Come On Get Snappy

get snappySnapdragon anyone? I’ve offered this simple project at a number of programs in the past, and it’s always well-received. “Snappy” has decorated the edges of a swamp at a Halloween party, hid in an Alice in Wonderland garden, and grown out of pots at a “Primordial Plants” event table!

event tableYou’ll need:

  • 1 paper cup
  • 1 small rectangle of green construction paper for head (approximately 1.5″ x 3″)
  • A sliver of red construction paper for tongue
  • 1 green pipe cleaner
  • Hole punch
  • Tape
  • Markers
  • Extra green construction paper for leaves

First, fold the green construction paper rectangle in half to form Snappy’s mouth. Tab the ends of the mouth, then cut out teeth.

mouth stepsMake sure to leave a gap in the lower teeth (this is where the tongue will rest later).

gapNext, punch a hole in the back of Snappy’s head…

punched holeThen thread a green pipe cleaner through the hole. Twist the pipe cleaner around and thread it through the hole once again. Pull gently to tighten, then curl the end.

stem steps Cut the sliver of red construction paper to look like a forked tongue and tape (or glue) it into the mouth.

tongueUse markers to draw eyes. I added my eyes at the very end, but younger kids might have an easier time drawing the eyes earlier, such as before they attach the head to the pipe cleaner stem.

close up of faceTape the pipe cleaner stem inside the paper cup. Use extra green construction paper to add foliage. Done! Perhaps you can test out your new Snappy skills with this garden story time?

Mr. Nice Monster

monsterWho says monsters have to be mean? What happens if, for example, a monster doesn’t feel up to scaring, breaking, roaring, and storming? What if the monster would rather be…helpful? Perhaps it would be something like this story time monster who is literally stuffed with kind and considerate things to do.

helpful thingsWe read The Monster Who Lost His Mean, written by Tiffany Strelitz Haber and illustrated by Kirstie Edmunds (Henry Holt & Company, 2012). One day, a Monster’s ‘M’ goes missing, reducing him to just “Onster.” With the name change comes many woes: being teased by his monster friends; sitting alone at lunch; being chased out of the dark woods. Onster reasons that if he can’t be mean to humans, maybe he should try being nice? To his delight and surprise, Onster begins to enjoy himself as he helps with chores, chips in around the house, and joins in childrens’ games. But he still doesn’t fit in at Monsterwood, and he sadly heads home. Surprise! His human friends have planned a thank-you party for him, and Onster realizes that even though he’s lost his mean, he’s gained some new friends.

You’ll need:

  • 1 large oatmeal container
  • 2 small rectangles of tagboard for arms (approximately 1.75″ x 4.5″)
  • 2 medium rectangles of tagboard for feet (approximately 3″ x 4.5″)
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • A selection of construction paper
  • 1 jumbo pom-pom (more, if desired)
  • 2 large wiggle eyes
  • A selection of small feathers
  • A selection of pipe cleaners (I used regular and sparkle stems)
  • 2 – 4 goose quills
  • A selection of dot stickers
  • 6 rectangles of white printer paper (mine were 4″ x 5.5″)
  • Inkjet sticker templates (optional)
  • box cutter
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

The construction of this monster is incredibly simple with lots of room for creativity. Begin by cutting the arms out of the small tagboard rectangle.

monster armsCut the monster feet out of tagboard as well.

feetDecorate the arms and feet with colored masking tape and/or markers, then set them aside for a moment. Completely remove (and recycle) the lid of the oatmeal container then wrap the oatmeal container with construction paper. Hot glue the feet to the bottom of the container, and the arms on the sides. This is also a good time to hot glue the pom-pom nose and wiggle eyes on the front.

With the basic monster body complete, it’s time to decorate! Before the kids got started, I quickly drew their attention to 3 things: 1) Fringed pieces of construction paper wrapped around the top of the oatmeal container make great hair; 2) Small feathers make very expressive eyebrows; and 3) My student assistant Joani’s amazing feathery/hairy/fluffy monster tail. It sort of looks like a flying skunk bunny doesn’t it? Awesome.

monster backAlso available were dot stickers, pipe cleaners, sparkle stems, and the Bling Bin. As kids decorated, I handed out “How May I Help You?” stickers (one for the kid, one for the monster). I created these on sticker sheet templates within Microsoft Word’s label function. You could also use name tag stickers as an alternative to the sticker sheets.

Now use the white paper squares to write 6 things you (or your monster) are going to do to be helpful. Stuff them inside the oatmeal container and pull them out as needed at home. As you can see, we had some fabulous monsters, and some fabulous ways to be helpful!

monster montageJoani added a pipe cleaner carrying handle to her monster for its long journey home.

monster with handleTo make a handle, use a box cutter to cut 2 small slits in opposite sides of the oatmeal container. Cut the slits after the monster is fully decorated, otherwise you run the risk of the slits being covered up by art supplies later. Cut the slits close to the plastic rim at the top of the oatmeal container:

slitThen thread a pipe cleaner through the slit.

threadedBend the pipe cleaner up and twist to secure.

knottedRepeat with the other slit. Your handle is complete! One little boy used the handle to “walk” his monster out of the gallery by his side. A boy and his monster, off to do good deeds!

