This Castle’s a Keeper

illuminated castle tissue boxOn the market for some truly radiant real estate? Perhaps this elegant castle votive will do! This simple, but way cool project was part of To Be Continued, our story time for kids ages 6-8.

We read Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon (Puffin, 2015). Castle Hangnail isn’t the most ideal evil castle. For starters, it’s situated on grassy hills peppered with flowers (as opposed to, say, a wind-blasted cliff or a lonely moor). But an ever bigger issue is that currently, it doesn’t have a resident Evil Master or Mistress. Soon, it will be magically decommissioned and shut down for good. Desperate, the castle’s faithful minions send out a final round of invitations. They get just one response. A 12 year-old Wicked Witch named Eudaimonia. Or at least the girl says her name is Eudaimonia. In reality, her name is Molly, and she is a maybe-not-so-wicked witch who has told some whopper lies to her parents in order to fill the castle’s vacancy. Molly quickly falls in love with Hangnail Castle and the minions. In fact, everything appears to be working out beautifully – until the real Eudaimonia shows up. Will Molly and her friends be able to win Castle Hangnail back from the Evil Sorceress?

A shadow spell plays an important role in the book, so I wanted to do a project that involved castles, light, and shadow. Also, we had only 20 minutes at the program to complete the project, so I needed something simple. This castle votive project fit the bill perfectly!

illuminated castleYou’ll need:

  • 2 castle template pages (more on this below), printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • An x-acto knife
  • A small box with a window in the lid – the top of a small tissue box works great!
  • 1 large square of tin foil (mine was 12″ x12″)
  • 2 castle borders template pages, printed on 8.5″ x 14″ paper
  • Scissors and glue for construction
  • Metallic markers (optional)
  • 1 LED votive
  • Hot glue

Usually, I draw the project templates myself. But while researching the project, Marissa discovered this beautiful little castle votive by artist Lova Blåvarg. Lova’s castle is in color, but we thought it looked more Gothic when we printed it in black and white. The template and instructions for making Lova’s castle can be found here.

castle template finished

Castle by Lova Blåvarg for Sweet Paul magazine

The most time consuming part of the project is cutting all the little castle windows out with an x-acto knife. Marissa, the champion of all things x-acto, printed, cut, and hot glued 16 castles in preparation for the program. That’s 64 castle panels and 640 tiny little windows! Daaaaang.

You could make the castle, drop in the LED votive, and stop there. But I wanted to add a base to give the project a little more heft. I used these window boxes from Discount School Supply. The boxes are nice and sturdy, but a set of 12 costs $17, which can get pricey.

window boxA cheaper option is to use the top of a small tissue box. Cut approximately 2.5″ off the bottom of the box. If you don’t like the pattern, cover it with your choice of construction paper. Remove any plastic from around the mouth of the box, and your base is ready to go!

cut tissue boxLine the inside of the box with a square of tin foil (if you’re using a tissue box, you’ll need to secure the tin foil in place with tape and peel it back from the mouth of the box).

foil inside boxNext, print the castle borders template and select your favorites. Glue the borders to the sides of the box, Then hot glue the castle to the top of the box. Done! Here’s the finished window box version:

finished castle window boxAnd here’s the finished tissue box version:

finished castle tissue boxWe offered the kids metallic markers for additional decorating, but this step is totally optional. Finally, drop an LED votive into the box and bask in the glow! Here’s the illuminated window box version:

illuminated castle window boxAnd here’s the tissue box version! The halo of light coming out of the bottom is rather cool, don’t you think? In fact, I believe I like the tissue box version better than the more expensive window box version.

illuminated castle tissue boxAnd speaking of glowing, when we did the project for the program, I darkened the gallery, turned out the lights, and had the kids create by “candlelight.” The effect was very cozy actually. Ah, home sweet castle!

working on castle

If You Build It…

house 3 glass roomThis winter, we had a couple of intense snow storms. Whenever it snows, my program attendance drops dramatically. And yet, there are always a couple of hard core patrons who don their snow pants and brave the drifts to come to story time. This causes a bit of a conundrum. You see, some of my projects involve quite a bit of prep work (a-hem! I’m looking at you candy factory and you haunted house). So the program is prepped and ready for over 20 kids. If I do it with just 3 kids, that’s a lot of prep work going by the wayside…so…

A few years ago, I decided that if fewer than 5 kids came to a snowy story time, the previously-prepped project would be bumped to the following week, and I would offer an unplanned, off-the-cuff creative project instead.

