Carousel of Champions

carousel of championsWant to take a spin on an amazing carousel? Ride on Duck, Horse, Golden Fish or everyone’s favorite…Gator! Thanks to a little brass tack, this carousel actually turns!

We read Gator by Randy Cecil (Candlewick, 2007). At the amusement park, a carousel spins, and Gator is the happiest animal on the carousel. He loves the lights, the wind in his face, and the laughter of the children. But when business slows and the amusement park closes, Gator becomes lonely and sad. He decides to leave. He travels through a deep, dark forest, falls into a stream, and stumbles upon some relatives in a zoo who are a lot bigger and scarier than he is. Completely disheartened, Gator slumps on a bench, crying. But suddenly, he is spotted by a little boy and his father, who recognizes Gator from the old days. Encouraged, Gator leads a crowd back to the carousel, which leaps to life once again, surrounded by the sounds of laughter and happiness.

You’ll need:

We’ll build the carousel’s spinning mechanism first. Decorate the sides of a small box with colored masking tape and patterned tape (or markers). Don’t decorate the lid of the box and definitely don’t tape it shut. You’ll need to open the lid in a few steps.

baseUse a box cutter to make a little slit in the top of the box’s lid, right in the center.

slit in boxThen make another small slit in the center of a cake circle.

slit in cake padPush the brass tack through the slit in the cake circle. Next, open the lid of the box and push the brass tack through the slit on the lid. Open the prongs of the brass tack to secure it in place.

platform to baseClose the lid of the box, and tape it shut. The spinning platform for your carousel is done!

finished platformThe next step involves a paper plate, but I wanted to say a quick word about the plate before we get started. You’ll definitely need a sturdy paper plate with a deep well and sides that slant upwards. The cheaper, flatter paper are simply too floppy, especially when you need to attach the carousel animals later. So think sturdy! That said, punch 4 holes in a paper plate. When punching your holes, keep them close to the edge of the plate like so:

holes in plateHot glue a paper bowl to the top of the plate. You now have a canopy for your carousel!

canopyDecorate the canopy with colored masking tape and patterned tape (or just markers). If you cover your holes with tape while your decorating, don’t worry. Just re-punch the holes when you’re done.

decorated canopyCut a paper towel tube down to 8″ and wrap with patterned paper (or white printer paper). Don’t, however, wrap the paper all the way to the top and bottom of the tube. Leave a little bit of the tube exposed at both ends. This will make it much more sturdy when your hot glue the tube to the platform and the canopy of the carousel.

poleHot glue 2 mirror board ovals to the sides of the pole (these carousel “mirrors” are optional, but the kids really got a kick out of seeing themselves reflected in them). Now hot glue the tube to the center of the platform. Then hot glue the canopy to the top of the tube. Use lots of hot glue…you don’t want this coming apart later! Your carousel will now look like this:

finished canopy and platformTime to attach the carousel animals! I’ll use the horse as the example for the steps below. First, cut and color the horse from the template. You’ll notice that the horse has a tab extending from its top and bottom. Each tab has a circle on it, as well as a dotted line. Use a hole punch to punch out the circle, and fold each tab along the dotted line.

horse tabsThread a drinking straw through the holes, and add a piece of tape to the back of the animal to keep it from sliding down the straw.

horse on poleIf you get stuck using clear plastic drinking straws like I did (I had a bunch leftover from this Cinderella program) you can use colored masking tape to add stripes to it. Just make sure to leave the very top and the bottom of your straw tape free.

To attach the horse to the carousel, stick the top of the straw “pole” through a hole in the carousel’s canopy. The pole might stick up a little, but that’s totally OK.

top of poleNext, line the bottom of the pole up with the carousel’s platform. Punch a hole in the platform, right underneath the bottom of the pole.

punched hole bottomTo keep the pole from slipping downward, stick a piece of masking tape over the hole, but put the tape on the underside of the platform. Sorry about the awkward photo, but here you can see the underside of the platform, with 3 punched holes covered by pieces of red masking tape:

tape on platformNow drop the bottom of the pole into the platform hole. The pole will stick to the masking tape, but I highly recommend putting a little hot glue in the hole before you slide the pole in, just to keep it extra secure. You can also skip the hole punching and simply attach the bottom of the pole to the platform with masking tape.

