Workin’ at the Car Wash, Yeah

workin at the car wash yeahDrive your customized vehicle through our super-duper story time car wash! You will be misted, wiped, soaped, scrubbed, rinsed, and dried. We had some totally awesome tunes playing too…check out the video at the end of this post!

We read The Scrubbly Bubbly Car Wash, written by Irene O’Garden and illustrated by Cynthia Jabar (HarperCollins, 2003). The family car is dirty – it’s time to get it clean at the scrubbly-bubbly car wash! Fun illustrations and fantastic rhymes make this a great read-aloud. Here’s my favorite rhyme: “Steamy spray beyond the brushes / Rinse us down in luscious rushes.” YES!

I used extra-wide magazine file boxes for my cars. But you can make a car out of anything really. Slap a couple of poster board wheels on a tissue box. Roll out your favorite toy car. Or pretend you’re a car and drive yourself through! The supplies and directions below are for a basic car, driver, and a bubble windshield.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box
  • 4 black poster board wheels
  • A section of colored masking tape
  • White poster board
  • Construction paper
  • A rectangle of tagboard or poster board
  • A rectangle of archival mylar (or transparency paper or clear cellophane)
  • 1 car wash (more on this later!)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

The boxes I used were left over from a major Rare Books vault move. I grabbed a couple dozen and transformed them into cars!

plain boxfinished carAs you can see in the above image, I attached 4 black poster board wheels, taped a tagboard “hood,” across the front, and added a bubble windshield (more on the windshield in a moment). I used 2 large embossed foil seals for headlights, and a piece of mirror board for the front grill. Katie used colored masking tape to add some awesome orange and black racing stripes. There were red sticker taillights on the back, and a mirror board bumper as well.

To make the car’s driver, cut an upper body outline out of white poster board. You can see the shape I used below. It’s tabbed at the bottom, so you can attach the driver to the floor of the car later.

driver templateDecorate your driver using markers and/or construction paper (I love using multicultural construction paper). Two strips of white poster board were added for arms, and the “hands” gripped a construction paper steering wheel. Hot glue (or tape) the driver’s tab to the floor of the car.

driver To make a bubble windshield, cut a frame out of tag board. There’s a simple trick for cutting frames out of heavy paper like tagboard or card stock (I learned it from a 2nd grade teacher). Soft-fold the paper in half, then cut a rectangle out of it.

cutting tag board frameWhen you unfold the paper, you have a frame! This is much better than the jab-a-pair-of-scissors-through-it-and-pray-you-don’t-stab-yourself method I used to employ.

windshield frameTape a piece of clear plastic inside the frame. I used mylar, but you can also use transparency film from an overhead projector (OfficeMax sells it) or clear cellophane. Next, use tape to attach the frame to the car. As you can see in the image below, I attached the bottom of the frame to the hood. The top of the frame curved over the driver’s head and attached to the back of the car.

finished carWe had a grand time decorating our cars and drivers. Just look at this fellow’s handsome driving cap! The stripes! The tape buttons down the front of the jacket! The green collar!

driving capFinally, it was time to bust out our story time CAR WASH!

car washThere were 6 different “stages” of the car wash. First came “Mist,” which consisted of strands of blue tulle hanging from the ceiling of the car was (you can see them in the above photo). Next came “Wipe.” These were big pieces of green felt dangling from the ceiling:

wipers in actionAfter the wipers came the “Soap” nozzles, which were 2 wrapping paper tubes with purple, green, and white tulle dangling from them.

soap nozzles in actionSoap was followed by “Scrub.” The scrub brush heads were 2 tag board rectangles wrapped with pink felt. I stuffed them with polyester fill to make them cushy, and used masking tape to attach the heads to 2 long pieces of PVC pipe.

brushes in actionIt should be noted that the Soap and Scrub portions of the car wash were operated by Katie and myself. As you can see in the below photo, that section of the car wash didn’t have a roof over it. That allowed us to reach in and soap and scrub the kids as they drove through.

dana and katie operatingAfter being scrubbed, cars went through a final “Rinse” (i.e. multiple strips of blue cellophane dangling from the ceiling) and emerged to “Dry” (2 box fans blowing on them). I recommend placing the box fans off to the side of the car wash, so little drivers don’t ram into them and knock them over.

