Pickin’ Peas, Or, A Problem with Rabbits

pickin peasIt’s garden season and the peas are plumb and ripe for pickin’. Unfortunately, Mr. Rabbit is on a mission to score a succulant snack! We made bunnies, baskets, and pea plants and then headed to our story time garden to catch that naughty nibbler in the act!

rabbit basket pea plantWe read Pickin’ Peas, a classic Southern folktale retold by Margaret Read MacDonald, and illustrated by Pat Cummings (HarperCollins, 1998). A little girl plants and carefully tends a pea garden. When the peas are nice and plumb she starts to pick them, singing as she goes (“Pickin’ peas. Put ’em in my pail.”). Mr. Rabbit, hiding in the row behind her, starts to eat the peas, singing as well (“Pickin’ peas. Land on my knees!”). Eventually, the little girl catches on to rabbit’s tricks and nabs him. But with some quick thinking, a song, and a dance, the rabbit manages to escape for further culinary daring-dos.

You’ll need:

  • 1 small box (mine was 4” x 4” x 4”) – a small tissue box works too!
  • 1 strip of tagboard for the basket handle (mine was 2″ x 14.5″)
  • Brown masking tape
  • A selection of patterned tape
  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • Brown construction paper
  • 2 eye stickers
  • 1 pink dot sticker
  • 1 small white pom-pom (mine was 0.75″)
  • 1 green pipe cleaner
  • 1 rectangle of green construction paper (approximately 3″ x 3.5″)
  • 3-4 mini pom-poms (mine were 0.25″)
  • 1 small plastic cup (mine was 3oz.)
  • 1 pea garden game (more on that later!)
  • Stapler, scissors, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

There are three parts to this project: the basket, the rabbit, and the pea plant. We’ll start with the basket! Cut the tabs and lid off the top of a small box. If you’re using a tissue box, simply cut the top off. Attach a tagboard (or poster board) handle. Use brown masking tape and/or patterned tape to decorate the basket (or, just use markers!).

basket stepsNext is the rabbit! Wrap a toilet paper tube with brown construction paper, then add eye stickers and a dot sticker for the nose (or just use markers to create eyes and a nose). Tape a pair of brown construction paper ears to the inside of the tube. Hot glue on a white pom-pom tail, And don’t forget to draw a smile! The final step: write your name on the back of your rabbit so you can identify it later, during the garden game.

rabbitLastly, the pea plant. First, cut a pea pod and a leaf from a 3″ x 3.5″ rectangle of green construction paper. Here’s what mine look like:

pea pod and leafUse markers to draw some veins on the leaf. Write your name on the back of the leaf as well (so you identify it later, during the garden game).

Cut a pipe cleaner in half. Bunch the two halves together and tape the bottoms together tightly with masking tape (I used green tape, but any color will do). Curve the right pipe cleaner downward and tape the pea pod to it. Corkscrew the left pipe cleaner and tape a leaf to it. Finish by hot gluing 3-4 mini pom-poms to the pea pod (I used green pom-poms for my plant, but during story time, we let kids choose any colors they liked).

pea plant stepsYour pea plant also gets a “pot.” This is a 3oz plastic cup. I had some old office labels in the art supply cabinet, so I made “Peas” labels for the kids to color in. You can tape your pea plant inside the pot like this:

potted pea plantOr…you can wait, leave the pea plant detached from the pot, and play our garden game!

Our garden started as a low, flat box. We added 4 shrubs, tall grass, rocks, daisies, a smattering of flower stickers, pipe cleaner pea vines, a tagboard picket fence, and 3 oatmeal container rabbit holes. Here’s an image of the garden from the front:

garden from frontAnd here’s a birds-eye view so you can see how the shrubs are staggered and where the 3 rabbit holes are located:

garden from topWe knew the shrubs and rocks were going to get bumped pretty hard, so Katie attached them to jumbo craft sticks and slid them into slits she cut in the box.

shrub on sticksYou’ll notice that the shrubs have little pockets on them. This is so you can slide your pea plant into the pocket, and lo! It is now “growing” in the garden.

pea pocketTo play the game, we had every kid “plant” their pea plant in a pocket. Next, I collected all the rabbits. One by one, I hid a rabbit somewhere in the garden – in holes, behind rocks, in the tall grass, etc. – then I called out the name written on the back of the rabbit. The rabbit’s owner jumped up, ran over to the garden, and tried to find the rabbit before it “ate” any peas!

garden gameAfter everyone had caught their rabbit, the kids returned to the garden to “pick” their pea plants and tape them inside their pots. Since the kids’ names were written on the backs of the pea plant leaves, every plant was returned to its rightful owner.

Rabbits ruled this story time, but what happens when vegetables strike back? Click here to find out!

One Brave Birdy

one brave birdyEven the littlest bird can have a big adventure, especially if it braves our avian obstacle course and finishes by landing in a cozy treetop nest!

obstacle courseWe read Pepito the Brave by Scott Beck (Dutton Juvenile, 2001). Unlike his brothers and sisters, Pepito doesn’t want to leave the nest. He’s afraid of heights! But leave he must. So Pepito climbs down the tree and embarks on a most unbirdlike adventure that involves running, jumping a fence, swimming a river, and burrowing under a busy road. But all roads lead back to the nest, and Pepito discovers that maybe, just maybe, he’s brave after all.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (I used a 2” x 4” x 4” box)
  • 1 small craft stick (mine was 2.5″)
  • A 25″ piece of clear elastic beading cord
  • Masking tape
  • 1 piece of construction paper for body (approximately 4.5″ x 12″)
  • 2 rectangles of construction paper for wings (approximately 2″ x 3.25″)
  • 1 cone water cup
  • 1 pipe cleaner for bird feet
  • 2 large wiggle eyes
  • A few pieces of paper crinkle
  • balloon stick but you can also use PVC pipe)
  • Masking tape
  • Obstacle course (more details later!)
  • Crayons for decorating
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Hot glue

