Spring Chicken

spring chickenNo spring chicken? We got your spring chicken! The drinking straw “sticks” on this little bird puppet allow it to flap its wings and soar across the big blue sky! I designed the project for a weekend story time event for 50 kids. It needed to be inexpensive, appealing to ages 2 – 6, constructed without white glue or hot glue, and easy to put together with minimal adult assistance. For the full effect of the bird’s flight, check out the video clip at the end of the post!

You’ll need:

First, cut the bird’s body and wings from the template and color them with markers. Tape a jumbo craft stick to the back of the bird’s body (an 8″ craft stick work best). Make sure to leave approximately 1.5″ of space above the craft stick. Later, you’ll need that space to attach the bird’s wing.

bird on craft stick  with typeYou could also wait until the end of the project to tape the craft stick in place, but I found that the early placement of the stick helped kids attach their wings in the right place (i.e. close to the top of the bird’s body instead of the middle).

Next, fold each wing downwards along the dotted line, then attach the wings to the body with long pieces of tape. It’s important that the entire fold of the wing is covered with tape. I used orange masking tape to demonstrate this in the image below, but I used clear tape on the actual project.

taped wingNow stick an additional piece of tape over the bird’s back and wings like a “tape saddle.” Again, I used orange masking tape to demonstrate it below…

tape saddleUse tape to add feathers to the head, tops of the wings, and tail. Finally, tape the short end of a flexible straw to the underside of each wing, close to the wingtips (if the straws are too close to the body, the wings won’t flap properly). Use scissors to trim the ends of the straws so they don’t extend past the wings.

taped drinking straw with typeTo operate your bird, hold the craft stick in one hand, then gather the two drinking straws in your other hand. Holding the straws straight behind the bird, use them to flap the wings of the bird up and down!

Since my audience was primarily preschoolers, I read Birds, written by Kevin Henkes and illustrated by Laura Dronzek (Greenwillow Books, 2009). It’s a lovely book with simple text and plenty of opportunities for audience participation (such as naming the colors of birds, naming the types of birds, and yelling “Surprise!” on one of my favorite pages). The illustrations are colorful, pretty, and, in some places, extremely imaginative and delightful.

Perfect Parakeets

perfect parakeetsThese wrist parakeets are super simple to make, require very few art supplies, and…are amazingly adorable, yes? They’re also tough. Thanks to their sturdy pipe cleaner tethers, these parakeets really stay attached, even on the most active ornithologist!

You’ll need:

  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • Construction paper
  • dot sticker for eyes
  • 3 small feathers
  • 3 goose quills
  • 1 pipe cleaner
  • Scissors, tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hole punch

If you want to get a little fancier, you’ll need:

We’ll make the parakeet’s body first, and then proceed to perching it on your wrist. Here’s what a completed bird body looks like:

parakeet bodyWrap construction paper around the entire toilet paper tube. Then wrap a smaller strip of construction paper around the top – this will become your bird’s head. Yet another piece of construction paper becomes your bird’s colorful chest (it looks best if you round the top of the chest).

Draw eyes and eyebrows on the dot stickers, then stick them on the bird’s head. Tape (or glue) a small triangle of construction paper to the head for a beak. You can also use a triangle of self-adhesive foam for the beak (it gives the beak some really nice texture). Tape (or hot glue) 2 small feathers on the side for wing, and 1 small feather on top for the crest. The body is done!

To make the tail, gather 3 duck quills together, fan them out slightly, and wrap scotch tape around the points of the quills (if you don’t want to purchase duck quills for the tail, just use more small feathers). Tape the tail to the back of the bird.

easy tail stepsIf you want to get a little fancier, you can wrap scotch tape around the points of the quills, then cover the scotch tape with colored masking tape and hot glue it to the bird’s body.

fancier tail stepsThe final step is to tether the bird to your wrist! Punch holes in both sides of the toilet paper tube. Don’t punch the holes in the center of the tube. Punch them slightly more toward the front of the bird. The reason is this – with the tail in place, the bird actually sits slightly askew on your wrist. It needs to be tethered slightly towards the front in order to sit correctly on your wrist. When in doubt, just plunk the tube on your wrist and you’ll see where the holes need to go.

punched holeThread a pipe cleaner through the holes, sit the bird on your wrist, and twist the pipe cleaner under your wrist to secure the bird in place! Finito!

finished parakeetHeaded to Hogwarts? This project also works well as an owl!


