Do Your Own Thing

sheep-gridOne of these sheep is not like the other! Revel in your creative individualism by designing a fluffy cotton ball sheep that is utterly unique.

We read Woolbur, written by Leslie Helakoski, and illustrated by Lee Harper (Harper Collins, 2008). Woolbur doesn’t do what the other sheep are doing. He likes to run with the dogs, card his own wool, and dye himself bright blue. Despite Grandpaa’s assurances that there’s nothing to worry about, Maa and Paa spend many sleepless nights fretting. Finally, they take Woolbur aside and explain that he must be like everyone else. That’s what sheep do. Woolbur’s solution? He teaches everyone how to do the different things he was doing. Now, everyone is happily playing, exploring, and experimenting just like Woolbur!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large box (mine was 4.5” X 4.5” x 9” – a large tissue box works too)
  • 4 toilet paper tubes
  • White construction paper
  • 1 paper (or styrofoam) bowl
  • 1 oval of tagboard or brown construction paper
  • 2 wiggle eyes
  • White cotton balls
  • Sheep decorating supplies (more on this later!)
  • Scissors, tape, and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

plain-sheepBegin with the basic sheep. Wrap 4 toilet paper tubes in white construction paper, then hot glue the tubes to the bottom of a box. Hot glue a brown oval nose and 2 wiggle eyes to a paper (or styrofoam) bowl, then hot glue the bowl to the box. Attach a pair of construction paper ears with tape (or hot glue). Finish by gluing white cotton balls to the box.

Once all the story time kids had completed a basic sheep, we brought out the art supplies so they could individualize them! In addition to the Bling Bin, we offered ribbon, color cotton balls (yellow, blue, and pink), iridescent fabric shapes, fabric flowers, fabric leaves, pipe cleaners, craft ties, and sparkle stems. Don’t forget to draw a smile on the face too!

decked-out-sheepThe results were fantastic. There were anklets, headdresses, bows, decorative wooly coats, and some very interesting tail modifications. Here’s our happy herd!


Books, Color, Chance

_mur0006The next time you see a telephone book, look beyond the phone numbers, advertisements, thin pages, and wobbly covers. Philadelphia artist Katie Murken did exactly that when she created Continua, a work that combines recycled phone books, color dye, math, elements of chance, and sculpture.

Gathering scores of old and surplus phone books, Katie stripped off their covers and dipped the 3 outer edges into dye. In total, she dyed approximately 1,560,000 sheets of paper with 24 different colors.

dye_readybooks_dryingThen she stacked the altered books into columns. However, the colors she used were determined by a customized color wheel and a pair of dice. A dice roll determined how she would stack the books.

murken_continua_2The result was 24 tall columns of vibrantly colored, gently wavy books pages, arranged completely by chance. And the color! The color! Katie used non-toxic dyes from a small company in California.

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Walking among the stacked pages was incredibly calming, yet energizing. It was also validating. To me, it felt like confirmation of what the knowledge inside books really looks like.

_mur0019If you’d like to see more images of Continua, or read interviews about Katie and her fascinating process, you will find numerous links on Katie Murken’s site.

Photographs courtesy of Katie Murken

This Tea Party RULES


It might look like a proper tea table with matching teapot, cups, saucers, sugar bowl, creamer, and a platter of cookies. But beware! Your guests want those cookies something fierce, and aren’t afraid to get grabby in our fast-paced cookie snatching game! Video, of course, at the end of the post.

We read Tea Party Rules, written by Ame Dyckman, and illustrated by K.G. Campbell (Viking, 2013). A bear cub follows the delicious smell of cookies to a little girl’s tea party. Pretending to be the girl’s stuffed bear, the cub eagerly awaits the moment when he can devour the cookies. He’s got her completely fooled, but then the girl decides that her toy bear needs to follow the “Tea Party Rules.” In other words, he needs to be clean, neat, fancy, and dainty. Poor Cub is subjected to a bath, ribbons, perfume and a dress. But when it comes time for a lecture on dainty eating, he snaps. He attacks the cookies. When only one cookie remains, Cub stops. Suddenly, he realizes that he’s not only ruined the tea party, he’s made the girl very sad. So he gives the final cookie to her. Does she eat daintily? No she does not. She decides it’s time to play BEAR!

