Walk on the Wild Side

walk on the wild sideDare to be different! Stroll down the street with your skunk. What could possibly go wrong?

We read Don’t Take Your Snake for a Stroll, written by Karin Ireland, and illustrated by David Catrow (Harcourt, 2003). What happens when you take a pig shopping, an elephant to the beach, a duck to a wedding, or a rhinoceros to a swing party? Trust me, it’s not good. This hilarious book had our story time kids in stitches. Not only are the rhymes fun and fantastic, the stupendous illustrations show you exactly what happens when you take a coyote out for a night on the town!

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9” – a large tissue box works!)
  • Construction paper
  • 1 rubber band
  • 1 paper cup
  • 1 pair of wiggle eyes (optional)
  • 4 wheels (optional – more on this below)
  • A 36″ piece of yarn or string
  • Markers for decorating
  • Scissors, tape, glue for construction
  • Hot glue

Wrap a box with your choice of construction paper, then slide a rubber band “collar” onto the box. Add legs, tail, ears, mouth, eyes, and a nose. A paper cup makes a terrific snout, should you need one (I recommend attaching it to the box with hot glue). We had pieces of self-adhesive foam on hand for noses and mouths, as well as Twizteez wire for whiskers. We made a few example critters to get the creative juices flowing…

skunkmonkeymouseoctopusBecause we intended to take our animals out on the sidewalk, we put the boxes on wheels. I used leftover plastic wheels from this Richard Scarry event, and this parade project (if you’re interested, I ordered them online from Kelvin Educational).

wheelsThread the wheels on pieces of bamboo skewer, and then thread the skewers through drinking straws taped to the bottom of the box like so:

axles and wheelsYou could also use wooden spools instead of plastic wheels. Or, if you’re planning to stay indoors, skip the wheels and just drag the box on the floor (like the dog from this post). No matter yours means of locomotion, just make sure your animal’s arms and/or legs don’t drag on the ground. Ditto for the tail. Tie a piece of yarn to the collar, and hit the sidewalks!

skunk on the street 1Sure, you might get a few curious stares…

skunk on the street 2Well, let them stare! Walk with poise and confidence. And as you’re walking, say to yourself “Me and my skunk look great. And darn it, we feel great too!”

skunk on the street 3Er. Just make sure you say it, don’t spray it.

skunk on the street 4Did you spot the mouse on a walk too? Look by the newspaper boxes!

A Box of Puzzles…and Ducks

contents of boxInside this box are a number of tantalizing puzzles, mazes, optical illusions, images of unusual hotel rooms, building projects, and…ducks. Can all of these things be some how related? The answer is mostly definitely yes.

This project was part of To Be Continued, our story time program for children ages 6-8. Typically, we do the projects during the program. But unfortunately, the timing on this particular day only gave me five minutes to present the project. To further confound things, it was also the eve of a one month programming hiatus. So I needed something the kids could grab, take home, and discover for themselves. Not unlike the main character in the book!

We read Floors by Patrick Carman (Scholastic, 2011). Ten-year-old Leo Fillmore and his father are the maintenance crew at the Whippet Hotel. But the Whippet isn’t an ordinary hotel. It has a room that’s a giant pinball machine, a roller coaster elevator called the Double Helix, a roof-top duck pond, a Cake Room, a Robot Room, a Pond & Caves room, and a shark head named Daisy. The Whippet is the brainchild of Merganzer D. Whippet, inventor, engineer, architect, and eccentric. Unfortunately, Mr. Whippet has gone missing, the hotel is going haywire, and two mysterious men have been making nefarious inquiries. But things take a turn for the strange when Leo finds a mysterious purple box. Inside is a letter from a lawyer and a clue that can only be from Mr. Whippet. Now Leo, his friend Remi, a duck named Betty, and a talkative robot named Blop have just two days to solve the clues, find more puzzle boxes, explore some of the hotel’s strangest rooms, and save the Whippet.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box
  • Different color printer paper
  • Puzzle box templates (located at the bottom of this post)
  • A piece of curling ribbon
  • Scissors for construction
  • 1 rubber mini-duckie (optional)