Monkey Business

monkey businessWith a turn of the wrist, this gymnastic little money swings around (and around and around) his colorful rainforest branch!

monkey swingsWe read BIG Little Monkey, written by Carole Lexa Schaefer and illustrated by Pierre Pratt (Candlewick, 2008). A little monkey wakes up one morning, ready to play, and finds that his family still wants to sleep. He decides he’s ready to be a Big Little Monkey and leave the tree to find some new friends to play with. He encounters a sloth, a parrot, and finally…Sly Boa. The game “curl my tail around in tricky ways” doesn’t sound too good to Big Little Monkey, so he quickly scoots back to his family, happy to be their Little Monkey once again.

You’ll need:

  • 1 small oatmeal container
  • Dark brown construction paper for body, hair, and ears.
  • Light brown construction paper for mouth (approximately 2.25″ x 3.5″)
  • 1 oval of self-adhesive foam (approximately 1″ x 1.5″)
  • 2 wiggle eyes
  • 1 strip of brown poster board for the tail (approximately 2″ x 10.5″)
  • 1 monkey business template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • An 8.5″ x 8.5″ square of tagboard for arm & leg templates and tree branches
  • box cutter
  • 1 brass tack
  • 1 paper towel tube
  • A pencil for tracing
  • 6 – 8 green construction paper leaves
  • 2 small feathers
  • Scissors, tape, and glue stick for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Begin by wrapping the oatmeal container with dark brown construction paper. Fringe more dark brown construction paper and tape it to the top of the lid for hair. IMPORTANT: Make sure you don’t tape the lid to the oatmeal container closed! You’ll open the container later to secure your monkey’s swinging arm.

Cut the light brown construction paper rectangle into an oval, and glue to the front of the head. Attach the wiggle eyes (using hot glue), the self-adhesive foam oval, and two dark brown construction paper ears. I used the markers to drawl little swirls in the ears and put a smile on my monkey’s face.

monkey faceYou’ll notice that the ears very close to the eyes and mouth. This is so the ears don’t hamper the movement of the monkey’s swinging arm.

The face is done, now for the body! Curl one end of the brown construction paper tail around a marker, then tape or hot glue it to the back of the oatmeal container. Cut the arms and legs out of the template and tape (or hot glue) the two legs and the short arm to the container. I curled the short arm up in the classic monkey “hand in the armpit pose.”

classic monkey armFinally, the monkey’s swinging arm. Cut a tagboard arm from the template, then place the paper towel tube on the round part of the swinging arm. Use the pencil to trace the diameter of the tube onto the template. Then cut the circle out.

swinging arm stepsUse the box cutter to make a small slit at the bottom of the swinging arm (you can see it in Step 3 of the image above). Make another slit in the side of the oatmeal container. Push the brass tack through the slit in the swinging arm:

swinging arm 1 Then remove the oatmeal container’s lid and push the brass tack through the slit in the oatmeal container.

swinging arm 2Reach inside the container to unfold the prongs, then replace the oatmeal container lid.

swinging arm 3The monkey is done, now for the rainforest swinging branch! Cut two tagboard branches (mine were about 8.5″ long):

branchesHot glue or tape the tagboard branches to the very end of the paper towel tube. Use markers to color the bird and the butterflies. The butterflies and green construction paper leaves can be glued of taped onto the tagboard branches. The bird requires just a few extra steps. First, fold the template like so:

bird step 1Using the dotted lines as guides, fold the two tabs outwards.

bird step 2Use tape to attach 2 small feathers to the bird template as a tail. However, when you finally tape or hot glue your bird’s tabs to the branch, make sure the bird is at the very end and the tail faces away from the monkey’s swinging area.

end of tubeAgain, attach the branches and bird on the very end of the tube! Otherwise, those items will be smacked repeatedly (or completely taken out) by the swinging monkey. We had a few tangled monkeys and squashed birds at story time, and had to do some quick repairs.

To operate the monkey, slide the swinging arm over the paper towel tube, hold it at arm’s length, and begin swaying the tube back and forth. As you build more momentum, the monkey will circle around and around on it’s branch. It’s virtually impossible to not make monkey noises while you’re doing this. Go on. We dare you to not make monkey noises!