Bird, House, Hat

bird house hatEvery bird needs a home, and this deluxe house has everything one needs – doors, windows, a chimney, flowers, and a white picket fence. Best of all, it’s a HAT!

We read Brimsby’s Hats by Andrew Prahin (Simon & Schuster, 2014). Brimsby the hatmaker lives in a quiet cottage. His life is full of making hats and chatting with his best friend over tea. But one morning, his friend announces that he’s off to pursue adventures on the high seas, and Brimsby becomes very lonely. Trudging through the snow on a solitary walk, he finds some birds who might make good friends. Unfortunately, they’re too busy shoveling snow out of their nests to chat. That gives Brimsby a tremendous idea. He eagerly sets to work, making hat houses for all the birds. Once the hat houses are in place, there’s no more snow shoveling, no more freezing nights, and the birds are free to visit their new friend!

You’ll need:

This is an incredibly easy project that only involves a few steps:

  1. Circle the crown of the hat with construction paper and/or patterned paper
  2. Create a hatband using the white picket fences from the template
  3. Cut, color, and attach the windows, door, and welcome mat from the template
  4. Add tissue paper shrubs (hot glue is best when attaching these to the hat)
  5. Attach flowers from the template to pipe cleaner stems, then tape them to the hat

If you’d like a chimney, roll a piece of construction paper into a 4″ tube, cut three, 1″ tabs in the bottom, spread the tabs, and attach them to the top of hat using tape or hot glue.

finished house hatNow for the bird! Wrap a toilet paper tube in white construction paper. Then, wrap another color of construction paper three-quarters of the way around the bird, thus creating a white tummy. Add wings, eyes, and a beak (our beak was a snippet of self-adhesive foam). Tape a small feather to the top of the tube.

bird for houseIntroduce the bird to its new home (if the hats are a little big, stuff them with tissue paper)!

bird meets house

Run Cookie, Run!

run cookie runYes, that’s me. Dressed as a giant gingerbread cookie, on the run from some extremely determined children. We made adorable (and non-edible) gingerbread houses with a surprise inside. Pull the peppermint loop on the roof, and up pops a gingerbread person! However, in order to get one of those little gingerbread persons, you have to catch the BIG one first (scroll to the bottom of the post for the video)!

pop up gingerbread demoWe read The Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1999). On a cold, snowy day, Matti and his mother decide to make gingerbread. The cookbook instructs them to bake the cookie for eight minutes without peeking, but Matti can’t resist. He opens the oven and out leaps a feisty Gingerbread Baby, who promptly bolts out the door. A merry chase ensues involving Matti’s parents, the cat, the dog, the goats, two girls, a pig, a fox, a milk & cheese man, and assorted villagers. But clever Matti has his own plan. He builds an enticing gingerbread house, leaves it in the woods, and the Gingerbread Baby dashes inside. Home sweet home!

You’ll need:

  • 1 small box (I used a 4″ x 4″ x 4″ box, a small tissue box works too)
  • 1 rectangle of tagboard for the roof (mine was 4″ x 9.5″)
  • 1 square of tagboard for the door (mine was 3.25″ x 3.35″)
  • 2 pipe cleaners (1 white & 1 red)
  • Gingerbread house decorating supplies (full list in the post)
  • Brown wrapping paper or packing paper
  • Tape, glue, and scissors for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue
  • Optional gingerbread person costume (more on that later!)

You’ll definitely need a box with a lid for this project. I’ll demonstrate with the box we used first, and then I’ll show you how to build the project using a small tissue box. First, fold a rectangle of tagboard into thirds to create a roof. Hot glue the roof to the lid of your box. Fold a square of tagboard in half, then hot glue it to the front of the box to create your house’s front door.

basic gingerbread houseTwist a red and a white pipe cleaner together. Circle the pipe cleaners into a loop, and twist them together tightly at the bottom. Tape the peppermint loop to the lid of your box, bending any excess pipe cleaner underneath the lid.

peppermint loopIf you don’t have a box like mine, no problem! Just use a small tissue box. Flip the tissue box over (so the bottom is facing up) and use a box cutter to cut a square lid. Then follow the same steps for the roof, door, and peppermint loop. Here’s what a tissue box version of the house looks like:

tissue box gingerbread houseWhen the basic house is done, all you have to do is decorate! We offered self-adhesive foam pieces (which I used to shingle my roof), white pipe cleaners, mini craft sticks, little squares of colorful paper, large gemstones, mini pom-poms, rickrack ribbon, construction paper we had cut into icing scallops, and striped paper straws.

finished gingerbread houseMarkers can also be used, especially if you want to draw a gingerbread person peeking out of the front door! We found that metallic markers worked best on the brown tagboard.

