Your Fairy Godmother

fairy godmotherYour fairy godmother has arrived! Yes, this fairy godmother grants wishes. But be careful. You’ll get what you ask for, but it might not be exactly what you expect! Meet Sylvia Jacobson. She’s a sophomore at Princeton University, an Environmental Engineering major, and a creative contributor to Cotsen Critix, our children’s literary group for ages 9-12. And this year, she was the group’s official fairy godmother.

At the beginning of the Cotsen Critix programming year, Sylvia asked each group member to make 3 wishes. She selected 1 of the 3 wishes for each kid and, over the course of the program, she would start each session by granting a wish.

Sylvia adapted the fairy godmother activity from a “Wish Night” she used to run at a sleep-away camp (a shout out to Habonim Dror Camp Moshava!). Sylvia and her fellow counselors would ask the kids to write down their wishes without telling them why. Then, on the appointed night, the wishes would be granted to the campers, which meant over 100 wishes total in one night!

The Cotsen Critix were warned that Sylvia was a literal fairy godmother. Not only did she get quite specific in granting wishes, she also invoked wordplay to achieve some truly hilarious results. Here are a couple examples of Sylvia’s handiwork:

Wish: “A pair of UGGs”

pear of uggs

Wish: “Infinity money”

infinity money

Wish: “A pig stuffed animal”

In case it’s not clear in the photo, that’s an elephant stuffed with pigs.

pig stuffed animal

Wish: “I wish we can have a peaceful world”

One peas-full world, coming up!

peas on earth

Wish: “To travel in outer space without any equipment or trouble”

The kid was instructed to travel around outside the area marked “space” without carrying any of the equipment or touching the board game Trouble.

travel around space without trouble

Wish: “To have a 100 dollars”

Rip a 100 dollar “bill” in half and yes! You halve a 100 dollars.

to halve a hundred

Wish: “5 more wishes”

Ah, the classic I’m-trying-to-break-the-system-wish. I’ll admit, this was mine. The fairy godmother, however, was ready for me. She handed me a piece of paper and asked me to write down 5 more wishes. Then, she took the paper from me…and immediately handed it back. Voila! Sylvia had officially given me 5 more wishes.

five more wishesAnd now all the world can see that I don’t know how to spell the word “Play-doh.”


The fairy godmother was a huge hit. Almost all of the kids mentioned this activity was one of their favorites this year. Sylvia’s favorite part? “The Critix’s surprised reactions. It was fun to give everyone what they asked for but not what they expected. Also, I loved the arguments each week as the Critix tried to convince me that I couldn’t be a real fairy. I’m still not convinced.”

While Sylvia typically made her visits sporting fabric wings and carrying a homemade wand, on the last day of the program we surprised the kids by having her appear in a full-on, puffy, fluffy, sparkly and splendid fairy godmother costume.

fairy godmother full costumeThe dress was actually an old wedding dress I found in a local thrift/consignment shop called Nearly New. The owners were delighted by the project and gave me a wonderful deal on it. We added some pieces of rainbow tulle to match the wings, and borrowed a tiara and necklace from the University’s Lewis Center costume shop. The results were fabulous.

Make a wish!

Special thanks to the Lewis Center for the Arts’ costume shop and the Nearly New Shop for making our fairy godmother extra magical.

Herbal Magic

amuletHave issues with goblins? Need a peaceful night’s sleep? Are you seeking wisdom and courage? This herbal amulet is just what you need! We made these amulets at a Robin Hood/ medieval history event, but they would also work splendidly at a Harry Potter program.

You’ll need:

  • A 3.5″ mini organza drawstring bag (I bought mine at Oriental Trading Company)
  • 1 tissue (I used the smaller, 8″ x 8″ square kind)
  • herbal amulet list template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ paper
  • A 30″ piece of ribbon or string
  • A selection of dried herbs (more on this below!)

After doing a little research on medieval herbal lore, we created a list of herbs and their purported properties. I purchased the herbs in bulk, which is much cheaper than buying them in individual bottles.

scrollAt the event, kids checked off which herbs they wanted in their amulets. Then a student volunteer helped the kids put dried herbs on squares of tissue. A little herb goes a looooong way, so just a sprinkle is needed – especially if kids select multiple herbs. Here’s about how much you want in your amulet in total:

tissue and herbsNext, bunch the tissue around the herbs and slide the bundle into a mini organza drawstring bag. Roll up the herbal list and slide it in the bag too. Tighten the drawstring and tie a 30″ piece of ribbon or string around the top of the bag. Hang the amulet around your neck.

finished amuletThat’s it! You’re now ready to repel bad spirits, fight curses, attract money, and scare away thieves! At the very least, you will smell quite, quite interesting.

