This Tea Party RULES


It might look like a proper tea table with matching teapot, cups, saucers, sugar bowl, creamer, and a platter of cookies. But beware! Your guests want those cookies something fierce, and aren’t afraid to get grabby in our fast-paced cookie snatching game! Video, of course, at the end of the post.

We read Tea Party Rules, written by Ame Dyckman, and illustrated by K.G. Campbell (Viking, 2013). A bear cub follows the delicious smell of cookies to a little girl’s tea party. Pretending to be the girl’s stuffed bear, the cub eagerly awaits the moment when he can devour the cookies. He’s got her completely fooled, but then the girl decides that her toy bear needs to follow the “Tea Party Rules.” In other words, he needs to be clean, neat, fancy, and dainty. Poor Cub is subjected to a bath, ribbons, perfume and a dress. But when it comes time for a lecture on dainty eating, he snaps. He attacks the cookies. When only one cookie remains, Cub stops. Suddenly, he realizes that he’s not only ruined the tea party, he’s made the girl very sad. So he gives the final cookie to her. Does she eat daintily? No she does not. She decides it’s time to play BEAR!

You’ll need:

  • 9 – 10 paper cups
  • 1 corrugated cardboard base (I used a 9.75″ x 13.75″ cake pad)
  • A selection of patterned tape
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • 1 small paper plate (mine was 7″ in diameter)
  • 1 spouts template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • Extra poster board for tea set handles, spouts, and sugar tongs
  • 1 small pom-pom
  • 2 circles of white poster board (approximately 3.5″ in diameter)
  • 3 circles of tag board or brown poster board (approximately 3.5″ in diameter)
  • 3 button magnets
  • 1 rectangle of or brown poster board (approximately 2.5″ x 9.25″)
  • 1 rectangle of white poster board (approximately 3.5″ x 9.25″)
  • 2 jumbo paper clips (mine were 2″ long)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

finished-tea-tableThis project consists of 1) A tea set with cookies; and 2)  A pair hand grabbers for the snatching game. The cookies have magnets hot glued to them, and the hand grabbers have paper clips taped to them. Thus, when the hand slaps down on the cookie, it picks it up!

glove-with-cookieWe’ll begin with the tea set. To make the table, hot glue 4 paper cups to the bottom of a corrugated cardboard base. The cookie platter is a flipped-over cup hot glued to a small paper plate. You don’t want the cookie platter to be too tall, so you can either cut a full size paper cup down to 2.25″ inches, or use a shorter cup (we used 3.5oz plastic drinking cups from Target). Decorate the platter and table with patterned tape, colored masking tape, and/or markers. Then hot glue the platter firmly to the top of the table.

tea-tableTo make the teapot, flip a paper cup over, then tape (or hot glue) a poster board handle to one side. Cut the spout from the template and trace it onto white poster board. Fold the tea pot spout in half (the fold is marked with a solid black line on the template). Next, fold the spout’s tabs outward (the tabs are marked with dotted lines on the template). Attach the tabs to the tea pot with tape (or hot glue). Finish by hot gluing a small pom-pom to the top of the tea pot.

tea-pot-and-tea-cupsTo make tea cups, cut 2 paper cups down to 2″. Use tape (or hot glue) to attach a white poster board handle to the side of each cup. Then place the cups on a white poster board “saucers.” Decorate the teapot, cups, and saucers with patterned tape, colored masking tape, and/or markers.

Next up – the sugar bowl and creamer. To make the sugar bowl, cut a paper cup down to 1.5″. Drop a paper baking cup inside for extra flair. To make tongs, fold a narrow strip of poster board in half. Those cute little sugar cubes? Foam packing peanuts, cut in half.

sugar-bowl-and-creamerThe creamer is a paper cup cut down to 2″. Cut the creamer spout from the template, and trace it into poster board. Fold the spout in half (the fold is marked with a solid black line on the template). Next, fold the spout’s tabs outward (the tabs are marked with dotted lines on the template). Attach the tabs to the cup with tape (or hot glue). We filled the creamer with white cotton ball “cream.”

