You Light Up My Life

you light up my life

Get illuminated! This cordless DIY desk lamp actually lights up, allowing for writing, drawing, and cozy late night reading binges.

We read Mary Had a Little Lamp, written by Jack Lechner, and illustrated by Bob Staake (Bloomsbury, 2008). Mary has a little lamp that goes everywhere she goes, much to the incredulity of her parents, friends, and classmates. From school to swings to weddings, the lamp never leaves Mary’s side. But after a summer at camp, Mary finally outgrows her lamp and moves on. Now, she has a toaster.

You’ll need:

  • 1 small box with lid
  • 1 box cutter
  • A 1.25oz plastic cup
  • A strip of tissue paper (approximately 4.5″ x 29″)
  • 1 cup of uncooked rice
  • 2 plastic sandwich bags
  • A 13.5″ piece of PVC pipe (1/2″ in diameter)
  • 2 button magnets (ours were 0.75″ in diameter)
  • 1 submersible LED light
  • 1 paper cup
  • A selection of patterned tape and color masking tape
  • 2 rectangles of self-adhesive foam (approximately 1.25″ x 1.5″)
  • A 3″ mini craft stick
  • 1 pipe cleaner
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue

finished lamp

This lamp consists of 5 parts: base, neck, shade, plug, and light bulb. We’ll begin with the base! For starters, you’ll need a box with a lid. To counterbalance the long neck of the lamp, the box will also need to be fairly wide (we used a  2.5″ x 4″ x 4″ craft box with much success).

Use a box cutter to cut an X in the center of the box lid. Then open the box and hot glue a 1.25oz plastic cup to the inside the box, right below the X. Squish a long strip of tissue paper inside the cup – you’ll need this a little later. Finally, split the cup of uncooked rice between 2 plastic baggies, then tuck the sealed baggies into the box around the cup. Your base should now look like this:

inside lamp base

Close the box and decorate it with patterned tape and/or color masking tape, but DON’T seal the lid down yet! Next, curve a 13.5″ piece of PVC pipe. The pipe is tough and doesn’t curve so easily, but Marissa the genius figured out that you can press it over a book cart handle.

book cart handle techniqueAlso! The PVC won’t curve gracefully (you need a heat gun for that). But it will bend into 3 sections that approximate a curve. Once the PVC is bent, wrap it with color masking tape. Hot glue a button magnet on one end of the pipe, then push the non-magnet end through the X in the lid of the box.

inside lamp base with neck

Wrap the tissue in the cup around the bottom of the PVC pipe, then lower it into the plastic cup. Once the neck is in place, you can close and seal the box lid. Next, use the box cutter to cut an X in a paper cup (about 1.5″ from the bottom of the cup).

cut cupLeaving plenty of room around the X, decorate the cup with patterned tape and/or color masking tape (or just markers). Then push the neck of the lamp through the X. Your lamp will now look like this:

finished base neck and shadeTo make the cord, snap a mini craft stick in two, then place the pieces on the back of a 1.25″ x 1.5″ rectangle of self-adhesive foam. Place a pipe cleaner at the bottom the the rectangle as well, then press a matching rectangle of self-adhesive foam on top. Trim the sides down into a plug shape, then tape the plug to the bottom of the lamp’s base.

lamp plug stepsFinally, the light bulb! We wanted these lamps to shed light, but we didn’t want to mess with…oh…electricity. We also wanted kids to be able to switch the lamps on and off. LED votive candles flickered too much, and glow sticks eventually fade. But then I found these submersible LED lights in the floral section of Michaels Craft!

submersible led lightsTo turn the light on, you simply twist the clear dome clockwise. The LEDS also come in different colors! Woo! However, a pack of 12 costs $20, so make sure you go armed with a 40% coupon. We hot glued a button magnet to the back of each LED light, then connected it with the magnet at the end of the PVC pipe neck. Here’s a shot of the two connected pieces inside the lamp’s shade:

led bulb in shadeTo operate the lamp, simply reach inside the shade, disconnect the magnets, and twist the LED light on. Then reconnected the illuminated LED to the magnet inside the lamp. Kids didn’t even need to peer inside the lampshade to do this – the magnets found each other quite easily.

We added a couple of desk accessories too. A pad of recycled scrap paper held together with an old binder clip, and a paper cup pencil holder (cut the cup down to 2.75″ and decorate with patterned tape or markers). Add a few golf pencils and you’re ready to write your next bestseller!

working at desk

Bring on the Butterflies

butterflies in the parkBring your net and your sense of wonderment – there are butterflies in the park! We crafted a beautiful community garden, then waited for the butterflies to arrive. Swooping, diving, floating, and fluttering, how many butterflies can you catch for your own little garden?

We read Butterfly Park by Elly MacKay (Running Press, 2015). A little girl moves from the country to the city, trading the sounds of birds and crickets for horns and trains. Her new house is right next to Butterfly Park – except that there are no trees, no flowers, and no butterflies in the park. Well, there is one butterfly, but it flies away. Undaunted, the little girl knocks on doors, recruiting neighborhood children to find butterflies to live in the park. Eventually, their search leads them to an important clue – flowers! Soon, the whole neighborhood is in Butterfly Park, planning, digging, and planting. Not only do butterflies come to live at the park, the little girl realizes that she’s found a home too.

