Why So Blue, Chicken?

blue chickenSeeing blue chickens? Do not adjust your monitor. Cerulean poultry are a perfectly normal story time occurrence.

We read Blue Chicken by Deborah Freedman (Penguin, 2011). An illustration of a barnyard sits on a drawing board. It’s almost finished – until a white chicken gets loose from the page and tips over a pot of blue ink! Now, nothing looks right. The ducks are no longer yellow, the pansies are no longer purple, and the other farm animals are totally peeved. Luckily, a dash of water will set things right!

To celebrate that adventurous blue chicken, we made some box birds, cozy nests, and then headed outside for a multi-color egg hunt!

You’ll need:

  • A long strip of white poster board (approximately 2.25″ x 22″)
  • A sturdy, 7″ paper plate
  • 1 box ( mine was 4.5″ x 4.5″ x 6″ – a small tissue box works too!)
  • Blue, white, yellow, and brown construction paper
  • A pair of wiggle eyes
  • 9-12 small feathers, blue of course!
  • 4-6 plastic eggs
  • Stapler, scissors, tape and glue for construction
  • Hot glue

We’ll begin with the nest (which is a replica of the nest from this egg beauty contest). Circle a strip of white poster board around the outside of a paper plate and staple it securely (you’ll need to remove the circle from around the plate to staple it properly).

nest step 1Slide the paper plate back inside the circle, pushing it all the way to the bottom.

nest step 2Now flip the “nest” over and use tape to reinforce the connection between the plate and the circle. I used at least 4 pieces of tape:

nest step 3I also reinforced the inside connection with a ring of hot glue.

nest step 4Finally, decorate your nest with uneven and crinkled strips of brown construction paper. Attach the strips to the nest with tape and/or glue.

finished chicken nestSet the nest aside, it’s time for the chicken!

finished blue chickenWrap a box with blue construction paper. Glue a pair of yellow paper feet on the bottom, and blue paper wings on either side. Make a red paper cone beak, and hot glue it to the front of the box. Add a pair of wiggle eyes, or simply draw the eyes on with markers. Glue or tape feathers to the wings (add tail feathers to the rear if desired). Use red paper to make a comb for your chicken’s head. Then tab it and glue or tape it to the top of the box.

chicken comb attachedWhen the chickens were done, we headed outside to the library’s plaza, where we had hidden a bunch of plastic eggs. We told the kids they needed to find 5 eggs each, then shouted “1-2-3 Go!” To insure success, we tried to make the hiding places fairly obvious (and even held a few back to drop right in front of the kids while they were hunting):

egg hunt 1egg hunt 2egg hunt 3egg hunt 4egg hunt 5egg hunt 6You might recognize that ornate door from this post. It’s actually one of the side doors of the University Chapel, which shares the plaza with my library. If you’d like to take your eggs home in style, consider adding some blue paper crinkle to the nest. Awwww…so cute…now why does this make me think of marshmallow Peeps?

nest with crinkle

Let’s Do Donuts

lets do donutsThe shop is open, the customers are arriving, and you, the donut chef, must make the most delicious, different, and decadent donuts you possibly can. But wait, there’s more! Your donut shop doubles as a matching game, thanks to the coupons tucked behind the counter!

We read The Donut Chef by Bob Staake (Golden Books, 2008). A donut chef owns a very popular donut shop. But when another donut shop opens on the very same block, the two chefs start competing for customers. They keep their shops open later, up the frosting level, and introduce unique flavors such as “Peanut-Brickle Buttermilk” and “Gooey Coca-Mocha Silk.” As things escalate, the donuts get weirder. There are square donuts, calamari donuts, pointy donuts, and cone donuts. So when little Debbie Sue walks in and orders a plain glazed donut, the donut chef is completely taken aback. Plain? But he whips one up and Debbie Sue loves it. And as his customers clamor for more of those plain glazed donuts, the donut chef realizes what his customers really want. Simple, delicious, donuts.

You’ll need:

Here’s the finished set with all its pieces. If you don’t have a clear plastic box to make a display case, don’t worry! I’ll have an alternative display option for you a little later in the post.

donut shop with partsFirst, glue a piece of patterned paper (or construction paper) to the top of the corrugated cardboard base. It’s OK if it doesn’t cover the entire base. Decorate a box with patterned tape and/or markers (we also used star stickers). Hot glue the box to the base, but not smack in the middle. You’ll need to leave a little room in the front for your shop signs, and a little room on the right-hand side for an extra counter.

donut shop step 1Fold, then tape a piece of tagboard to the side of the box to create the extra counter.

donut shop step 2Set the base aside for a moment, it’s time for donuts! Because we wanted to display, remove, and reset the donuts on the tray, we made them magnetic. Use markers to decorate various foam beads like “donuts,” then attach a little piece of self-adhesive magnetic tape to the back. Attach a matching piece of magnetic tape to a tagboard “tray.” We made 2 trays of donuts for our shops.

donuts on trayI made display cases for the shop using leftover plastic boxes from this firefly lantern project. As you can see in the photo below, I slid a triangular white poster board base inside the plastic box, then placed the donut tray on top.

display caseIf you don’t have a plastic box, just use the triangular base! To keep your donut tray from sliding off, tape a small piece of plastic drinking straw to the bottom of the base.

