Fair Trade

fair tradePack your wagon and get ready for a long journey! We made a little covered wagon and 2 sets of goods to go inside it. Then, we traveled to the story time store to do some good old-fashioned trading!

wagon and goodsWe read Ox-Cart Man, written by Donald Hall and illustrated by Barbara Cooney. A farmer prepares for a journey, packing his ox cart with all the surplus things his family has produced throughout the year – wool, mittens, brooms, apples, etc. Then he sets off on a ten day journey to Portsmouth, where he sells everything (including the ox and the cart) and purchases items for his family especially (and this was very important when I was a little kid) 2 pounds of wintergreen peppermint candies. Pockets still full of coins, he returns to his farm and the beautiful cycle of seasons, work, and life begins again. It’s a lovely, lovely book.

For the wagon, you’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9”)
  • An 8.5″ x 14″ piece of tagboard (optional)
  • 1 wagon wheel template, printed on an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of white card stock
  • 1 piece of string (approximately 37″ long)
  • An 8.5″ x 11″ piece of white card stock
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • Scissors, glue stick, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

For the goods, you’ll need:

  • 1 quilt template, printed on an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of white paper
  • craft sticks (mine were 4.5″ long)
  • 2 rectangles of brown construction paper
  • 1 brown paper lunch bag
  • 1 small bunch of polyester fill
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • 2 pieces of twine (mine were 57″ long)
  • 2 paper baking cups
  • Red & brown pom-poms (mine were medium-sized, about 0.5″ in diameter)
  • Scissors for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • 1 trading post (more on this later!)

Begin with the wagon! Cut the top of the box off, and cut the sides down to about 3″ high.

wagon 1The next step is optional (but fun). Cut strips of tagboard to fit the sides of the box, draw wood grain patterns on each of them, and use tape, a glue stick, or hot glue to attach them to the sides of the box. Or you can go super simple and draw wood grain on the sides of the box. Or skip this step entirely and leave the box blank.

wagon 2Next, color and cut the wagon wheels from the template and tape or hot glue them to the box.Make sure the wheels are flush with the bottom of the box. Otherwise, the wagon won’t slide very well.

wagon 3Time for the pull string! It’s important to really attach this well, so you don’t have any pull string fails during your long journey. Cut a slit in the front of the wagon. Then, knot the end of the string (I used heavy kite string) and slide the knot into the slit. Tape the string to the inside of the box, and then put another piece of tape above the knot it’s really secure.

pull string stepsThe final step for the covered wagon is…the cover! Use colored masking tape to create two “bows” on the piece of card stock “canvas” (the bows are the wooden ribs that hold up the canvas on a real covered wagon).

bowsNow hot glue (or tape) the ends of the card stock canvas to the insides of the wagon. Be sure to adhere it no lower than 1″ from the top of the wagon (if the canvas is too low, it makes it hard to get the stuff in and out of your wagon).

attaching canvas topYour wagon is finished…now for the goods! Remember, you’ll be making two of each item (with the exception of the bag of wool). For the quilts, use markers to decorate and cut out the quilt template.

quiltsFor the broom, fringe 2 rectangles of brown construction paper, then wrap them around the bottom of the craft sticks. Attach the construction paper to the craft sticks with colored masking tape.

broomFor the bag of wool, cut the bottom off the paper lunch bag. You want the sides of the bag to be no taller than 3″. Open the bag and pop the polyester fill inside it.

woolFor the rope, simply coil and knot the two pieces of twine. Or don’t coil them and leave them loose. Plenty of kids did!

ropeFor the sacks of produce, fill two baking cups with red and brown pom-poms to represent apples and potatoes. Your wagon is ready to roll!

The ox-cart man traveled quite a long way to get to the market, so I decided to replicate that experience. I  set up a little store at the end of the an exhibit gallery that is adjacent to the entrance to our library. It’s a looong gallery, and I tucked the store off to one side, so I marked the way with red arrows made of colored masking tape.

The store consisted of a copy paper box lid stocked with some fun doodads – shells, spotted feathers, large gemstones, finger puppets (left over from this program) tiaras made out of pipe cleaners, gro-dinosaurs, and cake erasers left over from this story time.

trading postKids could trade 3 things in their wagons for 3 things in the store. With 20 kids at story time, did a pretty brisk business that day.

shoppersThen, laden with goodies, the wagons headed off home (sorry the photo is a little blurry, but you get the idea)!

wagons heading home

Villainous Vegetables?

creepy carrotsThey’re coming…sneaking up on you with a soft tunktunktunk…breathing that awful carroty breath. That’s right, you are being stalked by CREEPY CARROTS (or, as my daughter calls them, “cweepy cawwots”)!

