Creative Cookies

creative cookiesWhat could be better then stepping into a warm, fragrant kitchen and whipping up a tasty batch of cookies? Especially when the cookies magically appear in our one-of-a-kind story time oven!

cookie in ovenWe read Ginger Bear by Mini Grey (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2004). Horace and his Mum make cookies, but the consumption of Horace’s ginger bear is continually delayed by trifling matters such as the cookie being too hot, the hour being too close to dinner, and Horace’s freshly brushed teeth. So Horace puts the cookie on his pillow for tomorrow. That night, Ginger Bear wakes up and marches to the kitchen. A few simple ingredients, some delicious toppings, and Ginger Bear creates a massive cookie circus! The revelers are having a grand time when they are intruded upon by Bongo the Dog, who really, really likes cookies. You can imagine what happens next. Ginger Bear just manages to get away, and realizes that he needs to find a safer place to live. The next morning, Horace awakes and Ginger Bear is gone. The clever cookie has found a new home in a pastry-shop window, where, as star of the elaborate displays, he will never be eaten!

You’ll need:

  • 4 rectangles of felt, any color (approximately 5.5″ x 8.5″)
  • 1 pencil
  • A selection of fabric tape (optional)
  • 1 cookie template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • A 6.75″ x 14.5″ piece of tagboard for cookies (brown poster board works too!)
  • Cookie decorating supplies (we used self-adhesive foam shapes, a selection of patterned tape, and dot stickers
  • A corrugated cardboard base (mine with 9.75″ x 13.75)
  • Tin foil to cover the cardboard base
  • 1 magic oven (more on this later!)
  • Scissors for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

First, your oven mitts! Stack 2 rectangles of felt on top of one another, then place your hand on top of the stack (thumb out, fingers close together). Use a pencil to trace the outline of a mitt around your hand. You don’t want the mitts to be too snug, so make sure to leave plenty of room! Use scissors to cut your tracing from the stacked felt.

mitt step 1Now run a line of hot glue along the inside perimeter of the mitt (like you’re “stitching” the felt pieces together with hot glue). Make sure, of course, to leave the bottom of the mitt unglued so you can stick your hand in later. Next, attach a piece of fabric tape along the bottom of the mitt for decoration. Repeat the above steps with the second set of felt rectangles to make a second mitt.

finished mittIf you are attempting this project with a large number of kids, I have a helpful hint to share. Gluing pairs of mitts for close to 20 kids takes some time. To avoid long waits at our hot glue stations, I devised a number system not unlike the “Now Serving” mechanism at delis or bakeries. First, everyone cut their mitts from felt. Then, we handed out a number card to each child, as well as the materials for the next phase of the project – tagboard cookies and decorating supplies.

During the cookie decorating, we called out numbers. When your number was “up,” you paused your decorating and brought your mitts to a hot glue station. We glued your mitts, let you choose from a selection of fabric tape, and then sent you back to your table to resume decorating. Then we called the next number. The system worked like a charm!

numberMaking the cookies is quite simple. Cut the cookie shape from the template, then trace its shape onto the rectangle of tagboard (or brown poster board). You could also use brown construction paper for your cookies, but it helps to use a material like tagboard or poster board to gives the cookies some thickness. We made 3 cookies per kid. We offered markers, self-adhesive foam shapes, patterned tape and dot stickers as cookie decoratives, but you can also just use markers.

cookiesTo finish the project, wrap a corrugated cardboard base with tin foil to create a “baking tray.” Place the cookies on the tray, slip on your mitts, and you’re done!

You can stop here, or you can add a magic oven activity. We happened to have a big box and some cardboard scraps on hand (the scraps were left over from this project), so we made a magic oven.

magic ovenOur box was 18.5″ wide x 18.75″ high x 16″ deep. I cut an oven door in the front, and then Katie added a cardboard shelf inside of the oven, a flat range on top (with 4 paper plate burners), and a splash guard on the back. She tricked it out with red cellophane “heat,” tin foil highlights, and beverage lid knobs faced with large silver embossed foil seals. The over door handle was a paper towel tube wrapped in foil and attached to the door with brass tacks.

The “magic” part of the oven was a small door, cut in the back. This is where I would sneak the cookies in, making them appear magically on the shelf.

magic doorI borrowed a call bell from the library’s circulation desk to act as the oven’s “timer.” During the story time activity, kids wrote their names on the backs of their cookies, then piled the cookies in a big tub next to the oven. Then they sat in a semi-circle around the oven, wearing their mitts and holding their trays.

