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!

Baby New Year

baby new year readsBaby New Year is here, and we thought we would celebrate with a baby story time post!

We invited the talented Peggy Salwen to our library to lead a story time bonanza for children ages 2-24 months. Peggy has been a librarian for over 40 years, and is currently a Senior Children’s Librarian at the New York Public Library. Legendary for her baby skills, massive stock of songs, and playful props, Peggy expertly led a very large crowd of babies and caretakers through books, songs, and movement activities. After the program, I sat down to chat with Peggy about the tricks of her trade.

baby new yearYou obviously brought books with you today, but you also brought puppets, props, and a big stuffed bear. Tell us about your props!

I use a lot of puppets and props with babies.  When I read Peek a Moo, I have little puppets that go with every one of the characters. I have a cow puppet, and then pig, a mouse, and an owl. Some are finger puppets, some are hand puppets.

puppets and propsMy Peek-A-Boo mittens I always use with babies. The mittens are in a box and, while I’m sure it’s a bit obnoxious for the parents, I repeatedly use the box during story time. Repetition is so important for babies, and they love it when I take the top off of the box, take Mr. Peek and Mr. Boo out of the box, and then put them back in the box. The babies just get so excited because they know what’s going to happen. It’s all ritual, and ritual is a big thing. I’ve had Poppy [a big stuffed panda bear] for a long time. He’s my “baby.” I use him to demonstrate for parents what they are supposed to do with their babies.

poppyYou brought a number of flap books to story time today. They were great! I could see the kids anticipating what was going to happen next…

Yes! I don’t love the flap books as much in the library’s collections, but I really like the flap books for baby story time.

What’s the hardest thing about baby story times?

Getting the adults to stop talking and to participate, I think.

How do you get parents to stop talking and participate?

By concisely saying “This is story time. Put your phones away. Don’t talk to your neighbor. This is the one time we ask you to take 20 minutes and be with your baby.” Baby story time is really for the adults, it’s not so much for the babies! It’s for adults to learn how to do things and to show their children that they want to do these things. It’s for them to see how much fun it can be to be with their babies. You are a baby’s first teacher. I think that’s the key. You’re there to teach them how to enjoy life, how to learn. That’s what I believe is most important.

baby story timeWhat’s your advice for someone who’s brand new, who’s facing his/her very first baby story time?

Sing a lot of songs. Say a lot of rhymes. It’s more about the songs and the rhymes than it is about the books! Do fewer books and more songs and rhymes. Being a librarian, you think you have to do the book thing. Yes, reading the books is important, but for baby story time, songs and bouncy rhymes are more important.  I learned in a workshop that lyrics to songs are like syllables of words, so your child learns the syllables of words when you sing. So singing is a great way to learn language too!


Peggy’s Favorite Story Time Books

Leo Loves Baby Time by Anna McQuinn
The Baby Goes Beep by Rebecca O’Connell
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? By Bill Martin
Peek-a-Moo! By Marie Torres Cimarusti
Peek-a-Baby by Karen Katz
Where is Baby’s Belly Button? By Karen Katz
Tuck Me In! by Dean Hacohen and Sherry Scharschmidt
Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes by Annie Kubler
If You’re Happy and You Know It by Annie Kubler
Baa Baa Black Sheep by Annie Kubler

Songs & Rhymes
“Open Shut Them”
“This is Me”
“These Are Baby’s Fingers”
“Little Red Wagon”
“Tommy Thumbs”
“We’re Going to the Moon”
“Tick Tock, Tick Tock”
“Mother and Father and Uncle John”
“Banana Cheer”
“Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”
“The Noble Duke of York”

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!