We read Creepy Carrots, written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown (Simon & Schuster, 2012). Jasper Rabbit loves to snack on carrots, and munches quite liberally on the ones that grow in Crackenhopper Field. Until the carrots start stalking him. It begins when Jasper is brushing his teeth. Glancing in the mirror, he sees three creepy carrots leering out at him from the bathtub. But when he whips around, the carrots appear to be nothing more than innocent orange bathtub items. The drama continues. Carrots appear everywhere, breathing their terrible carroty breath, stalking him (“tunktunktunk“) and generally driving Jasper mad. Finally, Jasper builds an elaborate fence (complete with an alligator moat) to keep the carrots from leaving Crackenhopper Field. The carrots rejoice. Their plan worked – Jasper will never be able to get into Crackenhopper Field for carrot snacks again!

We made some creepy carrots in a basket, oh yes we did. But then we challenged kids to  get their carrots into Crackenhopper Field. And sometimes, the carrots sneaked back out!

sneaky carrotsYou’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9”)
  • 1 strip of tagboard (approximately 2.5″ x 14″)
  • 2 brass tacks
  • 1 piece of white construction paper (mine was 5″ x 8.5″)
  • 1 long piece of brown raffia (mine was 120″)
  • 3 paper towel tubes
  • 3 sheets of 8.5″ x 11″ orange construction paper (or regular orange printer paper)
  • 1 small rectangle of white card stock (approximately 1.75″ x 5.75″)
  • Green raffia
  • Green crepe paper streamer
  • Green construction paper
  • Green paper crinkle
  • A selection of eye stickers
  • 1 creepy carrot mouth template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • A few slivers of black self-adhesive foam
  • 1 Crackenhopper Field (more on that later)
  • Scissors, tape, glue stick for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hole punch

carrots in a basketWe’ll start with the basket, then add some creepy carrots! First, cut the lid and the tabs off the top of the box (or, if you’re using a tissue box, cut the entire top off).

basket step 1To make a basket handle, punch a hole in both ends of the strip of the tagboard. Then punch holes in the sides of the box. Attach the tagboard handle to the box using brass tacks. Finish by taping the tagboard handle to the interior of the box to keep the basket from wobbling on its handle.

To create a wicker effect on your basket, tape one end of a long piece of raffia to the outside of the box, then wrap it around the box. Tape the other end securely.

We also drew patterns on white construction paper and lined the bottom of the basket with a “basket mat.” You can see the taped handle, the raffia wrapping, and the basket mat in the photo below. Your basket is finished!

completed basketOn to the creepy carrots! Draw lines on a piece of orange paper.

carrot paperThe lines, of course, represent the bumps or rings on the outside of a carrot. Technically, those are called “lateral root scars” (thank you World Carrot Museum, UK. Did you also know that average person will consume 10,866 carrots in a lifetime?). Wrap the lined paper around a paper towel tube and secure with tape. Repeat these steps with the remaining 2 paper towel tubes.

To top off the carrots, we prepped a bunch of different types of carrot greens – fringed construction paper, pieces of raffia, swathes of crepe paper streamers, and crinkle.

carrot greensYou can attach these items to the interior of the paper towel tube OR you can try our patented carrot hairstyling technique. Namely, tape the greens to a small rectangle of white card stock…

carrot top step 1Then, flip the card stock rectangle over and apply glue with a glue stick.

carrot top step 2Gently circle the card stock, keeping the glue on the outside…

carrot top step 3And slip the card stock circle into the top of the paper towel tube. Push the glue onto the interior of the tube.

carrot top step 4The final step is creating carrot faces. You can simply draw the faces on with markers, or you can use eye stickers, mouths from the template, and small pieces of black self-adhesive foam for eyebrows. And there you have it. Creepy carrots.

creepy carrotsOff to Crackenhopper Field! The field doesn’t have to be fancy. In fact, in can just be an empty box, bin, or paper grocery bag. But since we had a couple large, flat boxes on hand (and because I’m never one to “rein it in”) we built a fenced field with two little doors for carrots to sneak in and out of.

field box finishedFirst, we taped the boxes together to form a rough rectangle (60″ long x 26″ high x 23″ deep). We left plenty of room inside the box for one of us to sit.

field box 2Then we used a box cutter to cut two small doors in the front of the box.

field box 1Next, Katie the Stupendous Assistant (you officially met her in this post) wrapped the front and two sides of the box in black paper (we left the back undecorated). I cut fence pieces out of white poster board and Katie hot glued them to the box.

field box 3She super-reinforced the little doors with packing tape so they would hold up to a bunch of kids tugging on them.

