Across the Puddle

woo hooPrepare to embark on an epic journey through a variety of obstacles. Weave in and out of topsy-turvey turtles, dodge two plump pigs, avoid the chomping alligator, and face off with a vacuum cleaner elephant. It’s the world’s biggest puddle…can your little boat make it?

We read The Puddle by David McPhail (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1998). One rainy day, a little boy decides to sail his toy boat. He finds a truly enormous puddle, but unfortunately, a frog hijacks his boat. The boy can’t chase after the frog – he’s promised his mother he’ll stay out of puddles. The frog crashes the boat into a turtle just as an alligator shows up and offers assistance. The alligator retrieves the boat, but it’s a wee bit crushed. In the meantime, a pig arrives for a swim and is being quite messy about it when an elephant appears and drinks the entire puddle. This prompts all the animals to yell at her to put the water back. So she does. Quite forcefully. By this time, the sun comes out, the puddle dries up, and the boy heads home for a hot bath. What a day!

You’ll need:

  • 1 small box (I used a 4” x 4” x 4” box – a small tissue box works too)
  • 2 rectangles of (mine were 3″ x 12″)
  • A section of colored masking tape
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • A selection of construction paper
  • A selection of multicultural construction paper
  • A selection of patterned paper
  • 1 wooden dowel
  • 3 foam beads
  • 1 sails template, printed on white 8.5″ x 11″ paper
  • Hole punch
  • 1 piece of string or yarn (approximately 27″)
  • 1 puddle obstacle course (more on this later!)
  • Scissors, tape, and stapler for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

boat with passengersWe’ll begin with the boat! The first steps are exactly the same as this Noah’s Ark balancing game. Cut the lid and tabs off your box (if you are using a tissue box, cut the entire top off). Your box should now be about 3″ tall. Set it aside for a moment. Next, use a marker to draw horizontal lines on 2 rectangles of tag board. This creates the “boards” of your ship. For a bit of color, run a piece of colored masking along the top of each rectangle (or just use markers).

sailboat step 1Place both rectangles on top of one another, staple the short ends together, and slide them over the box. Secure them in place with tape or hot glue. This step is really important! If the sides of the boat aren’t attached to the box, the sides will pop off when you yank the boat’s pull string later.

sides of boatNext, wrap a 4″ piece of colored masking tape around the top of a wooden dowel, then snip the tape with scissors to create a triangular flag.

sailboat flag stepsPush 3 foam beads on the opposite end of the dowel, then hot glue the foam beads to the bottom of the boat. This is your ship’s mast.

hot glued mastColor and cut the sails from the template, then tape them to the front and back of the mast (we made the sails short so they wouldn’t pull the dowel over, feel free to discard the template and make your own sails if you like). Finally, punch a hole in the front of the boat and knot a piece string through it. Here’s the finished boat with the flag, the sails, and the pull string in place:

finished boatWe made 2 crew members (a person and a frog) using multicultural, construction, and patterned paper. Here’s Marissa’s self portrait, with a froggie friend:

marissa and frogNow for the obstacle course! We snagged 2 huge pieces of cardboard from the recycle bin, and painted them light blue. Interestingly, the paint warped the edges of the cardboard upward, creating “waves.” While the paint was drying, we crafted some animal obstacles. The turtles are tissue paper boxes with green poster board shells, arms, legs, tails and heads.

turtlesThe pigs are large oatmeal containers wrapped with pink construction paper.

pigsThe alligator is the lid of a copy paper box covered in green poster board, with paper cup eyes and poster board teeth.

alligatorThe elephant’s face and nose was constructed out of light blue poster board, and a vacuum hose was inserted in the trunk.

vacuum elephantAfter placing all the obstacles on the cardboard, I used blue masking tape to make directional arrows. I decided not to glue any of the obstacles down (I’d rather have kids send them flying than trip over them).

directional arrowsTo run the course, kids had to navigate their boat through the turtles, ride over some waves, and avoid the pigs (which were rolling all over the place as kids walked on the warped cardboard). Next came chomping alligator (which consisted of Marissa moving the box lid up and down and saying “Chomp! Chomp!” – we’re super high tech here.) Here’s a boat on course:

on courseRight before the finish line, the boats had to pass by the vacuum elephant. That was my job. I would make the elephant suck a toilet paper tube character right out of the boat, and then the kids had to pull it off the end of the vacuum nozzle! Fun!

captured personIMPORTANT! Some kids are afraid of vacuums. I asked vacuum-averse kids to turn their name tag stickers upside down. That was my signal to turn off the vacuum while they completed the obstacle course. It worked great!

One Brave Birdy

one brave birdyEven the littlest bird can have a big adventure, especially if it braves our avian obstacle course and finishes by landing in a cozy treetop nest!

obstacle courseWe read Pepito the Brave by Scott Beck (Dutton Juvenile, 2001). Unlike his brothers and sisters, Pepito doesn’t want to leave the nest. He’s afraid of heights! But leave he must. So Pepito climbs down the tree and embarks on a most unbirdlike adventure that involves running, jumping a fence, swimming a river, and burrowing under a busy road. But all roads lead back to the nest, and Pepito discovers that maybe, just maybe, he’s brave after all.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (I used a 2” x 4” x 4” box)
  • 1 small craft stick (mine was 2.5″)
  • A 25″ piece of clear elastic beading cord
  • Masking tape
  • 1 piece of construction paper for body (approximately 4.5″ x 12″)
  • 2 rectangles of construction paper for wings (approximately 2″ x 3.25″)
  • 1 cone water cup
  • 1 pipe cleaner for bird feet
  • 2 large wiggle eyes
  • A few pieces of paper crinkle
  • balloon stick but you can also use PVC pipe)
  • Masking tape
  • Obstacle course (more details later!)
  • Crayons for decorating
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Hot glue

