Buckets of Fun

buckets of funA bucket is a very useful thing…but is it entrancing? This bucket is! Hold it up to the light and you will discover it holds an ocean ecosystem full of fun, including fish, coral, a manta ray, a shark, a starfish, and more!

inside of bucketWe read Billy’s Bucket, written by Kes Gray and illustrated by Garry Parsons (Candlewick, 2003). Billy doesn’t want a bike, sneakers, or a computer game for his birthday. He wants a bucket. Yes, a bucket. At Buckets R’ Us, Billy spots a special bucket (“19 shelves up and 78 across from the top”), fills it with water, and begins to report the most astounding things. He sees shrimp, a shark, a sting ray, sea lions, dolphins, divers, and possibly a mermaid! His parents chuckle at their son’s active imagination. Jokingly, they ask if they can use the bucket for some household chores. But Billy warns them that they must never EVER borrow his bucket. The next day, Dad doesn’t heed Billy’s warning and sets off the wash the family car. He quickly discovers that Billy was right. There is something special about the bucket! Now how are they going to get that whale back in the bucket?

You’ll need:

  • A 2.5 quart clear plastic bucket (more on this below)
  • Construction paper
  • A selection of patterned tape
  • A selection of dot stickers and/or other stickers for decoration
  • 1 circle of blue cellophane (approximately 9.5″ in diameter)
  • 1 rectangle of blue poster board (approximately 5.5″ x 18″)
  • 1 sea creatures template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 3 pieces of (no more than 4″ each)
  • A selection of fabric flowers (optional)
  • 1 small seashell (optional)
  • Fish stickers (optional)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

A word about buckets. Size is not important. The most important thing is that the bucket has a clear plastic bottom to allow light through. I found this little 2.5 quart mixing bucket in the paint section of Lowe’s (for other fantastic hardware finds, click here and here). It was perfect.

bucket step 1First, wrap the outside of the bucket with construction paper. One long piece of construction paper resulted in ugly gaps at the top and bottom. So we decided to use three, 5.25″ x 7.5″ rectangles of construction paper. It worked great. You can cover your bucket with a single color, or mix it up (we offered orange, red, green, and yellow paper). Once covered, decorate the outside of the bucket with colored masking tape and stickers (or just use markers).

bucket step 3 Now for the ocean inside your bucket! Here’s what a finished interior looks like:

hanging critters Begin by cutting wave shapes on top of a rectangle of blue poster board. Set the poster board aside for a moment.

wavesSqueeze a ring of hot glue around the bottom of the bucket (right at the edge, where the bottom meets the sides). White glue or a glue stick works too – it just might take a long time to dry and not dry completely clear.  Press a circle of blue cellophane onto the glue.

water step 1Loosely curl your poster board and place it inside the bucket. Once it touches the bottom, uncurl it and push it against the sides of the bucket. You want the poster board to trap the edges of the cellophane, leaving a relatively smooth circle of cellophane at the bottom of the bucket.

water step 2Use several pieces of tape to secure the poster board to the interior perimeter of the bucket, right at the top. To add a little background texture, we prepped some coral and sea grass shapes out of construction paper. During the program, kids taped 4 pieces to the blue cellophane.

taped coralThen we hot glued 3 fabric flowers (more “coral”) and a small shell to create the “floor” of the ocean. I offered fish stickers as well (but you can skip this option, or have kids draw fish using markers. Just make sure they do it before they attach the poster board to the interior of the bucket!). I stuck a fish sticker on the cellophane as well.

ocean floorColor and cut the sea creatures from the template (I gave the kids the option of a shark or a dolphin, but you can do both if you like). Tape a piece of elastic beading cord to the back of the fish, the manta ray, and the shark (and/or dolphin). Adjust for height, then tape the other end of the cord to the “roof” of the bucket. The starfish and the crab get taped (or hot glued) to the ocean floor.

hanging crittersFor best results, hold your bucket up to a window with plenty of light. Enjoy!

Wish Fish

wish fishA goldfish is a lovely pet…unless, of course, you had your heart set on a pony. But what if the fish could talk and grant you a wish?

We read The Birthday Fish by Dan Yaccarino (Henry Holt and Co., 2005). More than anything else, Cynthia wants a pony for her birthday. Every year, she wishes for a birthday pony, and every year, she gets something else. This year, as Cynthia blows out her candles she wishes for a pony called Marigold. She gets a goldfish. Upset, Cynthia is about to pour the fish down the drain when it speaks! The birthday fish will grant her wish, but first she must take it to the lake and set it free. So Cynthia loads the fishbowl in her toy stroller and departs for the lake. During the journey, they meet and overcome many obstacles (bumpy roads, hungry cats, hot sun, etc.). At last, they arrive at the lake and…Cynthia decides she’d rather keep her new friend. She names him Marigold.

You’ll need:

  • 2 large clear plastic plates (mine were 10″ in diameter)
  • 1 small tissue box
  • A couple cups of uncooked rice (or aquarium gravel)
  • fish and castle template printed on a piece of 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 2 small paperclips (mine were 1.25″)
  • 1 large paperclip (mine was 2″)
  • Green construction paper
  • Fish decorating supplies (I used orange & yellow construction paper, cello sheets, crepe paper streamers, embossed foil paper, and patterned paper
  • A 5″ piece of clear elastic beading cord
  • Scissors, tape, glue stick and stapler for construction
  • Markers for decorating

We’ll begin with your fabulous fishbowl! Place 2 clear plastic plates rim-to-rim like this:

rim to rim plates Then tape the lower half of the plates together. Don’t tape the entire thing because you still need to put things inside your fishbowl!

taped platesNow for the base. Cut a small tissue box in half. Recycle the bottom half. You now have a 2.5″ base with an opening at the top.

tissue box cut downIf there is any plastic around the opening of the tissue box, remove it. Then, on both sides of the box, cut from the opening to the edge of the box. Then cut diagonally downward into the sides of the box. This leaves your base looking like this:

cut baseDrop your fishbowl into the base. You might have to do a little cutting and adjusting to get the fishbowl to sit upright snugly. Secure the fishbowl to the base with tape. Pour some uncooked rice in the opening at the top of the plates. This is the “sand” for your fishbowl.

rice in baseNow for some fish-friendly decor! Both the castle and the aquatic plant are anchored in the rice by paper clip “stakes.” We’ll start with the castle. Color and cut the castle from the template. Make sure you keep it in once piece (later, you’ll fold it so it can be viewed from both sides of the fishbowl).

