All Hail the Cab

taxiNeed to catch a cab in NYC? No problem! We made some pull string taxi cabs and picked up some passengers in a noisy – and most definitely doggy – traffic jam!

We read The Adventures of Taxi Dog, written by Debra and Sal Barracca, and illustrated by Mark Buehner (Dial Books, 1990). A stray dog’s life is changed forever the day Jim the taxi driver adopts him. Instead of being alone and hungry, Maxi now proudly wears a red bandana and helps Jim with his fares. From Sadie the Broadway singer to a young couple expecting a new baby (any minute!), Maxi loves his new life in New York City!

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9” – a large tissue box works too)
  • 2 plastic cups (mine were Walmart brand 5 oz clear plastic)
  • A 30″ piece of string or yarn
  • Yellow construction paper
  • 1 taxi parts template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 4 black poster board circles (mine were 2.75″ in diameter)
  • 4 orange dot stickers
  • 1 taxi cab roof template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ yellow card stock
  • 2 small strips of silver metallic poster board (approximately 1″ x 4.75″)
  • 1 rectangle of silver metallic poster board (approximately 2.5″ x 3.75″)
  • 4 silver metallic dot stickers
  • 4 red dot stickers
  • 1 large gemstone
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • 1 taxi driver and dog template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white paper
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

First, cut a rectangle out of the box’s lid (if you’re using a tissue box, flip it over and cut the rectangle out of the bottom of the box). It might be a little difficult to see in the image below, but my rectangle is cut slightly off center. There is approximately 3″ of space above the cut, and 3.5″ of space below the cut. The shorter, 3″ space will be the taxi’s “backseat,” and the longer, 3.5″ space is the taxi’s “hood.”

taxi box cutMy cut created a 2.5″ x 5″ rectangle, but your cut will vary according to the size of the plastic cups you’re using. You want the cups to rest snugly in the box. Later, these cups will become your taxi riders’ “seats.”

cup placement But DON’T tape the cups to the box just yet! Set the cups aside for a moment and cut the roof from the template. Tape the roof to the box like so:

roof attachmentYou’ll notice that the front legs of the roof get taped to the “dashboard” of the taxi, and the back legs of the roof get taped to the very back of the taxi box. Next, knot a 30″ piece of string on one end, and tape the knot to the top of the taxi’s hood.

pull string on taxiNow cover the hood, front, back and the sides of the taxi with yellow paper. Tape (or hot glue) the long and short checker strips from the template to the sides and roof of your taxi. Tape (or hot glue) the black poster board circles to the sides of the box for wheels, and add some orange dot sticker hubcaps. Now put the plastic cups back into the taxi, and secure them to the box with tape.

completed side of taxiOn to the front of the taxi! We used 4 metallic dot stickers to make double headlights, a strip of silver metallic poster board for a bumper, and a rectangle of a silver metallic poster board for the grill (I rounded the top of my grill and used marker to add grill lines). A large gemstone hot glued to the top of the grill adds a nice pop of color. The “On Duty” sign from the taxi parts template gets folded along its dotted line, then taped to the roof. Finally, I found some old white office file stickers in the art cabinet, which we turned into license plates (or you can use scraps of paper, and tape or glue them to the bumper).

front of taxiTo the back of the taxi we added: 4 red dot sticker tail lights, a silver metallic poster board bumper, a license plate, and a fabulous “I ♥ NY” bumper sticker (also created out of old office file stickers).

back of taxiThe final step is to color your driver and dog template pieces, and wrap each of them around a toilet paper tube. Drop them into the plastic cup seats.

dog and driverWhen the taxis were finished, it was time for our “traffic jam” activity! First, I collected all the dogs and lined them up on a windowsill. When I shouted “GO!” the kids pulled their taxis over to the windowsill, found their dogs, popped them into their taxis, and zoomed away. It sounds simple, but we had a lot of kids at story time that day, resulting in a stupendous traffic jam.

As you can see, the fastest taxi arrived at the dogs first…

taxi pickup 1It was quickly followed by another taxi…

taxi pickup 2More taxis started to arrive…

taxi pickup 3And more…

taxi pickup 4Pretty soon we had a full-on crazy NYC traffic jam!

taxi pickup finalI made a sound file that combined honking horns and barking dogs, looped it for 4 minutes, and burned it to CD. I played the CD during the activity, adding to the chaos and fun!

