Eggs, Glorious Eggs

eggs glorious eggsSquare eggs with unique, artisanal patterning? A beauty contest? Princess chickens? Yes, there is a book that brings all these elements together!

We read The Most Wonderful Egg in the World, by Helme Heine (Margaret K. McElderry imprint, 1983). In a kingdom, long ago, three hens got in an argument. Which hen was the most beautiful? Could it be Dotty, with her beautiful feathers? Stalky, with her beautiful legs? Or Plumy, with her beautiful crest? They decide to take matters to the king. Being a practical man (“What you can do is more important than what you look like”), he decreed that whoever laid the most wonderful egg would become a princess. Dotty laid the most perfect, shimmering, spotless egg the kingdom had even seen. Stalky laid the biggest egg the kingdom had ever seen. And Plumy…laid a square egg with a different color on each side! Since the king could not decide which egg was the most wonderful, he made all three hens princesses. And they lived happily ever after.

You’ll need:

  • A strip of white poster board (approximately 2.25″ x 22″)
  • A sturdy, 7″ paper plate
  • Nest making materials (brown construction paper, raffia, and paper crinkle)
  • A small box (mine was 4″ x 4″ x 4″)
  • Egg decorating materials (complete list a little later in the post!)
  • A couple of name tag stickers
  • 2 pieces of gold ribbon (approximately 2.25″ each)
  • Stapler, scissors, tape, and glue stick for construction
  • Hot glue

For this project, we made a nest, decorated a “square” egg, and then held an egg-tastic beauty contest in which everyone took home a prize!

egg in nestWe’ll begin with the nest. Circle a strip of white poster board around the outside of a paper plate and staple it securely (you’ll need to remove the circle from around the plate to staple it properly).

nest step 1Slide the paper plate back inside the circle, pushing it all the way to the bottom.

nest step 2Now flip the “nest” over and use tape to reinforce the connection between the plate and the circle. I used at least 4 pieces of tape:

nest step 3I also reinforced the inside connection with a ring of hot glue.

nest step 4Time to decorate! I offered strips of brown construction paper, raffia, and paper crinkle. Kids attached these materials to their nests with tape and/or glue.

finished nestNow for the egg! We used dot stickers, craft ties, ribbon, tissue paper, small feathers, sparkle stems, self-adhesive foam shapes, drinking straws, cotton balls, patterned paper, and colored masking tape to jazz thing up. You can also forgo all these things and simply use markers to fancy your egg up.

eggWhile the kids were decorating their eggs, Miss Joani and I circled around, making note of who was putting the most dot stickers on his/her egg, who was doing lots of stripes, who was going to town with the sparkly materials. Later, we used our notes to award the beauty contest prizes.

In my story time contests, everyone is awarded a prize ribbon, and no 2 categories are the same! Here are some of the “categories” from our egg beauty contest:

  1. Best spots
  2. Best stripes
  3. Most colorful
  4. Best use of red
  5. Best use of blue
  6. Best use of pink
  7. Best use of purple
  8. Best use of sparkle stems
  9. Best pattern
  10. Most original
  11. Fluffiest egg
  12. Most imaginative
  13. Most mysterious
  14. Best nest
  15. Most cheerful
  16. Best feathers
  17. Most shiny

You can make up a few prize categories on the spot, but I’d recommend having some ready-made ones handy. The contest’s “parade” only lasts a few minutes, and I find it difficult to come up with prize categories quickly, especially if you’re awarding ribbons to 22 kids at once!

Making the prize ribbons is super easy. I purchased some gold-bordered name tag stickers from Office Max, and used a gold metallic Sharpie pen to write the category on each sticker. Next, I peeled back the sticker and placed two, 2.25″ pieces of gold ribbon near the bottom. Then I lowered the sticker gently back in place. During the award ceremony, all you have to do is peel and stick the ribbon on the nest!

prize ribbonsWhen it was time for the contest, everyone placed their eggs in their nests and followed “Judge Joani” out to the lobby of the library.

judge joaniOnce in the lobby, the contestants circled, reversed directions twice, and stood in line while the judge examined their eggs. Then everyone sat down while I announced the prizes, to the hearty applause and cheers of the grown-ups!

