Mammoth Haircut

mammoth haircutWhat’s a woolly mammoth to do when the Ice Age starts to warm up? Get a haircut of course! We made some spectacularly hairy mammoths, gave them drastic full body haircuts, and then played a little game called “Cold! Hot! Cold!” There were lots of giggles, I assure you.

We read Hot Hot Hot by Neal Layton (Candlewick Press, 2004). Oscar and Arabella are a pair of playful woolly mammoths. While the Ice Age winter is wonderful (Snow! Ice! Freezing winds!), eventually summer arrives and the misery begins. Plants and flowers make Oscar and Arabella sneeze, insects irritate them, dust itches them, and the burning hot sun is just awful. The mammoths try seeking shade, fanning themselves, and jumping in a lake but nothing works. Finally, they decide to give each other haircuts. Ahhhh! That works! The other animals decide follow their lead and everyone is much more comfortable. When winter returns, the animals grow their heavy coats back, no problem. Except early man. He’s looking mighty chilly at the end of the book!

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9” – a large tissue box works too)
  • 8 rectangles of brown construction paper (approximately 3″ x 6.25″)
  • 4 toilet paper tubes, all of which are the same height
  • 1 rectangle of white construction paper (approximately 4″ x 13.5″)
  • A small rectangle of tagboard for the tail (or brown poster board)
  • A rectangle of tagboard for trunk (approximately 1.5″ x 7″)
  • 2 circles of white poster board for eyes (mine were 1.25″ in diameter)
  • 2 rectangles of white poster board for mammoth tusks
  • 2 small tagboard squares for ears
  • 1 piece of 12″ x 18″ brown construction paper
  • 4 pieces of brown yarn (approximately 19″ long each)
  • 1 piece of 9″ x 12″ brown construction paper
  • A 17.5″ piece of brown yarn
  • Scissors and tape for construction (glue stick optional)
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

We built our mammoths from the legs up! Begin by fringing 8 rectangles of brown construction paper. Wrap 2 fringes around each toilet paper tube, creating a double layer of leg fringe like so:

leg fringesWhen all the legs are wrapped, hot glue them to the bottom of the box. Next, use markers to decorate a rectangle of white construction like underpants (I went with classic red hearts look). When you’re finished decorating, wrap and tape the underpants on the rear end of the mammoth (note: the underpants will only cover 3 sides of the box – they don’t need to go all the way around).

legs and underpantsTo make the tail, fringe the bottom of a small rectangle of tagboard and tape (or hot glue) to the rear end of your mammoth. If you want to get extra fancy, you can attach a fringe of brown construction paper to the end of the tagboard rectangle like this:

tailNow for your mammoth’s face! The face consists of a pair of white poster board tusks, a curled tagboard trunk, a small pair of tagboard ears, and a pair of white poster board eyes. Tape (or hot glue) these items to the box. Two important things to keep in mind. Firstly, the ears need to stick out of the sides of the box, next to the eyes (otherwise, they will interfere with your mammoth’s “bangs”). Secondly, when drawing your mammoth’s eye pupils, aim for a surprised look. It’s much funnier that way.

suprised faceThe mammoth body is now complete, now for the hairy coat! Drape a 12″ x 18″ piece of brown construction paper over the back of your mammoth and fold the paper down the sides of the box. Then cut a portion of the front of the paper out, thus creating “bangs” over your mammoth’s eyes. Remove the paper and fringe the bangs and the sides of the paper. Finish by crinkling the fringes with your fingers to give the hair some volume.

first layer of hairPlace the newly-fringed paper hair back on your mammoth. Then tape four, 19″ pieces of yarn to the top of the fringed paper. Trim the yarn if needed.

yarn hair Next, drape a 9″ x 12″ piece of brown construction paper on top of your mammoth, fold down the edges, and fringe the sides. Crinkle the fringes for volume. Attach this second paper layer to the first paper layer with tape, a glue stick, or hot glue.

third layer of hairThe final step is to hot glue (or tape) a 17.5″ piece of brown yarn along the top of the construction paper hair, creating a dorsal stripe down your mammoth’s back.

dorsal stripeYour mammoth is done! Place the hair on its back, and then whip it off quickly for a surprise haircut! At our story time, we also played a game called “Cold! Hot! Cold!” Here’s how it works. Katie whipped up a pair of poster board signs, which she mounted on PVC pipe. One sign represented the hot summer, the other sign represented the cold winter.

hot and cold signsAll the kids sat on the floor with their mammoths in front of them. I held up the “Cold” sign and everyone covered their mammoths with hair.

coldThen I quickly switched signs and shouted “Hot!” and, in unison, the kids whipped the hair off their mammoths, revealing many multicolored pairs of underwear!

hotThen I switched signs again and yelled “Cold!” Down came the hair once again.

cold againWe started slow, but the game kept getting faster and faster until the hair was (literally) flying and everyone was laughing. There were about 18 kids at story time that day, so the effect was tremendous!

Looking for more hair projects (and who isn’t)? Check out this post!

Flannel of the Future

flannel board 2015Some of you may recall this post, in which I visited my friends at scienceSeeds and reported on all the cool science toys they are currently playing with. There was one toy, however, that I didn’t include because I wanted to do a special post on it later.

The time has come for that post.

Get ready to usher your story time flannel board into 2015…may I introduce…the brilliant…the amazing…the mesmerizing…conductive thread! Yes, this thread conducts electricity, which means that your flannel can be rigged with lights!