Have Pie, Will Travel

have pie will travelBaking an apple pie that requires ingredients from exotic locales? This cute plastic bottle airplane will get you there! The plane is equipped with a “pie hook” to carry home the perfect pie to share with your friends. Apple pie not your favorite? No problem. We have two other flavors ready for take off!

We read How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman (Alfred A. Knopf, 1994). Apple pie is a simple enough to make. Just grab some basic ingredients from the market…uh oh…the market is closed. No problem! Dash to Italy for semolina wheat, France for eggs, Sri Lanka for cinnamon, England for milk, Jamaica for sugar cane, and Vermont for apples. After milling, grinding, boiling, cracking, churning, mixing, and cooking, the pie is finally ready to eat. Invite some friends over, and dig in. But wait! Wouldn’t the pie be extra tasty with some ice cream? Just nip out and pick some up at the market. Uh oh. The market is closed….might be best to eat it plain!

You’ll need:

  • A 1 liter plastic soda or water bottle, with cap
  • An 8.5″ x 11″ piece of white card stock
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • 2 drinking straws
  • 1 airplane parts template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • A selection of dot stickers, round labels, or construction paper circles
  • 1 pie template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 3 twisteez wires, each approximately 4.5″ long (pipe cleaner pieces work too)
  • 3 small paperclips (mine were 1.25″ long)
  • 1 pipe cleaner
  • 1 world map for a “Pie Fly” activity (more on this later!)
  • Tape and scissors for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

My plane project is a modified version of an airplane bank Katie spotted online (if you’d like to see the original inspiration, it’s pinned on my “Ideas & Inspirations” Pinterest board). My version isn’t a bank, doesn’t have jet engines, and I created a template of airplane parts that would be easy for 3-5 year-old to cut and attach to the plane. I also added a windshield, and of course, a pie hook.

Ready to get started? Empty a plastic bottle and allow the inside to dry out. Wrap colored masking tape around the top portion of the bottle. Make sure you don’t tape the cap to the bottle! You’ll need to remove it later when you attach your propeller. Wrap a piece of white card stock around the bottle. You’ll most likely need to trim off a portion of the card stock so it doesn’t extend past the bottom of the bottle.

bottle steps 1-3Turn the bottle around so the paper seam is facing you. Tape 2 drinking straws on either side of the seam (again, trim the straws if they extend past the bottom of the bottle). The 2 straws should be about 1.5″ apart. The straws will keep the plane steady when it’s sitting on a table.

straws on bottomRest the bottle on top of the taped straws. Cut and decorate the plane’s tail, horizontal tail fins, and wings from the template. You can use markers or colored tape to decorate. If you use colored masking tape on the wings, don’t use more than 2 pieces per wing. Otherwise, the tape makes the wings heavy and they start to droop. Feel free to decorate the body of the plane as well!

The tail, horizontal fin, and wing pieces all have dotted lines to indicate where to fold them to create tabs. Later, you’ll use the tabs to attach the pieces to the plane’s body.

The tail piece, however, requires one extra fold. First, fold it downward on the center dotted line, then fold the little side tabs upwards. Hot glue (or tape) to attach it to the plane. The horizontal fins attach on the sides of the tail, the wings attach to the sides of the plane’s body:

tail and wing attachmentThe windshield is on the airplane part template too. Draw yourself in the pilot’s seat, and attach to the plane with hot glue. For the round windows of the plane, I used these 1.25″ color coding labels from Avery. They worked great!

avery color coding labelsIf you can’t find the Avery stickers (I purchased mine at Office Max), use dot stickers or simple construction paper circles.

windows and windshieldCut and color the propeller from the template, then use scissors to cut out the gray circle in its center. Remove the cap from the bottle, and slide the propeller onto the bottle’s neck. Screw the cap back into place. If you want your propeller to spin, play with the tightness of the cap a little.

propeller stepsThe final step for the plane is the pie hook. Bend a pipe cleaner in half, forming a tight “V.” Make a small hook at the bottom, then bend the top of the pipe cleaner forward, so it forms a right angle.

pie hookSlide the angled part of the pipe cleaner into the back of the plane, right between the bottle and the paper. You could also tape the hook to the bottom of the plane.

