Tin Foil Regatta

tin foil regattaHoist the sail and glide down a tin foil waterway! You can race another boat, or simply bob along at your own pace. This project was designed for a story time at my community pool. The project had to be simple, creative, and appeal to a wide age range. Since there were 50 kids at the program, the project also needed to be inexpensive and easy to assemble, with minimal adult assistance.

We also needed a super fun book. And I knew just the one to read!

We enjoyed The Old Pirate of Central Park by Robert Priest (Houghton Mifflin, 1999). In an apartment in New York City, an old retired pirate builds a model of his former ship. Excited, he take the ship to the Central Park Sailboat Pond. The Laughing Dog sails the waves beautifully, and the Pirate is delighted. But then a retired Queen arrives with her ship, the S.S. Uppity Duchess. The Queen’s ship races around the pond, being rude and swamping other boats. When the Pirate tries to put a stop to the rampage, the Queen’s ship opens fire! The Laughing Dog fires back and the “infamous battle of Central Park” begins (very funny, you must read it). Finally, in need of a nap, the Queen declares an end to the battle and proposes a truce. The Queen and the Pirate shake hands and peace returns to the pond. Now the Queen and the Pirate are friends, they enjoy the sailboat pond together – the two “Old Retirates” of Central Park.

You’ll need:

Begin by hot gluing 4 corks together. Then, hot glue 4 craft sticks on top of the corks. Finish by hot gluing a wooden bead to the center of the craft stick deck. Your boat’s base should now look like this:

boat bodyWe prepped 50 of these boat bases in advance of the program. We also prepped the sails by punching holes in the top and bottom of a triangle of white construction paper.

holes punched in sailI made a dozen extra sails in case some ripped, got dunked the water, got lost in the fray, or someone made a coloring mistake and wanted to start again (and all four things happened at the program, multiple times!).

Insert a wooden coffee stirrer into the hole of the wooden bead. If necessary, stabilize the coffee stirrer with hot glue or colored masking tape. Make sure to have extra stirrers on hand, in case the first one you grab doesn’t fit into the bead’s hole.

sailboat mastDecorate the sail with markers, then slide it onto the coffee stirrer

sail on mastTo make the sailboat’s flag, wrap a section of colored masking tape around the top of the coffee stirrer. You can leave your flag square, or trim the sides with scissors to make it triangular.

flag stepsYour boat is finished! I managed to snap a few photos of boats at the program. Look how much personality they have!

We also had this fantastic non-boat creation…a pair of fish made out of tin foil and colored masking tape. Awesome.

fishNow for the waterway! The waterway idea is from FamilyFun magazine (they called it “The Tinnissippi River.” How cute is that?). Basically, you use a whole lot of tin foil to make a long, high-sided tray (I recommend doubling up the tin foil to make it extra strong). Then you fill the tray with water. Our waterway was 10-12 feet long. I didn’t get a good photo of the waterway during the program, so I recreated a shorter version of it for this post:

full tin foil sheetAlas, our waterway sprung a leak during the pool program. But quick-thinking Katie filled up several dish tubs with water. The kids were just as happy to float their boats in the tubs, so if you don’t want go the tin foil route, just grab a couple dish tubs and set sail. Or haul that old baby pool out of the garage and fill it up!

tub alternativeIf you want to turn this activity into a riveting regatta, give the kids drinking straws and instruct them to use the straws to blow their boats down the waterway. First one to the end wins!


mona lisaLadies and gentleman, we have Instagram.

Indeed! If you scroll down the right-hand column of this page, you’ll see that we have a brand new Instagram widget. You’ll find behind-the-scenes photos, outtakes, previews of things to come, interesting things we spot while adventuring, and a healthy hodgepodge of somewhat amusing miscellany.

You might recognize the army of rabbits from this post, and the fairy godmother from this post. The show ribbon straightening tip is from this post. The plastic egg with the screw in it…well…it will have to remain a mystery for the time being…

Postscript: Doh! Some of the Instagram images are a bit blurry! Apparently, it’s an upload glitch. See what happens when you take Monday off? It comes back to bite you on Friday!

Amazing Space

amazing spaceThis summer, I had the pleasure of traveling to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art  to do a program in their lovely, lovely Art Studio. The program was a version of the Cars and Trucks and Things that Go event we had at my library last spring.

Located in Amherst, Massachusetts, the Carle Museum was founded in 2002 by Eric and Barbara Carle. The museum was created to honor picture books, both as works of art and for their educational value. The Carle’s heartfelt mission is to inspire a love of art and reading through picture books. The museum has an international collection of picture books and picture book illustrations, beautiful exhibition galleries, scores of educational workshops, public programs, a bookstore, and a library.

It also has an amazing, hands-on, all-ages Art Studio.

The first thing you notice when you enter the studio is that one wall consists entirely of windows, flooding the space with beautiful, natural light. The ceilings are very high, giving the room an open, airy feeling.

studio 1The studio seamlessly combines areas for artists of all ages. For very young children, there’s this area with a low table. On the day I visited, it was stocked with paper, crayons, and interesting objects to trace. Learning toys were heaped in big, bright containers on a comfy rug.

toddler artOn another wall of the studio is this fun activity panel at toddler height.

activity panelNearby is a light table with transparent color shapes to discover and arrange!

light tableScores of studio tables, chairs, and art supplies stand ready for you to embark on artistic adventures. There’s always a project (or two) for you to try.

studiostudio 2windowsHigh above are colorful mobiles. Here’s my favorite:

mobilesScattered here and there are clever book displays to reinforce art and literacy connections. I was especially drawn to this one. The stuffed duck! The bright blue eggs!

duckAt the far end of the studio is a well-stocked resource library (the museum also has a reading and research library in a different area of the building). Awesome textured artwork on the wall, yes? Don’t you just want to pet it?

resource shelvesIn the center of the studio are cabinets. The storage, oh the storage! Tons of counter space. Three sinks! My crafting heart goes pitter pat, pitter pat! On the top right of the cabinets are the adorable animal creations that started off this post (I especially love the elephant with the milk lid feet).

cabinets and sinks And while we’re on the subject of storage, may I draw your attention to this devilishly clever use of a low table? Not only does it offer another layer of table space, it allows even the smallest child an opportunity to browse the art materials. Practical and thoughtful!

clever little tableHere’s the low table all loaded up for the Cars & Trucks program (and there was still room for storage boxes underneath). I’m totally going to do this at my next event!

art supply tableAs you can imagine, Mr. Frumble and I had a fantastic time at the Cars & Trucks program. You can read about it (and see fantastic photos) here! A huge shout out to Meghan Burch, Guided Art Programs Educator, for welcoming Cotsen and making the program possible. Another big thank you to Studio interns Hannah Pancione and Beth Caronna for their enthusiastic energy and mad car creating skills! It was an amazing day in an amazing space.

mr frumble at the carleThe Carle Art Studio has a fantastic blog if you’re looking for hands-on ideas, programs, or if you just want to be blown away by their creativity. I especially enjoyed this post on mixing art and science. You should also check out their snow stencils, handmade paint brushes from natural materials, magazine paper tree, window art color wheel, super cool pasta machine printing press, and decorative post-it wall that doubles as a written memory project!

In addition to making a delightful, creative mess in the Carle’s Art Studio this summer, the Cotsen Children’s Library is a recipient of a 2015 Carle Honor!  For more information, and to see the other honorees, please click here.