Fox Trot

trotting foxRoll out the red wagon…this little fox is going to market! We made tissue box wagons, grabbed our shopping lists, and headed to the market to play a vegetable matching game. Sporting fox ears and tails, naturally.

We read Red Wagon by Renata Liwska (Philomel Books, 2011). Lucy the fox has a new red wagon and a big job to do. She must take her mother’s list to market and buy some groceries. Lucy sets off with her animal friends, and while they do eventually bring the veggies home, they also have adventures as the red wagon transforms into a boat, covered wagon, caravan, train, rocket ship, and construction vehicle. After Lucy’s big day, the red wagon serves one final purpose…a place to take a nap!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large tissue box
  • Red and white construction paper
  • 1 wheel assembly for the wagon (more on this below)
  • 2 drinking straws (our were 10″ long)
  • An 16.5″ piece of string
  • 1 small rectangle of tagboard (approximately 1.25″ x 2″)
  • As many veggies templates as you need, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 1 set of veggie market signs, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock (color version here)
  • As many shopping lists as you need, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ paper
  • Red poster board
  • Scissors, stapler, glue, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

finished red wagonWe’ll begin with the little red wagon! Cut a large tissue box down to 1.75″ inches tall, then wrap with red paper. Next, attach the wheels. We went with our classic assembly of drinking straw pieces, bamboo skewer axles, and plastic wheels from Kelvin Educational. We hot glued foam beads on the outsides of the wheels to keep them from sliding off the axles as well. Here’s a shot of the underside of the wagon with the finished wheel assembly:

under red wagonYou can also substitute wooden or cardboard wheels. Or hot glue shortened paper towel tubes the bottom of the box to suggest wheels, and drag the wagon on the fixed tubes.

For the wagon’s handle, you can use a simple pull string, or you can make a drinking straw handle like we did. To make our handle, thread an 16.5″ piece of string through a drinking straw. Pull 1″ of string out of the straw, fold it down, and tape it to the side of the straw. The other end of the string should extend, unattached, from the opposite end of the straw.

handle assembly step 1Next, cut two notches the center of a 1.25″ x 2″ piece of tagboard. This is the anchor for your wagon handle. Wrap the string around the notches in the tagboard, but don’t wrap all the string around it! Leave 1″ of string between the tagboard and the end of the straw. This will allow the handle to move left and right while you’re pulling your wagon.

handle assembly step 2Bend a second drinking straw into 3 sections, pinch the ends together to form a triangular grip on the handle, then tape the ends of the straw firmly together.

handle assembly steps 3-5Fold and slide the taped section of the handle into the open end of the first straw. Cover the taped string with colored masking tape if you like (I used black in the photo below).

handle assembly steps 6-7Here’s what a finished wagon handle looks like. A drinking straw handle, a 1″ gap of string, and a tagboard anchor wrapped with the remaining string.

finished handle assemblyTape the tagboard anchor to the front interior of the wagon. Done!

taped tagboard on wagonTo make your fox costume, circle a strip of red poster board around your head, then staple it. Cut a pair of fox ears from red poster board, and add white construction paper ear interiors. Staple the ears to the headband. We attached our ears close to the front of the headband, and tilted them upwards slightly. Somehow, that just looked more foxy.

fox earsNext, cut a 6″ x 22″ rectangle of red poster board into a fox tail shape. Glue a little brush of white construction paper on the end of the tail, and tab the top. The tab slides inside the waistband of your pants (if you’re wearing a dress, punch two holes in the top of the tail, thread string through them, and tie the string around your waist).

tabbed fox tailYour wagon and costume are finished…now to market! The matching game is very simple. Print the market signs, then put each sign next to the corresponding veggies from the template. I used 8″ table card holders (which you first met in this sneaky math post), and had little plastic baskets for the veggies. We had eight market stops in total, all scattered around the library’s main lobby.

