down to a half an inch and put him in the train set! Measle soon discovers he’s not the only victim trapped on the set. Can Measle and his gang put together a plan to defeat Basil?

I won’t give away too much, but there are some terrific giant cockroach chase scenes on the train table. For the project, I toyed with the idea of making a miniature train set obstacle course inside a box top. But then opted for something simpler and quicker to construct – a drinking straw maze. Building off a marble maze project I spotted on Pinterest (you can see it pinned to my board here), I decided to replace the marble with a magnetic plastic cockroach.

plastic cockroachYou’ll need:

  • 1 pizza box
  • 1 plastic roach (I purchased mine on Amazon – a set of 12 was $4.58)
  • 2 button magnets
  • 1 wine cork
  • Drinking straws
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

To make your magnet “wand,” hot glue a button magnet to the top of a wine cork, then hot glue a second button magnet to the bottom of the plastic cockroach.

cockroach magnet corkAfter some trial and error, we determined that using 2 different sized button magnets (0.5″ and 0.75″) worked best for our roaches and pizza boxes.

Slice Between, a local pizza shop, gave us a deal on 2 dozen pizza boxes (a copy paper box lid would work too, but I thought pizza boxes would be a better match for the creepy cockroaches). During the story time workshop kids cut, arranged, and taped drinking straws into maze configurations. Some kids expanded the maze to both sides of the box!

double box topTo navigate your cockroach through the maze, place the cockroach on top of the box. Hold your cork magnet wand against the underside of the box, directly underneath the cockroach. The two magnets will connect through the cardboard and you can mosey your cockroach through the maze!

Two hints for this project:

  1. When attaching the straws to the box, keep the tape as flat as possible. Bumps or raised bunches of tape might hinder your roach’s movement through the maze.
  2. When guiding your roach through the maze, move the cork wand slowly. If you go too fast, the magnets tend to break their connection.

I had markers handy in case anyone wanted to decorate their boxes (or make “Start” and “Finish” lines for their mazes), but some kids used the markers to create some fan art. Here’s Basil, his stinky Wrathmonk breath, and an indication of what happens to him later in the book:

wrathmonk fan art 1And here’s yet another portrait of Basil, with a little hint about his ultimate fate:

wrathmonk fan art 2Measle and the Wrathmonk (and its sequels) are fantastic. They’re fun, scary, creative, and even though Wrathmonks are horribly evil, they’re terribly funny too. Ian Ogilvy was a well-known English actor before he became a children’s author, and it shows in his talent for dialogue, pace and characterizations. Measle and the Wrathmonk is delightful to read aloud and had the kids hooked right from the beginning. Honestly, you could hear a pin drop when I was reading certain sections of the story!

When Chicken Pox Totally Rox

pox totally roxNo one likes to get sick…unless you have our special strain of story time chicken pox! These pox are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. But, just in case you’re still feeling under the weather, we have a cozy bed tray and get well card for you!

bed trayWe read Goldie Locks Has Chicken Pox, written by Erin Dealey, and illustrated by Hanako Wakiyama (Antheneum Books, 2002). Poor Goldie. She’s absolutely covered in chicken pox, and her little brother has decided to be a total pest while she convalesces. He demands to connect her dots with crayons, whines that she’s eating all the ice cream, and teases her relentlessly about her “polka-dots.” Finally, Mother steps in to break things up. But justice has already been served. There’s a new case of chicken pox in the house, and guess who has it?

