Show Jumping!

show jumpingSaddle up! Today, we’re jumping stick horses over fences at the ultimate story time horse show! When a slew of horse show ribbons were donated to my library, I knew exactly what we had to do. Design a 6-fence course and jump our little hearts out. Scroll to the bottom of the post to see this pair on course, completing a clear round!

We read Scamper and the Horse Show, written by Jessie Haas and illustrated by Margot Apple (Greenwillow Books, 2004). Sisters Anna and Molly are excited about tomorrow’s horse show. But Scamper the pony isn’t too thrilled about being caught and bathed. He arrives at the show with a few brown and green stains, but there’s no time to worry about that – the classes are starting! Unfortunately, during Costume Class, a sudden rainstorm soaks the show grounds. Scamper’s costume (an American flag) leaks all over his grey coat. He’s now a multi-colored mess. But when the judge arrives, she sees a handsome rainbow pony displaying all the colors of horse show ribbons – purple, green, pink, white, yellow, red, and…finally…a blue ribbon for first place!

We made stick horses, affixed good luck charms to our “riding helmets,” and then jumped a course. Waiting at the finish line was a real horse show ribbon to take home!

blue ribbonYou’ll need:

  • A 10″ x 22″ piece of poster board for horse head (we offered brown, white, or black)
  • 1 horse head template, printed on 11″ x 17″ paper
  • A 9″ x 12″ piece of construction paper for mane (we offered brown, white, or black)
  • 2 long strips of poster board (approximately 0.5″ x 6.75″)
  • 2 short strips of poster board (approximately 0.5″ x 4″)
  • A 32.5″ length of PVC pipe
  • Packing tape
  • 2 large wiggle eyes
  • Hole punch
  • A 29.5″ piece of ribbon
  • 1 baseball cap
  • 1 good luck token template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 horse show ribbon
  • 1 set of stadium jumps (more on these later!)
  • Scissors, stapler, glue, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

horse headWe’ll start with your steed! Fold a large, 10″ x 22″ piece of poster board in half. Next, print and cut the horse head template. Lay the template on top of the folded poster board – the horse’s nose should be flush against the fold in the poster board. Cut the head along the template.

horse head step 1Does this horse head looks familiar to you? That’s because it’s very similar to the stick ponies from this post. These horse heads are smaller (and the sticks shorter) because I wanted to avoid trip hazards while kids were jumping fences. The construction, however, is exactly the same. So I’m going to reuse the instructional photos from the past post here.

Use scrap pieces from the folded poster board to cut a pair of ears. Color the insides with marker, then staple them at the bottom.

earsStaple or hot glue the ears on each side of the horse’s head (you can attach them to the outside of the head, as seen below, or the inside the head):

forelock 1To create the mane, cut a 9″ X 12″ piece of construction paper in half lengthwise, and fringe the 2 pieces. Cut two, 3″ pieces of fringe off the ends and set those aside (you’ll use them for the horse’s forelock later). Now use hot glue, glue, or tape to secure 1 mane piece to the right side of the horse’s head. Repeat this same step on the left side.

maneTo create a forelock, make a 1.5″ cut down the fold of the head, directly between the ears.

forelock 2Slide a 3″ piece of fridge into the cut and secure it to the interior of the horse’s head with hot glue, glue, or tape. Repeat the same step on the other side. Trim (or curl) the forelock and mane if needed.

forelock 3Punch a hole on each side of the horse’s mouth. This is where the reins will thread through later.

reinsTime to decorate! Hot glue 2 wiggle eyes to the head and draw the nostrils and mouth with markers. To make a bridle, decorate 4 poster board strips with markers. The longest strips go down the sides of the horse’s head. The short strips fold across the horse’s forehead and nose. You can attach them with tape or hot glue. Here’s what a finished head looks like:

bridle detailsNext, unfold the head. Lay a piece of PVC pipe on one side of the head, making sure that the end of the pipe is approximately 1.5″ away from the fold. Use packing tape (not regular tape) to attach the pipe to the neck. Use at least 4 pieces of packing tape to make it really secure.

attaching stickRefold the head and put a few staples into the base of the head, around the pipe.

close up of stick staplesThread a piece of ribbon through the punched holes, and tie it behind the horse’s head! You’re done!

horse headWe needed to keep the kids busy while we set up the show jumping course, so we handed out black baseball cap “riding helmets” (which I purchased from Oriental Trading Company) and good luck token templates to color. To attach the token, simply fold it along the dotted line, slide it through the back strap of the cap, and staple both sides together.

token on hatGood luck tokens securely attached. Hard hats on tightly, horses and riders gathered outside the library, where their show jumping course awaited!

stadium jumpsKatie and I constructed these out of various boxes, wrapping paper tubes, tissue paper, poster board, and colored masking tape. I’ll admit, we went a little crazy. Yup, this one definitely ranks up there with the haunted dollhouse in terms of effort and mess. But just look at that topiary water jump folks! Beautiful! At the end of the program, we had a drawing and 6 lucky kids got to take home a jump.