I would grab a cookie from the tub, silently read the name on the back, and sneak it into the oven. Then I would shout “Dan! Your cookie is ready!” and briskly ding the call bell. Dan would run forward, open the oven, hustle his cookie out, and run back to his place in the semi-circle. We kept going until all the cookies were claimed!

magic oven in use

Ice Ice Fishy

gone (ice) fishingToday, we’re heading to the frozen lakes of Minnesota! Climb into your cozy ice shack with your fishing pole and tackle box stocked with delicious snacks. Who knows? Maybe you’ll catch a northern pike, a walleye, or a pumpkinseed!

tackle boxWe read One Frozen Lake, written by Deborah Jo Larson, and illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2012). A boy and his grandfather head to a frozen lake to do some ice fishing. The fish aren’t biting, but the duo’s patience is finally rewarded. The boy catches a fish…but ultimately decides to throw it back! This clever little counting book introduces all sorts of fishing terminology – line, jig sticks, lures, tackle, sinkers, spoons, spins, rigs, jig sticks, test line – and the fantastic illustrations help place everything in context.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 6”)
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • A selection of patterned tape
  • 1 poster board strip for tackle box handle (mine was 1.75″ x 12.5″)
  • A 6″ piece of pipe cleaner for tackle box hook
  • 1 snack template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • A rectangle of white construction paper (approximately 5.5″ x 7″)
  • 1 plastic sandwich bag
  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • 1 rectangle of tagboard (approximately 2.5″ x 4.25″)
  • A 15″ piece of PVC pipe
  • A 35″ piece of string
  • 4 jumbo paper clips (mine were 1.75″ long)
  • 1 wine cork
  • 1 button magnet
  • A 4″ piece of pipe cleaner for fishing lure
  • 2 mini wiggle eyes
  • 1 fish template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • Scissors, tape, and stapler for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue
  • 1 ice shack (more on this later!)

We’ll begin with the tackle box! Use colored masking tape and/or patterned tape to decorate the outside of a box (if you don’t have tape handy, plain old markers work too). I wrapped a few pieces of masking tape around the poster board strip too. Tab the ends of the poster board strip and staple them under the lid of the box (if your box doesn’t have a lid, just attach the handle to the sides of the box with staples or hot glue).

stapled handleBend a 6″ piece of pipe cleaner into a “V” and twist both sections of the V together tightly. Curl the bottom into a hook, and tape it to the side of the tackle box. Later, you’ll use this hook to hold the fish you catch.

tackle box hookThe tackle box is done, now for the snacks! To make buttered popcorn, use a yellow marker to scribble on both sides of a rectangle of white construction paper. Cut the paper into small squares, then crumble the squares and drop them into the plastic sandwich bag.

snacks To make a can of juice, color and cut the juice label from the snack template. Then wrap it around a toilet paper tube. To make a chocolate bar, color and cut the chocolate bar label from the template. Wrap it around the rectangle of tagboard (or brown poster board).

Finally, your fishing pole! Tie a jumbo paper clip to a piece string, then lower the paper clip through the hole at the top of a piece of PVC pipe. Keep lowering the string until the paper clip hangs well beyond the bottom of the pole and there’s just a few inches of string sticking out of the top. Next, turn your pole so it looks like this:

polePush the unattached end of the string against the pole, and cover it with colored masking tape. Continue wrapping the pole until you’ve created a 3″ handle.

wrapped handleTo make a fishing lure, bend a 4″ piece of pipe cleaner into a “U” shape. Use colored masking tape and/or patterned tape to attach the pipe cleaner to a wine cork, then continue wrapping until the entire cork is covered with tape. Hot glue a pair of mini wiggle eyes on the sides of the cork, and a button magnet on the bottom.

lureCut each fish out of the template and slide a jumbo paper clip over its mouth. Make sure, however, to extend the paperclip a little past the fish’s mouth (so it can hang on the tackle box hook later). Secure the paper clip to the fish with tape.

fish paperclipReady to fish? Hook the fishing pole’s paperclip through the pipe cleaner on your lure. Slowly lower the lure toward the fish’s mouth. The paperclip on the fish will attach to the magnet on the lure…and you’ve caught yourself a fish!

lure and fishFeel free to fish on a tabletop, out of a big bucket, off a blue towel “lake” on the floor…but if you’d like an ice shack like ours, read on!

ice shack 1 sidePeople at work know to get in touch with me before they recycle a big box (read more about that program here). I greedily drag these boxes into my lair for future story time use. I must admit, however, that my current stash was threatening to outgrow my storage space. So we had a big box blowout and made two ice shacks. We used 2 big boxes, 2 oversize box lids, and 2 old archive boxes.

