Beware of Squirrel

beware of squirrelIt might look like an innocent tree…but beware! This leafy vision of loveliness has a feisty squirrel puppet hidden inside it. Get too close and you’ll receive a serious scolding!

squirrel in tree

We read ‘Ol Mama Squirrel by David Ezra Stein (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2013). ‘Ol Mama Squirrel is super-protective of her babies. Any cat, owl, or dog who even shows the slightest interest in her family gets a serious scolding (“Chook! Chook! Chook!”). This treatment also applies to kites, airplanes, and an innocent man who comes to prune the tree. But when a grizzly bear shows up, ‘Ol Mama Squirrel is outmatched. But not for long. She rallies mama squirrels from fire escapes, under the tracks, in the tree tops, and all over the park. Together, they scold the bear right out of the park!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large oatmeal container
  • A box cutter
  • A 9.5″ x 17.5″ piece of brown construction paper
  • A sheet of green tissue paper (mine was 20″ x 29″)
  • A 1.75″ x 6″ rectangle of tagboard for tree branch
  • A square of green tissue paper (mine was 6″ x 6″)
  • Extra tagboard pieces for “wooden” hearts
  • 1 brown paper lunch bag
  • A 3″ x 4.5″ rectangle of tagboard for the mouth
  • A pair of 2″ x 2.25″ rectangles of brown construction paper for ears
  • A 1.25″ x 1.75″ rectangle of red construction paper for the tongue
  • A pair of wiggle eyes
  • 1 small pom-pom for the nose (mine was 1″)
  • A 1.5″ x 2″ rectangle of white card stock for the teeth
  • A 3.5″ x 7.75″ rectangle of tagboard for the tail
  • Tape, stapler, and scissors for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Begin by taking the lid off the large oatmeal container. Then use the box cutter to remove the circular cardboard bottom from the container. You now have an oatmeal container tube.

tubeUse markers to draw lines of “bark” on the brown construction paper and then wrap it around the oatmeal container. The important thing to remember is that the plastic ring around the top of the oatmeal container is also the top of your tree. The cut end of the container is too ragged and will catch your squirrel puppet as it pops in and out of the tree.

wrapped treeGently bunch one end of the sheet of green tissue paper together, then securely tape it to the tree, just underneath the plastic ring. Wrap the tissue paper repeatedly around the top of the oatmeal container, stopping every once in a while to secure it to the tree with pieces of tape.

tape treeMake sure that the tissue paper doesn’t hang over the edge of your plastic ring and droop into the oatmeal container. Otherwise, your squirrel puppet will get caught in the foliage as it pops in and out of the tree. I found some butterfly stickers in the art cabinet and we added those to the foliage for a little extra color.

Next, cut the first rectangle of tagboard into a branch shape. Use markers to add some “bark” lines, and fold on one end. Staple a crumpled green tissue paper square to the other end. Then tape (or hot glue) the folded end of the branch to the tree trunk.

branchCut two “wooden” hearts out of tagboard and write names in them. I suggested “Mama” or “Mom” and then the child’s name or a simple “Me.” Tape (or hot glue) them to the front of the tree.

treeAll this tree needs is a fiercely protective squirrel inside it! Cut your second tagboard rectangle into this shape:

mouthThen fold it lengthwise to create your squirrel’s mouth.

folded mouthHot glue the mouth inside the paper lunch bag

mouth in bagYou could skip the tagboard mouth entirely, but I found that it made the puppet easier to operate. The rest of the squirrel’s face is very simple.

front of squirrel

Make two ears out of brown construction paper and tape (or hot glue) them to the back of the bag. Use red construction paper to create the tongue, and tape (or hot glue) it into the mouth. Hot glue wiggle eyes and a pom-pom nose to the bag. Use markers to add eyebrows and eyelashes. Last come the teeth – basically, a piece of white card stock folded and cut like so:

teeth

Attach the teeth to the mouth with tape (or hot glue). The face is done – all that remains is the tail! Cut the third tagboard rectangle like this, and scribble all over it with marker.

tail

Staple to the back of the squirrel.

back of squirrel

Ready to load your squirrel puppet in the tree? Put your hand into the puppet, then gently insert it into the bottom the the tree. Guide the squirrel up the tube and push it slowly and gently out the top (you might have to squish it’s head a little when you’re doing this).

To operate the puppet, use your free hand to grab the bottom of the tube. Then pop your squirrel puppet in and out of the tree. Don’t forget to scold!

puppet in action

Robot Fun

robot puppetWhat could be more fun than a robot pal to play with?

We read Boy + Bot, written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino (Knopf Books, 2012). One day, a boy meets a robot. The new friends have a blast playing together, but while rolling down a hill, Bot’s power switch is accidentally bumped off. The boy tries everything (applesauce, story, bedtime) to take care of his unresponsive friend, but nothing works. Exhausted, the boy falls asleep. While the boy is sleeping, his parents unknowingly switch Bot back on. Bot, distressed that the boy is not responding, tries everything to revive him (oil, instructional manual, battery). Finally, the Inventor sets Bot straight, the boy wakes, and they run off to play once more.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box for the robot’s body (I used a 9” x 4 ½” X 4 ½” box)
  • 1 smaller box for the robot’s head (I used a 4” x 4” x 4” box)
  • 2 extra-long pieces of clear elastic beading cord
  • 2 craft sticks
  • Masking tape
  • A box cutter
  • 4 poster board strips for the arms and legs
  • Hot glue
  • Art supplies to decorate your robot. This could be anything – sparkle stems, tin foil, mylar, shiny paper, stickers, etc.
  • An assortment of beverage caps (optional)
  • Scissors, tape and glue sticks for construction
  • 1 wooden dowel

The first step is to super-duper secure the elastic cords to your robot’s body.  This is important because the robot is really going to get bopped around. Wrap each piece of elastic cord around a craft stick, double knot it, and cover the knot with masking tape like so:

prepped elastic cordThen, use the box cutter to make two vertical slits in the “shoulders” of the robot. Starting INSIDE the box, thread the cord through the slit and then pull until the taped craft stick is right up against the inside of the box. Repeat on the other side.

cord pulled throughYou don’t need to secure the craft stick inside the box. In fact, it’s better if it wiggles because it produces a bouncier robot! With the cords dangling outside the body, hot glue the head, arms, and legs. I also offered a choice of beverage caps for eyes, ears, buttons, and hot glued them on.

Now it’s time to decorate! I broke out the Bling Bin, heaped even more metallic supplies on the tables, and told the kids to let their imaginations go wild! While they were working, I walked my robot around the art tables for inspiration. I was quite proud her dainty robot shoes.

robot shoesWhen the decorating is done, rig your robot up to the wooden dowel. Start by dangling your robot from the elastic cords so its feet are touching the floor. Then, wrap the elastic cords around the ends of the dowel and secure them with masking tape.

final cordsFinished! We walked our robots around the gallery in a sparkly, bouncy parade, but you can also put on some music and host an awesome robot dance party!