Finally…the cookies. These are circles of tagboard (or poster board) decorated with markers. We made 3 cookies per kid. Hot glue a button magnet to the back of each cookie.


Now for the game! We had 2 hand grabbers – a bear paw and a fancy white glove. To make the bear’s paw, round one end of a 2.5″ x 9.25″ strip of tag board (or brown poster board). To make the glove, cut a hand in one end of a 3.5″ x 9.25″ strip of white poster board. Tape a jumbo paperclip across the palms of both grabbers.

game-handsReady to play? Have 2 kids select a grabber and sit down at the table. On “Go!” each kid must use his/her grabber to quickly remove cookies from the platter. The kid who grabs the most cookies, wins!

Don’t Get Caught

dont-get-caughtNavigate your way through a laser maze, steal a bear from a snoring sleeper, and snag some hidden diamonds. Stealthiness, sneakiness, and silence are strongly encouraged at To Be Continued, our story time for 6-8 year-olds!

We read Pilfer Academy by Lauren Magaziner (Dial Books, 2016). George isn’t a bad kid, but he just can’t seem to keep his hands off his siblings’ stuff. His older brothers’ stereo, for example. Those comic books he’s not supposed to touch. The $10 on the night table. His sister’s private diary. When George is once again caught red-handed, he bolts out of the house…and is kidnapped by a pair of inept ice-cream truck drivers. As it turns out, the truck is a fake, and the drivers are faculty at Pilfer Academy, an elite school for master thievery. George soon finds himself taking classes like Stealth 101, Practical Applications of Breaking and Entering, and Intro to Gadgetry. But when it comes time to steal for his midterm exam, George discover that he feels horrible about it. Now George and his talented friend Tabitha must find a way to escape Pilfer Academy. Would I be giving too much away if I tell you the escape involves guard chickens, a pit of spaghetti, a deadly laser room, and a runaway mansion?

Story Time Task #1: In the book, George and Tabitha navigate a laser obstacle course, something I’ve been dying to create ever since I spotted this fantastic piece of fun. To create the course, we zig-zagged green crepe paper streamers on our gallery bridge. The streamers were attached with masking tape.

laser-obstacle-courseStarting at the bottom of the bridge, kids had to squeeze, crawl, and slide through the course without touching a single “laser beam.” I stood nearby, making “Zzzzzt!” laser noises at key moments.

navigating-the-lasersStory Time Task #2: George’s midterm exam involves stealing a teddy bear from a sleeping toddler. I grabbed a bear puppet, flopped on some pillows, closed my eyes, and started snoring wildly.

dr-dana-snoresOne by one, the kids had to sneak up and grab the bear without me noticing them (and they were quite astonishingly good at this). To increase the challenge, sometimes I would randomly thrash around in my sleep, throw the bear around, or grab it tightly to my chest.

stealing-the-bearStory Time Task #3: The diamond hunt. Pilfer Academy is a massive Gothic mansion with arches, spires, and stained-glass windows. I thought it would be fantastic to immerse kids in a similar environment, so we headed over to one of my favorite places, the Chancellor Green Rotunda.

chancellor-green-rotundaThis beautiful room was once the original library for Princeton University. Now it’s a study space for the Andlinger Humanities Center. Here’s a shot of its elegant stained-glass dome.

rotunda-skylightOn this particular afternoon, however, the room was full of hidden diamonds!

bag-of-diamondsI found these acrylic diamonds in the wedding section of Michaels Craft store. A $5 pack contained over 75 diamonds of assorted sizes (from 0.75″ to 1″). I hid the larger diamonds in various locations in the room.

diamond-in-windowSometimes I got a little sneaky. Can you spot the diamond in the wood paneling below?

diamond-in-wooden-panelOne by one, kids went searching for diamonds in the room. Once you found two diamonds, it was another person’s turn to search. And you had to be completely silent while searching!

search-for-diamondsAt the end of the program, each kid got to take home a little drawstring bag with some diamonds in it. Score!