You’ll need:

  • 1-2 pieces of felt (i.e. flannel)
  • 1 sewing needle
  • A length of conductive thread
  • 1 coin cell battery holder
  • LEDs (3mm or 5mm size are recommended)
  • 1 coin cell battery
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue (optional)

The good news is that all the electrical components listed above will cost you less than $10. A 30 foot bobbin of the thread is $2.95, and the LEDs are between 20¢-50¢ each. A battery holder is about $1.95, and the coin cell batteries, which can be purchased just about any retail store, are between $1-3 dollars (the one you see in the image below is size CR 2032). scienceSeeds buys most of their supplies from SparkFun Electronics, an online company.

electrical suppliesSince we were using lots of LEDs, Lindsay, our scienceSeeds flannel artist, decided to do 2 layers of flannel. The black “background” layer held the thread and the batteries, and a colorful top layer hid the stitching. The results were colorful, tidy, and sturdy. Here’s what the back of our flannel numbers looks like:

rigged upFirst, use the conductive thread to sew a coin cell battery holder to a piece of felt. It’s important that the battery holder is tightly connected to the felt. Lindsay recommends hot gluing the battery holder to the felt first, and then stitching the holder’s connections to the felt with the thread.

Next, push the legs of an LED through the felt. Curl the legs into circles using a small pair of scissors, jewelry pliers, or needle nose pliers.Then stitch the legs to the felt with the thread.

curled leg and threadBecause you’re making a circuit, it’s essential to connect negative to negative and positive to positive. Therefore, the same thread that is connected to the negative post of the battery holder needs to be connected to the negative LED leg. Likewise, the same thread that is connected to the positive post of the battery holder needs to be connected to the positive LED leg.

Worried you won’t be able to rig things up correctly? Worry no more. The battery holder’s negative post is clearly marked, and the negative leg of an LED is always the shorter of the two.

led leg and holderYou can just connect one LED, or you connect a train of them. One important thing to note: if you’re using just one LED, the battery tends to heat up (as opposed to multiple LEDs in a strand, which share the power load). If you’re using just one LED, you might consider adding a resistor (i.e. an electrical component that limits the flow of a current through a circuit). Many LEDs already come with resistors.

When everything is connected, slip a coin cell battery into the battery holder. Your LEDs will activate, and your flannel board will glow! We discovered that the weight of our LEDs, battery holders, and coin batteries made our flannel numbers drop off the flannel board (Viva Las Vegas!). But the problem was quickly solved with a bit of Velcro.

velcroYou could also move beyond flannel boards! Here are a few projects from the scienceSeeds workshop. A handsome owl puppet with glowing eyes…

owlA Halloween treat bag with color-changing LEDs! Oooo!

bagA truly marvelous super hero mask.

maskIn addition to conducting electricity, the thread can also be used decoratively. You can see it here, adding some silver highlights to the mask.

thread on maskOK…you have the tools and the know-how. Cue up Pachelbel’s Canon in D, go forth, and illuminate!


Many thanks to scienceSeeds for rigging up the fantastic 2015 flannel!

The Famous Bucket

famous bucketPrior to 2007, if you had asked a young reader to name a famous bucket, I’ll wager most would have replied “Charlie.” But that was before a new bucket arrived on the scene. A fire-engine red bucket, wielded by an acrobatic young lady with a blonde ponytail. I speak, of course, of Kate Wetherall. Katie is one of the fantastic characters in The Mysterious Benedict Society, written by Trenton Lee Stuart (Little, Brown, 2007).

Intrigued by a curiously-worded advertisement in a local paper, orphan Reynie Muldoon spends a most unusual afternoon taking a series of strange tests. Later, he joins three other children (Sticky Washington, Constance Contraire and Kate Wetherall) who also passed the tests in unique ways. The children are invited to join a secret mission to stop Ledroptha Curtain, a criminal mastermind. The book is filled with puzzles, riddles, and action, but what I love the best is the friendship that forms between the children as their strengths (and weaknesses) are put to the test.

In the books (there are 3 in the series, plus a prequel), Kate always carries a red bucket stocked with a number of useful supplies. So when To Be Continued, our story time program for 6-8 year-olds finished the book, I just knew we had to something with Kate’s bucket! So I designed this game.

bucket gameAll you’ll need is 1 red bucket, a bucket game template printed on white card stock, and a copy of the bucket game scenarios. You’ll need markers to color in the template (or you can just go with the full color version), and scissors. I also gave kids a list of the bucket’s contents.

A quick word about the bucket. The 6.5″ bucket in the above photo can be purchased from Lowe’s for $2.35. However, since I required close to 20 buckets for my program, I needed something cheaper. I found a 4.5″ treat pail at Party City for 99¢. Nice! I also spotted 8.5″ paper bags at Party City for 79¢. Yes, a bag is technically not a bucket, but it’s a budget-friendly option nonetheless.

buckets and bagTo play the game, read a scenario aloud. Ask the kids to select the bucket items they would use to solve the scenario. Once everyone’s selections are made, go around the room and ask them to display which tools they selected, and how they would use them to solve the scenario. As you can imagine, there were some pretty innovative answers!

I’m a big fan of the Mysterious Benedict Society books, and in 2010 I was delighted to interview the author. If you’d like to listen to (or read) my interview with Trenton Lee Stewart, just click here.

Also, I don’t know if you noticed the amazing footwear on the two models at the top of the post (who also happen to be huge fans of the books). If not, scroll back up and prepare for some serious cuteness!