You’ll need:

  • 9 – 10 paper cups
  • 1 corrugated cardboard base (I used a 9.75″ x 13.75″ cake pad)
  • A selection of patterned tape
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • 1 small paper plate (mine was 7″ in diameter)
  • 1 spouts template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • Extra poster board for tea set handles, spouts, and sugar tongs
  • 1 small pom-pom
  • 2 circles of white poster board (approximately 3.5″ in diameter)
  • 3 circles of tag board or brown poster board (approximately 3.5″ in diameter)
  • 3 button magnets
  • 1 rectangle of or brown poster board (approximately 2.5″ x 9.25″)
  • 1 rectangle of white poster board (approximately 3.5″ x 9.25″)
  • 2 jumbo paper clips (mine were 2″ long)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

finished-tea-tableThis project consists of 1) A tea set with cookies; and 2)  A pair hand grabbers for the snatching game. The cookies have magnets hot glued to them, and the hand grabbers have paper clips taped to them. Thus, when the hand slaps down on the cookie, it picks it up!

glove-with-cookieWe’ll begin with the tea set. To make the table, hot glue 4 paper cups to the bottom of a corrugated cardboard base. The cookie platter is a flipped-over cup hot glued to a small paper plate. You don’t want the cookie platter to be too tall, so you can either cut a full size paper cup down to 2.25″ inches, or use a shorter cup (we used 3.5oz plastic drinking cups from Target). Decorate the platter and table with patterned tape, colored masking tape, and/or markers. Then hot glue the platter firmly to the top of the table.

tea-tableTo make the teapot, flip a paper cup over, then tape (or hot glue) a poster board handle to one side. Cut the spout from the template and trace it onto white poster board. Fold the tea pot spout in half (the fold is marked with a solid black line on the template). Next, fold the spout’s tabs outward (the tabs are marked with dotted lines on the template). Attach the tabs to the tea pot with tape (or hot glue). Finish by hot gluing a small pom-pom to the top of the tea pot.

tea-pot-and-tea-cupsTo make tea cups, cut 2 paper cups down to 2″. Use tape (or hot glue) to attach a white poster board handle to the side of each cup. Then place the cups on a white poster board “saucers.” Decorate the teapot, cups, and saucers with patterned tape, colored masking tape, and/or markers.

Next up – the sugar bowl and creamer. To make the sugar bowl, cut a paper cup down to 1.5″. Drop a paper baking cup inside for extra flair. To make tongs, fold a narrow strip of poster board in half. Those cute little sugar cubes? Foam packing peanuts, cut in half.

sugar-bowl-and-creamerThe creamer is a paper cup cut down to 2″. Cut the creamer spout from the template, and trace it into poster board. Fold the spout in half (the fold is marked with a solid black line on the template). Next, fold the spout’s tabs outward (the tabs are marked with dotted lines on the template). Attach the tabs to the cup with tape (or hot glue). We filled the creamer with white cotton ball “cream.”

Finally…the cookies. These are circles of tagboard (or poster board) decorated with markers. We made 3 cookies per kid. Hot glue a button magnet to the back of each cookie.


Now for the game! We had 2 hand grabbers – a bear paw and a fancy white glove. To make the bear’s paw, round one end of a 2.5″ x 9.25″ strip of tag board (or brown poster board). To make the glove, cut a hand in one end of a 3.5″ x 9.25″ strip of white poster board. Tape a jumbo paperclip across the palms of both grabbers.

game-handsReady to play? Have 2 kids select a grabber and sit down at the table. On “Go!” each kid must use his/her grabber to quickly remove cookies from the platter. The kid who grabs the most cookies, wins!