Here Be Burgers

say cheeseYes, those are two very excited chefs sitting atop two very large cheeseburgers. After crafting some neat-o chef hats and aprons, we held our library’s first “build-a-giant-burger” relay race!

We read Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, written by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ronald Barrett (Atheneum Books, 1978). A pancake mishap in the kitchen leads Grandpa to tell the story of a town called Chewandswallow, where meals fall from the sky. It rains juice, snows mashed potatoes, and drizzles soda pop. Life is quite peaceful…until the weather takes a turn for the worse. Unpredictable combinations of food, grown to monstrous proportions, begin to plague the town. Giant pancakes, pepper winds, tomato tornadoes, and humongous donuts threaten the very lives of Chewandswallow’s citizens. In the end, they evacuate the town, setting off in peanut butter bread boats to find a new land. A tall tale to be sure. But wouldn’t it be amazing if it were true?

You’ll need:

  • 1 strip of white poster board (approximately 4.5″ x 22″)
  • 1 piece of white tissue paper (approximately 24″ x 35.5″)
  • 1 rectangle of white plastic table cloth (approximately 16″ x 40″)
  • A selection of self-adhesive foam shapes
  • A pair of giant cheeseburgers (more on this later!)
  • Scissors and stapler for construction
  • Markers for decorating

finished hatBegin with the hat! Use markers to decorate a strip of white poster board. Then circle it around your head and staple it together. To make the poofy top, spread a piece of white tissue paper on a table:

hat step 2Gather the upper left and lower right corners together at the top

hat step 3Then gather the upper right and lower left corners together. You now have a hat poof.

hat step 4Pull your poof through the top of your hat brim like so:

hat step 5Once the bottom of the poof is well inside the hat band, open it up and push the tissue paper against the interior perimeter of the band. Staple the tissue to the hat band. Done!

hat step 6To make an apron, spread a rectangle of white plastic table cloth on a table.

plastic rectangle

Leaving 1-2″ inches of plastic at the top of the rectangle, cut two, 7.75″ wide pieces out of both sides. Your apron now has “strings.”

apron step 1Use self-adhesive foam shapes to decorate your apron.

apron step 2Put on your hat, tie your apron, and get ready…it’s time to race with giant cheeseburgers!

So, where exactly did I get the cheeseburgers? Funny story. Katie and I were setting up for this event when a mini truck stopped by our table. The driver had a question for the event coordinator. I looked up, and saw them.

burgers on truck“Are those giant CHEESEBURGERS?” I asked, quite excited.

As it turns out, the University’s Department of Athletics has a sponsorship from Cheeburger Cheeburger. During home halftime shows, they run relay races with the burgers. When not in use, the cheeseburgers are stored in a stadium supply closet.

“Can my library BORROW them?” I asked, getting even more excited. They said yes and about a week later, we fetched the burgers.

In the event that you don’t have a University athletics department with giant cheeseburgers, you can make some out of large pieces of felt. An even cheaper option is to use construction paper to make some slightly-larger-than-normal cheeseburgers.

And now…the relay race!

Our race consisted of 2 teams with 6 players per team. Each player had to locate a different piece of the burger in the library, race it back to the “burger building area,” and add it to the top of the burger. When the burger was complete, the race was over.

Knowing that things could get a little crazy, I designed some game cards to keep the race organized and (somewhat) calm.

Each of our cheeseburgers divided into 6 different pieces (bottom bun, cheese, burger, tomato, lettuce, and top bun). So we made 6 cards that showed an image of each burger piece (along with the word for the piece – because it’s never too early for picture / word association!). There were 2 sets of color-coded game cards. One for the Red Team, and one for the Blue Team.

game cards front

The backs of each card were numbered so each player knew when his/her turn was coming up. Only 2 kids (one from each team) raced at a time. Number 1 went first, found his/her piece, dragged it back to the burger-building area, and added it to the burger. Then Number 2 departed for his/her piece. This continued until the cheeseburger was finished.

game cards back

As I explained the game, I stressed that Red Team and Blue Team weren’t competing against one another. We were all having fun together, challenging ourselves to build giant cheeseburgers. Then Katie and I scattered the burger pieces around the library, lined up our teams, and shouted “Go!”

Alas, we didn’t get a chance to snap photos of the races. But let me assure you, there was lots of screaming, cheering, and laughter as our little chefs built giant cheeseburgers. And then pounced on them. Because who can resist pouncing on a big soft burger?

burger flipStill hankering for burgers? Check out this awesome story time burger stand, complete with milkshake faucet, fry basket, and grill!


