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!

Spooky Old Classic

spooky old tree with kidsReady to do some daring exploring? All you need is a lantern, a map, and a classic book!

We read The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree by Stan & Jan Berenstain (Random House, 1978). Three little bears journey to a spooky old tree, daring to explore an old stair, an alligator-challenged bridge, a secret hall, and finally, the Great Sleeping Bear.

This was one of my favorite picture books when I was a kid, and when 2 extra-large recycled boxes graced my doorstep, I knew exactly what I was going to to with them. Create a spooky old tree for kids to explore!

Our spooky (but not too spooky) adventure begins with a glowing lantern…

lantern…and ends with a key hunt inside the spooky old tree!

spooky tree interiorYou’ll need:

  • 1 standard clear (or opaque) plastic cup
  • Glow-in-the-dark foam dough, glow paint, or a LED candle (optional)
  • tagboard circle for a lantern base (should be slightly larger than the mouth of the cup. Mine was approximately 3.5″)
  • 1 tagboard (or poster board) strip for lantern handle (approximately 14″ x 1.25″)
  • Markers for decorating
  • Scotch tape
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • 1 beverage cap
  • Hot glue
  • 2 sparkle stems
  • 1 spooky old tree map template, printed on 11″ x 17″ paper
  • 1 spooky old tree (read on for construction details!)

To make the lantern, begin by putting the glow-in-the-dark material inside the cup. I had some leftover glow-in-the-dark foam dough (from a program 3 years ago!) so that’s what I used. But you can also paint something that will glow, use a LED votive candle, or simply skip this step.

Decorate the tagboard circle with markers. When finished, tape (or hot glue) the circle over the mouth of the cup. Then flip the cup over so it’s resting on its tagboard base.

Now for the lantern handle! Decorate your handle with markers or colored masking tape. Then use scotch tape to secure the handle near the BASE of the lantern. Some kids will be tempted to tape the handle to the top of the lantern, but that makes it too tippy.

taped handleUse colored masking tape to create decorative bands at the top and bottom of the cup. Hot glue a drink lid / bottle cap to the top of the lantern. Finish by wrapping one sparkle stem around the base of the lantern, and the other sparkle stem around the beverage cap.

lantern capWith the lantern complete, we embarked on a map making project. I gave the kids a spooky old tree template, and asked them to draw what they thought the inside of the tree looked like. For inspiration, I taped color copies of pages from the book (featuring the hall, the bridge, the moving wall, etc.) on the surrounding walls. When the maps were finished, my assistant hid them around the gallery and invited the kids to go on a “map hunt.” While this was going on, we got the tree ready for action.

And now (duh duh DUH)…THE TREE!

spooky old tree I’ll start by saying that you do NOT, of course, have to create a tree like mine. A large box with a hole cut in it, a darkened room, a table draped with a dark tablecloth – all of these thing will do just as well. Kids will have fun no matter what. You also don’t have to have a hidden key game. Crawling through the tree with your glowing lantern is a fine adventure.

However, if you DO want to make a tree like mine, fire up the hot glue gun and let’s get started!

You’ll need:

  • 2 large boxes (mine were 32″ x 26.5″ x 22″ and 25″ x 25.5″ x 24.5″
  • 1 roll of craft paper
  • 1 box cutter
  • Packing tape
  • Hot glue
  • 4 small clear plastic cups
  • 4 LED votive candles
  • White, brown, black, and yellow poster board
  • Black marker
  • 1 large piece of tagboard for key reinforcement & key sleeves
  • 1 key template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 1 set of metallic Sharpie markers (optional)

I used the smaller box for the “entry tunnel” and the larger box for the “key chamber.”

boxesUsing the box cutter, cut matching rectangular holes in one side of each box. Push the two boxes together so the holes are connected, then tape and hot glue the boxes together securely. Now the boxes are connected by an interior “doorway.”

Wielding your box cutter once more, cut doors at each end of the joined boxes. One door is the entrance, the other door is the exit. I decorated the entrance door with a black poster board and added yellow eyes.

spooky tree entrywayThe exit door isn’t decorated on the outside, but I did cut a small rectangular “keyhole” in it. Here’s an interior shot:

spooky tree keyholeNow it’s time for the “bark” on the tree. Cut a big piece of craft paper:

branch sheet Roll and twist it into a tall cone-like shape (i.e. so the base is wider than the tip).

rolled branchThen hot glue the wider part of the “branch” to the box.

glued tree branchRepeat until the tree is covered! I must admit, I pooped out after the first box, and simply wrapped the sides of the second box with paper. But as you can see, it still looked great!

spooky tree side view

If you want to see this tree building technique used on a smaller scale, check out this post.

Now, on to the interior of the tree! In the interest of time, I only decorated the key chamber. I left the entry tunnel undecorated. I used the white and brown poster board to create two spooky bear portraits with frames. Then I hot glued them to the walls. As you can see, I didn’t make them too spooky. Because it’s easy to get a little hysterical in a dark, tight room with flickering candles. So you don’t need super-scary bears glaring at you too, eh?

bear portraitsNext I hot glued plastic drink cups to the upper corners of the room and plunked an LED votive candles in each cup. Instant wall sconces!

Finally, I used a black marker to add some details to the exit door. Here’s a birds eye view of the key chamber.

interior room bird's eye viewHere’s the entrance view again.

spooky tree interiorAnd here I am hot gluing everything (only burned myself once)!

dr. dana gluesThe final step is the keys! To give the keys more texture, I colored them with metallic sharpie markers. Then I hot glued them to tagboard for extra reinforcement.

keys on tagboardDuring story time, I knew was going to be repeatedly hiding the keys in a dark, very cramped place. I also knew I was going to drop a key someplace irretrievable. So I made “key sleeves” out of tagboard, slipped the keys inside, and hot glued the sleeve in the hiding places.

key sleevesHere’s one key sleeve glued in a crack in the ceiling:

ceiling keyAnd another key sleeve glued behind a bear portrait

portrait keyI placed the third key (with no sleeve) in a wall sconce

wall sconce keyNow we were ready! My assistant staffed the entry door, and I staffed the exit door. One by one, kids crawled inside the spooky old tree to find the hidden keys and stick them through the “keyhole” I had created. The key in the keyhole was my signal to open the door and let them “escape.”

Originally, I was going to have kids find all three keys. But we were so crowded that day we only had time for one key. One girl was a little scared, so we opened both doors wide and let her crawl through without stopping. She did it, and then circled back in line to do it again! I was very proud of her!