A few practical matters. We kept the height of the jumps very low. The tallest jump (the brick wall) was only 10″ high. The jumps were made out of light material so they would fall over easily if hit (and not stub any toes). Happily, we had no falls and everyone (even the most timid 3-year-old) made it over the jumps with no problem. I had grand plans for an intricate jumping course. But in the end, good sense (i.e. Katie) prevailed and I set the jumps up in an easy-to-follow horseshoe.

On the show grounds, the riders lined up in single file at the starting cones. At the sound of a bell, each rider took a turn jumping the course. When he/she passed the finish cones, he/she got to choose a ribbon. The kids were THRILLED.

horse show ribbons While there were plenty of ribbons to chose from, we made sure to hold one super fancy ribbon back for the last kid riding the course. And now, how about seeing a rider in action?

The black jacket the little girl is wearing is a ring-bearer’s tux. Katie’s son wore it when he was 4 and a half. The lacy stock tie is from a “Colonial Gentleman” costume I wore for a history program. Who knew these items would later become the perfect riding ensemble?

Lipogram Fortunes

lipogram fortuneNo one can predict what wisdom a fortune cookie will reveal. Except in this case. We can say with absolute, 100% certainty that this fortune will not contain the letter O. Because hidden inside this cookie is a carefully crafted lipogram fortune.

The lipogram fortune cookie activity is always a crowd-pleaser at Cotsen Critix, our children’s literary group for ages 9-12. First, we introduce the lipogram – a type of writing in which the author leaves out a letter (or letters) when crafting a sentence, paragraph, or story. Then we write fortune cookie fortunes that cannot include the letter O. Here are a few pearls of wisdom, future predictions, and unusual directives, all with nary an O in sight!


Making beds creates happy parents everywhere.

Beauty is great, but brains are better.

Never give up.

Rain will fall where it never falls.

Life is filled with crazy bananas!

Washed feet are always appreciated.

Beware the lizards. They bite.

Quick! Buy all the chunky peanut butter in Alabama!

Surprise hug the dude sitting nearest the exit.

There will be an alien kidnapping.

Marble will crack and the universe will be put in small terms…beep…beep…beep…shwee, shew, whee!

The future that lies ahead isn’t paved yet.

Saturday night is finally live.

Rip up this paper immediately.

Read this!

Be clear and direct – a Giant Space Laser can be disabled with the right steps.

Buy bad cheese.

Ye with withstand danger.

Child, eat the asparagus in the plate because it is amazing!

Never try being smart in class.

Leave this Chinese restaurant.

Be safe in life, but carefulness is an inadequate skill.

Have a nice day.

Beware jumping chipmunks.

Falling is a bad idea.

The difference between happiness and sadness is this: the happy man has a warm puppy.


We do the lipogram activity early in the program. Later, it makes a triumphant comeback during our QUEST, which occurs at the very end of the program. The QUEST is super elaborate cross-campus race that involves teams solving riddles, encountering student actors, following maps, and unearthing clues. One such clue is hidden inside a bunch of lipogram fortune cookies.

You may already be aware that you can order fortune cookies with special messages. They say things like “It’s a Boy!” or “Will you marry me?” or “Happy Anniversary!” But you can order custom messages too.

We ordered cookies with 4 custom messages. Each message was missing a particular letter (or two). In the QUEST box, next to the 4 cookies, was a letter wheel and a golf pencil (here’s the letter wheel template if you’re interested).

letter wheelFirst, the QUEST kids had to recall the lipogram activity. Then, they had to figure out that the missing letters spelled out a QUEST clue (the letter wheel and the golf pencil helped them keep track). Here’s a solved wheel, pointing the kids to their next destination:

letter wheel solutionI buy my cookies online from Fortune Cookie Planet. They are peanut free, tree-nut free, vegan, and preservative free. 50 cookies with 4 custom messages costs $20 (plus shipping). Another option is to obtain fortune cookies locally, use tweezers to pull out the fortunes, and carefully inset your own message inside. Just make sure you have a few extra cookies on hand. Sometimes they crack apart during the fortune-swapping process!


Illustration of fortune cookie used on letter wheel template is by Coffee Addict on wikiHow.

Fairyland Real Estate

fairyland real estateAre your winged friends on the market for a cottage to call their own? Look no further than this literal fixer-upper. It may start as a plain brown box, but it quickly blossoms into a dream home! We offered two choices – a Wintertime Fairy House or a Summertime Fairy House. Scroll to the bottom of the post to check out the latest real estate listings!