simple standYour shop will need a cash register, and you might recognize the one on the template from  this lemonade stand story time (which, curiously, also featured a book by Bob Staake). First, fold the bottom tab of your register inwards like so:

cash register step 1Then, fold both sides downwards from the base like this:

cash register step 2Curl the tab around to meet the opposite side of the register

cash register step 3Then secure the tab with tape. Hot glue (or tape) the register to the extra counter.

cash register step 4I couldn’t resist adding a napkin holder to the set too. It’s a folded piece of silver poster board with little bits of paper towel tucked into it. Hot glue (or tape) it to the counter.

napkinsThe blank signs on the template get colored in and attached to folded pieces of tagboard.

shop signAnd finally…the giant donut sign! Write the name of your shop on the banner, and tape (or glue) it across the giant donut. Tape the sign to a wooden dowel, then tape the dowel to the side of the extra counter. Here’s a finished stand with a display case:

finished shop with caseAnd here’s the version with the simple display stand. Both are totally adorable.

finished shop with standWe had some blank white visors in the art cabinet (from Discount School Supply – 24 cost $9), so I dug them out and we decorated them with the names of our donut shop as well.

donut shop visorYour shop is ready, now you need to entice your customers to try some donuts! We developed a simple coupon matching game for the kids. Print the coupons from the template, then draw donuts on the coupons that match the donuts in your case. As your customers arrive with their coupons, see how fast you can find and match their orders!

donut couponsMake sure to hot glue (or tape) an envelope to the back of the counter for convenient coupon storage.

coupon envelopeWe wish you the sweetest success in all your donut endeavors!

Books Done Wrong

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The life of a book is fraught with danger. Readers dribble food, bend pages, and spill beverages. Bugs nibble, sun burns, mildew blooms, and dogs gnaw. As a result, there are some pretty gross books out there. But “gross” works for kids, so I decided to combine grossness and literacy with a little investigative fun.

In 2010, I designed a “Books Done Wrong” table at the Princeton Public Library’s Children’s Book Festival. I displayed damaged books (labeled “Exhibit A, B, C” and so forth) on a table along with some large magnifying glasses. Nearby was a police lineup that matched the damage on the books to the perpetrators (I drew a police lineup backdrop and stood little cardboard versions of the perps in front of it).

Alas, these were the pre-blog days, so the above photo is the only one I have of the event table (like the fedora?). But I did ask our student artist, Aliisa Lee, to create a line up of repeat offenders. Meet Pen Marks, Sunshine, Water Damage, Silverfish, Food Spills, Mildew, and Chomping Dog.

lineup of book baddiesAt the event, kids examined the books and guessed who damaged what book. If they identified the perpetrators correctly, they were awarded a small plastic magnifying glass. I bought mine from Educational Innovations. Cheaper (but lower quality) magnifying glasses can be found at Oriental Trading Company.

So that was my little event table.

Leave it to The Metropolitan Museum of Art to take it to the next level.

For starters, did you know The Met has multiple libraries? One of them, the Nolen Library in the Ruth and Harold D. Uris Center for Education is open to museum visitors and researchers of Art History. Even better, the Nolen Library has a children’s section, complete with storytimes!

Web_Learn_Kids and Families_Resource Card_Nolen Library Family_Filip Wolak

Courtesy of the Nolen Library. Photograph by Filip Wolak.

Even the littlest museum patrons can browse relevant picture books and computer programs. And just look at these amazingly stylish computer stools!

computer stationsLast year, when The Met launched MetKids (their digital feature for tweens), the Nolen Library and book conservation staff from the Thomas J. Watson Library put together a beautiful demonstration of the intersection between books, science, art, and conservation. Here’s the team (from left to right): Yukari Hayashida, Leah High, Jenny Davis, Dana Hart, Naomi Niles, and Chelsea DeGlopper.

met teamThe exhibit was spread over two large tables. At the first table you could find things like damaged books, sample of paper, and posters of pests.

damaged bookbook posterpapersdamaged pagesHere’s my personal favorite – a microscope that shows a buggy book muncher up close.

bug microscopenibbled bookbug on screenHere’s a book catalog the conservators water-damaged on purpose for the event. So if you’re thinking of doing a similar table, and can’t find damaged books in your personal collection, feel free to customize one that would otherwise end up in the recycle bin!

water damageAt the second exhibit table, there was information on how to fix books, including the various materials conservators use.

presentationI really loved this – a laptop showing before and after shots of fixed books:

before and afterDuring the event, conservators gave a presentation, encouraged kids to touch and explore, and fielded all sorts of questions.

table crowdThe library also hosted a bookplate-making activity in a side room. On display were some of their fascinating historic bookplates (the real ones – not reproductions!).

historic bookplatesNearby were plenty of art materials to make your own bookplate. Fantastic!

bookplate suppliesbookplateIf you haven’t been to The Met, by all means go. After my family and I left the MetKids event, we explored the rest of the museum. We were not prepared for how astounding, amazing, gigantic, and beautiful it was. I always wondered why Claudia wanted to run away to The Met and how the siblings managed to stay hidden (I speak, of course, of From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler). But now I understand. I understand!

Many thanks to Leah High at the Nolen Library, and the conservators from the Thomas J. Watson Library, for letting me come and photograph their fantastic, and incredibly educational, event table. Thank you!


Children’s Book Festival photograph courtesy of the Princeton Public Library.