Food Chain

food chainI must admit, I was incredulous when a local librarian put this book in my hands and said “Have you seen this? Louis gets eaten on the second page…but it’s OK.” I read the story and, inspired, designed this monster food chain. With the pull of a string, the monsters devour each other. But that’s not all…the process can be reversed, allowing the monsters belch everything up again. Mmmm!

We read The Day Louis Got Eaten by John Fardell (21st Century, 2012). During a ride through the woods, little brother Louis gets eaten by a Gulper. Refusing to panic, resourceful sister Sarah sets off in hot pursuit. Unfortunately, the Gulper is eaten by a Grabular, which is then eaten by an Undersnatch…and so on until Sarah finds herself climbing into the stomach of a Saber-toothed Yumper, where Louis is patiently waiting for her. But how will they get back out? The answer is a handy Hiccup Frog which bounces in the Yumper’s belly, setting off a regurgi-tastic chain reaction that ultimately wins the children their freedom. But the adventure’s not over quite yet…

You’ll need:

  • 1 large oatmeal container
  • 1 paper cup
  • 1 toiler paper tube
  • An assortment of construction paper for decorating
  • Four 1.5″ x 4.5″ tagboard rectangles for monster feet (poster board works too)
  • 2 jumbo pom-poms
  • A selection of dot stickers
  • A selection of eye stickers
  • 2 pipe cleaners for monster legs
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • sparkle stem for monster spines
  • 1/3 piece of pipe cleaner (or scrap of construction paper) for monster tongue
  • A box cutter
  • 2 small craft sticks (mine were 3″)
  • A 24″ piece of yarn
  • Markers for decoration
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Hole punch
  • Hot glue

We made the three monsters first. For monster #1 (I’ll call it “Oatmeal Monster”) remove the lid from the oatmeal container. Wrap the outside of the container with a piece of construction paper, then layer zigzag construction paper strips on top to create “scales” (we prepped the zigzag strips in advance):

scalesFor the feet, cut toes in each tagboard rectangle. Use markers to add some delightful monster toenails.

monster toesTab the ends of the legs and hot glue them to the oatmeal container. I added some construction paper fringes to my monster legs, and some kids elected to use markers for further decorating.

While you have the hot glue gun hovering over the legs, glue the two jumbo pom-poms “eyes” above the mouth, and use two dot stickers to create pupils. Oatmeal Monster is complete!

monster 1Next up…monster #2 (I’ll call it “Cup Monster”). Cut two pipe cleaners in half (resulting in four pieces total). Twist and bend into feet, and tape to the sides of the cup. Create wings out of construction paper scraps and attach them with tape or hot glue. Finish by attaching two eye stickers. Cup Monster is done!

monster 2Finally, monster 3 (otherwise known as “Tube Monster”). Wrap a toilet paper tube with construction paper, then use the colored masking tape to create stripes (or skip the tape and just use markers).

To create spines, cut the sparkle stem into 3 pieces, curl, and tape along the length of the tube (leave a little room in back for a place to punch a hole).  Use a 1/3 piece of pipe cleaner (or construction paper scraps) for a tongue. Attach eye stickers. Finally, use the hole punch to create a hole in the top back of the monster. Tube Monster finished!

monster 3It’s time to rig up your pull string! Use the box cutter to create slits in the bottom of Oatmeal Monster and Cup Monster. Then use the blades of the scissors to enlarge the slits into holes:

monster 1 holemonster 2 holeThe monsters are ready, now for the anchor! I prepped these in advance. Simply glob hot glue between the intersection of the two small craft sticks.

anchorKnot the yarn around the center of the anchor, then wrap it around a few more times and knot again.

tied anchorThread the free end of the yarn through the hole in the bottom of Oatmeal Monster and pull it out the mouth. Keep tugging until the anchor is pressed against the bottom of Oatmeal Monster.

anchor in placeNext, thread the yarn through the hole in the bottom of Cup Monster and out the mouth. Pull the yarn through, then finish by knotting it in Tube Monster’s hole.

monster 3 knotReady to try it out? Place the three monsters on a tabletop. Put one hand on top of Oatmeal Monster and, with the other hand, slowly pull the anchor away from the bottom of the container. Watch as Tube Monster is devoured by Cup Monster who is then eaten by Oatmeal Monster.

To regurgitate the chain, lift and pull Tube Monster out of Oatmeal Monster. Cup Monster follows! If you want to try a creepy variation of this project, replace Tube Monster with a toilet paper tube replica of yourself. This variation is especially relevant if your name happens to be Louis.