Say Freeze!

say freezeWhat happens when you give a bunch of penguins a camera? In order to find out, we made oatmeal container penguins and armed them with tea tin cameras. The results? Here’s one image…scroll to the bottom of the post to see the rest!

penguin with witherspoonWe read Penguins by Liz Pichon (Orchard Books, 2008). It’s a regular day at the zoo…until a little girl accidentally drops her camera into the penguin habitat. Curious, the penguins gather round. It doesn’t take them long to figure out how the camera works, and pretty soon everyone is having a good time taking pictures! When the camera stops working, the penguins quickly put it back where they found it. The next day, the zookeeper finds the camera and returns it to the little girl. After the pictures are developed, she’s surprised to find photos of monkeys, lions, tigers, elephants, and lots and lots and lots of penguins (don’t miss the adorable fold out photos at the end of the book)!

Both parts of this project are very simple to make. Parents, caregivers, and kids were especially tickled by the tea tin cameras with a clicking shutter button.

camera frontYou’ll need:

  • 1 large oatmeal container
  • 2 rectangles of orange poster board (approximately 2.25″ x 3.25″)
  • 1 circle of black construction paper (approximately 5.25″ in diameter)
  • 1 rectangle of white construction paper (approximately 5.75″ x 9″)
  • Black construction paper
  • 1 triangle of yellow self-adhesive foam (approximately 1.5″ tall)
  • 2 black dot stickers for eyes (optional)
  • 1 Twinings brand tea tin
  • 1 strip of construction paper, any color (approximately 2.75″ x 12″)
  • A selection of patterned tape
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • A 17″ piece of ribbon, any color
  • 1 scotch tape core (approximately 1.5″ in diameter)
  • 1 small circle of mirror board or tin foil (approximately 1″ in diameter)
  • 1
  • 1 small rhinestone
  • 1 penguin viewfinder template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 bug clicker (more on this below)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

finished penguinPenguin first, then camera! First, tape (or hot glue) a black construction paper circle to the top of a large oatmeal container. Then, cut 2 rectangles of orange poster board into penguin feet. Hot glue them to the bottom of the container.

penguin feetWrap a rectangle of white construction paper around the front of the oatmeal container (right above the feet) and secure with tape. Next, wrap a piece of black construction paper around the back of the oatmeal container and secure it with tape (or hot glue). The black construction paper will overlap the white construction paper, creating your penguin’s white tummy and black “jacket.”penguin tummy and jacketCut a pair of rounded penguin flippers out of black construction paper, then tape (or hot glue) them to the sides of the container. Add a self-adhesive foam triangle beak and two dot sticker eyes (or skip the stickers and draw the eyes with markers). Use markers to add a pair of eyebrows and you’re done!

Now for the camera! Wrap a tea tin with construction paper (I went with classic black). Add strips of patterned tape to the top and bottom.

camera steps 1 and 2To make a camera strap, take the lid off the tea tin and tape the ends of a ribbon inside it. Close the lid, and your strap is extra secure!

interior of tinNow for the camera’s focusing ring, lens, flash, shutter button, and viewfinder:

camera front labeledTo make the “focusing ring,” wrap the outside of a tape core with construction paper. Since I used cardboard tape cores, I colored the outside rim with a black marker. Here’s a before and after shot:

wrapped tape coreHot glue the core to the middle of the tin, then hot glue a small circle of mirror board inside the core. The mirror board is your camera’s “lens.” You could also use tin foil. To make your camera’s “flash,” hot glue a clear plastic rhinestone to the top of a large plastic button, then hot glue the button to the upper right corner of the tin.

flashThe “shutter button” of this camera is actually a bug clicker. Have you seen these things?

bug clickerWhen you press the little plastic tab on the back of the device, it makes a crisp clicking sound. I bought my clickers on Amazon, but I’ve also seen them in party supply stores and the dog training section of pet stores. At our story time, we covered the outside and sides of the clicker with black masking tape, then hot glued it to the lid of the tea tin. But you can skip the tape and glue them straight to the tea tin if you’d like!

clicker placementYou’ll notice the clicker is mounted off-center on the lid, and the clicker’s tab is close to the edge of the lid. That’s important! You want those little fingers to be able to reach up and click the shutter button.