Speaking of oversize box lids, you can see the bottom halves of the boxes in action at this retail-licious story time. For past projects that have utilized old archive boxes, check out this haunted house, this miraculous mechanism, and this fast food stand.

But back to the ice shack. An oversize box lid is the key since it transforms into the “ice” the shack rests upon.

ice shack ice shownMy box lid was 5.5″ deep x 24″ wide x 42″ long. Since multitudes of kids were going to be sitting on it, we reinforced the underside with sliced up archive boxes. We hot glued everything together, then reinforced the connections between the boxes with packing tape. Here’s a photo of the underside of the lid, all glued and taped. You can also see the round “hole” we cut in the ice for future fishing.

reinforced bottom of box lidWhen the underside was finished, Katie covered the top of the lid with light blue poster board “ice.” She attached the poster board with hot glue, then reinforced the edges with packing tape. Meanwhile, I cut a doorway and a window in the sides of a big box (my largest box was 22″ x 27″ x 32.” The second box was 22″ x 26″ x 26″). I made a shingled tagboard roof, added a paper towel tube chimney, and hot glued a cardboard sign on the front.

Katie used packing tape – lots of it – to secure the ice shack to the box lid “ice.” IMPORTANT! When positioning your shack on the ice, make sure the hole is located towards the rear of the shack. Otherwise, kids run the risk of tripping on the hole as they enter the shack.

ice shack 1 frontAs a finishing touch, Katie lined the doorways and windows of both shacks with colored masking tape. She used very special colors – purple & black for the Minnesota Vikings, and green & gold for the Green Bay Packers.

Finally, Katie made fish identification charts and attached them to to the sides of the shacks. We found some excellent wildlife illustrations on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ website, and they were kind enough to let us reproduce them for story time and the blog template. The kids loved matching their fish up to the charts.

using the fish chartI’ll leave you with one final image. Katie hails from the Midwest. When she was a kid, she actually went ice fishing with her grandparents in Spring Grove, Minnesota! She’s also been ice fishing in Colorado. While prepping this story time project, she expertly fielded my questions about ice fishing, ice shacks, bait, driving trucks on ice, operating ice augers, and the expression “derhey.” She brought her cold weather gear to story time too. Just look at this dedication to authenticity folks!

katie in her gear


Fish illustrations used with permission of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Herbal Magic

amuletHave issues with goblins? Need a peaceful night’s sleep? Are you seeking wisdom and courage? This herbal amulet is just what you need! We made these amulets at a Robin Hood/ medieval history event, but they would also work splendidly at a Harry Potter program.

You’ll need:

  • A 3.5″ mini organza drawstring bag (I bought mine at Oriental Trading Company)
  • 1 tissue (I used the smaller, 8″ x 8″ square kind)
  • herbal amulet list template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ paper
  • A 30″ piece of ribbon or string
  • A selection of dried herbs (more on this below!)

After doing a little research on medieval herbal lore, we created a list of herbs and their purported properties. I purchased the herbs in bulk, which is much cheaper than buying them in individual bottles.

scrollAt the event, kids checked off which herbs they wanted in their amulets. Then a student volunteer helped the kids put dried herbs on squares of tissue. A little herb goes a looooong way, so just a sprinkle is needed – especially if kids select multiple herbs. Here’s about how much you want in your amulet in total:

tissue and herbsNext, bunch the tissue around the herbs and slide the bundle into a mini organza drawstring bag. Roll up the herbal list and slide it in the bag too. Tighten the drawstring and tie a 30″ piece of ribbon or string around the top of the bag. Hang the amulet around your neck.

finished amuletThat’s it! You’re now ready to repel bad spirits, fight curses, attract money, and scare away thieves! At the very least, you will smell quite, quite interesting.


Many thanks to the Savory Spice Shop in Princeton for donating the dried lavender in the photo! Mmmm…lavender…