Glow, Pumpkin. Glow!

pumpkin-balloonA no mess, no carve, no flame, gorgeously glowing pumpkin? You got it! Bounce these LED pumpkin balloons around at your next story time, sneak a few on the shelves on the 31st, or take a spirited evening stroll.

You’ll need:

  • 1 orange LED balloon
  • A black Sharpie permanent marker

I first spotted these LED balloons at JaZams, our local toy store. They’re made by a company called illooms. A variety pack of 5 latex balloons cost $6 , and a pack of 15 balloons cost $13. I’ve also seen illooms sold online at Oriental Trading Company, Amazon, and Walmart for varying prices. Party City sells just the LED bulbs (12 for $10). So that’s an option as well – buy the bulbs and a package of orange balloons.

illoom-led-balloonsThe illooms LED balloon has a round, hard tip at the top, and a tab sticking out of its neck. Pinch the tip while simultaneously pulling the tap to activate the LED. Then inflate the balloon (the directions suggest a pump, but I went with my lungs).

deflated-balloonThe round tip acts as a balloon weight that pulls the inflated balloon upside down, creating the the perfect pumpkin shape. Use a black Sharpie permanent marker to draw a pumpkin face on the balloon, and you’re good to glow!

Looking for a few more simple Halloween projects? Try a toilet paper roll jack-o’-lantern, a hanging bat exhibit, a shoulder snake, or an herbal amulet to ward off those pesky goblins. And as long as were talking about spooky orange vegetables, take a look at this Creepy Carrots story time.


A Real Howler

a real howlerMessed up on a test at school? Misplaced your toad? Stole your father’s flying car? Brace yourself – you might be getting a Howler in the mail.

You’ll need:

  • An 8.5″ x 11″ piece of red poster board (or red card stock)
  • Extra red poster board (or red card stock) for pop-up elements
  • A few pieces of white card stock
  • Markers, pens, and/or color pencils for writing and decorating
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Optional (but fun!): sparkle stems, foil star stickers, and bits of red mirror board

While there are templates and patterns for the Howlers you see in the Harry Potter movies, some of them can get a little complicated. The folks who staffed the Howler table at our Harry Potter event wanted something kids could do with minimal instruction and assistance. As it turned out, kids of all ages loved making these simple pop-up cards. The table was hopping for 5 hours!

Our Howler is an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of red poster board (or card stock) folded in half. We offered 4 pop-up elements for the interior of the card: 1) Basic accordion fold; 2) Clustered accordion fold; 3) Spiral; and 4) Zigzag accordion fold.

four pop-up elementsTo make the basic accordion fold, take a strip of paper and fold it back and forth until it resembles a stair case. Attach one end to the card with tape. We cut a number of different size strips and let kids pick and fold the ones they wanted. We also had rectangular pieces available in case kids wanted to cut and fold a cluster of accordion folds.

To make a spiral, cut into a circle of poster board (or card stock), circling inwards until you reach the center. Attach one end to the card with tape. We prepared large and small circles in advance, and let kids pick and cut their own spirals.

To make a zigzag accordion fold, cut a zigzag into a strip of paper, and then fold along the straight points of the zigzag, like so:

zigzag foldWe had sparkle stems, foil star stickers, and little bits of red mirror board available to decorate the cards (the idea was to make it look as explosive as possible, so lots of red and gold)!  Finally, write magical crimes and consequences on pieces of white card stock and attach them to the card or pop-up elements. Feel free to add illustrations as well (like Marissa’s fantastic broomstick in the image below? And did you notice the little exclamation marks popping up on accordion folds?).

a real howlerTsk tsk tsk Beatrix. You really should be more responsible with your broom.

Nautical Flag Necklace

nautical flag necklaceThis project is a unique blend of literacy, non-fiction, and the high seas! I designed these personalized nautical flag necklaces for a Treasure Island event we hosted in 2010. In addition to being easy and fun to make, the inexpensive supply list won’t deplete your buried treasure stash.

You’ll need:

International maritime signal flags are flags of different colors and shapes that allow crews to send messages between ships. For example, Alfa, the flag for the letter A, also means “I have a diver down; keep well clear at slow speed.” Since there is a flag for every letter of the alphabet, I thought it would be cool to have kids spell their names…in flags!

Start by selecting the letters you need to spell your name. Next, fold the white box (i.e. the box with the alphabet letter in it) backwards. Hand the folded flag over a piece of string, then tape the fold to the back of the flag. Knot the string behind your neck to wear it like a necklace, or just leave the ends loose and hang it up like a banner!

nautical flag necklace stepsIf you’re doing this project for a big event like we did, I suggest you make a letter tray to put the individual flags in. This can be as simple as paper cups, marked with post-its, hot glued to the inside of a copy paper lid.

If you’d like to have a table top display sign with the complete flag alphabet (or you want to send kids home with their own copies), here it the alphabet as a full sheet of paper, and here it is as 2 half sheets.

maritime flag alphabetYou could also use the alphabet to decode my flag message at the top of this post. Heh heh. If you need a hint, check out our Instagram!

Flag images courtesy of Wikipedia