Because most kids are used to digital cameras with viewfinders, I added a viewfinder to the back of the tea tin (with an image of a penguin, of course!). Print and cut a penguin from the template, and then use masking (or patterned) tape to attach it to the back of the camera.

camera back Project in hand, kids scattered to different parts of the gallery to pose their penguins and take “pictures” with their cameras.

penguin in galleryThere may have been a penguin photobomb or two…

penguin photobombThe fun continued at home! Look at this lovely photo shoot:

penguin posesMysteriously, my camera went missing for a few hours that day. Imagine my surprise when the following shots were e-mailed to me…

penguin 0penguin 1penguin 2penguin 3penguin 4penguin 5penguin 6penguin 7penguin 8penguin 10penguin 11penguin 9penguin 12


Charles Willson Peale, George Washington at the Battle of Princeton, 1783–84. Oil on canvas. Princeton University, commissioned by the Trustees. Courtesy of the Princeton University Art Museum.

Behold, Yon Shield

sword and shieldAdventure calls! But before you gallop off into the wild woods, arm thyself with a sturdy shield and magnificent foam sword! We made these as part of To Be Continued, our story time for 6-8 year-olds. The book we read? Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke (Chicken House, 2006).

On the eve of her twelfth birthday, Igraine’s biggest problem is that she’s never had an adventure and will therefore, never become a knight. But danger is about to descend upon her home, Pimpernel Castle. Osmund the Greedy and his castellan, Rowan Heartless, have declared war. They want to capture Pimpernel Castle and claim its magic singing books. Igraine’s parent (who are both tremendous magic-workers), could typically handle such an intrusion but…they’ve accidentally turned themselves into pigs while finishing Igraine’s birthday gift (an enchanted suit of armor). Now Igraine must sneak past an invading army, gather the ingredients for the reversal spell, and return to save the castle!

There’s also a Ancient Greek variation for this project. Just scroll to the bottom of the post to check it out!

You’ll need:

  • A 10″ x 14″ rectangle of corrugated cardboard (I used a cake pad)
  • A selection of
  • 2 strips of heavy-duty poster board (approximately 1.75″ x 12.5″)
  • Hole punch
  • A box cutter
  • 2 brass tacks
  • 1 shield emblems template, color printed on 2 pieces of 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 foam sword (more on that below)
  • Scissors for construction
  • Hot glue

First, use the colored tape to decorate one side of the shield. If you don’t want to use tape, simply use markers (or use both). Cut the desired shield emblems from the template, and hot glue them to the shield.

To make your shield’s arm straps, circle both strips of heavy-duty poster board around your forearm. Don’t make the straps too snug! You want your forearm to be able to slide in and out of the straps easily. Tape both of the loops closed, then punch a hole in the middle.

arm loopUse the box cutter to cut two slits in the front of your shield, right in the middle. Push brass tacks through the slits.

front of shieldSlide the holes of the arm straps onto the brass tacks, then open the brass tack’s prongs to secure the straps in place.

back of shieldFinally, use masking tape to cover the prongs and secure the arm loops.

taped shieldAll you need now is a foam sword, and you can find instructions to make a super easy (and super inexpensive) foam sword right here.

We did an Ancient Greek variation of these shields at a Lightning Thief event. I purchased bulk cases of 16″ cake circles. Kids used metallic ink pads, shape stamps, and metallic markers to decorate them. The arm straps were rigged in exactly the same way as the knight’s shield described above.

shield tableWe called the table “Story Shields” and used the art activity to introduce hoplites, the citizen-soldiers of Ancient Greece. A soldier’s armor typically included a helmet, breastplate, greaves, sword, spear, and a circular shield called an aspis or hoplon. Often, the shields were colorful and emblazoned with family symbols, tributes to the Gods or heros, or they bore the symbol of the hoplite’s city-state

We invited kids to design their own personal shields. The activity was wildly popular…we went through over 750 cake circles!

greek shieldLooking for more connections? Lightning Thief fans can try this game of Mythomagic, or these awesome pan pipes. Brave knights can find dragons, herbal amulets, or how about a comedic sidekick?

Buzz Worthy

buzz worthyPut on your splendid beekeeping hat and follow an oatmeal container bee to a flower! Today, we’re collecting nectar, taking it back to the hive, and turning it into something delicious!

