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?

Pickin’ Peas, Or, A Problem with Rabbits

pickin peasIt’s garden season and the peas are plumb and ripe for pickin’. Unfortunately, Mr. Rabbit is on a mission to score a succulant snack! We made bunnies, baskets, and pea plants and then headed to our story time garden to catch that naughty nibbler in the act!

rabbit basket pea plantWe read Pickin’ Peas, a classic Southern folktale retold by Margaret Read MacDonald, and illustrated by Pat Cummings (HarperCollins, 1998). A little girl plants and carefully tends a pea garden. When the peas are nice and plumb she starts to pick them, singing as she goes (“Pickin’ peas. Put ’em in my pail.”). Mr. Rabbit, hiding in the row behind her, starts to eat the peas, singing as well (“Pickin’ peas. Land on my knees!”). Eventually, the little girl catches on to rabbit’s tricks and nabs him. But with some quick thinking, a song, and a dance, the rabbit manages to escape for further culinary daring-dos.

You’ll need:

  • 1 small box (mine was 4” x 4” x 4”) – a small tissue box works too!
  • 1 strip of tagboard for the basket handle (mine was 2″ x 14.5″)
  • Brown masking tape
  • A selection of patterned tape
  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • Brown construction paper
  • 2 eye stickers
  • 1 pink dot sticker
  • 1 small white pom-pom (mine was 0.75″)
  • 1 green pipe cleaner
  • 1 rectangle of green construction paper (approximately 3″ x 3.5″)
  • 3-4 mini pom-poms (mine were 0.25″)
  • 1 small plastic cup (mine was 3oz.)
  • 1 pea garden game (more on that later!)
  • Stapler, scissors, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

There are three parts to this project: the basket, the rabbit, and the pea plant. We’ll start with the basket! Cut the tabs and lid off the top of a small box. If you’re using a tissue box, simply cut the top off. Attach a tagboard (or poster board) handle. Use brown masking tape and/or patterned tape to decorate the basket (or, just use markers!).

basket stepsNext is the rabbit! Wrap a toilet paper tube with brown construction paper, then add eye stickers and a dot sticker for the nose (or just use markers to create eyes and a nose). Tape a pair of brown construction paper ears to the inside of the tube. Hot glue on a white pom-pom tail, And don’t forget to draw a smile! The final step: write your name on the back of your rabbit so you can identify it later, during the garden game.

rabbitLastly, the pea plant. First, cut a pea pod and a leaf from a 3″ x 3.5″ rectangle of green construction paper. Here’s what mine look like:

pea pod and leafUse markers to draw some veins on the leaf. Write your name on the back of the leaf as well (so you identify it later, during the garden game).

Cut a pipe cleaner in half. Bunch the two halves together and tape the bottoms together tightly with masking tape (I used green tape, but any color will do). Curve the right pipe cleaner downward and tape the pea pod to it. Corkscrew the left pipe cleaner and tape a leaf to it. Finish by hot gluing 3-4 mini pom-poms to the pea pod (I used green pom-poms for my plant, but during story time, we let kids choose any colors they liked).

pea plant stepsYour pea plant also gets a “pot.” This is a 3oz plastic cup. I had some old office labels in the art supply cabinet, so I made “Peas” labels for the kids to color in. You can tape your pea plant inside the pot like this:

potted pea plantOr…you can wait, leave the pea plant detached from the pot, and play our garden game!

Our garden started as a low, flat box. We added 4 shrubs, tall grass, rocks, daisies, a smattering of flower stickers, pipe cleaner pea vines, a tagboard picket fence, and 3 oatmeal container rabbit holes. Here’s an image of the garden from the front:

garden from frontAnd here’s a birds-eye view so you can see how the shrubs are staggered and where the 3 rabbit holes are located:

garden from topWe knew the shrubs and rocks were going to get bumped pretty hard, so Katie attached them to jumbo craft sticks and slid them into slits she cut in the box.

shrub on sticksYou’ll notice that the shrubs have little pockets on them. This is so you can slide your pea plant into the pocket, and lo! It is now “growing” in the garden.

pea pocketTo play the game, we had every kid “plant” their pea plant in a pocket. Next, I collected all the rabbits. One by one, I hid a rabbit somewhere in the garden – in holes, behind rocks, in the tall grass, etc. – then I called out the name written on the back of the rabbit. The rabbit’s owner jumped up, ran over to the garden, and tried to find the rabbit before it “ate” any peas!

garden gameAfter everyone had caught their rabbit, the kids returned to the garden to “pick” their pea plants and tape them inside their pots. Since the kids’ names were written on the backs of the pea plant leaves, every plant was returned to its rightful owner.

