So Doggone Cute

itty bitty homeDo not adjust your monitor. The cuteness you are seeing is correct. That is an itty bitty dog proudly standing in front of his bone house in a field of daisies. Inside the house – an itty bitty sofa, rug, wall art, table, lamp, and book too!

We read Itty Bitty by Cece Bell (Candlewick Press, 2009). Itty Bitty is a very very tiny dog. One day, while on a stroll, he discovers an enormous bone. Soon Itty Bitty has hollowed out the bone (and added windows and a door to boot). But the bone is so big and empty, it just doesn’t feel right. So Itty Bitty goes SHOPPING! In the “Teeny-Weeny Department Store” he selects a table, rug, sofa, lamp, and book (don’t miss the hilarious selection of book titles on the teeny-weeny shelves). Once everything is arranged inside the bone, there’s no denying it. Itty Bitty has found his very own, perfectly cozy, incredibly pleasing, brand new…home.

For our story time activity, we made bone houses with carrying handles. But we also created some magic bucks and went a-shoppin’ for furnishings at a series of kid-sized retail stores!

retail shopsYou’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9” – a large tissue box works too)
  • 1 box cutter
  • 1 bone template, printed on 8.5″ x 14″ paper
  • 1 large rectangle of white poster board for bone (mine was 6″ x 12.5″)
  • 1 strip of white poster board for handle (mine was 1.5″ x 15″)
  • 1 house template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • wooden spool (approximately 1″ tall)
  • 1 paper baking cup
  • 1 plastic sample cup
  • 2 wooden beads
  • 1 small box (mine was 2” x 3” x 3”)
  • 1 piece of construction paper, any color (mine was approximately 3″ x 4″)
  • 2 small pieces of kitchen sponge
  • A selection of patterned paper
  • 1 magic bucks template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white standard paper
  • 1 set of retail stores (more on that later!)
  • Scissors, tape, stapler for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Before we embark on the project, a quick word about the bone template. Believe it or not, we tested 6 bone prototypes before Katie finally struck on a model that worked. You’ll notice that, on one side of the template, the bone bulges outwards and the bottom of the bulge is flat. This allows the bone to be flush with the bottom of the box. So bulgy flat part = bottom of the bone.

boneOn to the house! Use a box cutter to create a doorway in the front of the box, and a small window on each side.

house window and door cutsTab the ends of a strip of white poster board, and staple the tabs to the underside of the box lid (if your box doesn’t have a lid, attach the ends of the strip to the sides of the box). Your box house now has a carrying handle.

Using the template, trace and cut a white poster board bone. Lay the bone on top of the box (and make sure to line the bulgy flat part flush with the bottom of the box). But – before you hot glue the bone to the box, use scissors to cut a little door in the poster board, directly above your box’s doorway. Then hot glue the bone to the box.

door stepsThe final touch to the exterior is the shuttered windows (you’ll find them on the house template). I had the kids color and tape them on either side of the front door.

On to the furniture! We prepped most of the furniture and accessories in advance, and then “sold” it in our teeny-weeny retail shops. I’ll provide instructions for how to make the furniture and accessories first, and then describe the order in which they were sold in our shops.

To make a lamp table, hot glue a paper baking cup “table skirt” on top of a plastic sample cup. The “lamp” consists of 2 wooden beads hot glued together (I used unpainted beads so the kids could decorate them later with markers). The little book (which is a teeny-weeny copy of Itty Bitty of course) is on the house template. Cut it out, add a few blank pages, and staple everything together. Here’s what a finished table, lamp, and book look like:

finished lamp tableTo make a couch, cut a small box down until it resembles a straight-backed couch with armrests:

couch stepsFold a small piece of construction paper, then glue (or tape) it inside the couch. Add 2 comfy sponge cushions.

finished couchThere are also 4 wall art frames on the house template – they can be colored in and attached with tape (or glue). The final item on the template? An itty bitty dog! That gets colored as well, and hot glued to the front of a wooden spool.

wooden spoolNow it’s time to SHOP! The shops can be as simple as tabletop stores set up in different areas of your classroom or program area. I just happened to have 3 extra large boxtops on hand (which I salvaged from the recycling pile). So we used them to make store fronts.

Basically, we cut a flap in the box and folded it down to create a counter. We reinforced the ends of the counter with tissue boxes, and then decorated the outside with colored masking tape, poster board, and dot stickers.

storefront constructionThe last step is making some money! I handed each kid 3 undecorated “magic bucks” from the template and told them to decorate the bucks. When everyone was finished coloring, they grabbed their houses (the carrying handles made them perfect shopping baskets) and hit the stores. At “Little Lamps” with Mr. Ian, a magic buck earned the shopper a lamp and a book.

shopper at little lampsAt “Fine Furniture” with Dr. Dana, a magic buck went pretty far – you got a couch frame, a piece of construction paper for upholstery, 2 sponge pillows, and a lamp table.

shopper at fine furnitureAt “Rah! Rah! Rah! Rugs!” with Miss Joani, a magic buck earned the holder one “rug” (i.e. a piece of patterned paper) and wall art frames.

shopper at rah rah rah rugs When story time was over, we had a drawing for patrons who were interested in taking the story fronts home for more playtime (and there were plenty of takers!). With the shopping completed, kids took their purchases back to the program area to do some intense interior decorating. I had to snap a photo of this little house. Look at that fancy Itty Bitty!

fantastic house exteriorShe added a bed and a bookshelf to her house too!

fantastic houseMuch later that day, I spotted an Itty Bitty house proudly being walked down the street by a father and daughter. It’s always fantastic to see the projects out and about after story time.