If box fans make you nervous, have a story time helper stand with a big piece of poster board and fan the kids as they emerge from the wash. Also, make sure that all the car wash items dangling from the ceiling are at least 4″ off the ground. Otherwise, kids might get tangled in them and inadvertently yank them from the ceiling!

clearanceWe used 4 big boxes and lots of packing tape and hot glue to make the car wash. But you can also do a simplified version using 1 box, or the underside of a table. If you don’t want to go big, make a tabletop car wash for Matchbox cars.

As you can imagine, the car wash was a massive hit! We stayed open for business a good 30 minutes past story time, letting the kids drive through again and again. And, of course, we put “Car Wash” by Rose Royce on repeat play. Roll video!

Postscript: Irene O’Garden sent us a signed copy of her book! She has, quite possibly, the most beautiful handwriting I’ve ever seen. My fingers aspire to create such exquisite lettering. Thank you Irene!

scrubbly-bubbly car wash

Ice Cream, Thrice Tested

ice cream thrice testedTest three different methods for making ice cream? Yes please! When our kid tester pitched this idea to me, it didn’t take much convincing. After a little research, we decided to test the Young Chef Ice Cream Maker by Five Stars (retails for $20-$40), the Camper’s Dream Ice Cream Maker by UCO Industrial Revolution (retails for $25) and the Plastic Bags Method (2 plastic baggies! Woot!). Let the battle of the ice cream makers commence, Hope!

young chefHi everyone! First up is the Young Chef Ice Cream Maker by Five Stars. The ice cream maker came in separate pieces, which Dr. Dana hand washed and assembled at home. The set also contained 4 little plastic cups, 1 orange plastic serving spoon, 4 blue plastic “eating” spoons, 2 small containers with holes in the tops (for sprinkles, alas, none were provided in the kit! ☹), and directions in English, German, Spanish, Dutch, French, and Italian.

The machine consisted of a white, high-sided “bowl.” Suspended above the bowl was a resealable metal cylinder that sat on pegs. A blue plastic handle connected to one side of the cylinder. When you turned the handle, the metal cylinder spun on the pegs. There was also an orange plastic “scraper” that you could raise or lower to scrape your ice cream as it solidified on the cylinder.

young chef ice cream partsWe got started on the recipe. The directions were pretty hilariously translated from German. For instance, at the beginning of the directions it said: “Before starting, you have to read the instructions, which inform you about how to assemble your ice cream machine and use and clean it.”

Another example, from the end of the directions: “Put a biscuit, one you like, on a plate. Put a ball of your favorite ice cream on the biscuit. Put one more biscuit on top of the ice cream. You can now eat your ice cream sandwich or deep freeze it until another day.” PRICELESS!

The recipe was in milliliters and grams, so Dr. Dana had to use the handy dandy internet convert it to ounces and cups. Here’s the Young Chef Ice Cream Maker recipe:

4 oz cream
4 oz milk
2 tsp sugar
1 pinch of salt

Dr. Dana and I wanted to make sure that all of the ice cream recipes were as similar as possible. So even though the Young Chef directions called for regular salt in the cylinder, we used rock salt for all three recipes. We also used half and half in all the recipes as opposed to cream and milk in the Young Chef recipe. Once the ice cream ingredients were mixed, I put ice and 1/2 cup rock salt into the metal cylinder.

loading the cylinderThe directions said to pour hot water (!) into the cylinder with the ice. I was confused! Why hot water? But I followed the directions, and moved on. I put the cylinder in place above the bowl, which was holding the ice cream ingredients.

According to the directions, if I turned the cylinder around and around, the ice cream ingredients would freeze and solidify on the cylinder. When enough ice cream was stuck to the cylinder, the scraper could be used to literally undermine the ice cream, causing it to flake off into a plastic cup. Dr. Dana and I were deeply, deeply, skeptical of this method.

I started turning the cylinder around and around. It was VERY noisy. WHIR! CLANK! WHIR! CLANK!

The crank was kind of awkward, so Dr. Dana and I took turns spinning it around and around, until finally, the ice cream started solidifying. Yes, the machine worked! Basically, when the freezing cylinder passes through the liquid ice cream ingredients, some of it freezes and attaches to the cylinder. We used the scraper to ease the ice cream off the cylinder in a long, creamy ribbon.

ice cream ribbonOnce we had enough, we put it into bowls and grabbed some spoons, anxious to try our creation. Scooping up a spoonful we counted 1! 2! 3! Put it into our mouths, and…..

BLECH!!!! YUCK!!!!! GROSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT WAS DISGUSTING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The yellowish ‘ice cream’ had almost no sweetness, and was watery. To be honest, it tasted like frozen milk. Yuck. The ice cream consistency was a little weird too, because it came off the machine in a ribbon. Oh and there were a lot of parts to clean up afterwards. The actual machine was cute though, and it worked.

