The Ultimate Road Trip

the ultimate road trip Hit the road in a totally stylin’ pull string truck. Your mission? To deliver produce to the city market. But first, you have to navigate a 12 foot obstacle course packed with trees, animals, buildings, water, and bridges!

We read Little Blue Truck Leads the Way, written by Alice Schertle, and illustrated by Jill McElmurry (Harcourt, 2009). Little Blue Truck is heading to the city to deliver some fresh country produce. But the city is a lot bigger, faster, and unfriendlier than Little Blue  expects. A bus bullies, a grocery truck shouts, a police car wails, and a street sweeper hollers. Suddenly, the limousine carrying the mayor breaks down, creating a terrible traffic jam. But when conscientious Little Blue offers to give the stranded mayor a ride, the traffic jam turns into a delightful procession through the city, ending at the grocery store just in time for Little Blue’s delivery!

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 6” – a small tissue box works too)
  • 1 pickup truck template printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 4 circles of black construction paper (approximately 2.5″ in diameter)
  • A piece of string (approximately 24″ long)
  • 1 mini craft stick
  • 2-4 toilet paper tubes
  • 2-4 rectangles of green tissue paper (mine were 9″ x 12″)
  • 1 roadway obstacle course (more on that later!)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

finished pickup truckFirst, the pickup truck! I used a craft box with a lid, but I’ll also demonstrate how to use a small tissue box. If you’re using a craft box, begin by cutting the lid and tabs off the box. If you’re using a small tissue box, turn the box on its side and cut the side off.

tissue box cutSet the box aside for a moment. Cut the front of the truck from the template. There are 5 folds you’ll need to make on the template. Each fold is marked with a dotted line. First, fold the 2 tabs on either side of the hood.

truck template fold 1Next, fold the 2 panels on either side of the truck’s headlights.

truck template fold 2Finally, fold the hood down to meet the side panels, and secure it with tape.

truck template fold 3Tape the front of the truck to the front of the box like so:

attached truck hoodHere’s the tissue box version. As you can see, this results in a slightly shorter (but still very serviceable) truck.

tissue box truck alternativeNext, cut the roof piece from the template. Fold along the dotted lines and tape the roof to the top of the box.

attached truck roofDraw some lines on the grill template, then tape it to the front of the truck. Finish by taping black construction paper wheels to the sides. Make sure the wheels don’t extend past the bottom of the truck!

finished template truckThat’s the basic construction, but there are a couple variations on it. You might, for example, want to wrap the box with construction paper first. Also, we traced roof and grill templates onto different paper. Our roof was blue construction paper, and our grill was silver poster board. We also added some dot stickers to the wheels for hubcaps.

finished pickup truckUse red and gray construction paper to add tail lights and a rear bumper.

truck tail lights and bumperOf course, you can also skip these variations and just use the template pieces and markers! If you decide to go that route, have the kids decorate the template pieces with markers before they tape them to their boxes.

The final step is to make the truck’s pull string. Knot a piece of string around a mini craft stick, then attach it to the bottom of the box with tape:

craft stick attached to truckTo make your “produce,” stuff the tops of 2-4 toilet paper tubes with green tissue paper. Place the tubes in the back of the truck. We didn’t secure the tubes down with tape. We wanted them to wiggle and wobble while the trucks navigated the obstacle course.

truck produceAnd what an obstacle course it was! We used two, 6′ plastic tabletops to create it. These tables have shown up on the blog before – once for sled runs, and again for snail races.

the courseOne of the tables was (securely) propped up on a cushioned stool to add a challenging hill to the course. You can also see how we made the buildings…facades taped to tissue boxes, which were then secured to the tabletop with packing tape.

propped up courseThe building facades were Marissa’s handy work! Out in the country was a big red barn…

red barnAs well as an ice cream stand, a gas station, and a windmill…

ice cream standgas stationwindmillThere were ducks by a river bridge, and a trio of raccoons near a pond…and how do you like those towering conifer trees?

duck bridgelakeThe entrance to the city was marked with a big bridge. I made it out of a strip of cardboard, tin foil, tissue boxes, and silver poster board.

big bridgeOnce in the city, there’s a bank and a couple of skyscrapers…

bankskyscrapersAnd finally, at the veeeery top of the course, was “The Leafy Lettuce.” This is where you delivered produce to your eager customers.

