Nautical Flag Necklace

nautical flag necklaceThis project is a unique blend of literacy, non-fiction, and the high seas! I designed these personalized nautical flag necklaces for a Treasure Island event we hosted in 2010. In addition to being easy and fun to make, the inexpensive supply list won’t deplete your buried treasure stash.

You’ll need:

International maritime signal flags are flags of different colors and shapes that allow crews to send messages between ships. For example, Alfa, the flag for the letter A, also means “I have a diver down; keep well clear at slow speed.” Since there is a flag for every letter of the alphabet, I thought it would be cool to have kids spell their names…in flags!

Start by selecting the letters you need to spell your name. Next, fold the white box (i.e. the box with the alphabet letter in it) backwards. Hand the folded flag over a piece of string, then tape the fold to the back of the flag. Knot the string behind your neck to wear it like a necklace, or just leave the ends loose and hang it up like a banner!

nautical flag necklace stepsIf you’re doing this project for a big event like we did, I suggest you make a letter tray to put the individual flags in. This can be as simple as paper cups, marked with post-its, hot glued to the inside of a copy paper lid.

If you’d like to have a table top display sign with the complete flag alphabet (or you want to send kids home with their own copies), here it the alphabet as a full sheet of paper, and here it is as 2 half sheets.

maritime flag alphabetYou could also use the alphabet to decode my flag message at the top of this post. Heh heh. If you need a hint, check out our Instagram!


Flag images courtesy of Wikipedia

Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)

sweet dreams are made of thisTravel through a cloud-covered dream tunnel which doubles as a magical oven for a pie full of sweet dreams. Dreams and pie…is there a book than can connect the two? Oh my yes.

We read Sweet Dream Pie, written by Audrey Wood, and illustrated by Mark Teague (Scholastic, 1998). Pa Brindle can’t sleep, so he begs Ma Brindle to dust off her magical, oversized pie-making equipment and bake a sweet dream pie. Despite repeatedly warning Pa that things could get out of control, Ma finally agrees to do it. The enormous pie is stuffed with sweets of all kinds, and the giant oven (which is set to “Special”), causes a heat wave on Willobee Street. Neighbors gather, ignore Ma’s warnings, and eat way too much pie. The result? Some of the wildest, out-of-control dreams imaginable (as only Mark Teague can illustrate!). Sighing, Ma Brindle takes her broom and sweeps the tempestuous dreams away. Ah well. She did warn them.

You’ll need:

  • 1 sturdy paper plate (approximately 8.5″ in diameter)
  • 1 rectangle of tin foil (approximately 12″ x 13″)
  • 1 circle of tagboard or poster board (approximately 6.25″ in diameter)
  • 1 circle of brown packing paper (approximately 11.25″ in diameter)
  • 1 paper bowl
  • Dream pie decorating supplies (more on that below)
  • Scissors, tape, and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • 1 dream oven (more on that below)
  • Hot glue

First, the pie! Place a paper plate on top of a rectangle of tin foil, then wrap the tin foil up and around the sides of the paper plate. The tin foil should just cover the edges of the plate, not the entire thing.

pie pan step 1Hot glue a tagboard or poster board circle to the center of the plate.

pie pan step 2Decorate the tagboard circle with your dream scene! First, we gave kids a quarter of a sheet of paper and asked them to draw a dream character or scene.

Once that was glued (or taped) in place, we offered supplies to fancy things up: iridescent cello, colored cotton balls, tissue paper circles, iridescent fabric shapes, self-adhesive foam, fabric flowers, foam beads, large gemstones, self-adhesive butterflies, pom-poms, small feathers, bits of embossed foil paper, mesh tubing, and metallic dot stickers.

Here’s Marissa’s dream scene, which involves stars, dusk, flying, and and ice cream clouds. Be-a-u-ti-ful.

marissa's dream sceneAnd here are the dream pies the kids made! We asked the kids to describe the dreams for us, but I must admit, those who did offer their interpretations were still somewhat vague. Below, see if you can spot a ballerina, Valentine’s Day, flying, unicorn wonderland, ghost, mountains, butterflies, Spider-man, a birthday party, “purple,” “Antiga,” “shy,” and hippo.

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When the inside of the pie is done, set it aside for a moment. Use scissors or a box cutter to cut slits in the center of a 11.25″ circle of brown packing paper (or brown wrapping paper). These are the “ventilation slits” for your pie.

pie crust step 1Next, roll the edges of the circle upwards and inwards (about 0.25″ should do it). These are the edges of your “pie crust.”

pie crust step 2Now to add the “dome” to the top of your crust. Flip a paper bowl upside down and press and smooth the crust over the top of the bowl. You’ll need some height here to cover that crazy dream scene you created.

pie crust step 3Place the crust on top of the paper pie plate. It’s very cool to see the dream scene through the little ventilation holes of the pie crust!

finished dream pieYou can stop the project there, or you can take it a step further and go through a dream oven! This doesn’t have to be fancy. You can drape a sheet over a table, or head into a darkened closet with some blue lights or glow sticks. But if you’d like to replicate our dream oven, here’s how we did it. Basically, it was a big box with door flaps cut out on both ends. On the outside, the box looked like an oven set to “Special.”

dream ovenBut inside, it was a fantastic dreamscape! Marissa lined the box with blue paper, hot glued white felt clouds to the walls, rigged up dangling polyester fill clouds, and dotted the whole thing with mirror board stars. She used packing tape to attach a strand of blue LED rope lights to the ceiling. It was…so…awesome.

inside the dream ovenGrasping their dream pies, the kids entered the oven and scooted through the tunnel, “cooking” their pies amidst clouds and stars. Some kids charged through the tunnel and lined right back up for another turn. Others meandered slowly through the tunnel, pausing to take in the dreamy atmosphere (I took a turn too!). Sweet dreams!

meandering dreamer

 

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