Rabbits ruled this story time, but what happens when vegetables strike back? Click here to find out!

Searching for Sasquatch

sasquatchA sasquatch is on the loose, and it will take 2 resourceful kids to find him! Our story time teams ventured into our gallery to find a hidden sasquatch. One team member had no idea where he was hiding. The other team member knew exactly where he was hiding, but could only give directions by saying “Hot” or “Cold.” The prize was a personalized “Certificate of Merit for Sasquatch Catching,” and a sasquatch ornament to take home! This activity was part of To Be Continued, our story time for kids ages 6-8.

ornament and certificateWe read The Imaginary Veterinary Book 1: The Sasquatch Escape, written by Suzanne Selfors, and illustrated by Dan Santat (Little, Brown, 2013). Ben Silverstein, age 10, has been exiled for the summer. While his parents work through some troubles, Ben is sent to stay with his Grandpa Abe in the town of Buttonville, middle of nowhere, USA. Once bustling, Buttonville is quickly sliding into disrepair after the enormous button factory shut down. But things are not what they seem. A giant bird swooping through the night sky looks a lot like a dragon. The “bat” Grandpa’s cat dragged in? It breathes fire! Eventually, Ben and his new friend, Pearl Petal, learn that the old button factory has been converted into a top secret hospital for Imaginary Creatures. And Ben accidentally lets the sasquatch out. Can Ben and Pearl catch the sasquatch before the whole town discovers the secret?

You’ll need:

First, print the big sasquatch. You can simply cut it out, or you can reinforce it with some  tagboard or poster board. Since my sasquatch was going to get a real workout, I reinforced it with tagboard and added a triangular base.

front and back of sasquatchHere’s a shot of the base from the side. I secured it with hot glue, but tape works too!

base of sasquatchTo play the game, divide the kids into teams of 2 (rather than let them team up with their buddies, I had them put their names in a box and randomly drew to create the teams). The first team member hid his/her eyes while I hid the sasquatch in the gallery. The second team member watched me hide it, so he/she knew exactly where it was. When I said “Go!” the teams started to search for the sasquatch. The first team member proceeded through the gallery, relying on the second team member to direct him/her towards the sasquatch using the words “Hot” (i.e. getting close to it) and “Cold” (i.e. moving away from it). Teams ran twice so each kid got a chance to find the sasquatch AND be the one to give directions.

When we were finished, everyone received a “Certificate of Merit” for catching the sasquatch – which is exactly what Ben and Pearl earn in the books! The frame clipart I used didn’t extend to a full-size page, so I trimmed the certificate down to 8.5″ x 9.5″.  I also fancied up my certificates with an embossed gold foil seal.

certificateKids also received a mini sasquatch ornament. Basically, it’s a smaller version of the big guy with a piece of twine taped to the back:

taped ornamentYou could, of course, give each kid a “full-size” sasquatch. Totally up to you!

I tend not to incorporate food into many of my programs because of food allergies, but another fantastic prize would be a bar of chocolate. In the book, a chocolate bar is an essential tool in the “Sasquatch Catching Kit” (along with a tranquilizer dart, blowpipe, net, fog bomb, and a sasquatch calling whistle). Just don’t ask the sasquatch any questions. It’ll make him angry.

A final word about The Sasquatch Escape. Not only did my story time kids love this book, my son and I are currently blasting through the series. They are funny, fantastical, unusual, and terrific to read-aloud. As one boy in the program said about halfway through the book, “This is the BEST book I’ve ever heard!” Absolutely worth checking out!