front door of gingerbread houseFinally, the gingerbread person that pops up when you tug the peppermint loop! Marissa and I prepped the gingerbread people in advance (we cut them out of brown packing paper and colored them with metallic markers). My only tip is to make sure the cookie fits neatly inside your house. In our early attempts, the cookie’s arms were too long. They jutted out past the roof, which, when closed, looked rather torturous for the cookie.

gingerbread cookie 2Attach your gingerbread person to the underside of the lid with tape. Done!

pop up cookieYou could stop there and be finished with the project. But we decided to take it one step further. In order to get that little gingerbread cookie, you had to catch the BIG one first!

gingerbread person approachesI used brown packing paper to create this stupendous costume (the thicker the paper, the better). The paper roll wasn’t wide enough to cover my full arm span, so we taped 2 long pieces of the paper together, reinforcing the seam with extra-wide masking tape. I didn’t photograph the step with the big taped pieces of paper, but here is a shot of a tape seam on one of the finished costume pieces:

masking tape seamSince you want the masking tape seams on the inside of the costume, flip one of the taped pieces of paper over. The taped seams should now face each other. Then lay down on the paper and have someone trace your body in the shape of a cookie. A couple things to keep in mind while doing this:

  1. Leave LOTS of room around your body while tracing. Otherwise, the costume is going to be too tight and rip very quickly.
  2. The paper isn’t very flexible, so your arms will have to be stuck straight out while wearing (and running in) this costume.
  3. Your feet will need to stick out the bottom of the costume. You don’t want to trip while running around in it!
  4. You’ll need a tall, round head to complete the look.

I’m 5’6″, so my costume was 81.5″ tall, and 68″ wide. Here’s the finished shape:

finished cookie piecesTo “stitch” the pieces together, we made a double seam of hot glue and staples. The hot glue goes first, and should be about 1″ from the edge of the paper. Really goop it on! The staple seam should be about 0.5″ from the edge of the paper. Each staple should be no more than 0.75″ apart.

IMPORTANT! While gluing and stapling the seams, you DO NOT want to close the area under the feet or inside the legs (outlined in red below). You need this part open so you can put the costume on.

no seams hereOnce the seams are done, have the person who will be wearing the costume slide it over his/her head. You will definitely need help with this step! Marissa stood on a stool and gently lowered the costume while I shimmied my arms into place. Then we marked where my mouth was and trimmed the excess paper from around my feet. That’s when this photo appeared on our Instagram. It was a bit claustrophobic in there!

Then Marissa, back up on the stool, slowly pulled the costume off. Using the mark we had made by my mouth, we cut an opening for my face, and added paper plate eyes with pom-pom pupils, masking tape icing, and pom-pom buttons.

finished cookie costumeThey’re hard to see in the above photo, but there are additional paper patches hot glued along the cookie’s armpits. When I tried the costume on the first time, the armpits ripped right away, so we added the patches to reinforce those areas.

We also figured the head of the costume was going to blow off while I was running, so we stapled a poster board head band to the front of the costume (right above the mouth). It worked, but only for a little while. The main problem was that once the head band slipped off, I couldn’t put it back on (my hand was encased in a paper mitten!).

head band inside costumeWhen it was time for the cookie chase, Marissa and I ducked out of the library with the costume, a stapler, and the cookie prizes. We hid behind a building, and, using some stairs to get some height, Marissa slid the costume over my head. Then she used the stapler to quickly close the seams along the insides of my legs.

When the kids were gathered outside the library, I walked out where they could spot me…and the chase was on!


The costume starting ripping right away, but the kids did not care. All they saw was a cookie in need of pursuit. It was like Lord of the Flies meets Candy Land! When the chase was over, all the kids were award a cookie and a high five.

high fives for all

Has this post made you hungry for some real gingerbread? Check out this truly astounding Strega Nona gingerbread cottage! Mmmmm…

So Doggone Cute

itty bitty homeDo not adjust your monitor. The cuteness you are seeing is correct. That is an itty bitty dog proudly standing in front of his bone house in a field of daisies. Inside the house – an itty bitty sofa, rug, wall art, table, lamp, and book too!

We read Itty Bitty by Cece Bell (Candlewick Press, 2009). Itty Bitty is a very very tiny dog. One day, while on a stroll, he discovers an enormous bone. Soon Itty Bitty has hollowed out the bone (and added windows and a door to boot). But the bone is so big and empty, it just doesn’t feel right. So Itty Bitty goes SHOPPING! In the “Teeny-Weeny Department Store” he selects a table, rug, sofa, lamp, and book (don’t miss the hilarious selection of book titles on the teeny-weeny shelves). Once everything is arranged inside the bone, there’s no denying it. Itty Bitty has found his very own, perfectly cozy, incredibly pleasing, brand new…home.

