Purrfect Pet

purrfect palRecently, it occurred to me that we’ve done story time projects with dogs, monkeys, chicks, ponies, mice, hamsters, butterflies, birds, crocodiles, bugs, rabbits, and chickens in hot air balloons…but no CATS! To correct this egregious oversight, I present you with the purrfect cat story time.

We read Hookwinked by Arthur Howard (Harcourt, 2001). Mitzi (who is a witch) adores creepy things. So when it’s time to find a pet, she heads to the creepiest store in town. She selects a toad. But all the toad wants to do is eat bugs. She returns the toad and gets a pair of bats. But all the bats want to do is hang out with each other. She returns the bats and leaves the store, completely discouraged. The next day, however, there’s a scratch at her door. It’s an adorable little kitten. Naturally, Mitzi is disgusted by the kitten’s cuteness, but she agrees to let it stay one night because it’s raining outside. That night, the kitten stays by Mitzi’s side as she hunts ghosts, purrs on Mitzi’s lap during a scary movie, and licks Mitzi’s chin when she reveals her deepest fears. Mitzi’s heart is won, and she realizes that looks aren’t everything!

You’ll need:

  • 1 small oatmeal container
  • Construction paper
  • A rectangle of tagboard (approximately 4.25″ x 6″)
  • 3 pieces of twistez wire (or very thin card stock strips) approximately 4.5″ each
  • A small rectangle of self-adhesive foam (approximately 1.25 ” x 1.5″)
  • 2 wiggle eyes
  • A 16″-18″ piece of ribbon
  • A small circle of card stock (approximately 1.5″ in diameter)
  • Scissors, tape, and glue stick for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hole punch
  • Hot glue

First, wrap your oatmeal container in construction paper (we offered black, white, orange, and gray). Cut the hind feet out of a tagboard rectangle, then glue the tagboard to your choice of colored construction paper. Trim the construction paper to fit the tagboard feet. Your tag board hind feet are now covered with construction paper on one side.

back feet stepsSet the feet aside for a moment, and cut a tail out of your choice of colored construction paper. Our tails were 2.25″ x 12″ rectangles and they looked great. Round one end of the rectangle, then wrap the tail around a marker to give it an awesome curl.

Hot glue the hind feet to the bottom of the oatmeal container, then hot glue to tail on top of the feet. To keep the tail anchored and less likely to tear off, I suggest hot gluing at least 3″ of it to the feet.

glued feet and tailTo create your cat’s front feet, cut two, 1.5″ x 4.5″ rectangles of construction paper, round one end of each rectangle, and then fold the rounded ends up to create paws. Hot glue (or tape) the legs to the front of the oatmeal container.

front legs attachedTo make the cat’s furry bib, cut a 4″ x 4.25″ rectangle of construction paper into an upside-down bell shape, then cut little ripples on the edges to create “fur.”

bibHot glue (or tape) the bib to the front of the cat. Make sure the bib covers the tops of the front legs, but also leaves room for your cat’s face.

bib attachedUse a marker to draw a smile on your cat and little “toe lines” on it’s feet (metallic Sharpie markers work great on black construction paper). Next, bunch together 3 pieces of twistez wire (or 3 very thin card stock strips) and tape them over the mouth like so:

whiskersCut a piece of self-adhesive foam into a cat nose and stick it over the whisker tape. Hot glue a pair of wiggle eyes above the nose, and hot glue (or tape) a pair of construction paper ears next to the eyes.

nose, eyes, and ears The final touch is your cat’s name tag. Punch a hole in a circle of white card stock, then decorate the circle with your cat’s name. Thread a piece of ribbon through the hole and tie the ribbon around your cat’s neck. Invite a few friends over for a grand night out.

purrfect gang

And there you have it…a splendid cat story time! I wonder what animal’s next? We’ve already covered flamingossquirrelslong-haired rainbow yaks

Spooky Old Classic

spooky old tree with kidsReady to do some daring exploring? All you need is a lantern, a map, and a classic book!

We read The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree by Stan & Jan Berenstain (Random House, 1978). Three little bears journey to a spooky old tree, daring to explore an old stair, an alligator-challenged bridge, a secret hall, and finally, the Great Sleeping Bear.

This was one of my favorite picture books when I was a kid, and when 2 extra-large recycled boxes graced my doorstep, I knew exactly what I was going to to with them. Create a spooky old tree for kids to explore!

Our spooky (but not too spooky) adventure begins with a glowing lantern…

lantern…and ends with a key hunt inside the spooky old tree!

spooky tree interiorYou’ll need:

  • 1 standard clear (or opaque) plastic cup
  • Glow-in-the-dark foam dough, glow paint, or a LED candle (optional)
  • tagboard circle for a lantern base (should be slightly larger than the mouth of the cup. Mine was approximately 3.5″)
  • 1 tagboard (or poster board) strip for lantern handle (approximately 14″ x 1.25″)
  • Markers for decorating
  • Scotch tape
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • 1 beverage cap
  • Hot glue
  • 2 sparkle stems
  • 1 spooky old tree map template, printed on 11″ x 17″ paper
  • 1 spooky old tree (read on for construction details!)

