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

Come On Get Snappy

get snappySnapdragon anyone? I’ve offered this simple project at a number of programs in the past, and it’s always well-received. “Snappy” has decorated the edges of a swamp at a Halloween party, hid in an Alice in Wonderland garden, and grown out of pots at a “Primordial Plant” event table!

event tableYou’ll need:

  • 1 paper cup
  • 1 small rectangle of green construction paper for head (approximately 1.5″ x 3″)
  • A sliver of red construction paper for tongue
  • 1 green pipe cleaner
  • Hole punch
  • Tape
  • Markers
  • Extra green construction paper for leaves

First, fold the green construction paper rectangle in half to form Snappy’s mouth. Tab the ends of the mouth, then cut out teeth.

mouth stepsMake sure to leave a gap in the lower teeth (this is where the tongue will rest later).

gapNext, punch a hole in the back of Snappy’s head…

punched holeThen thread a green pipe cleaner through the hole. Twist the pipe cleaner around and thread it through the hole once again. Pull gently to tighten, then curl the end.

stem steps

 Cut the sliver of red construction paper to look like a forked tongue and tape (or glue) it into the mouth.

tongueUse markers to draw eyes. I added my eyes at the very end, but younger kids might have an easier time drawing the eyes earlier, such as before they attach the head to the pipe cleaner stem.

close up of faceTape the pipe cleaner stem inside the paper cup. Use extra green construction paper to add foliage. Done! Perhaps you can test out your new Snappy skills with this garden story time?

Bedtime? What Bedtime?

jake stays awakeTime for bed? Not for this little fellow. His head barely touches the pillow before he launches himself out of bed! The secret: a craft stick catapult concealed beneath the covers!

jumping out of bedWe read Jake Stays Awake by Michael Wright (Feiwel & Friends, 2007). Jake refuses to sleep in his own bed, preferring instead to knock on his parents’ door at night and insist on joining them. But it’s definitely not working for his parents. So they make a deal. Jake can sleep with them, but perhaps he can think of a different place for them to bed down for the night? So they try many places (including the roof, the stairway, the kitchen counter, garbage cans, the family car) until exhausted Jake finally hits on the one place that might just work – his own bed.

You’ll need:

  • A box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9”)
  • A 5″ x 5″ square of tagboard for the headboard
  • A 3″ x 4.5″ rectangle of tagboard for the footboard
  • Extra pieces of tagboard for bed decor
  • 2 jumbo craft sticks (mine were 6″ long)
  • 6 medium craft sticks (mine were 4.5″ long)
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • 2 medium rubber bands
  • A small rectangle of white poster board for pillow (mine was 2.25″ x 2.5″)
  • A rectangle of tissue paper for blanket (mine was 5.25″ x 7″)
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • A selection of multicultural construction paper
  • A selection of patterned paper
  • Construction paper for hair
  • A small rectangle of stiffened felt for teddy bear (mine was 1.5″ x 2″)
  • Scissors, tape, and glue stick for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

We’ll start with the bed! Cut the box down until it is approximately 2.5″ deep.

bed steps Now cut your headboard and footboard out of tag board. Make sure the footboard is low and rounded. Otherwise, your tube person might not clear it when catapulted.

headboard and footboardHot glue (or tape) the headboard and footboard to the ends of the box. To create some texture on the bed frame, we made some simple tag board shapes. The kids decorated them with markers and glued them to the bed.

finished bedOn to the catapult! Stack 2 jumbo craft sticks on top of one another, then wrap a rubber band tightly around one side.

rubber banded craft sticksNow stack 6 medium craft sticks on top of one another and wrap both ends tightly with colored masking tape.

taped craft sticksWedge the stack of 6 craft sticks in between the jumbo crafts sticks like so:

wedgedThen wrap a second rubber band around both sets of craft sticks to secure the catapult mechanism (a criss-cross wrap works best).

bandedHot glue the stacked craft sticks to the inside center of the box. Really glob the hot glue on. You don’t want the catapult to come loose!

catapult securedCut a toilet paper tube in half lengthwise, then cut a 1.25″ segment off the bottom of one of the halves. This is the “catapult cup” that will hold the lower section of your tube person steady whilst it awaits launching. Attach the catapult cup with hot glue, but avoid getting hot glue on the rubber bands.

catapult cupRound the edges of the white poster board rectangle to create a pillow, then hot glue it to the top of the catapult arm. The pillow should be flush with the end of the craft stick.

pillow placementFinish by draping the tissue paper “blanket” over the top of the catapult.

blanket placementThe catapult is ready. Now for your person! Wrap the top of a toilet paper tube with a strip of multicultural construction paper. Then wrap the remainder of the tube with patterned paper. Add construction paper hair and use markers to draw a face.

Lastly, cut arms and legs from the patterned paper and tape to the tube. Make sure, however, that you attach the arms and legs to the front of the tube. This produces the best launch from the catapult.

side view finished personPlace your person on top of the catapult. His/her head should rest on the lower part of the pillow, and his/her rear end should rest in the catapult cup. But before you launch, how about a fuzzy companion? I cut a teddy bear shape out of white stiffened felt and used Sharpies to add some details. Then I prepped a bevy of bears for story time!

lots of bearsPlace the teddy bear on top of the tube person. Then reach between the posts of the headboard and press firmly down on the top edge of the pillow.

press down Remove your finger quickly and watch as your person launches out of bed, teddy bear flying!

launch