Now for test #2, the Camper’s Dream Play and Freeze Ice Cream Maker by UCO Industrial Revolution.

camper's dreamThis ice cream maker was a blue plastic sphere with two chambers. One chamber was the outer part of the sphere (where the ice and the rock salt was poured in). The other chamber was a metal cylinder within the sphere (where the ice cream was going to be made). The sphere had two openings that lead to each chamber. I packed ice and 1/2 cup rock salt tightly into the outer chamber. It was hard to shove the ice in – I had to do it one cube at a time.

stuffing the iceI mixed up the ice cream ingredients and poured them in the inner chamber. Here’s the Camper’s Dream recipe:

1 pint half & half
1.5 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar

Then it was time for the fun (and noisy) part.

The whole point of the sphere shape was to play while making the ice cream.  I quote: “Shake, roll and pass it around as you mix and freeze the ingredients. You don’t need electricity, just have a ball!” Sadly however, Dr. Dana and I had to crouch on the floor and roll it back and forth, back and forth, because you could not (the directions stated) bounce or kick the ice cream ball. This was slightly disappointing, because rolling the ball around was a tad anticlimactic. However, the ice cream chamber had a little ‘window’, so I could check the progress of our ice cream, which was cool!

rolling the ballAfter rolling the ice cream ball around for about 10 minutes, we opened up the metal cylinder and scraped the sides as best we could. The directions called for a plastic spatula or wooden spoon. I used a wooden spoon, but the sides were super hard to scrape! I had to use the handle of my wooden spoon!

wooden spoonThen, as the directions suggested, we replaced the ice and rock salt in the outer chamber, as it was melting. We rolled the ball around for 7 more minutes. And shook it up and down too! (At this point, Dr. Dana and I were convinced that it was really a giant maraca with anger issues. It was SO DANG LOUD.) Nervous, (because of our past taste-testing experience) we unscrewed the inner chamber. Inside, we found a soft-servish liquid (it probably would’ve been thicker if we had shaken it longer). Scooping it into some bowls, Dr. Dana and I raised our spoons… and…

YUM YUM YUM YUM YUUUUUUMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The ice cream was delicious, delectable, enticing, exquisite! Dr. Dana and I gobbled up a whole bowlful each.

Then we started to clean up our mess to prepare for the next (and final) testing. But when we tried to open the ice chamber, it was frozen shut! We tried to use the tool that came with the kit to open it. Not strong enough. We had to ask a passing gentleman to open it for us! Then we had to dump everything out of the ice chamber. NOISY! And messy. We had a glob of ice and rock salt sludge in the sink. Also, ice cream ‘puddles’ formed on the exterior of the maker.

getting messyIt was… messy. No. Not a little messy. It was catastrophically messy. Not a camper’s dream!!!! After finally finishing off the titanic disaster of a mess, grinning and licking up the excess ice cream in our bowls, we moved to the final ice cream method…the Plastic Bags Method.

plastic bagsSimple, and easy, all we had to do is put 1 pint-sized plastic bag inside 1 gallon-sized plastic bag. We put ice and 1/2 cup rock salt in the gallon bag, and here’s what went into the pint-sized bag (the recipe is from wikiHow):

2 tablespoons white sugar
1 cup half & half
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

ice cream bagWe zipped the smaller bag inside the bigger bag, and…noticed that the small bag was leaking. So we double bagged it. Then, as the directions suggested, I started shaking it up and down, while holding it inside a towel. The recipe calls for a towel or gloves and THAT IS DEFINITELY A GOOD IDEA. Holding an ice bag for 10 minutes is COOOOLD!

shaking the bagWe shook it for 7 minutes. Then 10 more. Then we pulled the smaller bag out and stuck our spoons in. It definitely had the best consistency, and it had decent flavor (we maybe could have used more sugar), but the winning super wowsie recipe was the Camper’s Dream Play and Freeze. Dr. Dana and I returned to our hoard of Camper’s Dream ice cream, and chowed down. By the way, cleaning up the Plastic Bags Method was a snap. Just toss everything in the garbage!


Young Chef Ice Cream Maker by Five Stars: 2 OUT OF 5
How ironic. This ice cream was not five stars, nor was the machine.

