I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost

i-aint-afraid-of-no-ghostBoldly enter a haunted house armed with your wits and your handy Haunted House Preparedness Kit! Trap a spider, catch a mouse with some cheese, deter a ghost with ghost spray, and use your skeleton key to exit through a secret door. There’s nothing you can’t handle!

We read I’m Not Afraid of this Haunted House, written by Laurie Friedman, and illustrated by Teresa Murfin (Carolrhoda Books, 2005). Simon Lester Henry Strauss is not afraid of a haunted house, no matter what it throws at him. Witches, ghosts, vampires, ghouls, werewolves, goblins, graveyards, Frankenstein (and bride), one-eyed monsters…nothing can phase our hero. Except, perhaps, a little mouse!

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4.5” X 4.5” x 9” – a large tissue box works too)
  • 1 set of haunted house kit labels template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 1 strip of white poster board (approximately 1.75″ x 16″)
  • 1 haunted house kit contents template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 1 clear plastic cup
  • 1 circle of tagboard or poster board to fit the mouth of the cup
  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • 1 jumbo pom-pom
  • 1 small square of self-adhesive foam (approximately 0.5″ x 0.5″)
  • 1 button magnet
  • 1 wooden bead
  • 1 wiggle eye
  • 2 black pipe cleaners
  • 3 facial tissues
  • 1 long piece of string or yarn (approximately 24″ long)
  • 1 jumbo paper clip
  • 1 haunted house (more on this later!)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Below are the contents of the Haunted House Preparedness Kit. From left to right is a spider collection jar, a skeleton key, a piece of cheese, and a can of ghost spray.

haunted-house-kit

First, the box! Color, cut, and attach the 2 front and back labels from the template. Next, use markers to decorate a strip of white poster board. Tab both ends of the strip inwards about 1″, then tape the tabs to the underside of the box lid. If you’re using a tissue box, just cut the top off the box and attach the poster board handle to the sides of the box.

The spider collection jar is a clear plastic cup flipped upside down. We used a 9oz “cocktail” cup because it has a nice wide mouth. Using a single piece of tape like a hinge, attach a circle of tagboard to the mouth of the cup. Make sure you don’t entirely attach the circle – you’ll need to open the jar later to stick your spider inside it.

The skeleton key and the ghost spray label are on kit contents template. Color the ghost spray label, and then wrap it around a toilet paper tube. To make the aerosol top of the can, hot glue a jumbo pom-pom to the inside of the tube, then peel and stick a square of self-adhesive foam on top.

ghost-sprayThe final item in the kit is a piece of cheese, which we made out of yellow card stock.  Draw holes on the cheese with black marker and hot glue a button magnet to its tip.

magnet-cheeseThe next round of items are the things you’ll be catching inside the haunted house – a spider, a ghost, and a mouse. First, the spider. Color a wooden bead with black marker and hot glue a wiggle eye on the front. Cut 2 pipe cleaners in half, then thread the 4 pieces through the hole in the bead. Bend the pipe cleaners to create wiggly spider legs.

spider-steps-1-and-2To make the ghost, wad up a facial tissue and fold 2 facial tissues over the wad. Tie the end of a 24″ string around the wad to create the neck of the ghost. Make sure to leave plenty of string free to dangle your ghost later! Use a maker to add eyes and a mouth.

tissue-ghostFinally, color and cut the mouse from the template. Tape a jumbo paper clip to the underside of its mouth. Later, this paperclip will attach to the magnet on the cheese.

mouse-and-cheeseThat’s everything you need for your adventures in the haunted house…now you just need the house! It doesn’t have to be fancy. Drape some sheets over the shelves in your stacks, or drape a tablecloth over a table and have kids crawl under it. But if you have a giant box,  2 smaller boxes, and a black light handy, go for it! Here’s the front of out house (plus a photobomb by Marissa).

front-of-haunted-houseI love the lanterns by the door. They’re LED candles inside plastic cups, which are attached to the box with black poster board. There’s a little poster board flourish hot glued to the bottom of the cup too.

lantern-detailHere’s a shot of the house’s interior, as seen from the front door. There are LED wall sconces, a mirror, a bookcase, old-fashioned portraits, a clock, and a fireplace that leads to the black light room. And there were also 4 activities for the kids…coaxing a mouse out of the mouse hole, catching a spider, spraying a ghost with “Bye-Bye Boo” spray, and using a skeleton key to exit through a secret door.

interior-of-haunted-house

You got a peek of the black light room last week on our Instagram. This  room is Marissa’s masterpiece. She used glow-in-the-dark squeeze glue and black light Sharpie markers to highlight everything. We cut a little door in the side of the room so we could quickly slip the kids’ spiders inside.

black-light-spider-roomAt the very back of the house was a secret door, which was covered with tagboard strips made to look like wooden planks. The interior of the secret door box with lined with gray felt. To give it an underground kind of feel, I used a thick black marker to draw outlines of stones on the felt.

secret-doorHere’s a shot of the haunted house from the right side. Everything was was held together with lots of hot glue and packing tape.

right-side-of-haunted-houseThe left side of the house had the mouse hole, which we covered with black felt to keep light from leaking in. My kids did all the exterior decoration. Like the dead flower garden on the lower right?

left-side-of-haunted-houseSo! Here’s how it went! Kids lined up outside the house. When it was their turn, they handed us their spiders, mice, and ghosts. Then they entered the house with their kits.

waiting-to-get-inOnce inside, they listened for the mouse squeaking in the mouse hole (this was literally Marissa saying “Squeak squeak!” and wiggling the nose of the mouse outside the hole). Kids stuck the magnet end of the cheese into hole and “caught” the mouse. Into the kit it went!

catching-a-mouseNext, kids reached into the black light room, grabbed their spider, and put it in their collection jar. By this time, I had opened the trap door in the roof and dangled their wailing ghost in (I followed Marissa’s lead, enthusiastically saying “Wooo wooo!”). The kids doused the ghost with a ghost spray, causing it to drop to the floor of the house. Into the kit the ghost went.

dangling-ghostThe final task was for kids to shimmy into the secret room and use the skeleton key to unlock the door. We wouldn’t lift the door until we saw a key in the key hole!

skeleton-key-unlocksKids could go through the house as many times as they wanted, and we kept story time going 20 minutes past our end time to accommodate repeat explorations. It was…wait for it…a total scream! Awwww.

Did you notice the old-fashioned portraits in the kid catching mouse image? I have to give Marissa a shout out for her mad drawing skills here. She drew us! In Victorian clothing! I love my hat.

portraits-of-dana-and-marissaThe portraits are a nod to the day we spent sipping Victorian tea at this program. Fun!

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…