Many thanks to Yariv Amir in Princeton University’s Department of Athletics for the cheeseburger opportunity. You are awesome.

Sneaky Math

cloud diagramWant a side of math with that story time? From simple to semi-sophisticated, here are some ways I’ve worked math into my library programs!

COUNTING SUPPLIES

There are multiple steps in my story time projects, and some of those steps involve selecting certain amounts of art supplies. So we’ll count together. For example, if the kids need 2 pipe cleaners for their project, I’ll hold out a bunch of pipe cleaners and count aloud as each kids selects them, “One…two! Great!”

NUMBERED SUPPLY CONTAINERS

During projects, I’ll often put  a line of supplies on the windowsill, and kids walk down the line and select certain amounts of supplies from each container. I used to use post it notes to mark the number needed on each container…

post it notesBut then I found these little babies!

holder with numberThese are 8″ table card holders. I purchased mine from an online restaurant supply company (The Web Restaurant Store). Don’t they look snazzy?

card holdersDIAGRAMS

Sometimes, I’ll have a project that requires a diagram to demonstrates how much of something is needed. For example, this rainbow cloud project needed to be covered in cotton balls, so I drew a diagram showing how many balls needed to be attached, and how many cotton balls you’d need in total. Numbers, beautiful numbers.

cloud diagramI’ve also been known to sneak math into story time projects, like this lemonade stand that involves counting, sorting, and sequential thinking.

Now who’s up for something a little more…elaborate?

In 2012, my library hosted a large-scale Robin Hood event. I knew we just had to do something on taxes. But how were we going to design something that involved taxes, math, Medieval history, but was also simple enough for kids of various ages to grasp quickly? The answer came from my brilliant event assistant Katie. We would design a tax wheel game based on Hi Ho Cherry-O.  We called it “Your Tax Dollars at Work.”

tax wheelHi Ho Cherry-O is a classic early math game involving counting and numbers. The game is driven by a spinner that dictates whether you add or remove cherries from your basket during game play. But what if the spinner for our version pointed to various Medieval taxes, the game pieces were coins? We could even throw some Robin Hood characters on the wheel. Perfect.

We knew needed to go big and durable at such a large, crowded event. So I ordered a 36″ blank roulette wheel from Spinning Designs Incorporated. The company was very tickled by the novel use of the wheel. Perhaps that’s why they gave me a fantastic (and much appreciated) deal on a wheel that had “minor surface imperfections” (which I honestly could never find).

Then Katie and I researched the different types of taxes from Robin Hood’s day. There were a lot (honestly, who taxes you for churning your butter?). We also had to find a way to gain coins back during the game.

Ultimately, we came up with the following “Lose” and “Gain” categories.

Lose Coin

  • Travel tax
  • Churn your butter tax
  • Bake your bread tax
  • Pay your lord
  • Grind your grain tax
  • Sheriff steals
  • Prince John takes all
  • Land tax

Gain (or at least not lose) Coin

  • Harvest time
  • May Day
  • Good day at market
  • Robin Hood gives you coins

As you can see, there were more ways to lose your money than gain it. We intentionally designed the game that way. There were going to be so many people at the event (3,500 actually) we wanted the game play to average 3 minutes so lots of kids could have multiple turns. If you’re interested, here are the complete game instructions.

group of kidsIn addition to the wheel, there were game boards designed to look like Medieval money bags. You placed 5 coins in your “bag” at the start of the game, then added or removed coins as the wheel dictated. We used metal replicas of Medieval coins. Because we’re nerds like that.

game boardsWhen all your coins were gone, the game was over! As a “consolation” prize, kids got a chocolate foil-wrapped coin. Kids with food allergies or dietary restrictions got to take home one of the metal replica coins.

The “Your Tax Dollars at Work” wheel and game boards were drawn by Kemi Lin, an amazing Princeton University student artist. She did it all. By hand. With packs of Sharpies. After the event, the game was donated to the Somerset County library system. Long may it live!

Chick Magnet

farmscapeThis little farm is fun, but adventure takes on a new meaning when your pom pom chick starts exploring on his/her own, compliments of a magnet wand underneath the base!

farmscape with magnetWe read Good Morning, Chick by Mirra Ginsberg, illustrated by Byron Barton (Greenwillow Books, 1989). A newly hatched chick explores a barnyard and learns about animals, sounds, and…getting wet! The plot is very simple, but this book reads in a lovely, fun, and engaging way – especially if you invite kids to make sounds and imitate movements along with you.