Any old box will do, but I decided to splurge and purchase these super-sturdy papier-mâché treasure boxes from Discount School Supply (a set of 12 is $21). My idea was that once kids were done with the activities inside the box, they could decorate the outside with art supplies at home. Here’s what my boxes looked like:

exterior of boxThe tag says “Always bring a duck if you can. They are more useful than you know.” That’s a quote from the book. It’s a very valuable piece of advice given to Leo when he finds the first box. Here’s an image of the full contents of the box:

contents of boxIn the book, Leo and his friend Remi have to follow cryptic clues, solve a number of riddles, and learn that things are not always as they seem. To replicate this experience for the story time kids, I grabbed mazes, optical illusions, and riddles from the internet.

mazes, optical illusions, riddlesI also scanned some Thinklers (i.e. visual riddles) from the book Thinklers! by Kevin Brougher (Missing Piece Press, 2000).

thinklersSince Merganzer engineered the Whippet himself, I included suggestions for a couple building projects involving things like gumdrops, marshmallows, toothpicks, toilet paper tubes, and card stock.

building activitiesThe rooms at the Whippet Hotel are fantastical and amazing. So I did a Google search for unusual real-life hotel rooms. And I found them. Oh yes I did. You must check out the ICEHOTEL in Sweden. Wow.

unique hotel roomsMr. Whippet is obsessed with ducks, and Betty the duck saves the day more than once. So I rounded up some duck jokes, duck memes, and other miscellaneous duck items.

duck memes, jokesI topped everything off with a rubber mini-duck. I found these on Amazon (12 for $6.87).

ducksReady to put together a box? Here are the templates you’ll need to reproduce everything.

The box tag template for the exterior of the box (you’ll need a hole punch too).

The box contents template 1 consists of 3 pages of duck memes, building activities, optical illusions, and images of unique hotel rooms. Since the images are in color, print them on white paper (card stock works great).

The box contents template 2 consists of 4 pages of Thinklers, mazes, riddles and duck jokes. I recommend printing each page on a different color paper. Also, to economize a little, I repeated the duck jokes and riddles twice on a single page.

Have fun! And may the duck be with you, always.

Click Clack Awesome

click clack awesomeCows that type? Yes indeed. You can too, using this awesome box typewriter and funny Mad Lib letters!

We read Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, written by Doreen Cronin, and illustrated by Betsy Lewin (Simon & Schuster, 2000). It’s cold in the barn at night, and the cows have had enough. They type a note to Farmer Brown requesting electric blankets. When he doesn’t comply, the cows go on strike. No milk! The hens are cold too and soon it’s no milk, no eggs at the farm. Infuriated, Farmer Brown types a note demanding milk and eggs, reminding the protesting parties that they are, after all, cows and hens. The cows hold a meeting, and a counteroffer is made. The typewriter in exchange for electric blankets. Done! Farmer Brown delivers the blankets, but the typewriter appears to be missing. Until a note arrives from the ducks. They want a diving board.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9”). A large tissue box works great too
  • A box cutter
  • 2 paperclips (mine were 1.75″ long)
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • 2 jumbo craft sticks (mine were 6″ long)
  • 1 typewriter keyboard template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 paper towel tube, cut down to 8.5″ long
  • 1 piece of construction paper
  • 1 balloon stick, cut down to 10.25″ long (a wooden dowel works too).
  • 2 wooden beads
  • 1 pipe cleaner
  • 1 drinking straw
  • 4 pom-poms (mine were 1″ in diameter)
  • 1 typewriter letters template, printed on two, 8.5″ x 11″ sheets of paper
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Optional bell:

  • A small piece of pipe cleaner (approximately 4″ long)
  • 1 jingle bell

The majority of this project will be demonstrated using a white craft box, but I’ll show you how a regular old tissue box (the long, rectangular kind) can be adapted too!

finished typewriter with paper

We’ll start with the craft box. Use scissors to cut the tabs off the box, then cut diagonally down each side like so:

typewriter box step 1Push the tall, right-hand side of the box against the diagonal sides, and secure with tape.

typewriter box step 2Fold the overhanging section over the back of the box, trim down the resulting flap, then tape the flap to the back of box.

folding the boxIf you’re using a tissue box, follow these steps. Flip the tissue box over so the opening for the tissues is resting on top of the table. Then, use a box cutter to cut a hinged top like so:

tissue box step 1Now use scissors to cut diagonally along the sides of the box:

tissue box step 2Follow the exact same steps as the craft box to finish (i.e. fold the overhanging piece over the back of the box, trim it, and secure with tape). Done! Now turn the slanted part of the box towards you, and tape a paper clip to both sides of the box.

paper clip placementThe orientation and placement of the paper clip is important. The end of the paper clip with the double curves needs to be sticking upwards like this.

typewriter paper clip

Later, the upper parts of the paper clips will hold the axle of your typewriter’s “cylinder” (i.e. the round thing that your typewriter paper wraps around).

