Let it Shine

dream friendsTwinkle twinkle little light! Are your ready for your journey to dreamland? This beautiful lantern and dream friend will help guide you on your way!

little lantern

We read Dream Friends by You Byun (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2013). Melody has a very special friend…a dream friend. They fly, play hide-and-seek, have marvelous adventures, and watch fireworks. But only in her dreams. In reality, Melody is a shy girl in a new neighborhood. Since her dream friend can’t leave her dreams, Melody decides to close her eyes and imagine her friend is with her. While dancing on the playground, Melody draws the attention of another little girl who asks to join her. Soon, the whole playground is dancing with Melody. Magical!

You’ll need:

  • A 5″ plastic bucket container (more on this below)
  • A 3.5″ x 5″ rectangle of mirror board
  • Foil star stickers (the kind you find at office supply stores)
  • Regular markers
  • Hole punch
  • 1 LED votive candle
  • A set of window markers
  • Lullaby CD
  • A selection of shimmer ribbon
  • Gold curling ribbon

A bucket container (also sometimes called a craft container) is constructed of plastic and metal. It’s meant to hold party favors, candy, etc. I purchased mine from Oriental Trading Company. You can purchase them individually at Michael’s Craft store.

bucket container

To begin this project, use regular markers to draw a “dream friend” on the back of the mirror board (i.e. the white, non-reflective side). You could use white card stock instead of mirror board, but the mirror board is fantastic at reflecting the light of the lantern in the dark.

When cutting out your dream friend, make sure to leave a little tab at the top. Punch a hole through this tab (and round the edges if you’d like). This is where your ribbon will go later.

dream friend steps

Open the bucket container and stick the foil stars on the “floor” of the container and the underside of lid. Some kids stuck stars on the plastic sides of the container. This is fine – just make sure they keep the stickers on the interior of the container so they won’t interfere with the markers later.

Now for the fun part. I dropped a twinkling LED votive in each container, darkened the room, put on a lullaby CD ( I highly recommend Sweet Dreams: Lullabies for Guitar by Nina Gerber), and the kids used window markers to decorate the exterior of their containers. The room was full of excited yet peaceful kids, decorating away amidst mellow, glowing lanterns.

dream workshop

A tip about window markers. I purchased this brand from Discount School Supply (alas, there is no purple marker in this set). I know from experience that this particular brand works on glass AND plastic.

window markers

You have to draw slowly with window markers and allow them a little time to dry (about 30-45 second). Once they completely dry, then you can go back over them with another color. Otherwise, they get smudgy. So if you want to draw little stars with smiley faces like mine, just wait 30-45 seconds before you use the blue marker to draw the face on the yellow star.

decorated container

To complete the project, thread some shimmer ribbon and gold curling ribbon through the punched hole in the dream friend, then tie to one side of the lantern. Sweet dreams!

lit up

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

Fantasta-licious Factory

happy ownerMove over Charlie Bucket! How would YOU like to own your very own candy factory that produces amazing candies, sweets, and chocolates?

candy line upIn addition to its fanciful decor and delectable goodies, this candy factory has a working conveyor belt. Ingredients go in, delicious candy comes out!

conveyor belt candy

We read If I Owned a Candy Factory, written by James Walker Stevenson and illustrated by James Stevenson (Greenwillow, 1989). A little boy imagines what he would do if he had a candy factory. First, he would write a letter to all his friends and ask “What kind of candy do you like best?” and “What day is your birthday?” On their birthdays, kids are invited to the factory to get their favorite kind of candy…gumdrops, red lollipops, licorace, etc. Eventually, the candy factory would open its doors so all the kids around the world could come and enjoy a treat! It doesn’t get any sweeter than that.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9”)
  • box cutter
  • 6 toilet paper tubes
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • 1 strip of tagboard (mine was 3.75″ x 14″)
  • 1 jumbo craft stick (mine was 1.75″)
  • factory template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • A selection of patterned paper
  • Cotton balls (I offered white, blue, yellow, and pink)
  • An assortment of pipe cleaners
  • A selection of embossed foil paper or plain foil paper
  • A selection of drinking straws
  • A selection of craft ties
  • A selection of metallic (and/or regular) ribbon
  • 1 medium square of brown stiffened felt
  • 2 small pieces of tin foil
  • wooden coffee stirrer
  • 3 small squares of self-adhesive foam - all the same color
  • 2 tiny squares of kitchen sponge
  • 1 mini pom-pom (mine was 0.5″)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Begin by using a box cutter to create openings in the short sides of the box (my openings were approximately 3″ x 4″).

sides of factoryNow use colored masking tape to secure toilet paper tubes to the outside of each opening. Wrap the tape all the way around the bottom of the box to make the tubes extra secure.

