How to Screen Your Dragon

popcorn vikingVikings and Dragon Riders! Don your horned helmets, grab your shields, and get ready for the ultimate How To Train Your Dragon theater experience, complete with real reptiles!

blue-tongued skinkAfter watching How to Train Your Dragon with my kids, I was delighted to learn that the movie was based on the book series by Cressida Cowell. When the Princeton Garden Theater (our local, non-profit movie theater) gamely agreed to a book-to-film outreach collaboration, How to Train Your Dragon was the first on my list.

Our program had three parts. Viking activities in the lobby, a live reptile show, and then the film itself. We’ll start with the lobby activities first. There were tables for making helmets and shields, a replica of a Viking game, and a local artist making custom sketches of the movie’s characters.

Viking helmets were a must, and we needed something quick and easy-to-assemble. Here’s the gang, sporting some seriously awesome headgear.

the gangYou’ll need:

  • A long strip of silver poster board (approximately 2.5″ x 24.5″)
  • A short strip of silver poster board (approximately 2.5″ x 14″)
  • White poster board for your Viking “horns”
  • Stapler
  • Metallic dot stickers (optional)

First, circle the long strip of silver poster board around your head (we purchased our poster board online from Blick Art Materials). Staple it. This is your hatband. Next, staple the short strip of poster board to the front and back of the hatband. Tab and staple a pair of white poster board horns to the sides of the hatband (here’s our horn template if you’d like it). Decorate the hatband with (optional) metallic dot stickers.

viking helmet stepsIt never hurts to thrown in a little history, so we included informational table signs at all the hands-on activity tables. Here’s the table sign for helmets. Next up…shields!

shields

You’ll need:

  • 1 silver poster board circle (approximately 5″ in diameter)
  • 1 circle of corrugated cardboard (approximately 14″ in diameter)
  • 2 strips of poster board (approximately 2.25″ x 11″)
  • 2 brass tacks
  • Metallic markers
  • Hole punch
  • Stapler

Since we needed a slew of shields, we used cake circles and – believe it or not – the silver foil circles that fit onto take-out containers. Both were purchased at a local restaurant supply outlet. But you can cut a shield from any corrugated cardboard box, and the silver circle from silver poster board.

Hot glue a 5″ silver circle onto the center of a 14″ brown cardboard circle. Push the prongs of 2 brass tacks through the cardboard shield (one on each side of the silver circle). Decorate the shield with metallic markers.

viking shield stepsNext, loop 2 strips of poster board loosely around your forearm. Stapled them closed. Punch a hole in each loop, then thread the prongs of a brass tack through each hole. The back of your shield will now look like this:

back of shieldDone! And here’s the shield table sign. By the way, did you know that metal knob in the center of a shield is called a “boss?” I did not know that.

girl with shieldNot far from the helmet and shield tables was the very talented Keenu Hale, a local artist who is the master of quick cartoon sketches. The kids kept him very busy drawing their favorite Dragon characters (they got to take the sketches home too)!

keenu hale

Here’s a set I posted on our Instagram. Keenu drew these in minutes. Wow.

hiccup and astridThe final activity table was a replica of a Viking game. It was WAY popular. Marissa found it in Hands On America Volume 1: Art Activities About Viking, Woodland Indians, and Early Colonists by Yvonne Y. Merrill (Kits Publishing, 2001). It’s a snap to put together.

viking game being played

You’ll need:

  • 1 white bandanna
  • Fabric or permanent markers
  • Air dry clay

Use markers to draw the game board below on a white bandanna (I bought ours at Michaels Craft Store). The runes are optional, of course. Our runes spell out the names of the different types of dragons. Can you spot “Night Fury?”

game boardThe game pieces are little birds (about 2″ long), made with air dry clay.

game piecesTo play the game, toss the clay birds onto the game board.

You get 1 point if a bird lands upright anywhere on the board
You get 2 points if a bird lands in a circle
You get 3 points if a bird lands upright in a circle

Here’s the game table sign, should you need it. We offered winners 2 prize choices. The first choice was a plastic gemstone. Each gemstone was worth 1 point. Win 6 points, and you got to select 6 gemstones! We provided 3″ x 4.5″ cotton drawstring bags to hold your riches (I bought my bags from Nashville Wraps).

bag of gemstonesThe other prize was a chance to win a cardboard Toothless standee (purchased on Amazon for $30). Kids automatically got a chance to win when they first entered the theater, but at the Viking game table, 1 point equaled 1 extra chance to win. So 3 points equaled 3 more chances to win. The kids really liked that!