The project I’d like to share today is inspired by the fantastic If I Built a House by Chris Van Dusen (Dial Books, 2012). The story is about Jack, a boy with big ideas for building his dream house. There’s a robotic machine that whips up meals, a bedroom at the top of a 200 foot tower, a anti-gravity room, a race track room, an aquarium room…the sky is the limit!

First, the kids and I made “blueprints.” I replicated the look with blue construction paper and silver metallic markers.

blueprintAs the kids drew their houses, I rummaged through the office for boxes, tubes, cardboard, items left over from other projects, and interesting odds and ends (including, of course, the Bling Bin). Then, out came the tape, glue, scissors, markers, and hot glue and off went the little architects, putting together 3D models of their blueprints.

house 1This house’s base is a box with a clear lid (leftover from this light box project). The architect turned it into a subterranean pond with fish! Perhaps this is our next Frank Lloyd Wright?

house 1 pond floorThe next architect went for wide and stacked, with multiple boxes for multiple rooms. I like the ladder to the second floor!

house 2She also forayed into interior design. That polka-dot couch is made out of patterned paper, pink and yellow cottons balls, and an Altoid tin!

house 2 interiorThe final house’s blueprint appeared to have a tree, a squiggle of water, and antenna. I was curious to see how the model would develop, and I was not disappointed.

house 3LOVE the fountain! And I’m not sure if you noticed that the “glass” room at the top has multi-color portholes made out of tape rolls with cellophane panes?

house 3 glass roomIf you don’t have an art cabinet to quickly rummage through, or you want to do this with a large group of kids, you could always go with Option #2. Collect a bunch of recyclables and stick them on a table. Then ask the kids to draw their blueprints from the items they see on the table (just make sure you have multiples of each item for each kid to use).

Or, you could do Option #3. Give each kid the same basic “set” of object (ex: a cake pad for a base, a tissue box, a paper towel tube, a cone water cup, and 3 squares of poster board) to build the basic structure, then have other art supplies handy to fancy it up. I promise, the results will be unique!

Shadow Stories

shadow storiesMake a shadow puppet bird, then fly through a story as your narrative appears on the big screen!

We read Shadows, written by April Pulley Sayre, and illustrated by Harvey Stevenson (Henry Holt, 2002). This beautifully illustrated non-fiction rhyming book examines the various shadows two children find at places like the beach, tall grass, a baseball game, and a creek. The rhymes are lovely and lyrical. One of my favorites is “Dragonfly shadows zip and pop / Running horse shadows never stop.” Lovely!

You’ll need:

shadow puppet bird

The construction of the bird is very simple (in fact, if you want to make a smaller version, check out this post). Trace and cut the bird and bird wing templates onto white poster board. Use a hole punch to create an eye for the bird.

Next, decorate your bird (we busted out the Bling Bin and markers for this purpose). To create textures around the edges of the puppet, we also offered craft ties, small feathers, fabric flowers, and paper tissue squares. Twist two pipe cleaners into bird feet, and tape them to the back of the bird’s body.

Tab and hot glue the wing to the bird’s body, then tape the short end of a bendy straw to the underside of the wing. The straw is the “stick” that will allow you to flap the bird’s wing up and down.

shadow puppet bird wingUse packing tape to attach a 12″ piece of PVC pipe to the back of the bird (regular tape isn’t quite strong enough). We wrapped our PVC pipes with colored masking tape, but that’s definitely optional. Your bird is done!

shadow puppeteerAll we need now is a shadow puppet show set! We made our set on an old overhead projector. Oh how do I love thee overhead projector? Let me count the ways

overhead projector setTo build the set, Marissa cut a tree, a nest, a lake, and a birdhouse out of black poster board. Making the sun was a little more challenging – our initial attempts looked like a giant spider or a vicious super nova. Marissa solved the problem by hot gluing sun rays to a piece of archival mylar (clear cellophane works too). She also used a scrap of mylar to make a sprinkling of birdseed on the ground.

shadow setDuring the shadow puppet story, a storm rolls in, so Marissa also made a cloud, mylar rain, and a thunderbolt.

shadow raincloudShe mounted all the moving set pieces on bits of balloon stick (pencils work too).

shadow puppet set piecesAt story time, we lowered the shades, turned out the lights, and fired up the projector! One by one, kids stepped up to the screen. Then, as I narrated, they flew their birds through the story! Hmmm…we might have made that birdhouse a little too tall…

puppeteer in actionHere’s our lovely puppeteer in action! Ready for a show?