Tin Foil Regatta

tin foil regattaHoist the sail and glide down a tin foil waterway! You can race another boat, or simply bob along at your own pace. This project was designed for a story time at my community pool. The project had to be simple, creative, and appeal to a wide age range. Since there were 50 kids at the program, the project also needed to be inexpensive and easy to assemble, with minimal adult assistance.

We also needed a super fun book. And I knew just the one to read!

We enjoyed The Old Pirate of Central Park by Robert Priest (Houghton Mifflin, 1999). In an apartment in New York City, an old retired pirate builds a model of his former ship. Excited, he take the ship to the Central Park Sailboat Pond. The Laughing Dog sails the waves beautifully, and the Pirate is delighted. But then a retired Queen arrives with her ship, the S.S. Uppity Duchess. The Queen’s ship races around the pond, being rude and swamping other boats. When the Pirate tries to put a stop to the rampage, the Queen’s ship opens fire! The Laughing Dog fires back and the “infamous battle of Central Park” begins (very funny, you must read it). Finally, in need of a nap, the Queen declares an end to the battle and proposes a truce. The Queen and the Pirate shake hands and peace returns to the pond. Now the Queen and the Pirate are friends, they enjoy the sailboat pond together – the two “Old Retirates” of Central Park.

You’ll need:

Begin by hot gluing 4 corks together. Then, hot glue 4 craft sticks on top of the corks. Finish by hot gluing a wooden bead to the center of the craft stick deck. Your boat’s base should now look like this:

boat bodyWe prepped 50 of these boat bases in advance of the program. We also prepped the sails by punching holes in the top and bottom of a triangle of white construction paper.

holes punched in sailI made a dozen extra sails in case some ripped, got dunked the water, got lost in the fray, or someone made a coloring mistake and wanted to start again (and all four things happened at the program, multiple times!).

Insert a wooden coffee stirrer into the hole of the wooden bead. If necessary, stabilize the coffee stirrer with hot glue or colored masking tape. Make sure to have extra stirrers on hand, in case the first one you grab doesn’t fit into the bead’s hole.

sailboat mastDecorate the sail with markers, then slide it onto the coffee stirrer

sail on mastTo make the sailboat’s flag, wrap a section of colored masking tape around the top of the coffee stirrer. You can leave your flag square, or trim the sides with scissors to make it triangular.

flag stepsYour boat is finished! I managed to snap a few photos of boats at the program. Look how much personality they have!

We also had this fantastic non-boat creation…a pair of fish made out of tin foil and colored masking tape. Awesome.

fishNow for the waterway! The waterway idea is from FamilyFun magazine (they called it “The Tinnissippi River.” How cute is that?). Basically, you use a whole lot of tin foil to make a long, high-sided tray (I recommend doubling up the tin foil to make it extra strong). Then you fill the tray with water. Our waterway was 10-12 feet long. I didn’t get a good photo of the waterway during the program, so I recreated a shorter version of it for this post:

full tin foil sheetAlas, our waterway sprung a leak during the pool program. But quick-thinking Katie filled up several dish tubs with water. The kids were just as happy to float their boats in the tubs, so if you don’t want go the tin foil route, just grab a couple dish tubs and set sail. Or haul that old baby pool out of the garage and fill it up!

tub alternativeIf you want to turn this activity into a riveting regatta, give the kids drinking straws and instruct them to use the straws to blow their boats down the waterway. First one to the end wins!

Ship in a Bottle

ship in a bottleAhoy! Don’t toss that little plastic water bottle! This simple ship can be put together with supplies laying around any pirate den.

You’ll need:

  • An empty 8 oz plastic water bottle
  • A 4″ x 4″ square of standard white paper
  • 2 pennies
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

Remove the label from the water bottle. I used Poland Springs brand because it has a paper label that comes off easily. There was still some adhesive stuck to the bottle…

adhesiveBut it came off right away with some scotch tape. Press the tape to the adhesive, and then rip it off! Repeat until all the adhesive is gone and you have a nice clean bottle.

Now for the ship! For the step-by-step folding instructions below, I used marbled origami paper to better illustrate the folds. But you can definitely use plain old white paper for your ship. Start with a 4″ x 4″ square of paper.

ship step 1Now cut the paper in half, forming 2 triangles.

ship step 2Moving forward, you’ll just be using one of the triangles (give the other to yer shipmate). Orient your triangle like so…

ship step 3Then fold the lower right point up to the top of the triangle.

ship step 4Repeat with the left point. Your paper will now look like this:

ship step 5Open your triangle like so…

ship step 6Then fold the top point down to the base of the triangle like this:

ship step 7Fold the right point up again…

ship step 8Then repeat with the left point.

ship step 9Fold the bottom point up…

ship step 10Then gentle push it back down again. This creates the base that props up your ship.

ship step 11Your ship is done!

ship step 12Since you’ll be folding a ship using standard white paper, your ship will of course be all white. Therefore, your next step is to color the base of the ship with markers (and the sails too if you like).

colored ship baseThen turn the ship around and tape two stacked pennies to the base. The pennies are important. Not only do they keep the ship upright, they also anchor the bottle on its side  AND act as a counterbalance for the bottle’s cap.

pennies on baseReady to get that ship in the bottle? Gently fold the base upwards, and curl the sails loosely around it. Try not to pinch the ship too tightly.

rolled shipInsert the rolled ship through the mouth and neck of the bottle. Use your finger or a pencil to gently unroll the ship and straighten the sails. Twist the cap on your bottle, and you’re done!

finished ship in bottleThis project was a bit hit at a large-scale Treasure Island event we hosted. Even though the origami fold is relatively easy, we folded a fleet of ships in advance for very young children, who were able to jump right into decorating them. We also developed this extremely popular (and inexpensive) pom-pom cannon  for another event table.

We had a real cannon too, courtesy of the Pennsylvania State Navy historical reenactors.

cannonThese folks were amazing. The history, artifacts, and knowledge they brought to the event were absolutely top rate.

pa navyAnother amazing educator was this gentleman from the Trenton Old Barracks Museum, who portrayed Dr. Livesey. He brought all of his period medical implements and described them in great detail. And yes, before you ask – he did bring leeches.

dr livesey

Live By The (Foam) Sword

crossed swordsEvery pirate needs a cutlass, every musketeer needs a saber, and every knight needs a sword! But the combination of kids and swords can get a bit… dicey. Someone always get dinged, bonked, poked, or conked.

So you need a sword that will hold up in battle but that won’t bruise on impact. Foam is usually the way to go but foam swords can get a little pricey and fall apart quickly.

I have a solution for you. Straight from the plumbing section of your local hardware store.

foam tubesIt’s tubular foam pipe insulator. Also called “that gray foam tube that gets wrapped around pipes.” It’s made out of polyethylene (the same stuff as pool noodles and kickboards). I use the 1/2″ diameter foam, which comes in 6′ tubes and costs 97 cents. You can cut it easily with scissors. I can get 3 good-sized (i.e. 20″ – 21″) swords out of 1 tube. That’s 32 cents a sword. Oh yeah.

You can wield the sword as a plain tube, or you can create a “hilt” by wrapping the base with colored masking tape. To reach the pinnacle of royalty, try hot gluing a large gemstone to the hilt as well. Grab your shield, and you’re ready to sally forth!

hiltsPssst! If you’re looking for another amazing find in the plumbing section, check out this post. If you’re yearning for a cannon to go with that pirate sword, you can find it here. Looking for a dragon to adventure with? Click here!