the leafy lettuceWhile constructing the course, we taped the buildings down first, and then added the road. We considered using long strips of black paper, contact paper, or masking tape outlines (similar to what this clever person did). But then I found this glorious stuff at our local toy store. I had to give it a test drive:

playtape road tapePlayTape is basically masking tape with road printed on it! The 30′ rolls came in 2 widths (2″ or 4″). I went with the 4″ size, which was $13 a roll (the 2″ size is $9). I found the tape on Amazon as well (in different colors, with special curved pieces, as train tracks, and there’s even a “Mud Madness” version!). The tape was awesome. My only complaint is that at times, the ends curled up off the plastic tabletop. The tape did much better on the rugs and hardwood floors of my home. It peeled easily off all surfaces, and left no residue behind.

With the road in place, the course was ready! Drivers started at the bottom, then tugged, steered, turned, and yanked their cars up the course.

truck en routeMake sure you tape everything firmly in place (even the animals) because there will be plenty of hilarious crashes. Oh yes, there will.

crashHere’s one of my favorite trucks on course. Look at that fantastic rainbow roof!

rainbow truckEventually, all the trucks found their way to The Leafy Lettuce. We left the course open for a good 20 minutes after story time. It was very busy. A few Hot Wheels cars even showed up to take a drive…

hot wheels test drive

Welcome to My World

welcome to my worldCreate your perfect paradise, complete with a picturesque bridge, comfortable hammock, airy hut with a platform room, supply bucket on a pulley, convenient clothesline, and a stupendous sun clock. Do those towering red flowers remind you of anything? If you answered “swist,” you know exactly where we’re going with this!

We read Weslandia, written by Paul Fleischman, and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Candlewick Press, 1999). Wesley, an inquisitive dreamer and inventor, is different from the other kids at school. These differences worry his parents and attract bullies. Undaunted, Wesley launches an ambitious summer project – he’s going to grow his own crop and found his own civilization. Magically, his idea is planted in the ground, where an unusual plant begins to grow. The plant (which he names “swist”) shoots skywards and quickly becomes the foundation of “Weslandia.” Wesley eats the fruit from the plants, weaves clothing from its fibers, invents a time-keeping system based on its petals, and records his civilization’s history with ink pressed from its oil. Scornful at first, the other kids quickly become intrigued. Soon, they join Wesley in enjoying and exploring Westlandia. When school resumes in the fall, Wesley no longer has to worry about friends!

You’ll need:

  • 1 courrugated cardboard base
  • 4-6 champagne corks (optional)
  • 5 wine corks
  • A permanent markers
  • At least 4 toilet paper tubes
  • A rectangle of fabric (approximately 3.5″ x 5.5″)
  • Extra fabric (or patterned paper), if desired
  • 2 pieces of string (one is 9″, the other is 30″)
  • 1 small box (mine was 4″ x 4″ x 4″ but a small tissue box works too)
  • At least 1 paper towel tube
  • 1 small wooden spool
  • 1 small wooden bead
  • 4 small paper sample cups
  • Brown, green, and red construction paper
  • A long strip of blue cellophane
  • 1 rectangle of tagboard (approximately 6.5″ x 2.5″)
  • 8 flat glass marbles
  • 1 petals and sepal template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • Glue, scissors, tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

At story time, we had each kid make the same 8 elements (cork person, hammock, clothesline, hut, pulley bucket, river, bridge, and sun clock). Then we invited the kids to arrange, design, and decorate their worlds however they liked!

misslandiaThe first step is optional: hot glue legs to the bottom of your corrugated cardboard base. Champagne corks work beautifully for this purpose. Our bases were big (18″ x  24″) so we used 6 champagne corks per base. If you do use champagne corks, make sure you glue the flat part of the cork to the base (not the wider, rounded part):

cork feet

You can, of course, skip this step and keep the base flat. But we really liked the way it looked AND we still have an insane number of corks left over from this floating island project.


