The Vegetable Kingdom

the vegetable kingdomCraft a castle packed with phytochemicals! Behold towers of corn, asparagus, and carrot. Admire the eggplant and pepper wall fortifications. Stride through the cucumber slice gates. Vegetables have never looked so noble!

We read Scarlette Beane, written by Karen Wallace and illustrated by Jon Berkeley (Dial Books, 2000). Scarlette Beane was born with special green fingertips. When she turned 5, her Grandfather gave her a vegetable garden. She eagerly gardens with her twinkling green fingers and WOW! Overnight, Scarlette’s garden blooms with massive vegetables! The entire village shows up with bulldozers, forklifts, and chainsaws to enjoy soup served out of a concrete mixer. However, the Beane’s house is so tiny, everyone must eat in the garden. That night, Scarlette has an idea. She plants seeds, and, with a flash of her green fingers, an enormous vegetable castle grows in the Beane’s meadow! So of course, they move in and live happily ever after.

You’ll need:

  • 1 large box (mine was 4.5” X 4.5” x 9” – a large tissue box works too)
  • 1 box cutter
  • 1 corrugated cardboard base (I used a 14″ cake circle)
  • Paper towel tubes
  • Toilet paper tubes
  • Construction paper in assorted vegetable colors
  • Green tissue paper
  • 1 onion dome template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • Optional: green craft ties & twisteez wire
  • Scissors, tape, and glue for construction
  • Hot glue

The nice thing about this project is that you can decide what, and how much, to add to your castle. I’ll instruct you in everything we made at our story time, and then the agricultural architect in you can decide how much to add to your own castle.

For starters, cut the lid off a large box (if you’re using a tissue box, cut the top off). Use a box cutter to cut a drawbridge in the front of the box. Hot glue the box to a corrugated cardboard base.

vegetable castle base And now for the giant vegetables! Here they are, in no particular order.


ASPARAGUS

asparagusWe used a toilet paper tube, but if you want a taller stalk, cut a paper towel tube to the desired height. Wrap the tube with green construction paper. Cut 4 serrated leaves out of green construction paper, and tape (or hot glue) them close to the top of the tube. Pinch the tips of the leaves together, then secure them with tape or hot glue.


CARROT

carrotCut a paper towel tube to the desired height, then wrap it with orange construction paper. Add a little green construction paper fringe to the top. Drawing black lines around the carrot are optional!


BROCCOLI

broccoliCut a paper towel tube to the desired height, then wrap it with green construction paper. Crumble up a piece of green tissue paper and hot glue it to the top of the tube. To make the broccoli’s “floretes,” crumble up 4 smaller pieces of tissue paper, then hot glue them to the tops of four, 1.5″ x 2.25″ pieces of green construction paper. Tape or hot glue the floretes close to the top of the tube.


CORN

cornCut a paper towel tube to the desired height, then wrap it with yellow paper. To make the corn’s “husk,” wrap a piece of green construction paper 3/4 of the way around the tube. Cut three points in the top of the green paper. Attach the husk with glue or tape, leaving the front of the corn exposed.


CUCUMBER

cucumberCut a paper towel tube to the desired height, then wrap it with green construction paper. We cut castle parapets in the top as well. Use a green marker to draw cucumber lines and bumps.


CUCUMBER GATES

cucumber gatesCut a 1.5″ ring off the top of a toilet paper tube. Cut the ring in half and cover the tops of both sections with green construction paper. Use markers to draw cucumber lines and bumps.


MUSHROOM

mushroomCut a toilet paper tube to the desired height, then wrap it with brown paper. To make the mushroom’s cap, crumble brown tissue paper and wrap another piece of tissue paper over the crumbles. Squish the tissue paper to make a cap shape, then hot glue the cap to the top of the tube.


GREEN ONION

green onionCut a paper towel tube to the desired height, then wrap it with green construction paper. Next, wrap the top half of the tube with white paper. To make the bulb of the onion, cut the onion dome from the template. As you can see, it resembles a flower with multiple points. Fold each point inward toward the center of the template, then open it back up again.

dome step 1 and 2Gather two of the points over the center of the template and tape the tips together. Repeat with the remaining sets of points until you have 3 sets altogether.

dome step 3Gently push the 3 sets together over the center of the template, and tape together.

dome step 4

Whilst creating this onion bulb, you might need to do a little curling, pushing, and adjusting to get the dome just right. But don’t sweat it if it’s a little lopsided. It’s going to look awesome no matter what! Hot glue it top of the tube.