market signThen we gave each kid a shopping list. You’ll notice the lists are all slightly different. This was to avoid everyone rushing to the same area at once, like some sort of vegetable / woodland creature version of Black Friday. We also gave kids little shopping bags (basically, a brown paper lunch bag cut down to 4″). Following their lists, the kids located the matching sign, loaded the vegetable in their wagons, and checked it off their shopping lists.

at the marketOnce they had all their vegetables, they pulled everything back to the project area to color the vegetables and customize their paper bags!

market shopping list

Stroller Parking

stroller parking Today, I will address an issue that affects anyone who coordinates programs with children – be it in a library, children’s museum, or activity room. Like silent pack animals they wait, blocking doors, tracking mud, and leaving behind a smatterings of Cheerios. The issue of which I speak, of course, is strollers.

Strollers are an essential item in parenting life, especially when siblings are at different stages of crawling, walking, and dodging up mall escalators. Strollers are a one-stop shops for snacks, naps, diapering necessities, and sanitation rituals.

The problem, however, begins when strollers start wandering into areas that need to be kept clear. Our gallery is small, so we mounted a sign asking people to leave their strollers by the front door (strollers carrying sleeping occupants being the exception of course). The sign sort of worked. But when bad weather set in and muddy slush was being tracked to the back of the gallery where babies were crawling, we realized we needed to strengthen our front door message.

That’s when I hit on the idea of stroller parking.

First, I purchased a 3′ x 22′ non-skid rug runner (it’s rubber backed for those inevitable wet stroller wheels). With shipping, it cost $256. Then, Marissa and I made parking lines with yellow masking tape. It was that simple. I posted our experiment on Instagram in January 2016.

stroller parking rugWell, it worked like magic. Immediately, strollers started parking in tidy little lines at the front of our gallery. And it’s still going strong! Since stroller parking started over a year ago, we haven’t had any strollers wandering into the gallery. Here’s a shot on a busy Monday morning, all parked and proper.

monday morning stroller parkingEvery once in a while a masking tape line gets ripped and we have to replace it. Otherwise, this little parking lot takes care of itself! Mind you, we still have a sign up. I think you need both the rug and the sign to get this to work. Recently, we re-purposed an old gallery element as a new sign post:

lamp post signBest of all, the lamp’s sign holder is open on both sides. So as you’re exiting the gallery, you can read the final sentences from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:

lamp post back

Mandrake Made Easy

mandrake made easy

Behold! An easy – but totally awesome – mandrake that even the littlest wizard or witch can repot. Katie and I created this project while planning a Harry Potter event. We were looking for something creative, simple, low mess, and appropriate for a wide age range. Ultimately, we decided to not do this mandrake craft at our event, but we definitely wanted to share it with you!

You’ll need:

  • Crayola Model Magic (we used the color terra cotta)
  • 1 small plastic cup (we used 1.25oz Solo cups)
  • Green construction paper
  • Clay sculpting tools (chopstick, paperclip, X-acto knife, pencil, etc.)
  • Scissors

Since this craft was going to take place in our carpeted gallery, we wanted zero mess. Model Magic is perfect for this purpose. It’s light, soft, spongy, non toxic, leaves no residue on the hands, and air dries beautifully. A 4oz package made 4 mandrakes.

First, take a chunk of Model Magic and form a root plug at the bottom, 2 arms, and a head. Gently twist the arms and head to make them appear gnarled and root-like.

twisting the arms and headUse sculpting tools and smaller bits of Model Magic to create the face. Then push the mandrake’s plug into a small clear plastic cup. Cut leaves from green construction paper, and gently pinch the Model Magic around the leaves to hold them in place. I love the expression and leaf placement on Katie’s mandrake:

mandrake with leavesYou can add a label to your pot if you’d like. Ours was a bit of manila paper adhered to the plastic cup with a glue stick. We went with the plant’s Latin genus name, Mandragora.

Also optional for this project: a pair earmuffs, charmed with extra soundproofing.