Finally, cover the canopy hole with masking tape to make the pole nice and snug. Repeat the above steps with the remaining 3 carousel animals.

horse final tapingDecorate the carousel with metallic dot stickers, embossed foil seals, and foil star stickers (anything shiny really). Hot glue a jumbo pom-pom to the top of the canopy, and hot glue 2 large gemstones on the sides of the pom-pom. If you want to add a bit of ruffle to your carousel’s canopy, cut the rounded edges off 2 coffee filters, and hot glue (or glue stick) the filters to the underside of the paper plate canopy.

final touchesTo spin your carousel, hold the box base firmly in your hand, grab the platform, and turn! These turned out awesome, but if I was to do this project again, I would change 2 things: 1) I would cut all the carousel animals from the template in advance so there was more time to color and assemble the carousel; and 2) I would make the carousel animal templates double sided so they would look good from all angles. If you’d like to try doubled-sided animals, here is a reversed carousel animals template. Just slide the reversed image onto the corresponding pole, secure with tape, and you’re good to go!

Looking for a circus to go with the carousel? Take a look at this little big top! Or perhaps you’d like some delicious fairground refreshments?


The artwork for the carousel animals was inspired by Randy Cecil’s amazing, warm, and wonderful illustrations. You go Duck!

Running with the Royals

running with the royalsA princess or prince to pal around with? Check! Gleaming castle with banners flying? Check! Bejeweled crown to wear upon thy head?

crownCheck! You’re ready to run with the royals!

We read Princess Me, written by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Christa Unzner (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007). This sweet rhyming book describes all the qualities of “Princess Me,” a kind, gentle, mannerly, and just princess who benevolently reigns over her land of toys and dolls. The twist comes at the end, after the princess is tucked into bed with a kiss from the king and queen. That’s when we learn that Princess Me is, in fact, Princess You!

You’ll need:

First, use the box cutter to cut a drawbridge out of the front of the box. Make sure, however, that the door’s “hinge” remains attached to the bottom of the box.

drawbridge step 1Next, hot glue a rectangle of tagboard to the outside of the door.

drawbridge step 2The tagboard will give the drawbridge some some heft and weight as it opens and shuts.

drawbridge step 3Use scissors to cut the paper towel tube “towers” to the desired height for your castle  (my tubes were 7″ tall). Now decorate the tubes and your castle with metallic paper, construction paper, aluminum foil, mirror board, foil seals – whatever you like! When you’re finished decorating, hot glue the towers to the sides of the castle.

Wrap a piece of patterned paper around the top of each coffee stirrer, then secure with glue or tape. Trim one edge to create a banner-style flag.

bannersIf you’re looking for an easier flag to assemble, use colored masking tape to make a banner flag (as seen from this mini circus tent project).

circus tent flagTo make “turrets” for your castle towers, snip the top off a cone water cup like so:

flag stepsThen drop the flag’s pole into the top of the cup. Center it, then wrap it with tape to attach it to the cone cup. Repeat with the other cup and flag.

taped flagpoleHot glue the turrets to the tops of the castle towers. Ta da! Your castle is complete!

castleTo make your princess or prince, wrap the top of a toilet paper tube with multicultural construction paper, then use markers to draw a face. Wrap the remainder of the tube with a piece of patterned paper and add a fancy collar if you like. Attach construction paper hair and a gold poster board crown. This project definitely cried out for jewels (i.e. rhinestones), which we attached to the crown (and castle) with hot glue.

princessNow it’s time for your crown! Cut a crown pattern out of a large rectangle of gold poster board, wrap around your head, remove, then staple. Decorate your crown with the remaining art supplies on the table. We encouraged kids to have their crowns somewhat match their tube counterparts. Finished!

crown and friendNeed a little entertainment at your castle? Perhaps this post would be of some assistance!