Cozy, Cute, and Charming

snowman bulletin boardTo modify a line from Tolkien, “Even the smallest library can change the course of the future.” This is absolutely true of the children’s room at the Mary Jacobs Memorial Library in Rocky Hill, New Jersey. It’s small, yes. But it is filled with books, fun, and sunshine. It’s the perfect place to instill a love of books in future readers.

Here’s a bookshelf that’s just begging to be browsed. And look at those adorable wall decals! The staff update them from time to time to keep the room fresh and interesting. Decals are an easy, inexpensive, and non-permanent way to jazz up a space. The farm decals you see below, for example, are $13.99 on All Posters.com (and the company’s almost always running 15% off deals).

shelvesIn addition to a big sofa and two comfy armchairs, the children’s room has three sets of kid-sized tables and chairs. They are nestled in front of the sunny windows, which overlook trees, grass, and the town’s main street.

farm tableThe children’s room also has toys for kids to play with. They’re kept in a centralized area that allows for quick and easy clean up. My kids are partial to the castle set, the giant foam blocks, and the vehicles. There are also activity towers for babies to explore.

back cornerAnd speaking of babies, here’s one of my favorite touches in the room…

baby surprise 1I call these “baby surprises.” Scattered throughout the room, at infant eye level, are images for babies to discover and revisit. Fantastic idea!

baby surprise 2And don’t forget to give Brownie, the room’s resident bear, a big hug!

big bearOutside the children’s room are shelves containing materials for older readers.

author tableThere are awesome touches here, too. Like this fabulous ship.

ship in stacksThe staff change the library’s bulletin boards every month. Sometimes, they’re seasonal, sometimes they’re thematic, and sometimes they’re matched to a library program. Often, the staff will post games like “Vote for your favorite Dr. Seuss story” or display kids’ artwork.

maker day bulletin boardLet’s get a closer look at that splendid box robot, shall we?

robot I love everything about this guy. The steel wool hair, the tea strainer eyes, the plastic cup ears wrapped with pipe cleaners. Youth services librarian Katie Winjum is responsible for this handsome fellow. She also does the bulletin boards and general decor. Like this super-sized snowman door. Fun!

snowman doorA few summer’s ago, when the library had a “Dig Into Reading” theme, Katie hand-rolled a zillion paper cone stalactites and attached them to the ceiling! The shelves were adorned with things like head lamps and gold bars (i.e., boxes wrapped in gold foil). I was seriously impressed. A tip of the crafting hat to you, Katie!

I’m obviously not a professional photographer, but I sincerely hope the library’s welcoming atmosphere comes through in these photos. When you walk in, you immediately know that you’re invited to make yourself comfortable and read something wonderful. It’s the perfect place for little readers.

amazing space

Have Pie, Will Travel

have pie will travelBaking an apple pie that requires ingredients from exotic locales? This cute plastic bottle airplane will get you there! The plane is equipped with a “pie hook” to carry home the perfect pie to share with your friends. Apple pie not your favorite? No problem. We have two other flavors ready for take off!

We read How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman (Alfred A. Knopf, 1994). Apple pie is a simple enough to make. Just grab some basic ingredients from the market…uh oh…the market is closed. No problem! Dash to Italy for semolina wheat, France for eggs, Sri Lanka for cinnamon, England for milk, Jamaica for sugar cane, and Vermont for apples. After milling, grinding, boiling, cracking, churning, mixing, and cooking, the pie is finally ready to eat. Invite some friends over, and dig in. But wait! Wouldn’t the pie be extra tasty with some ice cream? Just nip out and pick some up at the market. Uh oh. The market is closed….might be best to eat it plain!

You’ll need:

  • A 1 liter plastic soda or water bottle, with cap
  • An 8.5″ x 11″ piece of white card stock
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • 2 drinking straws
  • 1 airplane parts template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • A selection of dot stickers, round labels, or construction paper circles
  • 1 pie template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 3 twisteez wires, each approximately 4.5″ long (pipe cleaner pieces work too)
  • 3 small paperclips (mine were 1.25″ long)
  • 1 pipe cleaner
  • 1 world map for a “Pie Fly” activity (more on this later!)
  • Tape and scissors for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

My plane project is a modified version of an airplane bank Katie spotted online (if you’d like to see the original inspiration, it’s pinned on my “Ideas & Inspirations” Pinterest board). My version isn’t a bank, doesn’t have jet engines, and I created a template of airplane parts that would be easy for 3-5 year-old to cut and attach to the plane. I also added a windshield, and of course, a pie hook.