You’ll need:

  • 1 corrugated cardboard base (I used a 9.5″ x 13.5″ cake pad)
  • 1 small paper plate (mine was 7″ in diameter)
  • 1 paper bowl
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • A selection of patterned tape
  • 1 paper napkin
  • 1 plastic spoon
  • 2 rectangles of yellow tissue paper (approximately 5″ x 6.25″ each)
  • 6 pieces of white yarn (approximately 5″ each)
  • 4 tiny squares of orange craft foam (approximately 0.5″)
  • A rectangle of tagboard (approximately 4.25″ x 4.5″)
  • A small square of yellow self-adhesive foam (approximately 1.25″)
  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • A selection of patterned paper
  • 1 flower template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 green drinking straw
  • 2 small rectangles of stiffened felt (approximately 1.25″ x 1.75″)
  • A piece of string (approximately 4″ long)
  • A small rectangle pf white card stock for tea bag label (approximately 1″ x 2.5″)
  • 1 paper cup
  • 1 small strip of white poster board for teacup handle (approximately 0.75″ x 4″)
  • 1 blue cotton ball (or a small piece of blue tissue paper)
  • A large piece of white card stock, folded like a greeting card (approximately 5″ x 7.5″)
  • 1 sheet of red dot stickers for the “Everyone Has Chicken Pox” game
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

labeled bed trayThe bed tray has many pieces, but the assembly is a snap! The only thing we prepped in advance was the tea bag. Otherwise, the kids put together all the the pieces themselves. Begin by decorating the borders of the corrugated cardboard base, plate, and bowl.

step 1 tray plate bowlTo make “soup,” gently crumble two yellow tissue paper rectangles and place them in the bowl. Add 6 white yarn “noodles” and 4 orange craft foam squares of “chicken” (or “tofu”).

chicken soupPut your soup bowl on top of the plate, and tuck a napkin and plastic spoon next to it. To make buttered toast, cut a rectangle of tagboard (or brown poster board) into a toast shape, then use a brown marker to color the border of the toast. Add a pat of self-adhesive foam butter (or simply draw the butter on with a yellow marker).

buttered toastTo make a flower vase, wrap a toilet paper tube with patterned paper (or use white paper you’ve decorated with markers). Next, color and cut the flower from the template. Note: the flower on the template is double-sided. As you see in the image below, you cut both flowers out as one piece, making sure to cut up to the edges of the dotted line:

cut flower templateTape a green drinking straw to the bottom half of the flower…

taped flowerThen fold the template along the dotted line, bringing the top half of the flower down to match the bottom half. Secure with tape, and stick the flower in the vase!

Time for tea! We’ll begin with the tea bag. First, hot glue a 4″ piece of string to a square of stiffened felt. Hot glue a second square of felt on top of the first. To make the “label” for your tea bag, fold a small rectangle of card stock in half, then hot glue the free end of the string to the bottom half of the card stock. Fold the card stock over the string, and hot glue in place. Decorate the tea label with markers!

tea bagTo make a teacup, cut a paper cup down until it is about 1″ tall. Decorate the rim with colored masking tape and/or patterned tape. Tab the ends of a small strip of white poster board to create the handle, then attach the handle to the inside and bottom of the cup with tape (or hot glue). Drop a blue cotton ball (or a crumpled piece of blue tissue paper) into the cup, then set the tea bag inside.

finished teacupFinally, use markers to draw a get well card on white card stock. When the card is done, assemble the items on your tray. Some kids wanted me to hot glue everything to their trays, others wanted most of their items loose. You’ll definitely want to hot glue the flower vase to the tray. Otherwise, the top-heavy flower will keep tipping the vase over.

Ready to get sick? Setting our bed trays aside, we gathered in the story time area to play the “Everyone Has Chicken Pox” game. Basically, every child was given a half a sheet of  Avery red dot stickers (meaning each kids received 12 dot stickers total):

chicken pox stickersWhen I said “Go!” the kids had to run around, sticking a “pox” on different people in the room (including adults!). When everyone was good and sick, we returned to our bed trays to get “better.”

Eggs, Glorious Eggs

eggs glorious eggsSquare eggs with unique, artisanal patterning? A beauty contest? Princess chickens? Yes, there is a book that brings all these elements together!