Many thanks to the Savory Spice Shop in Princeton for donating the dried lavender in the photo! Mmmm…lavender…

Purrfect Pet

purrfect petRecently, it occurred to me that we’ve done story time projects with dogs, monkeys, chicks, ponies, mice, hamsters, butterflies, birds, crocodiles, bugs, rabbits, and chickens in hot air balloons…but no CATS! To correct this egregious oversight, I present you with the purrfect cat story time.

We read Hookwinked by Arthur Howard (Harcourt, 2001). Mitzi (who is a witch) adores creepy things. So when it’s time to find a pet, she heads to the creepiest store in town. She selects a toad. But all the toad wants to do is eat bugs. She returns the toad and gets a pair of bats. But all the bats want to do is hang out with each other. She returns the bats and leaves the store, completely discouraged. The next day, however, there’s a scratch at her door. It’s an adorable little kitten. Naturally, Mitzi is disgusted by the kitten’s cuteness, but she agrees to let it stay one night because it’s raining outside. That night, the kitten stays by Mitzi’s side as she hunts ghosts, purrs on Mitzi’s lap during a scary movie, and licks Mitzi’s chin when she reveals her deepest fears. Mitzi’s heart is won, and she realizes that looks aren’t everything!

You’ll need:

  • 1 small oatmeal container
  • Construction paper
  • A rectangle of tagboard (approximately 4.25″ x 6″)
  • 3 pieces of twisteez wire (or very thin card stock strips) approximately 4.5″ each
  • A small rectangle of self-adhesive foam (approximately 1.25 ” x 1.5″)
  • 2 wiggle eyes
  • A 16″-18″ piece of ribbon
  • A small circle of card stock (approximately 1.5″ in diameter)
  • Scissors, tape, and glue stick for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hole punch
  • Hot glue

First, wrap your oatmeal container in construction paper (we offered black, white, orange, and gray). Cut the hind feet out of a tagboard rectangle, then glue the tagboard to your choice of colored construction paper. Trim the construction paper to fit the tagboard feet. Your tag board hind feet are now covered with construction paper on one side.

back feet stepsSet the feet aside for a moment, and cut a tail out of your choice of colored construction paper. Our tails were 2.25″ x 12″ rectangles and they looked great. Round one end of the rectangle, then wrap the tail around a marker to give it an awesome curl.

Hot glue the hind feet to the bottom of the oatmeal container, then hot glue to tail on top of the feet. To keep the tail anchored and less likely to tear off, I suggest hot gluing at least 3″ of it to the feet.

glued feet and tailTo create your cat’s front feet, cut two, 1.5″ x 4.5″ rectangles of construction paper, round one end of each rectangle, and then fold the rounded ends up to create paws. Hot glue (or tape) the legs to the front of the oatmeal container.

front legs attachedTo make the cat’s furry bib, cut a 4″ x 4.25″ rectangle of construction paper into an upside-down bell shape, then cut little ripples on the edges to create “fur.”

bibHot glue (or tape) the bib to the front of the cat. Make sure the bib covers the tops of the front legs, but also leaves room for your cat’s face.

bib attachedUse a marker to draw a smile on your cat and little “toe lines” on it’s feet (metallic Sharpie markers work great on black construction paper). Next, bunch together 3 pieces of twisteez wire (or 3 very thin card stock strips) and tape them over the mouth like so:

whiskersCut a piece of self-adhesive foam into a cat nose and stick it over the whisker tape. Hot glue a pair of wiggle eyes above the nose, and hot glue (or tape) a pair of construction paper ears next to the eyes.

nose, eyes, and ears The final touch is your cat’s name tag. Punch a hole in a circle of white card stock, then decorate the circle with your cat’s name. Thread a piece of ribbon through the hole and tie the ribbon around your cat’s neck. Invite a few friends over for a grand night out.

purrfect gangAnd there you have it…a splendid cat story time! I wonder what animal’s next? We’ve already covered flamingossquirrelslong-haired rainbow yaks