Them Bones

them bonesWhat’s cooler then a skeleton marionette that glows? How about a skeleton marionette that glows, attaches to your feet, and dashes around with you?

marionette bonesHere’s my assistant, Katie, showing off some fancy skeleton footwork…

foot loops in actionWe read Skeleton for Dinner, written by Margery Cuyler and illustrated by Will Terry (Albert Whitman & Company, 2013). Big Witch and Little Witch whip up a tasty brew and decide to invite skeleton to share it. “We must have Skeleton for dinner!” is what they say, but Skeleton, who is strolling nearby, thinks they mean that HE’S on the menu! Panic ensues, which soon envelopes Ghost and Ghoul (who are also on the invite list). Finally, Clever Crow figures out the problem, sets things straight, and the friends enjoy a tasty meal together.

You’ll need:

  • 3 paper towel tubes
  • 5 toilet paper tubes
  • Black construction paper (or black paint)
  • A rectangle of white card stock for the skull (approximately 4.25″ x 5.5″)
  • 12, 4″ pieces of twistez wire (pipe cleaners work too)
  • 2 brass tacks
  • 1 wooden dowel
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • String for puppet’s head & arms
  • 1 pipe cleaner
  • 2 medium rubber bands
  • 1 arms, legs, hands, feet template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 ribcage, pelvis template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 jumbo pom-pom (mine was 1.5″)
  • Markers for decorating
  • Scissors, tape for construction
  • Hole punch
  • Hot glue
  • Black light (or custom glow-in-the-dark glue…more about that here)

If there’s ONE thing that would make this project faster to assemble, it would be to paint all the tubes black. We can’t do paint in our library (see the FAQs), so we wrapped all of our tubes in black construction paper. It took some time!

tubesFor the assembly photos in this post, I decided to show you unwrapped rolls on a white background with red twistez wire, red yarn, and red rubber bands so all the pieces would be more visible. On  the actual skeleton the tubes were black, connected with black twistez wire, and I used white string. So please excuse the blah assembly photos. I just wanted to make sure all the steps were clear!

We’ll start from the legs up. Cut a paper towel tube in half. Punch holes on the top of one tube half, and the bottom of the other tube half. Thread twistez wires though the top and bottom holes on each side of the tubes, joining them together. Making sure to leave some space and twist the ends of the wire together.

legRepeat the above steps with the second paper towel tube. You now have two legs that bend at the “knee.”

two legsThe third paper towel tube is your skeleton’s torso. Attach the legs to the torso by punching holes on the bottom outside of the torso tube, and the top inside of each of the legs (it’s easier to see this step in the image below). Attach the legs to the torso using brass tacks.

legs to torsoMaking an arm is just like making a leg, except you’ll be using toilet paper tubes instead of paper towel tubes. Punch holes in the top of one toilet paper tube and the bottom of the other toilet paper tube. Thread twistez wires though the top and bottom holes on each side of the tubes, joining them together. Twist the ends of the wire together.

armRepeat the above steps with 2 more toilet paper tubes. You now have two arms that bend at the “elbow.” Attach the arms to the torso by punching holes on the top outside of the torso tube, and the top inside of the arms (again, it’s easier to see this step in the image below). Attach the arms to the torso using twistez wire.

arms to torsoTo make the skull, draw a face on a rectangle of white card stock (alas, white construction paper doesn’t fluoresce under black light). Wrap the skull face around a toilet paper tube. To attach the skull to the torso, punch holes in the front and back of the bottom of the skull (i.e. the base of the neck and the skeleton’s “chin”). Punch matching holes in the front and back of the torso tube. Attach with twistez wire.

headThe tube body is done, now for the strings! Quick note: I used red yarn for the instructions below, but for the actual skeleton, I used thin white string.

stringFirst, wrap the wooden dowel with colored masking tape. Now punch a hole in the back of the skull tube, near the top of the head. Thread a piece of string through the hole and knot. Attach the other end to the middle of the wooden dowel.

head stringNext, punch a hole in the “elbow” of each arm tube (i.e. the outside bottom of the top arm tube). Knot a piece of string through the hole.

arm stringsBut wait! Before you tie the arm strings to the wooden dowel, may we introduce one delightfully dynamic option? If you want to be able to move your skeleton’s arms, follow the following steps:

Cut a pipe cleaner in half. Bend the half pipe cleaner into a loop and twist the bottom together tightly. Tie an arm string to the loop, then reinforce with a piece of colored masking tape.

loop stepsRepeat with the remaining half of the pipe cleaner.  You now have 2 pipe cleaner loops that slide on and off the wooden dowel, allowing you to manipulate your skeleton’s arms!

finished bodyFinally, punch a hole in the “heel” of each leg and loop a rubber band through it.

foot loopThe rubber band stretches over your shoe so you can walk your skeleton around!

foot loops againWith the body all rigged up, the last step is the bones! Color the bones in the template, then tape (or hot glue) them to the fronts of the tubes. Pop a jumbo pom-pom in the top of the skull tube to round off the look (I secured the pom-pom with a little hot glue)

bones We rigged up a black light and mirror in a storage closet and invited kids to march in and  watch their skeletons boogie. They absolutely loved it – especially when their skeleton’s feet matched their own dancing feet!

night bones

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!