Them Bones

them bonesWhat’s cooler then a skeleton marionette that glows? How about a skeleton marionette that glows, attaches to your feet, and dashes around with you?

marionette bonesHere’s my assistant, Katie, showing off some fancy skeleton footwork…

foot loops in actionWe read Skeleton for Dinner, written by Margery Cuyler and illustrated by Will Terry (Albert Whitman & Company, 2013). Big Witch and Little Witch whip up a tasty brew and decide to invite skeleton to share it. “We must have Skeleton for dinner!” is what they say, but Skeleton, who is strolling nearby, thinks they mean that HE’S on the menu! Panic ensues, which soon envelopes Ghost and Ghoul (who are also on the invite list). Finally, Clever Crow figures out the problem, sets things straight, and the friends enjoy a tasty meal together.

You’ll need:

  • 3 paper towel tubes
  • 5 toilet paper tubes
  • Black construction paper (or black paint)
  • A rectangle of white card stock for the skull (approximately 4.25″ x 5.5″)
  • 12, 4″ pieces of twistez wire (pipe cleaners work too)
  • 2 brass tacks
  • 1 wooden dowel
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • String for puppet’s head & arms
  • 1 pipe cleaner
  • 2 medium rubber bands
  • 1 arms, legs, hands, feet template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 ribcage, pelvis template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 jumbo pom-pom (mine was 1.5″)
  • Markers for decorating
  • Scissors, tape for construction
  • Hole punch
  • Hot glue
  • Black light (or custom glow-in-the-dark glue…more about that here)

If there’s ONE thing that would make this project faster to assemble, it would be to paint all the tubes black. We can’t do paint in our library (see the FAQs), so we wrapped all of our tubes in black construction paper. It took some time!

tubesFor the assembly photos in this post, I decided to show you unwrapped rolls on a white background with red twistez wire, red yarn, and red rubber bands so all the pieces would be more visible. On  the actual skeleton the tubes were black, connected with black twistez wire, and I used white string. So please excuse the blah assembly photos. I just wanted to make sure all the steps were clear!

We’ll start from the legs up. Cut a paper towel tube in half. Punch holes on the top of one tube half, and the bottom of the other tube half. Thread twistez wires though the top and bottom holes on each side of the tubes, joining them together. Making sure to leave some space and twist the ends of the wire together.

legRepeat the above steps with the second paper towel tube. You now have two legs that bend at the “knee.”

two legsThe third paper towel tube is your skeleton’s torso. Attach the legs to the torso by punching holes on the bottom outside of the torso tube, and the top inside of each of the legs (it’s easier to see this step in the image below). Attach the legs to the torso using brass tacks.

legs to torsoMaking an arm is just like making a leg, except you’ll be using toilet paper tubes instead of paper towel tubes. Punch holes in the top of one toilet paper tube and the bottom of the other toilet paper tube. Thread twistez wires though the top and bottom holes on each side of the tubes, joining them together. Twist the ends of the wire together.

armRepeat the above steps with 2 more toilet paper tubes. You now have two arms that bend at the “elbow.” Attach the arms to the torso by punching holes on the top outside of the torso tube, and the top inside of the arms (again, it’s easier to see this step in the image below). Attach the arms to the torso using twistez wire.

arms to torsoTo make the skull, draw a face on a rectangle of white card stock (alas, white construction paper doesn’t fluoresce under black light). Wrap the skull face around a toilet paper tube. To attach the skull to the torso, punch holes in the front and back of the bottom of the skull (i.e. the base of the neck and the skeleton’s “chin”). Punch matching holes in the front and back of the torso tube. Attach with twistez wire.

headThe tube body is done, now for the strings! Quick note: I used red yarn for the instructions below, but for the actual skeleton, I used thin white string.

stringFirst, wrap the wooden dowel with colored masking tape. Now punch a hole in the back of the skull tube, near the top of the head. Thread a piece of string through the hole and knot. Attach the other end to the middle of the wooden dowel.

head stringNext, punch a hole in the “elbow” of each arm tube (i.e. the outside bottom of the top arm tube). Knot a piece of string through the hole.

arm stringsBut wait! Before you tie the arm strings to the wooden dowel, may we introduce one delightfully dynamic option? If you want to be able to move your skeleton’s arms, follow the following steps:

Cut a pipe cleaner in half. Bend the half pipe cleaner into a loop and twist the bottom together tightly. Tie an arm string to the loop, then reinforce with a piece of colored masking tape.

loop stepsRepeat with the remaining half of the pipe cleaner.  You now have 2 pipe cleaner loops that slide on and off the wooden dowel, allowing you to manipulate your skeleton’s arms!

finished bodyFinally, punch a hole in the “heel” of each leg and loop a rubber band through it.

foot loopThe rubber band stretches over your shoe so you can walk your skeleton around!

foot loops againWith the body all rigged up, the last step is the bones! Color the bones in the template, then tape (or hot glue) them to the fronts of the tubes. Pop a jumbo pom-pom in the top of the skull tube to round off the look (I secured the pom-pom with a little hot glue)

bones We rigged up a black light and mirror in a storage closet and invited kids to march in and  watch their skeletons boogie. They absolutely loved it – especially when their skeleton’s feet matched their own dancing feet!

night bones

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!

It’s Glow Time

It’s the stuff that dreams are made of…glow pigment bottleit’s glow-in-the-dark pigment! To make custom glow-in-the-dark “paint,” simply measure this pigment into white glue and stir. In an instant, you have glowing paint to make your projects really pop. The pigment is activated by sunlight, fluorescent, incandescent, and ultraviolet light. Best of all, it’s non-toxic.

In the past, I’ve had kids paint surfaces with brushes, use squeeze glue bottles to write things, and create glorious glowing masterpieces in a black light room. I get my pigment (the standard green color) at Educational Innovations, an online science supply company. It’s wonderful stuff!