attached pie hookThe airplane’s done, now for your pies! The pies in the template have built-in triangular bases. Like the airplane parts, there are dotted lines to show you how to fold the pie bases. First, cut and color a pie from the template. Then, fold its tab backwards, right where it attaches to the bottom of the pie like so:

pie step 1Bend the ends of a piece of twisteez wire downward, then twist the ends together. This creates a “pie loop.” Attach the loop to the back of the pie with tape. Now fold the pie tab upwards along the dotted line, and tape the bottom of the tab to the back of the pie.

pie step 2 and 3Slide a paperclip onto the base of the triangle to keep the pie from tipping over. Done!

finished pieRepeat the above steps with the remaining 2 pies on the template. If you don’t have twisteez wire handy, you can use pipe cleaner pieces to make your pie loops. However, if you go with pipe cleaners, consider using larger paperclips on the base of your pies (pipe cleaners are heavier than twisteez wire).

On to the Pie Fly activity! Katie borrowed a HUGE map from her husband’s office (and by huge I mean 3′ x 6′). We spread it on a couple of tables and weighed the corners down with tape dispensors. Kids lined up at one end of the map. One by one, we placed their pies on various locations on the map. Then they “flew” their planes over the different countries, hooking the pies with their planes!

flying over the worldWe had a lot of fun with this story time. However, if I was to do it again, I might change two things:

  1. Use a paperclip pie hook instead of a pipe cleaner. Because of the age of my story time kids (3-5 years-old), I went with the soft pipe cleaner option. But for some kids, the floppiness of the pipe cleaner made it hard to hook their pies. Something sharper, like an unfolded jumbo paper clip, might work better.
  2. Raw ingredients. Instead of picking up pies, have the plane pick up the different ingredients for the pie, just like the book instructs (wheat, sugar cane, eggs, apples, etc.). You could even match the ingredients to the different countries they come from!

The Famous Bucket

famous bucketPrior to 2007, if you had asked a young reader to name a famous bucket, I’ll wager most would have replied “Charlie.” But that was before a new bucket arrived on the scene. A fire-engine red bucket, wielded by an acrobatic young lady with a blonde ponytail. I speak, of course, of Kate Wetherall. Katie is one of the fantastic characters in The Mysterious Benedict Society, written by Trenton Lee Stuart (Little, Brown, 2007).

Intrigued by a curiously-worded advertisement in a local paper, orphan Reynie Muldoon spends a most unusual afternoon taking a series of strange tests. Later, he joins three other children (Sticky Washington, Constance Contraire and Kate Wetherall) who also passed the tests in unique ways. The children are invited to join a secret mission to stop Ledroptha Curtain, a criminal mastermind. The book is filled with puzzles, riddles, and action, but what I love the best is the friendship that forms between the children as their strengths (and weaknesses) are put to the test.

In the books (there are 3 in the series, plus a prequel), Kate always carries a red bucket stocked with a number of useful supplies. So when To Be Continued, our story time program for 6-8 year-olds finished the book, I just knew we had to something with Kate’s bucket! So I designed this game.

bucket gameAll you’ll need is 1 red bucket, a bucket game template printed on white card stock, and a copy of the bucket game scenarios. You’ll need markers to color in the template (or you can just go with the full color version), and scissors. I also gave kids a list of the bucket’s contents.

A quick word about the bucket. The 6.5″ bucket in the above photo can be purchased from Lowe’s for $2.35. However, since I required close to 20 buckets for my program, I needed something cheaper. I found a 4.5″ treat pail at Party City for 99¢. Nice! I also spotted 8.5″ paper bags at Party City for 79¢. Yes, a bag is technically not a bucket, but it’s a budget-friendly option nonetheless.

buckets and bagTo play the game, read a scenario aloud. Ask the kids to select the bucket items they would use to solve the scenario. Once everyone’s selections are made, go around the room and ask them to display which tools they selected, and how they would use them to solve the scenario. As you can imagine, there were some pretty innovative answers!

I’m a big fan of the Mysterious Benedict Society books, and in 2010 I was delighted to interview the author. If you’d like to listen to (or read) my interview with Trenton Lee Stewart, just click here.

Also, I don’t know if you noticed the amazing footwear on the two models at the top of the post (who also happen to be huge fans of the books). If not, scroll back up and prepare for some serious cuteness!