Pirate vs. Viking

pirate vs vikingCan’t we all just get along? Apparently not if you’re a pirate or a viking. We gave kids the choice of being a pirate or a viking, and then played cooperative games to show that yes, even pirates and vikings can learn to work together! I love this photo. I asked the kids to “make a mean face” and they still managed to look completely adorable.

We read Pirate, Viking & Scientist by Jared Chapman (Little, Brown, 2014).
Pirate and Viking are friends with young Scientist…but NOT one another. Things come to a head at Scientist’s birthday party. Instead of doing the right thing and getting along, Pirate and Viking erupt in a nasty, full-out, cake-throwing brawl. Putting the scientific method to work, Scientist tries to systematically solve the problem. After a few failed attempts, he finally hits on the solution – that Pirate and Viking both love boats, swords, pillaging, and plundering. Success! With these common bonds between them, the party is saved, and Pirate and Viking are now the best of friends.

For a pirate hat, you’ll need:

  • 1 pirate hat template, printed on 11″ x 17″ paper
  • 1 rectangle of black poster board (approximately 9″ x 17″)
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • 1 pirate hat emblem template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 large gemstone (optional)
  • 1 piece of construction paper for your “feather” (approximately 4″ x 12″)
  • 1 piece of construction paper for your “beard” (approximately 8.25″ x 12″)
  • 2 rubber bands
  • Hole punch
  • Scissors, glue, and stapler for construction
  • Markers for decorating

For a viking hat: you’ll need:

  • 1 viking hat template, printed on 11″ x 17″ paper
  • A piece of brown poster board (approximately 9″ x 22″)
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • 1 viking hat emblem template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 large gemstone (optional)
  • 2 rectangles of white poster board (approximately 4.25″ x 7.5″)
  • 6 strips of construction paper for your “braids” (approximately .75″ x 18″)
  • 1 piece of construction paper for your “beard”
  • 2 rubber bands
  • Hole punch
  • Scissors, glue, and stapler for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

To make a pirate hat, begin by tracing the hat template on a piece of black poster board. Next, make a 12″ slit close to the bottom of the hat (this is where your head will go through later). Set the hat aside for a moment.

pirate hat cutCut a 4″ x 12″ piece of construction paper (any color) into a feather shape and fringe the ends to give it some texture.

pirate hat featherUse colored masking tape to add a hatband to the hat, and markers to color a pirate hat emblem. Hot glue (or tape or staple) the feather to the hat. Cover the bottom of the feather with the emblem, and hot glue (or tape or staple) it in place. If you’d like, attach a large gemstone with hot glue.

finished pirate hatTo make a beard, cut a shallow scoop in the top of a 8.25″ x 12″ piece construction paper. Then fringe it.

beard steps 1 and 2Punch holes at either end, and thread a rubber band through each hole.

finished beardYou can leave the beard straight, or curl it around a pencil or marker to give it some body. When you’re satisfied with the way it looks, press the beard to your chin and loop the rubber bands over your ears. Done!

To make a viking hat, trace the hat template onto a 9″ x 22″ piece of brown poster board. Your template will be shorter than the piece of poster board. No worries! I had to fit the template onto an 11″ x 17″ piece of paper, and couldn’t include the last couple inches of the hat band. Just keep cutting past the template until you reach the ends of the poster board. Here’s an image of the template resting on top of a hat. You can see a couple inches of brown hat band sticking out:

template with extra edgesFold the top of the hat downwards over the hat band, and hot glue it in place (you can also staple it in place, but might want to cover the staples with tape so they don’t scratch anyone’s forehead).

viking hat fold downUse colored (or regular) masking tape to add some details to the hat, then shape a pair of horns out of white poster board and attach with hot glue (or tape). Color a viking hat emblem from the template, then hot glue (or tape) in place. Add a large gemstone if you’d like. Finally, circle the hat band around your head and staple it closed.

finished viking hatWant braids? Staple the top of 3 long strips of paper together. I found that looser braids hung better (tighter braids tended to kink and bunch up). When you get to the bottom of the braided strips, staple them together. Cover the staple with a construction paper “thong” if you’d like. Repeat the above steps to make a second braid, then staple both braids to your helmet, close to your ears. Check these braids out!

viking braidsIf you’d like to make a viking beard, follow the exact same steps for the pirate beard.

You’re suited up, now it’s time for the cooperative games! We separated the kids into two groups: Pirates and Vikings. For each game, we paired a pirate and a viking together, and ran the game until all the teams had a turn.


beach ball blissTeam members had to carry a ball across the room together, then deposit it into a bin. If they dropped it (or one of them grabbed it and ran with it), they had to start over again.


coin claimTeams had to carry a bucket across the room together, “dive” into a pond, and claim 2 treasure coins – all while still sharing the bucket handle. Then, still sharing the bucket, the team walked back to the finish line. We have a “koi pond” in our gallery, but a blue sheet on the floor works too!

The coins were interesting-looking pieces of foreign currency we requested through our recyclable program. But you could use regular old quarters, plastic coins, or shiny circles of paper and achieve the same effect. We made sure both coins in the pond matched, and refreshed the stock as each new team approached. Otherwise, there might have been a brawl over the “prettier” or “shinier” coin.


friendship tattoosPirates and vikings sat down in matching chairs, scanned a list of 4 tattoos (see above), and decided which one they wanted. But they also had to decide where they were going to get the tattoos, and the tattoo locations had to match! Eventually, the team members would come to a consensus and we drew the tattoos straight onto their skin with washable markers.

At our story time, most of the kids don’t know each other. We didn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable, so we kept the cooperative games low-contact and simple. But if you did this in a classroom where the kids know each other fairly well, you could up the challenge level. One example would be to play Beach Ball Bliss, but have the kids squash the ball between their bellies and, using no hands, walk the ball to the goal without dropping it!

Postscript: The author, Jared Chapman, sent this to me! It’s an image from Little, Brown’s annual Halloween party. Two staffers from the School & Library team dressed up as Pirate and Viking using the costumes from this post! Don’t they look amazing? Thanks for the photo Jared!


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