Flip the castle over and tape two small paperclips to one side. You’ll notice that I taped just the very tops of the paperclips to the castle. This is so there would be plenty of paperclip  to stick into the rice. Fold the castle in half and tape it closed.

castle tapedTo make the aquatic plant, cut 3 curvy plant pieces out of green construction paper. Make sure they don’t exceed 6″ in height (otherwise, they start to tip over in the fishbowl). Staple the 3 pieces together, then tape a large paperclip to the bottom.

stapled and taped plantOpen the top of your fishbowl and gently push the castle and aquatic plant paperclip stakes into the rice. I recommend placing the castle all the way to the right, and the plant all the way to the left to make room in the middle for your dangling fish.

And now…the fish! Cut and color the fish from the template. Like the castle, the fish is double-sided. So leave it all in one piece.

Flip the fish over to the blank side and decorate. I offered construction paper, cello squares, crepe paper streamers, embossed foil paper, and patterned paper in hues of orange and yellow. When you’re done decorating, tape a piece of elastic beading cord to one side of the fish:

fish with taped cordThen fold your fish over and tape it closed (to make my fish plump, I taped it shut using tape loops). Next, dangle your fish in the fishbowl, adjust for height, and tape the free end of the cord to the outside of the bowl. Tape the top half of the fishbowl closed. Done!

wish fishIf you have a little extra time, I suggest playing “Pin the Tail on the Goldfish” before taping your fishbowls completely closed. I whipped up a simple game poster and made some construction paper fish tails. A white bandana served as our blindfold (and kids who didn’t like things over their eyes had the option of simply closing their eyes).

pin the tail on the fishThe prize for playing – regardless of where the tail was pinned – was a lovely little sea shell for your fishbowl. The shells were dropped in and THEN we taped the fishbowls securely closed. There was some spilled rice, but a quick vacuuming took care of that.

Still hankering for a pony? Perhaps you should check out this post.

Fish in a Suitcase

not normanWe read Not Norman: A Goldfish Story, written by Kelly Bennett, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones (Candlewick, 2008). A little boy is terribly disappointed when, instead of a dog or cat, he gets a goldfish for his birthday. However, Norman the fish’s goofiness, appreciation for the boy’s tuba playing, and his friendly presence when there is a scary noise at night wins the boy over. Now, he wouldn’t trade any pet in the world for Norman!

The boy pulls Norman around in a little red wagon, but I thought we’d go even more portable for our story time. Hence, a fish in a suitcase!

You’ll need:

  • 1 box with a window (I used a 7″ x 7″ x 3″ pastry box)
  • Blue construction paper
  • 2 green pipe cleaners
  • 4 pieces of green raffia
  • A selection of crepe paper streamers
  • Small shells (optional)
  • Orange poster board for fish
  • 1 piece of orange self-adhesive foam
  • 1 wiggle eye
  • Hot glue
  • 1 small piece of elastic beading cord
  • Markers, yellow cellophane, and golden paper for decorating
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • 1 tagboard strip for suitcase handle (mine was 12″ x 2″)
  • 1 luggage tag (optional)

The key to this project is finding a box with a window. I had a bunch of pastry boxes left over from another program, but you can find something similar in the bakery section of your local supermarket.

Cut the blue construction paper to fit the back of the box and secure with tape (or a glue stick). Draw in a few bubbles and waves with markers. The “water” is done…time to add some aquarium plants!

Plant #1: Cut two green pipe cleaners in half. Bunch the four pieces together and twist at the bottom. Give the pieces a little curl if you so desire. Then bend the twisted part into a “foot” and tape it to the bottom of the aquarium.

plant # 1Plant #2: Knot four raffia pieces together. Tape to the bottom of the aquarium.

plant # 2With the plants in place, it’s time for your “aquarium sand.” Crumple up some crepe paper streamers to give them a “sandy” texture, then hot glue them around the plants and the bottom of the aquarium. You can hot glue some little shells on the “sand” as well.

Now for the fish! Cut a fish shape out of orange poster board. To create fantastic fish lips, cut the piece of orange self-adhesive foam into an oval:

fish lips step 1Then peel and stick it on the fish’s mouth.

fish lips step 2Use scissors to cut a smile!

fish lips step 3Secure a wiggle eye on with a dash of hot glue, then tape the elastic beading cord to the back of the fish. Decorate with yellow cellophane, gold paper, and markers. When the fish is complete, dangle it from the elastic cord, adjust for height, and tape the cord to the top/lid of your aquarium. Get the height just right, and your fish will wiggle and sway in a realistic way.

To turn the box into a suitcase, simply add a tagboard handle to the top. Originally, I used hot glue to attach the handles to the box, but they popped off pretty fast. So I would recommend using brass tacks to really secure it.

With the handle in place, all your suitcase needs is a “luggage” tag. Write your new friend’s name on it and get ready for adventure!