During story time, kids were challenged to toss their carrots inside the field or sneak them in through one of the little doors. I, however, was sitting inside the box, tossing carrots back, rocketing them through the doors, or making the carrots poke their heads above the fence and laugh in a semi-creepy way. I lost count of how many times I was bonked in the head by paper towel tube carrots but who cares…they loved it!

field 1After story time ended, a delighted parent took Crackenhopper Field home for further adventures (the blank side was going to be converted into a play castle for a party). I managed to catch them as they were heading out of the library. What a way to travel!

field goes home


Many thanks to Kendra Tyson for recommending this fabulous book! Is there a book you’d like to see us do at one of our story times? E-mail danas@princeton.edu

Find Somebunny

find some bunnyEvery magic show needs a rabbit…unless that rabbit pulls an unplanned disappearing act! Luckily, some glittering stars will help you find your friend!

We read The Magic Rabbit by Annette LeBlanc Cate (Candlewick, 2013). Ray is a street magician, and Bunny is his faithful assistant and best friend. The two friends do everything together. One day, however, Ray’s magic act is interrupted by a passing juggler. In the chaos, Bunny is chased by a dog and lost. Bunny searches and searches, but he just can’t seem to find his friend. As darkness falls, Bunny begins to despair. Enticed by a bag of popcorn, he suddenly notices a glittery star on the ground. It’s one of Ray’s stars! One by one, bunny follows the stars until he sees a very familiar figure on the subway platform. Reunited, the two friends walk home together.

You’ll need:

  • 1 large oatmeal container
  • White construction paper
  • A square of white poster board for feet (approximately 6.5″ x 6.5″)
  • 2 rectangles of white poster board for paws (approximately 1.75″ x 3.25″)
  • 6 twistez wire (or pipe cleaners) for whiskers (approximately 3.5″ long)
  • 2 wiggle eyes
  • 2 white cotton balls
  • 1 medium pom-pom for nose (mine was 1″)
  • 2 white construction paper rectangles for the ears (approximately 2″ x 6.75″)
  • A rectangle of construction paper for hair tuft (approximately 2.5″ x 3″)
  • A strip of felt, any color (approximately 1.25″ x 4.25″)
  • 1 large pom-pom for tail (mine was 1.5″)
  • A magic star template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • A black plastic top hat (optional)
  • Scissors, tape, stapler for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

This story time project involves making a rabbit, decorating some magical stars, and then finding your glittery stars in our gallery. We’ll start with…the magic rabbit.

finished rabbitWrap the oatmeal container with white construction paper. Cut feet from the square of white poster board. I recommend rounded feet with like the ones below (I used marker to add some “toe lines”).

feetHot glue the feet to the bottom of the container. To make whiskers, curl one end of each twistez wire (or pipe cleaner), and tape them to the front of the container like so:

face step 1Then hot glue two white cotton balls over top of the whiskers. Hot glue a small pom-pom on top of the cotton balls, and top everything with two hot glued wiggle eyes.

face step 2Next, cut paw shapes out of the small rectangles of white poster board, and draw little toe lines on them. Tab the ends and hot glue (or tape) them to the front of the rabbit.

paw stepsFor ears, round the ends of the 2 rectangles of white construction paper, use markers to add some color, then staple at the bottom. Hot glue (or tape) them to the rabbit.

ear stepsFor a snazzy bow tie, knot a strip of felt and round the ends with scissors if needed. Hot glue to the rabbit.

bowtieFinish everything off with a jumbo pom-pom tail, also adhered with hot glue. I had some extra black plastic top hats lefts over from this project and this project, and they worked really well as rabbit carriers. Set your rabbit aside for the moment.

Next up, magic stars! Each kid received 4 blank magic stars, printed from the template. Then I brought out the Bling Bin and encouraged kids to use markers and the Bling Bin materials to decorate the stars. As you can see, the results were VERY magical.

lots of magic starsWe collected all the stars, sent the kids off to a secluded part of our gallery, and asked them to cover their eyes while we hid all the stars in the gallery. Apparently, those plastic top hats made for some pretty good blindfolds!

waiting in treeWhen the stars were hidden, kids and rabbits went star-seeking in the gallery! Then the rabbits, hats, and stars went home for more games of magical hide and seek.

Perhaps you’re ready to try a magic show of your own? Look no further than this post!