You’ll need:

  • 1 small yellow pom-pom
  • 2 tiny wiggle eyes
  • 1 tiny orange construction paper triangle for chick’s “beak”
  • 2 button magnets
  • 1 flat corrugated cardboard base (mine was 7.5″ x 15″)
  • 1 small box (mine was 2” x 3” x 3”)
  • Red construction paper
  • 1 piece of brown poster board for barn roof (mine was 3″ x 4″)
  • 1 piece of brown poster board for tunnel (mine was 2.5″ x 4″)
  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • Green tissue paper
  • 1 fence and sunflower template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 2 green pipe cleaners, cut into thirds.
  • 1 small piece of blue cellophane (mine was 2″ x 4″)
  • Green construction paper
  • 1 wooden spool
  • Markers for decorating
  • Scissors, white glue, and tape for construction
  • Hot glue

For this project, it’s important to make the chick first. You will need the chick to measure the various openings you create in your barn, tree, fences, and tunnel. It would be tragic to get everything glued down and then realize your chick won’t fit!

I prepped the chicks in advance, using white glue to attach 2 wiggle eyes and the orange construction paper beak to a yellow pom-pom. Then I hot glued the chick to the button magnet.

chick magnetNow for the farm! We’ll start with the biggest object first – the barn. Here are the steps I used to create it. Your barn might vary slightly, depending on the size and shape of your box. The box I used had a lid at the top, and four tabs on the bottom that interlocked to create the bottom of the box.

barn step 1I cut the lid off the box entirely, and then flipped the box over so the interlocking tabs were facing upwards (the above image on the right).

One important thing to note – the bottom of your barn needs to be open. Meaning, the “floor” of the barn is actually the corrugated cardboard base. This is so the chick magnet can slide in and out of the barn.

barn step 2To make the roof of the barn, I cut two of the interlocking tabs into triangles to form the “front” and “back” of the roof.  Then I folded the other two tabs together to form the peak of the roof. Trim and tape securely.

barn step 3Next, I cut out the barn doors. Make sure you measure to make sure the chick fits through the doors!

barn step 4

Cover the barn with red construction paper, and add a brown poster board roof. Use markers to add some details.

finished barnThe tree is next! Cut four tabs in one end of a toilet paper tube like so:

tube tabsThen cut a entryway at the base of the tube for your chick. Make sure to measure!

tree testTo create foliage for your tree, ball up some green tissue paper and glue it to the tube tabs. Use markers to add a hole and some “bark” on the tree.

finished treeTo create the pond, draw some fish and frogs on the corrugated cardboard base. Then tape a piece of blue cellophane over your drawing. Try to make the cellophane as flat as possible, so your chick magnet can glide over the pond and take a “swim.”

pondTo make a sunflower garden, color and tape the flowers from the template onto the pieces of green pipe cleaner. Then bend the bottom of the pipe cleaner into an “L” shape and tape it to the corrugated cardboard base.

The fences on the template can go just about anywhere, but if you want to create a corner fence like mine, follow these steps. Cut the fences from the template, making sure to leave some space below the fence for your tab. Then, fold along the dotted line of the fence.

fence step 1Now you have a tab that attaches the fence to the corrugated cardboard base.

fence step 2Cut a slit in the middle of the tab…

fence step 3Then fold inward and tape the corner securely.

fence step 4Your corner fence is complete! And don’t forget…if you want your chick to get through the fence, make sure to cut a hole for him/her (and measure, measure, measure!).

finished fenceFor the tunnel, tab the bottom of each side of the brown poster board, and then fold and shape it into a tunnel. And…let’s say it all together now…don’t forget to measure your chick!

tunnelWhen all the pieces are complete, hot glue them to the corrugated cardboard base (the tunnel, however, does better if it’s taped). We used green tissue paper (crumbled and glued) and fringed green construction paper (secured with tape) for landscaping. We also added some details with markers (including worms for the chick to eat).

bird's-eye view of farmThe final step, of course, is the magnet wand. This is simply a button magnet hot glued to the top of the wooden spool. HOWEVER…before you hot glue it, test it out on the chick magnet. Make SURE that the two magnets attract (rather than repel).

magnet connection checkOnce you’ve confirmed that the magnets attract, glue the magnet onto the spool.

magnet wandTo set the farm in motion, place the chick on top of the corrugated cardboard base. Place the magnet wand underneath the base and slide it over to the chick. The two magnets will connect through the base, and your chick can explore the farm!