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!

Lipogram Fortunes

lipogram fortuneNo one can predict what wisdom a fortune cookie will reveal. Except in this case. We can say with absolute, 100% certainty that this fortune will not contain the letter O. Because hidden inside this cookie is a carefully crafted lipogram fortune.

The lipogram fortune cookie activity is always a crowd-pleaser at Cotsen Critix, our children’s literary group for ages 9-12. First, we introduce the lipogram – a type of writing in which the author leaves out a letter (or letters) when crafting a sentence, paragraph, or story. Then we write fortune cookie fortunes that cannot include the letter O. Here are a few pearls of wisdom, future predictions, and unusual directives, all with nary an O in sight!

Making beds creates happy parents everywhere.

Beauty is great, but brains are better.

Never give up.

Rain will fall where it never falls.

Life is filled with crazy bananas!

Washed feet are always appreciated.

Beware the lizards. They bite.

Quick! Buy all the chunky peanut butter in Alabama!

Surprise hug the dude sitting nearest the exit.

There will be an alien kidnapping.

Marble will crack and the universe will be put in small terms…beep…beep…beep…shwee, shew, whee!

The future that lies ahead isn’t paved yet.

Saturday night is finally live.

Rip up this paper immediately.

Read this!

Be clear and direct – a Giant Space Laser can be disabled with the right steps.

Buy bad cheese.

Ye with withstand danger.

Child, eat the asparagus in the plate because it is amazing!

Never try being smart in class.

Leave this Chinese restaurant.

Be safe in life, but carefulness is an inadequate skill.

Have a nice day.

Beware jumping chipmunks.

Falling is a bad idea.

The difference between happiness and sadness is this: the happy man has a warm puppy.

We do the lipogram activity early in the program. Later, it makes a triumphant comeback during our QUEST, which occurs at the very end of the program. The QUEST is super elaborate cross-campus race that involves teams solving riddles, encountering student actors, following maps, and unearthing clues. One such clue is hidden inside a bunch of lipogram fortune cookies.

You may already be aware that you can order fortune cookies with special messages. They say things like “It’s a Boy!” or “Will you marry me?” or “Happy Anniversary!” But you can order custom messages too.

We ordered cookies with 4 custom messages. Each message was missing a particular letter (or two). In the QUEST box, next to the 4 cookies, was a letter wheel and a golf pencil (here’s the letter wheel template if you’re interested).

letter wheelFirst, the QUEST kids had to recall the lipogram activity. Then, they had to figure out that the missing letters spelled out a QUEST clue (the letter wheel and the golf pencil helped them keep track). Here’s a solved wheel, pointing the kids to their next destination:

letter wheel solutionI buy my cookies online from Fortune Cookie Planet. They are peanut free, tree-nut free, vegan, and preservative free. 50 cookies with 4 custom messages costs $20 (plus shipping). Another option is to obtain fortune cookies locally, use tweezers to pull out the fortunes, and carefully inset your own message inside. Just make sure you have a few extra cookies on hand. Sometimes they crack apart during the fortune-swapping process!

Illustration of fortune cookie used on letter wheel template is by Coffee Addict on wikiHow.

Searching for Sasquatch

sasquatchA sasquatch is on the loose, and it will take 2 resourceful kids to find him! Our story time teams ventured into our gallery to find a hidden sasquatch. One team member had no idea where he was hiding. The other team member knew exactly where he was hiding, but could only give directions by saying “Hot” or “Cold.” The prize was a personalized “Certificate of Merit for Sasquatch Catching,” and a sasquatch ornament to take home! This activity was part of To Be Continued, our story time for kids ages 6-8.

ornament and certificateWe read The Imaginary Veterinary Book 1: The Sasquatch Escape, written by Suzanne Selfors, and illustrated by Dan Santat (Little, Brown, 2013). Ben Silverstein, age 10, has been exiled for the summer. While his parents work through some troubles, Ben is sent to stay with his Grandpa Abe in the town of Buttonville, middle of nowhere, USA. Once bustling, Buttonville is quickly sliding into disrepair after the enormous button factory shut down. But things are not what they seem. A giant bird swooping through the night sky looks a lot like a dragon. The “bat” Grandpa’s cat dragged in? It breathes fire! Eventually, Ben and his new friend, Pearl Petal, learn that the old button factory has been converted into a top secret hospital for Imaginary Creatures. And Ben accidentally lets the sasquatch out. Can Ben and Pearl catch the sasquatch before the whole town discovers the secret?

You’ll need:

First, print the big sasquatch. You can simply cut it out, or you can reinforce it with some  tagboard or poster board. Since my sasquatch was going to get a real workout, I reinforced it with tagboard and added a triangular base.

front and back of sasquatchHere’s a shot of the base from the side. I secured it with hot glue, but tape works too!

base of sasquatchTo play the game, divide the kids into teams of 2 (rather than let them team up with their buddies, I had them put their names in a box and randomly drew to create the teams). The first team member hid his/her eyes while I hid the sasquatch in the gallery. The second team member watched me hide it, so he/she knew exactly where it was. When I said “Go!” the teams started to search for the sasquatch. The first team member proceeded through the gallery, relying on the second team member to direct him/her towards the sasquatch using the words “Hot” (i.e. getting close to it) and “Cold” (i.e. moving away from it). Teams ran twice so each kid got a chance to find the sasquatch AND be the one to give directions.

When we were finished, everyone received a “Certificate of Merit” for catching the sasquatch – which is exactly what Ben and Pearl earn in the books! The frame clipart I used didn’t extend to a full-size page, so I trimmed the certificate down to 8.5″ x 9.5″.  I also fancied up my certificates with an embossed gold foil seal.

certificateKids also received a mini sasquatch ornament. Basically, it’s a smaller version of the big guy with a piece of twine taped to the back:

taped ornamentYou could, of course, give each kid a “full-size” sasquatch. Totally up to you!

I tend not to incorporate food into many of my programs because of food allergies, but another fantastic prize would be a bar of chocolate. In the book, a chocolate bar is an essential tool in the “Sasquatch Catching Kit” (along with a tranquilizer dart, blowpipe, net, fog bomb, and a sasquatch calling whistle). Just don’t ask the sasquatch any questions. It’ll make him angry.

A final word about The Sasquatch Escape. Not only did my story time kids love this book, my son and I are currently blasting through the series. They are funny, fantastical, unusual, and terrific to read-aloud. As one boy in the program said about halfway through the book, “This is the BEST book I’ve ever heard!” Absolutely worth checking out!