This book was a terrific read-aloud, and we had a total blast with the activities – but it gets even better. Last weekend, the Princeton Public Library held their annual Children’s Book Festival, and guess who I got to meet?

lauren-magazinerThat’s right! Lauren Magaziner herself! Totally rocking a bandit mask, I must say. Thanks for the fantastic book Lauren. We absolutely loved it.

p.s. – Total props for using the word “collywobbles” in your book. The kids didn’t believe it was an actual word. We looked it up in the dictionary!

Natty Nessie Neckwear

nessie-neckgearNever has a Loch Ness Monster sighting had so much style! Customize a super-long Nessie scarf, then circle the scarf on the floor to create a tossing game that involves…believe it or not…a bowl of oatmeal!

We read The Luck of the Loch Ness Monster: A Tale of Picky Eating, written by A.W. Flaherty, and illustrated by Scott Magoon (Houghton Mifflin, 2007). Little Katerina-Elizabeth is going to visit her grandmother in Scotland, and it’s her very first time traveling alone on a big ocean liner. Her parents, planning ahead, select what they believe to be the absolute best breakfast food for their little girl. Oatmeal. Katerina-Elizabeth loathes oatmeal and promptly tosses it out a porthole. The oatmeal is discovered by a tiny sea worm who eagerly eats it and grows twice its size. The sea worm follows the ship across the ocean, gobbling the oatmeal as fast as Katerina-Elizabeth can toss it overboard. They form a friendship that lasts all the way to Loch Ness where the boat disembarks. There, the sea worm discovers that Scottish children also hate oatmeal. It circles Loch Ness, grazing on oatmeal and growing to monstrous proportions. To keep the tourists intrigued and the oatmeal coming, the Loch Ness Monster allows itself to be seen on rare occasions. But the most famous sighting is when the sea worm rises out of the water to give Katerina-Elizabeth a friendly smooch as she sails home. I won’t give away the very end of the story, but rest assured it had all the parents at story time cracking up!

You’ll need:

We wanted the kids to have really long scarves for this project, but we didn’t want them tripping over their new neckwear! Ultimately, we went with 5″ x 56″ scarves that we shaped into round heads, tapered bodies, and dragon-like tails. We also hot glued green felt fins towards the front end of the scarves (about 13″ down from the top of the head). We prepped the scarves in advance. Here’s a shot of an undecorated scarf so you can see the shape:

nessie-scarf-shapeAt story time, we gave kids a whole pile of self-adhesive foam to cut and apply to their scarves (just make sure you test how well the adhesive sticks to your felt – ours stuck surprisingly well). Hot glue wiggle eyes and a pair of 12″ curling ribbon whiskers on the head, and you’re done!

nessie-faceKids got really creative with their Loch Ness Monsters. Here’s just a few I managed to snap. This one’s got a pretty fantastic pair of lips:

nessie-1And this one’s sporting an impressive set of teeth…

nessie-2There were flowers…

nessie-3And manicures!

nessie-4But here’s my favorite. This little girl spent a long time making a color gradient down her Loch Ness Monster’s back. She did this all by herself!

nessie-5To make the oatmeal bowl for the toss game, decorate a paper bowl with patterned tape and self-adhesive foam. Fill the bowl with a handful of polyester fill. Don’t glue or tape the oatmeal in the bowl. It’s funnier when it flies out during the toss game!

bowl-of-oatmealMake as many bowls of oatmeal as you like. Then circle the scarf on the floor, step back, and try to toss the bowls into the circle.

nessie-ring-tossIf the circle toss is a little too challenging, stretch the scarf straight and toss the oatmeal over it like a finish line!

nessie-line-tossWhen you’re done with the toss game, drape your Nessie around your shoulders for the ultimate look in Loch Ness apparel.


Speaking of mysterious creature sightings, did you know that Bigfoot has been spotted twice on this blog? You can catch a glimpse here and here!