We read A Taste of Honey by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace (Winslow Press, 2001). A golden jar of honey prompts Lily the bear to ask her Poppy a series of questions about its origins. Where does honey come from? Well, where does it come from before it’s put in a jar? Where does it come from before it’s purchased at the store? And before that? And before that? In addition to being a clever succession of questions and answers, this book is stocked with facts about beekeeping equipment, protective clothing, honey harvesting, beehives, varieties of wildflowers, and more!You’ll need:

  • 1 large oatmeal container
  • Yellow construction paper
  • 2 long strips of black construction paper (approximately 2.25″ x 18″ each)
  • A 5.25″ circle of yellow construction paper
  • 2, 1.5″ circles of black construction paper
  • 2 yellow dot stickers
  • 6 pipe cleaners (2 black, 4 any color you’d like)
  • 1 bee wings template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 plastic fedora (I purchased mine from Oriental Trading Company)
  • A 1.5″ x 22″ strip of white poster board for hat band
  • 1 little bees template, color printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • A 12″ x 32″ piece of white tulle
  • 1 “Find the Nectar” game (more on this later!)
  • Scissors, glue, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

finished beeWe’ll start with the bee! Wrap a large oatmeal container with yellow construction paper, then wrap two strips of black construction paper around the container to create stripes.

Next, stick 2 yellow dot stickers onto 2 circles of black construction paper. These are your bee’s eyes. Tape (or glue) the eyes onto a large circle of yellow construction paper. Draw a pointy nose and smiley mouth on the circle, then tape (or hot glue) it to the lid of the oatmeal container. Curl both ends of a pipe cleaner and tape it onto the container to create your bee’s antennae.

bee faceTo make the legs, cut 2 black pipe cleaners into thirds and bend each piece into a loose, inverted “Z.”

bent pipe cleanerAttach the pieces to the sides of the oatmeal container with tape.

bee legsCut the wings from the bee wings template, fold each wing upwards along the dotted line, then tape the middle of the wings to the back of your bee. Done!

wingsSet the bee aside for a moment, it’s time for the hat! Use markers to decorate a strip of white poster board, then wrap it around the hat like a hat band. Cut some bees from the little bee template (at our story time, each kid got 6 bees). Attach 3 of the bees to the ends of curled pipe cleaners, then tuck the bottom of the pipe cleaners into the hat band. The remaining 3 bees can be taped directly to the plastic hat. The final touch is to wrap a long piece of white tulle around the hat. Secure the fabric to the back of the hat with tape.

hatYou can stop here, or you can proceed to the “Find the Nectar” game! Here’s how we made it…

flowersFirst, Katie made 4 amazing flowers (2 blue, 2 red) out of poster board, tissue paper, construction paper, and pipe cleaners. The flowers were taped (using nice strong packing tape) onto 40.5″ pieces of PVC pipe. Later, the PVC was wrapped with green masking tape and adorned with green poster board leaves. At the center of each flower was a plastic cup to hold nectar. Because little hands would be repeatedly bumping into the cups, Katie secured each cup to the poster board with a brass tack.

flower with brass tackFor the beehive, Katie raided her basement (nicknamed “The Magic Basement” for all the unusual and useful things she unearths from it) and found this 13.5″ x 17″ styrofoam block used to ship wine.

wine shipping styrofoamKatie was already coloring the front of the styrofoam with yellow highlighters when I snapped this picture. The highlighter pens worked a treat, but there were lots of squeaky, scratchy, pens-on-styrofoam sounds. Eeeee! Next, Katie added a yellow poster board facade to the hive, lined the holes with rolls of yellow construction paper, and added 6 little bees to the front.

beehiveDuring story time, I placed the hive at one end of the gallery, and “planted” the flowers at the other end of the gallery. Each flower cup was loaded with a single yellow cotton ball to represent “nectar.”

nectarI split the kids into two teams – Red Flower Team and Blue Flower Team. Each kid on the team had to fly his/her bee to the flowers, find the 2 flowers that corresponded with his/her team color, remove a ball of nectar from each flower cup…

bee game collectionAnd then zoom back to the hive and deposit the nectar inside!

bee game drop offGranted, you could way simplify this game with a set of cups representing the flowers and a shoe box covered with yellow paper representing the hive. But sometimes, you just get a hankering to make giant flowers.

Two important things about the game:

  1. Just put one cotton ball into a cup at a time. If you stuff the cups full of nectar, some kids will be tempted to grab everything, leaving nothing for the other bees! During our game, we had Miss Joani next to the flowers, patiently reloading the cups with nectar.
  2. Make sure to emphasize that this is not a race. It’s all the bees working together to collect nectar for the hive!