Ready to get started? Empty a plastic bottle and allow the inside to dry out. Wrap colored masking tape around the top portion of the bottle. Make sure you don’t tape the cap to the bottle! You’ll need to remove it later when you attach your propeller. Wrap a piece of white card stock around the bottle. You’ll most likely need to trim off a portion of the card stock so it doesn’t extend past the bottom of the bottle.

bottle steps 1-3Turn the bottle around so the paper seam is facing you. Tape 2 drinking straws on either side of the seam (again, trim the straws if they extend past the bottom of the bottle). The 2 straws should be about 1.5″ apart. The straws will keep the plane steady when it’s sitting on a table.

straws on bottomRest the bottle on top of the taped straws. Cut and decorate the plane’s tail, horizontal tail fins, and wings from the template. You can use markers or colored tape to decorate. If you use colored masking tape on the wings, don’t use more than 2 pieces per wing. Otherwise, the tape makes the wings heavy and they start to droop. Feel free to decorate the body of the plane as well!

The tail, horizontal fin, and wing pieces all have dotted lines to indicate where to fold them to create tabs. Later, you’ll use the tabs to attach the pieces to the plane’s body.

The tail piece, however, requires one extra fold. First, fold it downward on the center dotted line, then fold the little side tabs upwards. Hot glue (or tape) to attach it to the plane. The horizontal fins attach on the sides of the tail, the wings attach to the sides of the plane’s body:

tail and wing attachmentThe windshield is on the airplane part template too. Draw yourself in the pilot’s seat, and attach to the plane with hot glue. For the round windows of the plane, I used these 1.25″ color coding labels from Avery. They worked great!

avery color coding labelsIf you can’t find the Avery stickers (I purchased mine at Office Max), use dot stickers or simple construction paper circles.

windows and windshieldCut and color the propeller from the template, then use scissors to cut out the gray circle in its center. Remove the cap from the bottle, and slide the propeller onto the bottle’s neck. Screw the cap back into place. If you want your propeller to spin, play with the tightness of the cap a little.

propeller stepsThe final step for the plane is the pie hook. Bend a pipe cleaner in half, forming a tight “V.” Make a small hook at the bottom, then bend the top of the pipe cleaner forward, so it forms a right angle.

pie hookSlide the angled part of the pipe cleaner into the back of the plane, right between the bottle and the paper. You could also tape the hook to the bottom of the plane.

attached pie hookThe airplane’s done, now for your pies! The pies in the template have built-in triangular bases. Like the airplane parts, there are dotted lines to show you how to fold the pie bases. First, cut and color a pie from the template. Then, fold its tab backwards, right where it attaches to the bottom of the pie like so:

pie step 1Bend the ends of a piece of twisteez wire downward, then twist the ends together. This creates a “pie loop.” Attach the loop to the back of the pie with tape. Now fold the pie tab upwards along the dotted line, and tape the bottom of the tab to the back of the pie.

pie step 2 and 3Slide a paperclip onto the base of the triangle to keep the pie from tipping over. Done!

finished pieRepeat the above steps with the remaining 2 pies on the template. If you don’t have twisteez wire handy, you can use pipe cleaner pieces to make your pie loops. However, if you go with pipe cleaners, consider using larger paperclips on the base of your pies (pipe cleaners are heavier than twisteez wire).

On to the Pie Fly activity! Katie borrowed a HUGE map from her husband’s office (and by huge I mean 3′ x 6′). We spread it on a couple of tables and weighed the corners down with tape dispensors. Kids lined up at one end of the map. One by one, we placed their pies on various locations on the map. Then they “flew” their planes over the different countries, hooking the pies with their planes!

flying over the worldWe had a lot of fun with this story time. However, if I was to do it again, I might change two things:

  1. Use a paperclip pie hook instead of a pipe cleaner. Because of the age of my story time kids (3-5 years-old), I went with the soft pipe cleaner option. But for some kids, the floppiness of the pipe cleaner made it hard to hook their pies. Something sharper, like an unfolded jumbo paper clip, might work better.
  2. Raw ingredients. Instead of picking up pies, have the plane pick up the different ingredients for the pie, just like the book instructs (wheat, sugar cane, eggs, apples, etc.). You could even match the ingredients to the different countries they come from!