First, you’ll need to prep and rig the string on your bird box. Begin by wrapping the elastic beading cord around the craft stick, then secure it with masking tape.

bird cord stepsNext, cut a slit in the box from an outside edge to the center.

box step 1Slide the craft stick with the elastic cord into the slit, and pull until the craft stick is up against the “roof” of the box and the cord is sticking out of the top.

box step 2With the cord in place, tape the slit firmly shut (the tape is little hard to see in this image).

box step 3The cord is finished, now for the bird! Wrap the box with construction paper. Make sure there is about 2″ sticking above the top of the box. Fringe it to create your bird’s crest. Just be careful not to cut the cord!

fringed crestRound one edge of your construction paper rectangles, and then fringe to create wings. Hot glue to the sides of the box.

wing instructionsFor the beak, use crayons to color just the tip (i.e. less than 1″) of the cone water cup, and then snip off the tip and hot glue it to the box, along with the wiggle eyes. To make a tail, you can use the construction paper scraps on the table, or you can twist the pieces of paper crinkle together and tape it to the back of the box.

tailNow for the feet! Cut the pipe cleaner in half and bend to create feet. You can go for the “single foot look,” or make individual birdy toes. Up to you! Attach the pipe cleaners to the bottom of the box with tape.

bird feetThe final step is to attach the bird’s cord to the rod. Wrap the free end of the cord around the end of the rod, and secure with masking tape.

fly cordYour bird is now complete! Three cheers for Pepito the Brave!

finished birdYou can fly the little birds around your story time space and end things there, you can make a paper bag nest (see instructions below), or you can tackle the full-fledged obstacle course!

obstacle course labledThe simplest part of the obstacle course is the river. You’ll just need a blue bed sheet. The trees, fence, and tunnel, however, need to be constructed. So here we go…

To create a tree, you’ll need:

  • 1 sturdy tube. We used the roll off some heavy-duty butcher paper. If you don’t have a tube, you can place the nest on a chair, a shelf, or a table.
  • 1 bag of rocks, coins, or sand to weigh the tree down
  • 1 oatmeal container, lid removed
  • Extra paper to stuff in tree base
  • Green and brown construction paper
  • Green poster board
  • 1 brown paper lunch bag
  • Hot glue

Fit the bag of rocks, coins, or sand into the bottom of the tube. Then, holding the bag in place, lower the tube into the oatmeal container. Pack wads of paper in the gaps between the tube and the oatmeal container to keep the tree from wiggling. If you’d like, you can wrap the oatmeal container with brown construction paper, and add some green construction paper “grass” fringes.

Now for the tree top. We neglected to snap images of this during our story time prep, so I’m recreating it here with a paper towel tube. To make a tree top, cut a foliage shape from green poster board, then cut two slits in the center.

tree steps 1 and 2Slide the slits into the tube…

tree step 3…and hot glue the poster board to the interior of the tube.

tree step 4To make the nest, roll the mouth of the paper bag outward and downward until you have a small nest.

nest stepsThen hot glue it to the top of the tube. We added little red apples (made out of self-adhesive foam, bits of brown pipe cleaner, and fabric leaves, but this is optional).

glued nestSince we had two tubes, we made two trees (one for shorter kids, and one for taller kids). We didn’t want anyone over-stretching, falling, and completely felling a tube tree.

finished treesFor the tunnel & fence, you’ll need:

  • 1 copy paper box with lid
  • A box cutter
  • 1 piece of green poster board
  • 2 pieces of black, 12″ x 18″ construction paper
  • Yellow masking tape
  • 1 piece of green, 12″ x 18″ construction paper
  • 1 piece of white poster board
  • Extra green construction paper
  • Packing tape
  • Hot glue

Use the box cutter to make tunnel entrances in the short ends of the copy paper box. Then cover the long side of the tunnel with green poster board “grass” (alas, I was out of green, so I used pink). Secure with packing tape. Then cut a black construction paper “road” and hot glue it on top of the “grass.” We also used yellow masking tape to make lines on the road, and hot glued some green construction paper grass fringe on the bottom.

finished tunnelTo make the fence, cover the outside of the copy paper box lid with a 12″ x 18″ piece of green construction paper. Then cut pickets out of the white poster board and hot glue to the box lid. I also used a black Sharpie marker to outline the fence pieces. Add some grass at the bottom if you like.

finished fenceSet everything up and you’re ready to run the course! Birdy can run up, jump the fence, swim the river, burrow through the tunnel, and land in the nest. I recommend demonstrating the course before you turn kids loose on it (especially the tunnel – some kids kept trying to shove their birds through first instead of leading with the rod).

I wanted kids to earn a reward sticker after completing the course. So I wrote encouraging things on name tag stickers and asked the kids to decorate them. My idea was to collect the decorated stickers and randomly hand them out (so you’re providing encouragement for someone else? Get it?).

Well, it didn’t work. Some kids put the stickers on right away. Some wanted to keep theirs. Some didn’t get around to decorating their stickers. So I had to quickly bring out some different stickers as rewards. If I was to do it all over again, I would just make the stickers myself and hand them out!

reward stickersIf you like bird projects, you might also want to check out this one and this one!