We read The Dolls’ House Fairy by Jane Ray (Candlewick Press, 2009). Rosy and her Dad have a cozy Saturday morning ritual. First, they have hot chocolate and French toast for breakfast. Then, they play with a dollhouse they’ve built together. But one Saturday, Rosy awakens to find that Dad is in the hospital. Sad and worried, she decides to comfort herself by playing with the dollhouse. She’s surprised to discover a real fairy has moved in! Thistle has hurt her wing, and decides Rosy’s dollhouse is the ideal place to recuperate. Thistle isn’t perfect. In fact, she’s very messy, full of mischief, and scatters fairy dust everywhere. But the two girls become terrific friends. When Dad returns home, Thistle takes off before he can be introduced. But Rosy will always remember her house fairy friend.

You’ll need:

Extra supplies for the Wintertime Fairy House include:

Extra supplies for the Summertime Fairy House include:

First, the fairy! Decide whether you’ll be making a Wintertime Fairy or a Summertime Fairy (or go crazy and mix the seasons!). Use multicultural construction paper, patterned paper, embossed foil paper, and construction paper to decorate the a toilet paper tube. We also threw in some craft ties for belts, collars, and bracelets.

fairiesTo make the wings, pinch a tall rectangle of iridescent cello into a bow tie shape, and secure it in the center with tape. Attach the wings to the back of your fairy with tape.

fairy wingsSet the fairy aside, it’s time for your house! It’s best to use a box with an attached lid, so you can open and close the front of your house. I used a craft box, but you can also use a large tissue box. Simply cut the bottom of the tissue box to form a lid, like so:

tissue box house optionNow use a box cutter to cut a door and window into the lid. I went with a double shuttered window, since it looks really cute when you decorate it later on.

fairy house step 1Next, tape a rectangle of tagboard inside the box to create a second floor. Since our boxes were just 9″ tall, the second floor was considered to be a small “sleeping loft.”

fairy house step 2Fold a large rectangle of tagboard to create a roof, then tape (or hot glue) it to the top of the box. Finish by hot gluing the house to a corrugated cardboard base (you can cover the base with paper first if you like).

fairy house step 3Now to decorate! Kids could do whatever they liked, but my Wintertime House had rows of mirror board icicles, a silver embossed foil seal over the front door, cotton ball snow, and silver dot sticker stepping stones. So I made sure each architect received the same supplies (but they were welcome to use them however they liked of course).

wintertime houseLikewise, my Summertime House had fabric flowers, leaves, flower stickers in the yard, green paper crinkle, and a gold embossed foil seal.

summertime houseFor both houses, I made sure there was plenty of construction paper, patterned paper, and embossed foil paper handy to decorate the interiors and exteriors. One quick decorating tip! Whilst landscaping your house’s yard, make sure you don’t tape items (such as fabric flowers or cotton balls) in places that will impede the swinging motion of the front of your house. The final touch was a solid wood dining table, created by hot gluing a wood round to the top of a wooden spool.

spool tableLet’s take a look at some of those Fairyland real estate listings! Katie and I definitely had some fun with these…

house 1Hard-to-find classic cottage located in the heart of the Summer Fairy Kingdom. Unique black squiggle doorknob and hearty garden sure to please. Tranquil and traditional, don’t miss the chance to live here!

house 2Magic abounds! Walk through a firework front door into your flawless new flat. Newly renovated autumn leaf roof makes this one not just for summer fun!

house 3Ice and snow don’t stand a chance against this relaxing retreat! Self-cleaning roof and unique icicle fringing make this house a stand out!

house 4Situated on the highest hill in Winter Fairy Kingdom, this arctic abode offers astounding views as far as the eye can see! Giant window on western wall ensures a light-filled living space.

house 5Fairy palace paradise! Every detail, from the leafy roof to the flower front door, was carefully selected and finely crafted. Don’t miss the vintage polka-dot shutters!

house 6Modest, but magnificent. Generous lawn and green roof make this perfect for anyone wanting to enjoy summer in Fairyland.

house 8A meticulously designed jewel waits for the perfect fairy to move in! Side-mounted solar panel provides all the energy required for your cozy abode.

house 7Austere with black, white, and silver highlights, the clean lines of this house are perfect for the the modern fairy. A stunning silver suite awaits!

house 9The grassy frame and striped roof draw the eyes to this exceptional estate. Perfect for the artistic fairy, with plenty of potential for more rainbow colors.

house 10A classic chilly chalet! Prepare to “ooo” and “aahh” at the panoramic mountain views from your enormous second floor picture window!

house 11Nature lovers will feel right at home in this lushly landscaped lodge, complete with mature plants and gorgeous flowers galore!