Birds on the Brain

singing hatBecause a bird hat is a beautiful thing.

We read The Singing Hat by Tohby Riddle (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000). Colin Jenkins is an ordinary man, but when he falls asleep under a tree, he awakens to find a bird has built a nest on his head…and it’s not leaving. Colin’s life changes dramatically as he discovers that people divide into two groups: those whose don’t mind his singing hat, and those who do! After many trials and tribulations, Colin is surprised to learn that the bird on his head is one of the rarest in the world – and at the the moment, the bird (and her new baby) fly away. To remember the beautiful bird and how it changed his life, Colin puts the empty nest by the open window of his apartment, just in case.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (I used a 4″ x 4″ x 4″ box, but a small tissue box would work as well)
  • 1 plastic fedora
  • 1 strip of poster board for a hat band (approximately 22″ x 2.5″)
  • Construction paper for bird’s body and crest
  • 1 cone water cup
  • 2 black dot stickers
  • Poster board for the wings
  • A selection of small feathers
  • A box cutter
  • 1 goose quill
  • 2 duck quills
  • 2 strips of orange poster board for the legs (mine were 1″ X 6.5″)
  • Markers and crayons for decorating
  • Scissors, tape, glue stick for construction
  • Hot glue

I bought my plastic fedoras at Oriental Trading Company, and they arrived with thin paper hatbands on them. So we started the project by tearing off the hatbands and creating our own with poster board and markers.

Now for the bird! Cover the box with construction paper EXCEPT for the very bottom where the bird sits on the hat. Use the leftover construction paper to cut a fringe and tape it to the top of the bird’s head like a crest.

crestUse crayons to color the cone water cup (markers tend to smear) and hot glue it onto the bird’s face. Add two dot stickers for eyes. For the wings, cut two poster board shapes (we found pointy wings looked better than rounded)…

wingsThen glue the small feathers to the wings (and tape one in the crest as well). When the wings are fully feathered, hot glue them to the bird. To create a tail, use the box cutter to cut a trio of holes in the back of the bird where the tail goes:

tail feather holesThen insert the goose quill in the top hole, and the duck quills in the 2 lower holes.

tail featherIt’s time to hot glue the bird on the hat! Reach inside the hat and pop the crown upwards. Then, slather hot glue all over the top of the hat  (but be careful where you put your hands, the glue heats up the plastic fast). Quickly jam the bottom of the bird box on top of the popped up, glue-drenched plastic. Firmly push the plastic onto the bottom of the bird box to insure full contact with the glue.

The last touch is to fold and cut the orange poster board strips to resemble bird feet, and then tape (or hot glue) them to the bottom of the bird box and the hat. The feet really make the hat!

bird legsFor a project that uses one of these plastic fedoras but has a nautical theme (and is also modeled by the lovely Miss Theresa), click here!

Dream Boat

dream boat hatEveryone needs a jaunty Dream Boat hat. And this one has a special night time surprise on the back!

We read Arthur’s Dream Boat by Polly Dunbar (Candlewick 2012). One night, little Arthur has an amazing dream about a “pink-and-green boat with a striped mast, polka-dotted sails, a golden flag, and a beautiful figurehead.” As he continues to describe it, the boat (which first appears on his head) gets more and more elaborate. The only problem is, no one in the family is listening…until Arthur’s amazing dream boat simply can’t be ignored!

You’ll need:

  • 1 plastic fedora (I bought mine at Oriental Trading Company)
  • 1 strip of white poster board for a hat band (approximately 22″ x 2.5″)
  • A box (I used a 9” x 4 ½” X 4 ½” brown craft box, but a large tissue box will work too)
  • A selection of colored masking tape (optional)
  • 1 wooden dowel
  • 1 tall wooden bead that the dowel slides into (test it first!)
  • 1 piece of white construction paper
  • 1 strip of dot stickers for portholes (optional)
  • 2, 4″ x 2″ pieces of tagboard
  • 1 wooden clothespin
  • Glow-in-the-dark glue (or stickers, or stars)
  • Hot glue
  • Tape, hole punch, and scissors for construction
  • Markers for decorating

Cut the lid (or top) off the box. I also cut the sides of the box to make it a little more boat-like. I cut the long sides concave (1) and the short sides convex (2).

cutting directional arrowsUse the colored masking tape to decorate the boat, and dot stickers to create portholes (or, simply use markers for this step).

Next is the mast. Slide the dowel onto the wooden bead FIRST, and then use the colored masking tape (or markers) to create a pattern on the dowel.

taped mastWhen the mast is complete, use hot glue to really, really, really attach the wooden bead to the bottom (inside) of your boat, right in the middle. I put a big glob of glue on the bottom of the bead and then added more around the edges once I stuck it to the boat. I also had the kids sing the ABC song while waiting for the hot glue to completely harden.

This might seem like overkill but trust me, masts are delicate things, especially when kids start blowing on the sails or adding stuffed animal passengers!

With the mast in place, it’s time for the sails! Cut two tall, triangular sails out of white construction paper. My large sail was about 12″ x 8″ and the small sail was 10.5″ x 4.” Punch holes in the top and bottom of each, then decorate with markers.

paper sailsTo “hoist” the sails, slide the bottom hole of the large sail on first…

sail direction 1Slide the bottom AND top holes of the small sail on next…

sail direction 2Then slide the top hole of the large sail on last.

sail direction 3Top it off with a flag! Cut a 4″ piece of colored masking tape (we used golden metallic tape to match the description in the book) and wrap it around the top of the mast. Then snip the end like a banner.

flag directionsThe figurehead is next. Take a 4″ x 2″ piece of tagboard and cut out your figurehead shape. Color with markers and hot glue a clothespin on the back. Clip to the front of your ship.

figurehead directionsThe hat band is next. We suggested drawing waves, but each kid customized his/her hat band in different ways. Tape the hat band around the hat. Hot glue the boat to the hat to finish the project.

But there IS one last step. The day before the program, we used glow-in-the-dark glue to write “Dream” on a 4″ x 2″ piece of tagboard. After hot gluing it to the back of the boat, we invited kids to step into a darkened storage closet to see their dream boats light up. They LOVED it. In fact, my son still checks on his glowing Dream Boat every night at bedtime.

glowing dream signIf you don’t have glow-in-the-dark glue handy, the same effect can be achieved with glow-in-the-dark stickers or stars.

As you can imagine, there were some pretty amazing Dream Boats. In fact, later that day, a mom sent me this fantastic photo of her rainbow-loving daughter and super stupendous Dream Boat!

dream boat kid