First, you’ll need to prep and rig the string on your bird box. Begin by wrapping the elastic beading cord around the craft stick, then secure it with masking tape.

bird cord stepsNext, cut a slit in the box from an outside edge to the center.

box step 1Slide the craft stick with the elastic cord into the slit, and pull until the craft stick is up against the “roof” of the box and the cord is sticking out of the top.

box step 2With the cord in place, tape the slit firmly shut (the tape is little hard to see in this image).

box step 3The cord is finished, now for the bird! Wrap the box with construction paper. Make sure there is about 2″ sticking above the top of the box. Fringe it to create your bird’s crest. Just be careful not to cut the cord!

fringed crestRound one edge of your construction paper rectangles, and then fringe to create wings. Hot glue to the sides of the box.

wing instructionsFor the beak, use crayons to color just the tip (i.e. less than 1″) of the cone water cup, and then snip off the tip and hot glue it to the box, along with the wiggle eyes. To make a tail, you can use the construction paper scraps on the table, or you can twist the pieces of paper crinkle together and tape it to the back of the box.

tailNow for the feet! Cut the pipe cleaner in half and bend to create feet. You can go for the “single foot look,” or make individual birdy toes. Up to you! Attach the pipe cleaners to the bottom of the box with tape.

bird feetThe final step is to attach the bird’s cord to the rod. Wrap the free end of the cord around the end of the rod, and secure with masking tape.

fly cordYour bird is now complete! Three cheers for Pepito the Brave!

finished birdYou can fly the little birds around your story time space and end things there, you can make a paper bag nest (see instructions below), or you can tackle the full-fledged obstacle course!

obstacle course labledThe simplest part of the obstacle course is the river. You’ll just need a blue bed sheet. The trees, fence, and tunnel, however, need to be constructed. So here we go…

To create a tree, you’ll need:

  • 1 sturdy tube. We used the roll off some heavy-duty butcher paper. If you don’t have a tube, you can place the nest on a chair, a shelf, or a table.
  • 1 bag of rocks, coins, or sand to weigh the tree down
  • 1 oatmeal container, lid removed
  • Extra paper to stuff in tree base
  • Green and brown construction paper
  • Green poster board
  • 1 brown paper lunch bag
  • Hot glue

Fit the bag of rocks, coins, or sand into the bottom of the tube. Then, holding the bag in place, lower the tube into the oatmeal container. Pack wads of paper in the gaps between the tube and the oatmeal container to keep the tree from wiggling. If you’d like, you can wrap the oatmeal container with brown construction paper, and add some green construction paper “grass” fringes.

Now for the tree top. We neglected to snap images of this during our story time prep, so I’m recreating it here with a paper towel tube. To make a tree top, cut a foliage shape from green poster board, then cut two slits in the center.

tree steps 1 and 2Slide the slits into the tube…

tree step 3…and hot glue the poster board to the interior of the tube.

tree step 4To make the nest, roll the mouth of the paper bag outward and downward until you have a small nest.

nest stepsThen hot glue it to the top of the tube. We added little red apples (made out of self-adhesive foam, bits of brown pipe cleaner, and fabric leaves, but this is optional).

glued nestSince we had two tubes, we made two trees (one for shorter kids, and one for taller kids). We didn’t want anyone over-stretching, falling, and completely felling a tube tree.

finished treesFor the tunnel & fence, you’ll need:

  • 1 copy paper box with lid
  • A box cutter
  • 1 piece of green poster board
  • 2 pieces of black, 12″ x 18″ construction paper
  • Yellow masking tape
  • 1 piece of green, 12″ x 18″ construction paper
  • 1 piece of white poster board
  • Extra green construction paper
  • Packing tape
  • Hot glue

Use the box cutter to make tunnel entrances in the short ends of the copy paper box. Then cover the long side of the tunnel with green poster board “grass” (alas, I was out of green, so I used pink). Secure with packing tape. Then cut a black construction paper “road” and hot glue it on top of the “grass.” We also used yellow masking tape to make lines on the road, and hot glued some green construction paper grass fringe on the bottom.

finished tunnelTo make the fence, cover the outside of the copy paper box lid with a 12″ x 18″ piece of green construction paper. Then cut pickets out of the white poster board and hot glue to the box lid. I also used a black Sharpie marker to outline the fence pieces. Add some grass at the bottom if you like.

finished fenceSet everything up and you’re ready to run the course! Birdy can run up, jump the fence, swim the river, burrow through the tunnel, and land in the nest. I recommend demonstrating the course before you turn kids loose on it (especially the tunnel – some kids kept trying to shove their birds through first instead of leading with the rod).

I wanted kids to earn a reward sticker after completing the course. So I wrote encouraging things on name tag stickers and asked the kids to decorate them. My idea was to collect the decorated stickers and randomly hand them out (so you’re providing encouragement for someone else? Get it?).

Well, it didn’t work. Some kids put the stickers on right away. Some wanted to keep theirs. Some didn’t get around to decorating their stickers. So I had to quickly bring out some different stickers as rewards. If I was to do it all over again, I would just make the stickers myself and hand them out!

reward stickersIf you like bird projects, you might also want to check out this one and this one!