When you’ve completed all your vegetables, hot glue them to the castle walls and the base. We added some construction paper eggplant, peppers, and tomato slices to the perimeter, as well as some green tissue paper bushes. Optional but fun: green craft ties and Twisteez wire “vines,” and cardboard mosaic squares (ordered from Discount School Supply – a pack of 10,000 squares costs $12).

the vegetable kingdomThe final touch is a little flag! We used rock candy sticks and construction paper, but a drinking straw or a wooden coffee stirrer would work too. However, to obtain a castle flag at our story time you had to play giant carrot hide and seek.

I had been hording 4 big tubes in the office (from 24″ – 72″ tall!), and Marissa just happened had some spare orange paint at her house. Thus, giant carrot Thursday. We hid the giant carrots around our library’s plaza. Behold carrot in a tree…

carrot by tree

Carrot, reclined in tall grasses…

carrot in tall grasses

Carrot, in bushes (those bushes are also the site of reported Sasquatch sightings)…

carrot in bushesCarrot, frolicking amidst flowers…

carrot in flowers

Once the kids found all four carrots, they won a flag. Three cheers for giant vegetables!

So Very Verdant

so very verdantSpell something special with tissue paper topiary letters! Bedeck your initials, festoon your name, or spruce up your favorite word. Your personal topiary is guaranteed to stay green all year round, and no watering is required!

We read Grandpa Green by Lane Smith (Roaring Brook Press, 2011). A boy walks through a beautiful garden. As he walks, he narrates the life of his great-grandfather, which is in turn illustrated by the garden’s delightful topiary. And even though the boy admits that great-grandad tends to forget things these days – he is reassured to know the garden will always remember for him.

You’ll need:

  • 3-4 cups or tape cores for your topiary bases
  • 3-4 craft sticks (mine were 4.5″ long)
  • tagboard or thick poster board
  • Green tissue paper
  • Topiary base decorating supplies (full list later in the post!)
  • Masking tape, if needed
  • Scissors, glue, and tape for construction
  • Hot glue

Our topiary bases were packing tape cores. We had 90 suddenly arrive through our recycling program! If you don’t have packing tape cores handy, there are a couple alternatives you can go with (I’ll show you those in a minute).

If you are using a tape core, cut a circle of tagboard to cover the top of the core. Use a box cutter to make a small slit in the center of the tag board circle, then hot glue it to the top of the core. Insert a craft stick into the slit.

basic topiary baseIf you don’t have packing tape cores, use paper cups or paper soup containers. Simply flip them over, cut a slit in the bottom, and inset a craft stick into the slit.

alternative topiary basesSince these bases are lighter than the tape cores, they run the risk of tipping over after you attach your topiary letters. If this happens, simply hot glue some pennies or flat glass marbles to the insides of the cups.

The next step is to decorate your bases. We offered construction paper, embossed foil paper, craft ties, patterned paper in botanical prints, dot stickers, paper crinkle, flower stickers, butterfly stickers, ribbon, patterned tape, mesh tubing, sparkle stems, pipe cleaners, and crepe paper streamers. We tried to keep everything in soft botanical colors – greens, yellows, and whites.

completed topiary baseWhen the bases are finished, it’s time for your topiary letters! We asked the kids to limit themselves to 4 letters or less (and we announced this at the very beginning of the project, so they would know how many bases to decorate). After some experimentation, we determined that 6″ letters looked best. We whipped up some topiary letter templates for kids to trace onto tagboard (or poster board). To decorate the letter, ball up 4″ x 4″ squares of green tissue paper, and glue them to one side of the letter.

topiary CWhen the letter is done, hot glue it to the craft stick. Repeat until you have all your letters mounted on their bases:

DCSYou might wonder why we went with topiary letters instead of animals or objects. We did try a few animals and objects, but they became quite unrecognizable after the tissue paper was glued on. The letters held their shapes extremely well, and it never hurts to get an early start on letter recognition! Some topiary letters did go floppy from the glue, however. If this happens to you, simply use extra craft sticks to reinforce the back of the letter.

reinforced MAnother thing you can do to reduce floppiness? Use masking tape to secure the craft stick to the base. Here’s a shot of some tape stuck inside the base:

taped stick in baseUsually, our craft area is loud and boisterous during the projects. But for this particular project, the room was filled with quiet concentration as kids put their gardens together. Perhaps it was the soothing botanical colors?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We did this project the Friday before Mother’s Day, and 3 kids decided to turn their projects into a gift for Mom. Fantastic!