You’ll need:

  • 1 large tissue box
  • 1 golf pencil
  • Green pipe cleaners, sparkle stems, and/or drinking straws
  • A selection of tissue paper
  • A selection of crepe paper streamers
  • A flower coloring template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • Green color masking tape
  • Green construction paper
  • Butterfly catching game (more on this later!)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

This story time project had three parts: 1) Making a little garden; 2) Putting all the little gardens together to make one big butterfly park; and 3) Catching butterflies in the park to take home in your little garden. We’ll begin with the little garden!

finished butterfly gardenWe used 9.5″ x 11″ cardboard trays rescued from the recycling bin. Flip the tray over and use a golf pencil to punch holes in the top (the golf pencils worked great with 3-5 year-olds and were much less scary than using scissors to poke holes).

butterfly garden step 1If you don’t have a tray, a large tissue box works too. Cut the top off the tissue box. Then, cut the entire box down to 2.5″. Flip it over, and use a golf pencil to punch holes in the top:

butterfly garden alt baseTo plant your garden, cut a pipe cleaner, sparkle stem, and/or drinking straw in half. Attach a flower to one end, then poke the other end through a hole in the box. Secure the stem to the underside of the box with tape (or leave them loose so you can “pick” them!).

butterfly garden step 2As you can see above, we offered tissue paper and baking cups for the flowers. You can also use the flowers from the template, and the kids can color them in. We brought out green construction paper grass fringes, green paper crinkles, and craft ties as well.

finished butterfly gardenWhen the decorating was done, the kids brought their little gardens to the BIG garden. The big garden consisted of a sign and 4 corner “hedges” we festooned with flowers. Kids placed their little gardens between the hedges, forming a perimeter in full bloom.

butterfly park

The hedges are recycled cardboard boxes. The sign is made of 3 recycled scroll boxes (2 as posts, one as the cross beam) and a piece of white cardboard. This garden is Marissa’s handiwork, right down to the beautiful hand-lettering on the sign. And check out her flower arranging skills!

The flowering garden is waiting, now for the butterflies! I found mine at Oriental Trading Company. Specifically, they’re from the the “Butterfly Hanging Door Curtain.” One curtain costs $6.50, and you get about 60 butterflies per curtain. The butterflies are sturdy tagboard, look realistic, and they’re printed double sided.

sample of butterfliesFour at a time, kids stepped into Butterfly Park wielding toy nets (I found mine in the $1 section of Target). Then Marissa and Joani strewed butterflies down upon them. Well, sometimes there was a little more dropping into nets than strewing…

marissa strews butterfliesOnce kids had caught some butterflies, they gently tucked them into their gardens to take home. Did they have fun? Yes they did! Some kids even stayed 20 minutes after story time ended, just to get in on some more butterfly catching fun!

in the butterfly park

Mindful Mismatching

mindful mismatchingWe’ve created plenty of matching games at story time, but what about an un-matching game? Search under the snow to find 4 leaves for your bird nest. But look carefully – no two leaves can be alike!

We read No Two Alike by Keith Baker (Beach Lane Books, 2011). Two red birds journey through a winter woods, observing everything from snowflakes to animal tracks. Trees, nests, branches, leaves, even patterns on feathers – each thing is different, and that’s something to admire!

You’ll need:

  • 1 small box (mine was 4” x 4” x 4” – a small tissue box works too)
  • Brown and red construction paper
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • 2 small feathers, each a different color
  • 2 small triangles of self-adhesive foam
  • 2 pairs of eye stickers
  • 1 un-matching leaf game (more on that below!)
  • Scissors, tape and glue for construction

red birds in nest

We’ll begin with your bird nest! To make the birds, wrap 2 toilet paper tubes with red construction paper. Cut wings from construction paper and attach to the tube. Use triangles of self-adhesive foam for the beaks (or snippets of yellow construction paper). We used eye stickers, but you can also draw the eyes on with marker. In the book, the birds are almost identical (but not quite). So we added two different color feather crests.

two red birdsTo make the nest, cut a box down to 2.5″ and then wrap it with strips of brown construction paper. We used multicultural construction paper, cut into different jagged lengths. Attach the strips to the box with tape or glue.

box nestSet the birds and nest aside for a moment, it’s time for the game! I had some “Fabric Fall Leaves” from Discount School Supply (a pack of 200 costs $6). Katie used a permanent marker to draw 24 sets of leaves. Each set consisted of 4 shapes – a triangle, a rectangle, a circle, and a square.

leaves marked with shapesWe scattered all 96 leaves on top of a brown bed sheet…

leaves on sheetAnd heaped a ton of polyester fill “snow” on top of them.

snow on leaf sheetThe story time kids dug into the snow to find a set of leaves, keeping in mind that the shapes on the leaves could NOT match! I did, however, post drawings of the shapes nearby, so they could remember which shapes they were looking for.

I was worried the game was going to be a crazy digging frenzy but it was actually quite relaxed as kids quietly dug and searched for the leaves to tuck into their nests.

searching for leaves

If you ARE in the mood for matching games, check out our cookie-eating cow,  our shopping spree with a fox, the sweetest little post office ever, and our giant burger relay race!