For our story time activity, we made bone houses with carrying handles. But we also created some magic bucks and went a-shoppin’ for furnishings at a series of kid-sized retail stores!

retail shopsYou’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9” – a large tissue box works too)
  • 1 box cutter
  • 1 bone template, printed on 8.5″ x 14″ paper
  • 1 large rectangle of white poster board for bone (mine was 6″ x 12.5″)
  • 1 strip of white poster board for handle (mine was 1.5″ x 15″)
  • 1 house template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • wooden spool (approximately 1″ tall)
  • 1 paper baking cup
  • 1 plastic sample cup
  • 2 wooden beads
  • 1 small box (mine was 2” x 3” x 3”)
  • 1 piece of construction paper, any color (mine was approximately 3″ x 4″)
  • 2 small pieces of kitchen sponge
  • A selection of patterned paper
  • 1 magic bucks template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white standard paper
  • 1 set of retail stores (more on that later!)
  • Scissors, tape, stapler for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Before we embark on the project, a quick word about the bone template. Believe it or not, we tested 6 bone prototypes before Katie finally struck on a model that worked. You’ll notice that, on one side of the template, the bone bulges outwards and the bottom of the bulge is flat. This allows the bone to be flush with the bottom of the box. So bulgy flat part = bottom of the bone.

boneOn to the house! Use a box cutter to create a doorway in the front of the box, and a small window on each side.

house window and door cutsTab the ends of a strip of white poster board, and staple the tabs to the underside of the box lid (if your box doesn’t have a lid, attach the ends of the strip to the sides of the box). Your box house now has a carrying handle.

Using the template, trace and cut a white poster board bone. Lay the bone on top of the box (and make sure to line the bulgy flat part flush with the bottom of the box). But – before you hot glue the bone to the box, use scissors to cut a little door in the poster board, directly above your box’s doorway. Then hot glue the bone to the box.

door stepsThe final touch to the exterior is the shuttered windows (you’ll find them on the house template). I had the kids color and tape them on either side of the front door.

On to the furniture! We prepped most of the furniture and accessories in advance, and then “sold” it in our teeny-weeny retail shops. I’ll provide instructions for how to make the furniture and accessories first, and then describe the order in which they were sold in our shops.

To make a lamp table, hot glue a paper baking cup “table skirt” on top of a plastic sample cup. The “lamp” consists of 2 wooden beads hot glued together (I used unpainted beads so the kids could decorate them later with markers). The little book (which is a teeny-weeny copy of Itty Bitty of course) is on the house template. Cut it out, add a few blank pages, and staple everything together. Here’s what a finished table, lamp, and book look like:

finished lamp tableTo make a couch, cut a small box down until it resembles a straight-backed couch with armrests:

couch stepsFold a small piece of construction paper, then glue (or tape) it inside the couch. Add 2 comfy sponge cushions.

finished couchThere are also 4 wall art frames on the house template – they can be colored in and attached with tape (or glue). The final item on the template? An itty bitty dog! That gets colored as well, and hot glued to the front of a wooden spool.

wooden spoolNow it’s time to SHOP! The shops can be as simple as tabletop stores set up in different areas of your classroom or program area. I just happened to have 3 oversize boxes with lids on hand (which I salvaged from the recycling pile). So we used the bottom of the boxes to make store fronts.

Basically, we cut a flap in the box and folded it down to create a counter. We reinforced the ends of the counter with tissue boxes, and then decorated the outside with colored masking tape, poster board, and dot stickers.

storefront constructionThe last step is making some money! I handed each kid 3 undecorated “magic bucks” from the template and told them to decorate the bucks. When everyone was finished coloring, they grabbed their houses (the carrying handles made them perfect shopping baskets) and hit the stores. At “Little Lamps” with Mr. Ian, a magic buck earned the shopper a lamp and a book.

shopper at little lampsAt “Fine Furniture” with Dr. Dana, a magic buck went pretty far – you got a couch frame, a piece of construction paper for upholstery, 2 sponge pillows, and a lamp table.

shopper at fine furnitureAt “Rah! Rah! Rah! Rugs!” with Miss Joani, a magic buck earned the holder one “rug” (i.e. a piece of patterned paper) and wall art frames.

shopper at rah rah rah rugs When story time was over, we had a drawing for patrons who were interested in taking the story fronts home for more playtime (and there were plenty of takers!). With the shopping completed, kids took their purchases back to the program area to do some intense interior decorating. I had to snap a photo of this little house. Look at that fancy Itty Bitty!

fantastic house exteriorShe added a bed and a bookshelf to her house too!

fantastic houseMuch later that day, I spotted an Itty Bitty house proudly being walked down the street by a father and daughter. It’s always fantastic to see the projects out and about after story time.

I also received this e-mail from a mom:

Thank you very much for the program yesterday! My kids have been playing with Itty Bitty and his house non-stop since yesterday. He’s gone on a car trip, a boat trip (in a river and across an ocean), and he slept beside my son’s bed.

This e-mail brought a HUGE smile to my face. I’m still smiling actually.


From ITTY BITTY. Copyright © 2009 by Cece Bell. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.