CORK PERSON

Use a permanant marker to draw a face on a wine cork. Then wrap the cork with paper and/or fabric. We just made one cork per kid at story time, but feel free to populate your world with as many cork characters as you like!

cork person


HAMMOCK

Hot glue the short ends of a 3.5″ x 5.5″ piece of fabric together, forming a long, shallow pocket.

hammock step 1Next, cut matching 3″ slits down the sides of 2 toilet paper tubes. Slide the ends of the fabric pocket into the slits. Close the slits with tape. Hot glue the tubes to the base.

hung hammock


CLOTHESLINE

Cut matching 0.5″ slits into the tops of 2 toilet paper tubes. Slide a 9″ (or shorter) piece of string into the slits. Tape paper clothes to the clothesline. Hot glue the tubes to the base.

clothesline


HUT

The hut is basically a box that is open on one side with a little window cut in the back. I used a 4″ x 4″ x 4″ craft box, but you could totally do this with a small tissue box. Hot glue four wine cork legs on the bottom of the box…

hut steps 1 and 2Then add some tagboard (or construction paper) stairs! We also added a patterned paper rug and a felt sleeping pad. The hut has a platform roof as well (we added green construction paper grass and a little tagboard writing desk to it). When the hut is finished, hot glue its legs to the base.

finished hut


PULLEY BUCKET

We used little paper sample cups with twisteez wire handles for “buckets.” To make the pulley, hot glue a wooden bead to the top of a paper towel tube, and a small wooden spool to the bottom of the tube. Tie a 30″ (or shorter) piece of string to the bucket handle, thread the string through the wooden bead, and then wrap the free end of the string around the wooden spool. Hot glue the tube to the base.

pulley and bucket


RIVER & BRIDGE

Our “river” was a long strip of blue cellophane taped to the base. To make the bridge, tab the ends of a piece of tagboard, then attach the tabs to the base with tape or hot glue.

finished bridge


SUN CLOCK

Cut a circle of brown paper (ours was 5″ in diameter). Use a permanent markers to draw symbols on 8 flat glass marbles. Hot glue the flat marbles to the circle, then attach the circle to the base with hot glue or tape.

sun clock


When all 8 elements were finished, kids went wild decorating. We had extra tubes, patterned paper, green tissue paper squares, and fringes of green construction paper grass. We also gave each kid a choice of 2 plastic lizards, 2 shells, and 3 paper sample cups loaded with mini pom-pom fruit.

Additionally, we cut a ton of red paper flower petals and green sepals (i.e. those little green thingees you see under flower petals). Here’s the template for both of those items. In the book, the swist plant has 8 petals. To re-create this, take 2 of the petal templates and stagger them on top of one another.

staggered petalsGlue the staggered petals together, then gently fold the petals upwards. Glue the flower on top of a sepal, then tape (or hot glue) the complete flower to the tops of the toilet paper and paper towel tubes. Marissa also used black marker to draw some details in the centers of the flowers and added some tissue paper underneath the sepals, but that’s totally optional! Here’s that overhead view again…

misslandia

And here’s Marissa again! The final piece of this project was to name your civilization and be awarded with a gold poster board crown. Thus, may we present…MISSLANDIA!

welcome to my world

Nautical Flag Necklace

nautical flag necklaceThis project is a unique blend of literacy, non-fiction, and the high seas! I designed these personalized nautical flag necklaces for a Treasure Island event we hosted in 2010. In addition to being easy and fun to make, the inexpensive supply list won’t deplete your buried treasure stash.

You’ll need:

International maritime signal flags are flags of different colors and shapes that allow crews to send messages between ships. For example, Alfa, the flag for the letter A, also means “I have a diver down; keep well clear at slow speed.” Since there is a flag for every letter of the alphabet, I thought it would be cool to have kids spell their names…in flags!

Start by selecting the letters you need to spell your name. Next, fold the white box (i.e. the box with the alphabet letter in it) backwards. Hand the folded flag over a piece of string, then tape the fold to the back of the flag. Knot the string behind your neck to wear it like a necklace, or just leave the ends loose and hang it up like a banner!

nautical flag necklace stepsIf you’re doing this project for a big event like we did, I suggest you make a letter tray to put the individual flags in. This can be as simple as paper cups, marked with post-its, hot glued to the inside of a copy paper lid.

If you’d like to have a table top display sign with the complete flag alphabet (or you want to send kids home with their own copies), here it the alphabet as a full sheet of paper, and here it is as 2 half sheets.

maritime flag alphabetYou could also use the alphabet to decode my flag message at the top of this post. Heh heh. If you need a hint, check out our Instagram!


Flag images courtesy of Wikipedia