Flowers for Friends

flowers from marissaMake three cheerful flower pots, then share one with a friend! Not only was this a fun creative activity, it was a lovely lesson on the joy of giving and receiving. Not into flowers? No problem. We also offered a strawberry plant and a cactus!

We read Lola Plants a Garden, written by Anna McQuinn, and illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw (Charlesbridge, 2014). Lola loves garden poems, especially Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary. So Lola and her Mommy read books about gardens, buy seeds, and plant them. Even though it’s a bit of a wait for the first green shoots to appear, the flowers eventually grow and bloom in the warm sun. Lola invites her friends over to enjoy her garden and try some crunchy peas and plump strawberries Mommy grew. For Lola, one of the best things about growing a garden is sharing it with others.

You’ll need:

  • 3 paper cups (plastic works too – we offered both!)
  • A selection of patterned tape
  • 1 garden template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • Green pipe cleaners & sparkle stems
  • Green craft ties
  • Green construction paper
  • Green masking tape
  • A selection of crepe paper streamers
  • A selection of tissue paper
  • 1 toilet paper tube (if you’re making a cactus)
  • 1 gift label template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 wooden coffee stirrer
  • 1 corrugated cardboard base (approximately 4.5″ x 14″)
  • 1 plastic lizard (optional)
  • Scissors, tape, and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Here’s what a finished project looks like: 3 flower pots (one of which was given to you by someone else), 2 butterflies, and 1 plastic lizard, all hot glued to a corrugated cardboard base.

finished potsBefore you start the project, it’s important to remind the kids that one of their flower pots will be given away as a gift. For some kids, it’s not easy to give away something they just made! But with plenty of warning, they can get used to the idea while they are working on the project. That said, I made the gift-giving portion of the program completely optional (and one kid did decide to keep all three of her pots).

On to the project! We offered a selection of paper or plastic cups as “flower pots” (this is a great time to dig around in the cabinets of ye olde staff lounge). Select 3 cups and decorate them with patterned tape (and/or markers). Color and cut the desired flora from the garden template, attach them to pipe cleaners (and/or sparkle stems), and tape the stems inside the cup.

purple flowersTo make a sunflower, use a large (18oz) plastic cup. They’re about 5″ tall – anything shorter is going to tip over. Roll a 4.5″ x 9″ piece of green construction paper into a tube. This is your sunflower’s “stalk.” Tape the stalk to the back of the sunflower head, then hot glue the stalk inside the cup. Tuck some green tissue paper around the stalk and tape some big green leaves to it.

sunflowerAnd speaking of leaves, we prepped a variety of leaves, shoots, and vines for kids to use, as well as green pipe cleaner, sparkle stem, and craft tie pieces.

leaves and stemsWe also provided crepe paper streamers and tissue paper for artists who wanted to craft flowers from scratch:

tissue flowersTo make the lovely blue flowers in the photo below, pinch one end of a 40″ – 42″ crepe paper streamer together, then wrap the “pinch point” repeatedly with the rest of the streamer. When you’re done, secure the pinch point with green masking tape, and attach it to a green pipe cleaner. I take no credit for this flower pot – it’s all Marissa and her mad crepe paper skills!

blue flowersTo make a strawberry plant, start with a slightly wider paper cup (the one below is actually a hot soup container). Loosely ball some green tissue paper and push it into the cup. Tape the strawberries (from the garden template) to pipe cleaner pieces, then tape the pipe cleaners into the cup. Glue a spread of green leaves to the top of the tissue ball, and add white blooms on top.

strawberry plantMoving along to an entirely different climate, Marissa came up with this awesome cactus. It’s a toilet paper tube covered in green tissue paper and dropped into a cup (depending on the height of your cup, you might need to bolster the cactus up a bit with more tissue paper). Use little dabs of glue to attach yellow tissue scrap “spines” to the cactus.

cactusYou’ll notice that many of the above flower pots have butterflies on them. The butterflies are on the garden template. Color them in, fold the wings up gently alongside the body, and hot glue them to the pots (or directly onto the flowers).

When all the flower pots were finished, I handed each kid a gift tag. The tags were colored, signed, attached to a wooden coffee stirrer, and tucked into the gift pots. Then the gift pots were gathered on a table. One by one, I called the kids forward and gave them a pot (make sure you have one extra pot in the pile so the last kid in line gets a choice). I got one too! Check out my beautiful gift from Gabrielle!

gift flowersWhen the gift-giving concluded, we hot glued the 3 pots to a corrugated cardboard base. I hot glued a little plastic lizard on there as well.

finished potsAnd there you have it. A little creativity and sharing on display!