We read The Most Wonderful Egg in the World, by Helme Heine (Margaret K. McElderry imprint, 1983). In a kingdom, long ago, three hens got in an argument. Which hen was the most beautiful? Could it be Dotty, with her beautiful feathers? Stalky, with her beautiful legs? Or Plumy, with her beautiful crest? They decide to take matters to the king. Being a practical man (“What you can do is more important than what you look like”), he decreed that whoever laid the most wonderful egg would become a princess. Dotty laid the most perfect, shimmering, spotless egg the kingdom had even seen. Stalky laid the biggest egg the kingdom had ever seen. And Plumy…laid a square egg with a different color on each side! Since the king could not decide which egg was the most wonderful, he made all three hens princesses. And they lived happily ever after.

You’ll need:

  • A strip of white poster board (approximately 2.25″ x 22″)
  • A sturdy, 7″ paper plate
  • Nest making materials (brown construction paper, raffia, and paper crinkle)
  • A small box (mine was 4″ x 4″ x 4″)
  • Egg decorating materials (complete list a little later in the post!)
  • A couple of name tag stickers
  • 2 pieces of gold ribbon (approximately 2.25″ each)
  • Stapler, scissors, tape, and glue stick for construction
  • Hot glue

For this project, we made a nest, decorated a “square” egg, and then held an egg-tastic beauty contest in which everyone took home a prize!

egg in nestWe’ll begin with the nest. Circle a strip of white poster board around the outside of a paper plate and staple it securely (you’ll need to remove the circle from around the plate to staple it properly).

nest step 1Slide the paper plate back inside the circle, pushing it all the way to the bottom.

nest step 2Now flip the “nest” over and use tape to reinforce the connection between the plate and the circle. I used at least 4 pieces of tape:

nest step 3I also reinforced the inside connection with a ring of hot glue.

nest step 4Time to decorate! I offered strips of brown construction paper, raffia, and paper crinkle. Kids attached these materials to their nests with tape and/or glue.

finished nestNow for the egg! We used dot stickers, craft ties, ribbon, tissue paper, small feathers, sparkle stems, self-adhesive foam shapes, drinking straws, cotton balls, patterned paper, and colored masking tape to jazz thing up. You can also forgo all these things and simply use markers to fancy your egg up.

eggWhile the kids were decorating their eggs, Miss Joani and I circled around, making note of who was putting the most dot stickers on his/her egg, who was doing lots of stripes, who was going to town with the sparkly materials. Later, we used our notes to award the beauty contest prizes.

In my story time contests, everyone is awarded a prize ribbon, and no 2 categories are the same! Here are some of the “categories” from our egg beauty contest:

  1. Best spots
  2. Best stripes
  3. Most colorful
  4. Best use of red
  5. Best use of blue
  6. Best use of pink
  7. Best use of purple
  8. Best use of sparkle stems
  9. Best pattern
  10. Most original
  11. Fluffiest egg
  12. Most imaginative
  13. Most mysterious
  14. Best nest
  15. Most cheerful
  16. Best feathers
  17. Most shiny

You can make up a few prize categories on the spot, but I’d recommend having some ready-made ones handy. The contest’s “parade” only lasts a few minutes, and I find it difficult to come up with prize categories quickly, especially if you’re awarding ribbons to 22 kids at once!

Making the prize ribbons is super easy. I purchased some gold-bordered name tag stickers from Office Max, and used a gold metallic Sharpie pen to write the category on each sticker. Next, I peeled back the sticker and placed two, 2.25″ pieces of gold ribbon near the bottom. Then I lowered the sticker gently back in place. During the award ceremony, all you have to do is peel and stick the ribbon on the nest!

prize ribbonsWhen it was time for the contest, everyone placed their eggs in their nests and followed “Judge Joani” out to the lobby of the library.

judge joaniOnce in the lobby, the contestants circled, reversed directions twice, and stood in line while the judge examined their eggs. Then everyone sat down while I announced the prizes, to the hearty applause and cheers of the grown-ups!