Decorate the back, sides, and front of the typewriter with colored masking tape (or just use markers). Decorate a jumbo craft stick as well (the stick will eventually become your typewriter’s “space bar”). I used colored masking tape for the space bar you see in the image below, but markers work great too!

space barColor and hot glue (or tape) the typewriter keyboard template to the front of the typewriter (if you don’t like the all white template, here’s one with a black background). Note: the keyboard template doesn’t go all the way to the top of the box. That’s good! You want it to be at least 1″ below the top of the box (otherwise, the keyboard will get covered by the cylinder). Finally, hot glue (or tape) the craft stick space bar to the bottom of the box.

typewriter keyboardOK! Now for the cylinder! Wrap an 8.5″ paper towel tube with construction paper (we used gray paper). Then thread a 10.25″ balloon stick through the first paperclip, the paper towel tube, and the second paper clip.

threading paper clipThe cylinder is now secured on its balloon stick axle, which is in turn held in place by the 2 paper clips.

typewriter balloon stickWe slid 2 wooden bead on the ends of the balloon stick to keep it in place (masking tape or scotch tape on the ends of the sticks works too!).

typewriter wooden beadsYour cylinder now needs a “paper finger,” (i.e. the little mechanism that keeps the paper from flopping over). Believe it or not, it took us FOREVER to figure out how to make this simple and workable with easy-to-use materials. The winners? A drinking straw and a pipe cleaner. I only had clear drinking straws in the art cabinet, so it’s a little hard to see it in the photo below. You’ll definitely need it. The smoothness of the straw allows the paper slide easily!

attached paper fingerThread a pipe cleaner through a drinking straw. Bend the ends of the pipe cleaner inside the cylinder and secure with tape. The paper finger shouldn’t be super tight against the cylinder – leave a little wiggle room for the paper!

attached pipe cleanerAlmost there! Flip your typewriter on its back, and hot glue 4 pom-poms on each corner. Hot glue a jumbo craft stick to the front of the box. This will add some weight to the front of the typewriter, and act as a counterbalance the cylinder.

underside of typewriterYour typewriter is finished!

finished typewriterReady to load some paper? Starting from the back, slide an 5.5″ x 8.5″ piece of paper under the cylinder, then curl and tuck the paper under the paper finger. Tug it upwards a little, and you’re done!

typewriter paperYou can put a blank sheet of paper in your typewriter, or you can use the Mad Libs we created on our typewriter letters template. I recommend the Mad Libs. The kids and their caregivers had quite a bit of fun filling them out! I managed to catch a couple at story time.

letter 1letter 2letter 3letter 4letter 7letter 8letter 5letter 6

letter 9One last thing! You’ll notice that the finished typewriter has a bell. The bell is optional, but I have to say, it was pretty cute. There are a couple ways to attach it.

finished typewriter with bellFirst, thread a jingle bell through a 4″ piece of pipe cleaner, then curl one end of the pipe cleaner to keep the bell from sliding off.

Then you can either:

  1. Tape the uncurled end of the pipe cleaner to the upper right-hand corner of the typewriter before you hot glue the keyboard on.
  2. Peel the upper right-hand corner of the keyboard back, tape the uncurled end of the pipe cleaner to the typewriter, and re-adhere the corner of the keyboard.
  3. Tape the pipe cleaner to the side of the typewriter.

At our story time, we went with option 1, and attached the bell early in the project. For option 1 or 2, just make sure that the keyboard completely covers the uncurled end of the pipe cleaner. Otherwise, the pipe cleaner could snag your typewriter paper (or poke your fingers) as you’re loading it on the cylinder.