Camper’s Dream Play and Freeze Ice Cream Maker by UCO: 4 OUT OF 5
Delicious ice cream, kind of fun, the lid froze shut, SUPER LOUD!

Plastic Bags Method: 5 OUT OF 5
Good ice cream, fast to make, easy to do, cheap, quick clean up, good ice cream consistency.

Overall, the easiest and most effective method of ice cream making was plastic bags. The most delicious recipe came from the directions of the Play and Freeze Ice Cream Maker. Even so, the plastic bag recipe could be tweaked to match the Play and Freeze one. All in all, this was a most delicious testing! SPOONS UP!

(Hey Dr. Dana, I heard we had some ice cream left over….?) ;)
(Wait! Don’t tell the readers! They might invade the staff lounge!)

If you’re looking for a more earth-friendly version of the Plastic Bag Method, I spotted a cool, kid-friendly technique at a Colonial America demo. Stick a tall canister (or pot) with lid in a bucket of ice and rock salt. Add your ice cream ingredients to the canister, cover, and rotate briskly for 10-15 minutes (or until the liquids solidify). You might need to take the lid off once in a while to scrape the sides of the canister. No plastic needed!

Amazing Space

amazing spaceThis summer, I had the pleasure of traveling to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art  to do a program in their lovely, lovely Art Studio. The program was a version of the Cars and Trucks and Things that Go event we had at my library last spring.

Located in Amherst, Massachusetts, the Carle Museum was founded in 2002 by Eric and Barbara Carle. The museum was created to honor picture books, both as works of art and for their educational value. The Carle’s heartfelt mission is to inspire a love of art and reading through picture books. The museum has an international collection of picture books and picture book illustrations, beautiful exhibition galleries, scores of educational workshops, public programs, a bookstore, and a library.

It also has an amazing, hands-on, all-ages Art Studio.

The first thing you notice when you enter the studio is that one wall consists entirely of windows, flooding the space with beautiful, natural light. The ceilings are very high, giving the room an open, airy feeling.

studio 1The studio seamlessly combines areas for artists of all ages. For very young children, there’s this area with a low table. On the day I visited, it was stocked with paper, crayons, and interesting objects to trace. Learning toys were heaped in big, bright containers on a comfy rug.

toddler artOn another wall of the studio is this fun activity panel at toddler height.

activity panelNearby is a light table with transparent color shapes to discover and arrange!

light tableScores of studio tables, chairs, and art supplies stand ready for you to embark on artistic adventures. There’s always a project (or two) for you to try.

studiostudio 2windowsHigh above are colorful mobiles. Here’s my favorite:

mobilesScattered here and there are clever book displays to reinforce art and literacy connections. I was especially drawn to this one. The stuffed duck! The bright blue eggs!

duckAt the far end of the studio is a well-stocked resource library (the museum also has a reading and research library in a different area of the building). Awesome textured artwork on the wall, yes? Don’t you just want to pet it?

resource shelvesIn the center of the studio are cabinets. The storage, oh the storage! Tons of counter space. Three sinks! My crafting heart goes pitter pat, pitter pat! On the top right of the cabinets are the adorable animal creations that started off this post (I especially love the elephant with the milk lid feet).

cabinets and sinks And while we’re on the subject of storage, may I draw your attention to this devilishly clever use of a low table? Not only does it offer another layer of table space, it allows even the smallest child an opportunity to browse the art materials. Practical and thoughtful!

clever little tableHere’s the low table all loaded up for the Cars & Trucks program (and there was still room for storage boxes underneath). I’m totally going to do this at my next event!

art supply tableAs you can imagine, Mr. Frumble and I had a fantastic time at the Cars & Trucks program. You can read about it (and see fantastic photos) here! A huge shout out to Meghan Burch, Guided Art Programs Educator, for welcoming Cotsen and making the program possible. Another big thank you to Studio interns Hannah Pancione and Beth Caronna for their enthusiastic energy and mad car creating skills! It was an amazing day in an amazing space.

mr frumble at the carleThe Carle Art Studio has a fantastic blog if you’re looking for hands-on ideas, programs, or if you just want to be blown away by their creativity. I especially enjoyed this post on mixing art and science. You should also check out their snow stencils, handmade paint brushes from natural materials, magazine paper tree, window art color wheel, super cool pasta machine printing press, and decorative post-it wall that doubles as a written memory project!

In addition to making a delightful, creative mess in the Carle’s Art Studio this summer, the Cotsen Children’s Library is a recipient of a 2015 Carle Honor!  For more information, and to see the other honorees, please click here.