Flight of the Dragon

flight of the dragonThis colorful dragon marionette twists, turns, dives, and flies with you! It was a project at To Be Continued, our chapter book story time for kids ages 6-8.

We read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, written and illustrated by Grace Lin (Little, Brown, 2009). Minli lives in a poor village overshadowed by Fruitless Mountain. When she impulsively spends her money on a goldfish, her outraged mother demands that she release the fish into the river. Minli obeys, but is shocked when the fish speaks to her of Never-Ending Mountain, where the Old Man of the Moon can answer any question Minli asks – including how she can improve her family’s fortunes. This sends Minli on an epic quest to reach Never-Ending Mountain. Along the way, she is joined by a flightless dragon, who wants to ask the Old Man of the Moon how he can fly again. The two travelers encounter many obstacles, but eventually reach the top of Never-Ending Mountain, where Minli must choose between her own wish, and the wish of her faithful dragon friend.

Minli, of course, makes the right choice and the dragon flies again. We had some HUGE dragon fans at the program, so I thought it would be fantastic for them to make their own dragons to fly.

finished flying dragonYou’ll need:

  • 1 small box (mine was 4″ x 4″ x 4″ – a small tissue box works)
  • 1 large box (mine was 4.5″ X 4.5” x 6” – a large tissue box works)
  • A box cutter
  • 2 pieces of elastic beading cord or string (mine were 22″ long)
  • 2 small craft sticks (mine were 3″ long)
  • Construction paper
  • A small rectangle of poster board (approximately 1.25″ x 2.75″)
  • 1 flying dragon template, printed on four, 8.5″ x 11″ pieces of white card stock
  • 1 wooden dowel
  • Scissors, tape, and stapler for construction
  • Markers for decorating

The important thing about marionettes is making sure that the strings stay securely attached! This marionette has two strings – one for each box. Begin by knotting each piece of elastic beading cord (or string) around a craft stick. Since elastic beading cord knots tend to come undone, it helps to wrap the knots with masking tape.

Use a box cutter to cut small slits in the tops of each box, then thread the free end of the cord through the slit. My boxes had lids, so here’s a shot of the open lids with the craft stick anchors in place. If you’re using tissue boxes, simply flip the tissue boxes over so the holes are facing downwards.

marionette stringsConnect the two boxes together with a 1.25″ x 2.75″ rectangle of poster board that is tabbed at both ends (my tabs were approximately 0.75″ each). Tape the connector’s tabs to each box.

poster board connectorNext, wrap the boxes with construction paper (we went with layered strips of construction paper, cut to resemble dragon scales). Cut and color the dragon pieces from the template and attach them to the boxes. If you don’t have time to color in all the template pieces, here is a full color version. We added some craft tie spines and curls along the top of the dragon as well!

You’ll notice that there are two tail pieces on the template. Match them up, staple them together, tab along the dotted lines, and then tape the tabs to the back of the large box.

taped dragon tailWhen your dragon is finished, tie the elastic cords to a wooden dowel (and secure the knots with tape if needed). Your dragon is ready to fly!

finished flying dragon

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?

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

Baked Goods for Bovines

baked goods for bovinesDo cows and cookies go together? You bet. Especially in this matching and sequencing game we created, complete with a grinning, cookie-eating cow!

We read The Cow Loves Cookies, written by Karma Wilson, and illustrated by Marcellus Hall (Simon & Schuster, 2010). All the animals on the farm enjoy their daily fare. Horses eat hay, the chickens enjoy chicken feed, and the hogs dig enthusiastically into slop. But the cow gets (and LOVES) cookies! Why? Everyday, the farmer and the cow share a picnic, and finish the meal with cookies (which he provides) and milk (which she provides). The clever rhymes make this a super fun read-aloud. By the end, the kids were all joining me in the refrain, “But the cow LOVES cookies!”

You’ll need:

  • 1 small box (mine was 4″ x 4″ x 4″)
  • A box cutter
  • 2 strips of white card stock (mine were 1.25″ x 10.5″)
  • 1 large box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9”)
  • 4 toilet paper tubes
  • White, brown, black, and pink construction paper
  • 2 medium pom-poms (approximately 0.75″ in diameter)
  • 2 black dot stickers
  • 1 cookie game template, printed on 2 sheets of 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • Scissors, tape, and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

First, the cow’s head. Use a box cutter to slice 3 sides of a small box. The uncut 4th side of the box is the hinge of your cow’s mouth. Use a black marker to draw “tooth lines” on 2 strips of white card stock, then attach the strips to the upper and lower parts of the mouth.

cow teeth stepsStick a brown oval nose on the front of the box (we used self-adhesive foam, but construction paper works too). Hot glue a pair of pom-pom eyes to the top of the box, and use black dot stickers (or circles of black construction paper) to create pupils. Use white construction paper to add ears and a fringed forelock.

cow's faceWrap 4 toilet paper tubes with white construction paper, then hot glue them to the bottom of a large box. Hot glue the cow’s head to the edge of the box as well. Add an udder, a tail, and 4 brown construction paper hooves.

cow from the sideThe final step is to cover your cow with spots. We used sheets of self-adhesive foam that the kids cut into customized spots, but construction paper is also an option. I definitely recommend offering a rainbow of spot colors – the results are fantastic. Check out this pink and white cow with the heart spot on her flank!

pink and white cowThe cow is finished, now for the cookie matching and sequencing game! Here’s how it works. Cut 4 white circles from the template, then use markers to decorate each circle like a cookie. All the cookies needs to be different.

circles to cookiesCut the rest of the template into 5 strips, making sure that each strip contains 4 cookie circles. Decorate the strips with different cookie sequences. All the strips should be different (and it’s totally OK if you don’t decorate all 5 strips).

various cookie patternsTo play the game, randomly select a cookie strip. Match your cookie circles to the sequence on the strip, and then feed the cookies to the cow in that order. When done, remove the cookies from your cow’s mouth, select a different strip, and play again! You can play the game at your own pace, or have a countdown from 10 to make it more challenging. Another option – place the cow on the other side of the room, so you have to run back and forth from the cookies to the cow!