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Image courtesy of the Princeton Garden Theater

In addition to the hands-on activities, there was a reptile exhibit and live show by Enzo from The Lizard Guys. Enzo brought a terrific array of critters, and shared an astounding amount of knowledge with the kids and their parents.

reptiles

Here’s Marissa bonding with a blue-tongued skink. Soon, she will be a mighty Dragon Rider of Berk!

marissa pets the skinkFinally, it was time for the film. Having only seen it on my laptop, I can say I was completely blown away watching it on the big screen. The flying! The fire! The CLOUDS!

how to screen your dragon

I’d like to express my extreme gratitude to the Princeton Garden Theater for collaborating with us on this program. They were up for anything, and didn’t bat an eye when I asked if we could take over the lobby with multiple craft projects and bring in live reptiles. In fact, their response was a very enthusiastic “YES!” Thanks so much guys!

viking enjoying popcorn

A School of Sharing

school of sharingJoin this beautiful school of fish with their bright, sparkling scales! These easy-to-make fish were created with poster board and construction paper. Then we grabbed a set of sparkling rainbow scales and had a glittery share-fest. That’s right! You could only stick your scales on other peoples’ fish!

We read The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister (North-South Books, 1992). With his sparkling silver scales, Rainbow Fish is the most beautiful fish in the ocean. He’s also the most stuck up, making it clear that he’s too beautiful to accept invitations to play. When a little fish dares to ask for a silver scale, Rainbow Fish rudely tells him to go away. That does it. The other fish decide to ignore the snobby Rainbow Fish. With no audience to admire him, Rainbow Fish grows lonely. Seeking the council of the wise octopus, she advises him to give his shining scales away to the other fish. Only then will he discover what happiness is. So Rainbow Fish gives away his silver scales, and as he sees them glittering and flashing around him on the other fish, he realizes that he finally feels at home among his new friends.

You’ll need:

  • Poster board
  • A piece of self-adhesive foam (mine was a 1.75″ x 3″ oval )
  • 2 wiggle eyes
  • Hole punch
  • Construction paper
  • Small bits of cellophane
  • 1 pipe cleaner
  • Rainbow scales (more on this below!)
  • Scissors, glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating

Cut a fish shape from poster boar (we offered a choice of dark blue, purple, and light blue poster board). Because we wanted to leave plenty of room for decoration, our fish was extra-large (16″ from nose to end of tail). Here’s the outline:

fish shape

If you’d like a fish that fits on an 11″ x 17″ piece of paper, here’s the large fish template. Need something smaller? This small fish template fits on an 8.5″ x 11″ pieces of paper. I recommend cutting the fish shapes out in advance of story time. Another thing to cut in advance? Construction paper scales. We offered strips of purple, yellow, dark blue, and pink.

fish scalesTo create puffy lips for your fish, start with an oval of self-adhesive craft foam.

fish lips step1

Peel and stick it over the fish’s mouth.

fish lips step 2

Finally, use scissors to cut a smiley face in the foam.

fish lips step 3

Glue (or hot glue) a wiggle eye on both sides of the fish, and punch a hole in the top fin.

hole punch and fish eye

Decorate both sides of your fish with the construction paper scales and pieces of cellophane to add some shimmer (we offered blue and iridescent cello to add some shimmer). Just make sure you don’t cover the hole you punched in the top fin! Use markers to add some designs if you’d like. The final step is to loop a pipe cleaner through the hole so you can carry your fish easily.

completed fishNow for the sharing game…and…duh duh DUH…an EPIC STORY TIME CRAFTING FAIL!

rainbow scalesLook at these beautiful glittering scales! I found some sheets of self-adhesive hologram paper at Party City. Marissa painstakingly cut and peeled zillions of scales, and stuck each set on mylar. We tested peeling the scales off the mylar to make sure kids could do it quickly and easily.

It worked! Great. No problem.

To play the sharing game, we first gave kids a silver scale to start their fish off. Then we gave them a set of 4 scales (as seen above). The kids mingled around the gallery, sticking scales from their set onto other kids’ fish, making sure to share each color with a new person. At the same time, kids were accepting scales from other kids (the only rule was that you couldn’t accept a repeat color). Marissa, Joani and I circulated with extra sets of scales, to make sure no fish were going to be left out.

At least, that’s how we planned it.

Somehow, overnight, the hologram paper cooked onto the mylar. They were now impossible to peel off. Look at the scales again. Do you see how wrinkled the red one is at the top? That’s from me scrabbling at it with my fingernails, going “Nooo! No! NOOOO!”

rainbow scale failNo scale stickers meant no sharing game. Refusing to admit defeat, I sent Marissa and Joani over to quickly cut the strips of scales into individual scales. To buy them some cutting time, I whipped a roll of hologram smiley face stickers out of the cabinet.

smiley stickersI asked the kids to line up and, one at a time, tell me something nice that they had done for someone recently. Their good deed earned their fish a smiley face sticker AND a trip to see Marissa and Joani to get a set of scales hot glued onto their fish. Sure, it wasn’t the sharing game, but you still got a sparkly fish in the end.

one fishIf I was to do this again, I would definitely do the original sharing game. But I would use metallic dot stickers cut in half to replicate fish scales.

dot sticker fish scalesBecause I’ve learned my lesson. Peel the stickers off the original paper they come on. Don’t stick them on anything except the final product. Oooooooh yes.Interested in some other sharing and cooperative story times? Try this flower pot exchange, or these awesome viking vs. pirate cooperative games.

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!