I also received this e-mail from a mom:

Thank you very much for the program yesterday! My kids have been playing with Itty Bitty and his house non-stop since yesterday. He’s gone on a car trip, a boat trip (in a river and across an ocean), and he slept beside my son’s bed.

This e-mail brought a HUGE smile to my face. I’m still smiling actually.


From ITTY BITTY. Copyright © 2009 by Cece Bell. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Bone Up On Your Storytelling

dia de los muertosA few years ago, the Arts Council of Princeton asked my library to submit a piece for their Dia de los Muertos exhibit. The result was the crazy kaleidoscope you see before you.

The base of was made of two recycled archive boxes (with 20 small boxes hot glued to the sides). We used construction paper, shiny cardboard mosaic tiles, patterned paper, foil leaves, miniature plastic gems, and tissue paper. By “we” I mean myself, 4 University students, and 1 Rare Books staffer. It was a “drop in anytime and decorate” sort of project, and over the weeks the layers just kept building.

My favorite part, however, is the skeletons. Princeton University student April Lee drew 20 little skeletons for the base pieces (and I hot glued 20 little books in their hands). But she also crafted the 3D skeleton figurines you see on the top – an adult skeleton reading to skeleton kids. They’re made with card stock and wire. The book being read to the eager youngsters? A fully skeletonized version of The Cat in the Hat of course. Isn’t April amazing? You can see another one of her projects – a fantastic Mythomagic deck – right here.

There were several other pieces in the exhibit as well. But here’s the one that completely won my arty, crafty, re-purposing heart:

Skull by Maria EvansIt’s a giant skull made of chicken wire and coffee filters. Coffee filters! Over 2,000 of them! The artist is Maria Evans (who also happens to be the Artistic Director of the Arts Council). Beautiful.

If you’re looking for an interesting and artistic skeleton with a little Dia de los Muertos flair, take a look at this fellow! Also of possible interest – these super simple kid-safe lanterns.

Buckets of Fun

buckets of funA bucket is a very useful thing…but is it entrancing? This bucket is! Hold it up to the light and you will discover it holds an ocean ecosystem full of fun, including fish, coral, a manta ray, a shark, a starfish, and more!

inside of bucketWe read Billy’s Bucket, written by Kes Gray and illustrated by Garry Parsons (Candlewick, 2003). Billy doesn’t want a bike, sneakers, or a computer game for his birthday. He wants a bucket. Yes, a bucket. At Buckets R’ Us, Billy spots a special bucket (“19 shelves up and 78 across from the top”), fills it with water, and begins to report the most astounding things. He sees shrimp, a shark, a sting ray, sea lions, dolphins, divers, and possibly a mermaid! His parents chuckle at their son’s active imagination. Jokingly, they ask if they can use the bucket for some household chores. But Billy warns them that they must never EVER borrow his bucket. The next day, Dad doesn’t heed Billy’s warning and sets off the wash the family car. He quickly discovers that Billy was right. There is something special about the bucket! Now how are they going to get that whale back in the bucket?

You’ll need:

  • A 2.5 quart clear plastic bucket (more on this below)
  • Construction paper
  • A selection of patterned tape
  • A selection of dot stickers and/or other stickers for decoration
  • 1 circle of blue cellophane (approximately 9.5″ in diameter)
  • 1 rectangle of blue poster board (approximately 5.5″ x 18″)
  • 1 sea creatures template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 3 pieces of (no more than 4″ each)
  • A selection of fabric flowers (optional)
  • 1 small seashell (optional)
  • Fish stickers (optional)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

A word about buckets. Size is not important. The most important thing is that the bucket has a clear plastic bottom to allow light through. I found this little 2.5 quart mixing bucket in the paint section of Lowe’s (for other fantastic hardware finds, click here and here). It was perfect.

bucket step 1First, wrap the outside of the bucket with construction paper. One long piece of construction paper resulted in ugly gaps at the top and bottom. So we decided to use three, 5.25″ x 7.5″ rectangles of construction paper. It worked great. You can cover your bucket with a single color, or mix it up (we offered orange, red, green, and yellow paper). Once covered, decorate the outside of the bucket with colored masking tape and stickers (or just use markers).

bucket step 3 Now for the ocean inside your bucket! Here’s what a finished interior looks like:

hanging critters Begin by cutting wave shapes on top of a rectangle of blue poster board. Set the poster board aside for a moment.

wavesSqueeze a ring of hot glue around the bottom of the bucket (right at the edge, where the bottom meets the sides). White glue or a glue stick works too – it just might take a long time to dry and not dry completely clear.  Press a circle of blue cellophane onto the glue.

water step 1Loosely curl your poster board and place it inside the bucket. Once it touches the bottom, uncurl it and push it against the sides of the bucket. You want the poster board to trap the edges of the cellophane, leaving a relatively smooth circle of cellophane at the bottom of the bucket.

water step 2Use several pieces of tape to secure the poster board to the interior perimeter of the bucket, right at the top. To add a little background texture, we prepped some coral and sea grass shapes out of construction paper. During the program, kids taped 4 pieces to the blue cellophane.

taped coralThen we hot glued 3 fabric flowers (more “coral”) and a small shell to create the “floor” of the ocean. I offered fish stickers as well (but you can skip this option, or have kids draw fish using markers. Just make sure they do it before they attach the poster board to the interior of the bucket!). I stuck a fish sticker on the cellophane as well.

ocean floorColor and cut the sea creatures from the template (I gave the kids the option of a shark or a dolphin, but you can do both if you like). Tape a piece of elastic beading cord to the back of the fish, the manta ray, and the shark (and/or dolphin). Adjust for height, then tape the other end of the cord to the “roof” of the bucket. The starfish and the crab get taped (or hot glued) to the ocean floor.

hanging crittersFor best results, hold your bucket up to a window with plenty of light. Enjoy!