To make the lantern, begin by putting the glow-in-the-dark material inside the cup. I had some leftover glow-in-the-dark foam dough (from a program 3 years ago!) so that’s what I used. But you can also paint something that will glow, use a LED votive candle, or simply skip this step.

Decorate the tagboard circle with markers. When finished, tape (or hot glue) the circle over the mouth of the cup. Then flip the cup over so it’s resting on its tagboard base.

Now for the lantern handle! Decorate your handle with markers or colored masking tape. Then use scotch tape to secure the handle near the BASE of the lantern. Some kids will be tempted to tape the handle to the top of the lantern, but that makes it too tippy.

taped handleUse colored masking tape to create decorative bands at the top and bottom of the cup. Hot glue a drink lid / bottle cap to the top of the lantern. Finish by wrapping one sparkle stem around the base of the lantern, and the other sparkle stem around the beverage cap.

lantern capWith the lantern complete, we embarked on a map making project. I gave the kids a spooky old tree template, and asked them to draw what they thought the inside of the tree looked like. For inspiration, I taped color copies of pages from the book (featuring the hall, the bridge, the moving wall, etc.) on the surrounding walls. When the maps were finished, my assistant hid them around the gallery and invited the kids to go on a “map hunt.” While this was going on, we got the tree ready for action.

And now (duh duh DUH)…THE TREE!

spooky old tree I’ll start by saying that you do NOT, of course, have to create a tree like mine. A large box with a hole cut in it, a darkened room, a table draped with a dark tablecloth – all of these thing will do just as well. Kids will have fun no matter what. You also don’t have to have a hidden key game. Crawling through the tree with your glowing lantern is a fine adventure.

However, if you DO want to make a tree like mine, fire up the hot glue gun and let’s get started!

You’ll need:

  • 2 large boxes (mine were 32″ x 26.5″ x 22″ and 25″ x 25.5″ x 24.5″
  • 1 roll of craft paper
  • 1 box cutter
  • Packing tape
  • Hot glue
  • 4 small clear plastic cups
  • 4 LED votive candles
  • White, brown, black, and yellow poster board
  • Black marker
  • 1 large piece of tagboard for key reinforcement & key sleeves
  • 1 key template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 1 set of metallic Sharpie markers (optional)

I used the smaller box for the “entry tunnel” and the larger box for the “key chamber.”

boxesUsing the box cutter, cut matching rectangular holes in one side of each box. Push the two boxes together so the holes are connected, then tape and hot glue the boxes together securely. Now the boxes are connected by an interior “doorway.”

Wielding your box cutter once more, cut doors at each end of the joined boxes. One door is the entrance, the other door is the exit. I decorated the entrance door with a black poster board and added yellow eyes.

spooky tree entrywayThe exit door isn’t decorated on the outside, but I did cut a small rectangular “keyhole” in it. Here’s an interior shot:

spooky tree keyholeNow it’s time for the “bark” on the tree. Cut a big piece of craft paper:

branch sheet Roll and twist it into a tall cone-like shape (i.e. so the base is wider than the tip).

rolled branchThen hot glue the wider part of the “branch” to the box.

glued tree branchRepeat until the tree is covered! I must admit, I pooped out after the first box, and simply wrapped the sides of the second box with paper. But as you can see, it still looked great!

spooky tree side view

If you want to see this tree building technique used on a smaller scale, check out this post.

Now, on to the interior of the tree! In the interest of time, I only decorated the key chamber. I left the entry tunnel undecorated. I used the white and brown poster board to create two spooky bear portraits with frames. Then I hot glued them to the walls. As you can see, I didn’t make them too spooky. Because it’s easy to get a little hysterical in a dark, tight room with flickering candles. So you don’t need super-scary bears glaring at you too, eh?

bear portraitsNext I hot glued plastic drink cups to the upper corners of the room and plunked an LED votive candles in each cup. Instant wall sconces!

Finally, I used a black marker to add some details to the exit door. Here’s a birds eye view of the key chamber.

interior room bird's eye viewHere’s the entrance view again.

spooky tree interiorAnd here I am hot gluing everything (only burned myself once)!

dr. dana gluesThe final step is the keys! To give the keys more texture, I colored them with metallic sharpie markers. Then I hot glued them to tagboard for extra reinforcement.

keys on tagboardDuring story time, I knew was going to be repeatedly hiding the keys in a dark, very cramped place. I also knew I was going to drop a key someplace irretrievable. So I made “key sleeves” out of tagboard, slipped the keys inside, and hot glued the sleeve in the hiding places.

key sleevesHere’s one key sleeve glued in a crack in the ceiling:

ceiling keyAnd another key sleeve glued behind a bear portrait

portrait keyI placed the third key (with no sleeve) in a wall sconce

wall sconce keyNow we were ready! My assistant staffed the entry door, and I staffed the exit door. One by one, kids crawled inside the spooky old tree to find the hidden keys and stick them through the “keyhole” I had created. The key in the keyhole was my signal to open the door and let them “escape.”

Originally, I was going to have kids find all three keys. But we were so crowded that day we only had time for one key. One girl was a little scared, so we opened both doors wide and let her crawl through without stopping. She did it, and then circled back in line to do it again! I was very proud of her!