belt 1Next, hot glue additional toilet paper tubes on the inside of the box. These are the “internal rollers” for the conveyor belt, and will help keep the belt steady and on track.

belt 2We will now pause this project to say a few words about the moveable conveyor belt. The belt is actually a strip of tagboard with a craft stick attached to it. The craft stick acts as the “lever” that moves the tagboard strip back and forth.

lever

Here’s what the conveyor belt looks like inside the factory (minus the candies of course – we’ll get to that step later).

belt in factoryThe size and length of your conveyor belt will vary according to the size of your box (my box was 9″ long and my conveyor belt was 14″). Your conveyor belt must be long enough to make the ingredients “disappear” into the factory and reappear as finished candies on the other side. It also needs to stay on the rollers and not fall into the box.

So we played around with a few conveyor belt prototypes and here’s what we finally came up with.

First, place the belt into the factory, letting it rest on top of the toilet paper tube rollers. Now slide the belt all the way to the left until the right side of the belt reaches the beginning of the right-hand “internal roller.” Make a mark on the left side of the belt.

It was hard to get a good shot of this step, so I marked the end of the belt with purple masking tape to give it more visibility. In the photo, it sort of looks like the end of the belt and the mark are inside the box. They’re not. They’re definitely outside the box.

belt position 1Repeat on the other side. The result will look like this. A belt with two marks on it.

belt position 2Now use the box cutter to make a slit right between the two marks. The slit needs to be wide enough for your jumbo craft stick to slide into snugly.

belt position 3Make 3 “x” marks on each end of the belt. This shows kids exactly where they need to place their candy in order to get the factory illusion to work.

belt position 4Insert the jumbo craft stick into the slit. You might want to add a little hot glue at the base to make it extra secure.

craft stick in beltPlace the belt back inside the factory. The craft stick should be poking out of the place where the box’s lid tucks into the box.

belt in factoryWe noticed that the belt was still in danger of coming off the rollers (especially if you get over-enthusiastic and whip it back and forth). So we added one more security measure.

Move the craft stick all the way to the left, until you see the last “x” on the belt. Put a piece of tape to the left of the craft stick to keep it from going any further.

x mark 1Repeat on the right side.

x mark 2The belt is secure, time to decorate the factory! Color the sign and windows on the template and tape or glue them to the factory. Wrap 2 toilet paper tubes with patterned paper and hot glue them to the roof of your factory as smoke stacks.

If you’d like smoke to come out of your stacks, pull a cotton ball apart, then push a pipe cleaner through it. Tape one end of the pipe cleaner inside the smoke stack.

smokeOne artistic mother and daughter team made delicious swirl smoke using two cotton balls twined together. Is this not completely awesome?

twirly smoke

Other decorative touches included foil paper “solar panels,” drinking straw pipes going in random directions, pipe cleaners for “icing” and/or candy cane flourishes, and some craft ties and ribbon. I also offered some glittery plastic cocktail stirrers (located in the paper goods section at Target).

factory

The factory is all set. It’s finally time to manufacture some candy! We prepped all the little bits needed for this part of the project in advance, then put them in plastic cups so each kid would have everything at his/her fingertips.

Here are the cups, sitting on my trusty story time project book cart (which you might remember seeing in an oh-so-unusual format in my very first post).

prepped cups

Remember, you’re making 6 candy items for your conveyor belt. The “raw ingredient” set (pictured below on the left) and the “finished product” set (pictured on the right).

candiesCHOCOLATE BAR: For the “raw ingredients,” hot glue three tiny squares of stiffened brown felt to a small piece of tin foil. For the “finished” chocolate bar, wrap a small rectangle of stiffened brown felt with tin foil (leave a little chocolate peeking out the top). Then use patterned paper to create a label for your chocolate bar.

chocolate barLOLLIPOP: The “raw ingredients” are a square of self-adhesive foam and a small piece of a coffee stirrer. For the “finished” lollipop, cut 2 matching circles from self-adhesive foam. Peel the back off 1 circle and stick a piece of a coffee stirrer to it. Peel and stick the other circle and press it on top of the first circle. Add lollipop swirls with a Sharpie marker.

lollipopCAKE: For the “raw ingredients,” use a small square of sponge and a bit of cotton ball. For the “finished” cake, hot glue a bit of cotton ball on top of a small square of sponge, then hot glue a mini pom-pom cherry on top.

cakeAll that remains is hot gluing the candy to the conveyor belt (even though some kids decided to leave their candy loose). Remember to put the ingredients and the finished candy on the belt in the right order. We had some chocolate squares emerge as lollipops at first, but after a little trial and error, the kids worked it out.

And there you have it. You are now the proud owner of a candy factory! Just don’t eat too many sweets, or this might have to be the subject of your next story time!