This Castle’s a Keeper

illuminated castle tissue boxOn the market for some truly radiant real estate? Perhaps this elegant castle votive will do! This simple, but way cool project was part of To Be Continued, our story time for kids ages 6-8.

We read Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon (Puffin, 2015). Castle Hangnail isn’t the most ideal evil castle. For starters, it’s situated on grassy hills peppered with flowers (as opposed to, say, a wind-blasted cliff or a lonely moor). But an ever bigger issue is that currently, it doesn’t have a resident Evil Master or Mistress. Soon, it will be magically decommissioned and shut down for good. Desperate, the castle’s faithful minions send out a final round of invitations. They get just one response. A 12 year-old Wicked Witch named Eudaimonia. Or at least the girl says her name is Eudaimonia. In reality, her name is Molly, and she is a maybe-not-so-wicked witch who has told some whopper lies to her parents in order to fill the castle’s vacancy. Molly quickly falls in love with Hangnail Castle and the minions. In fact, everything appears to be working out beautifully – until the real Eudaimonia shows up. Will Molly and her friends be able to win Castle Hangnail back from the Evil Sorceress?

A shadow spell plays an important role in the book, so I wanted to do a project that involved castles, light, and shadow. Also, we had only 20 minutes at the program to complete the project, so I needed something simple. This castle votive project fit the bill perfectly!

illuminated castleYou’ll need:

  • 2 castle template pages (more on this below), printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • An x-acto knife
  • A small box with a window in the lid – the top of a small tissue box works great!
  • 1 large square of tin foil (mine was 12″ x12″)
  • 2 castle borders template pages, printed on 8.5″ x 14″ paper
  • Scissors and glue for construction
  • Metallic markers (optional)
  • 1 LED votive
  • Hot glue

Usually, I draw the project templates myself. But while researching the project, Marissa discovered this beautiful little castle votive by artist Lova Blåvarg. Lova’s castle is in color, but we thought it looked more Gothic when we printed it in black and white. The template and instructions for making Lova’s castle can be found here.

castle template finished

Castle by Lova Blåvarg for Sweet Paul magazine

The most time consuming part of the project is cutting all the little castle windows out with an x-acto knife. Marissa, the champion of all things x-acto, printed, cut, and hot glued 16 castles in preparation for the program. That’s 64 castle panels and 640 tiny little windows! Daaaaang.

You could make the castle, drop in the LED votive, and stop there. But I wanted to add a base to give the project a little more heft. I used these window boxes from Discount School Supply. The boxes are nice and sturdy, but a set of 12 costs $17, which can get pricey.

window boxA cheaper option is to use the top of a small tissue box. Cut approximately 2.5″ off the bottom of the box. If you don’t like the pattern, cover it with your choice of construction paper. Remove any plastic from around the mouth of the box, and your base is ready to go!

cut tissue boxLine the inside of the box with a square of tin foil (if you’re using a tissue box, you’ll need to secure the tin foil in place with tape and peel it back from the mouth of the box).

foil inside boxNext, print the castle borders template and select your favorites. Glue the borders to the sides of the box, Then hot glue the castle to the top of the box. Done! Here’s the finished window box version:

finished castle window boxAnd here’s the finished tissue box version:

finished castle tissue boxWe offered the kids metallic markers for additional decorating, but this step is totally optional. Finally, drop an LED votive into the box and bask in the glow! Here’s the illuminated window box version:

illuminated castle window boxAnd here’s the tissue box version! The halo of light coming out of the bottom is rather cool, don’t you think? In fact, I believe I like the tissue box version better than the more expensive window box version.

illuminated castle tissue boxAnd speaking of glowing, when we did the project for the program, I darkened the gallery, turned out the lights, and had the kids create by “candlelight.” The effect was very cozy actually. Ah, home sweet castle!

working on castle

Great Snakes!

great snakesYou’re walking through the jungle when, suddenly…a snake slides onto your shoulders. Stop! Do NOT panic! It’s perfectly safe. This snake is made out of self-adhesive foam!

You’ll need:

First, trace the 2 halves of your snake onto a 9″ x 12″ sheet of self-adhesive foam (I purchase my sheets from Blick Art Supplies and Michaels Craft store). The “head” half of my snake was approximately 11″ long. The “tail” half was approximately 12″ long.

Cut both snake halves out, but don’t peel the backing from them just yet. The next step is to cut, peel, and stick little pieces of foam to your snake’s body. I did a triangle pattern, but stripes also look fantastic. And don’t forget the eye!

snake halvesWhen the snake is decorated to your satisfaction, peel the backing off the big pieces and stick them to the front of your shirt. It looks best if you wrap the ends a little past your shoulders.

finished shoulder snakeIf you’d like to add a tongue to your snake, fork one end of a 2″ piece of curling ribbon, and stick it to the underside of the snake’s head.

snake tongueIt’s important to note that the snake doesn’t go all the way around your neck. This foam doesn’t do too well on long, uneven curves. I didn’t want it to buckle, pop off, and tangle in (or stick to) longer hair.

snake from the backI tested the foam on plain t-shirts, as well as shirts with embroidery, plain decals, and glitter decals. All of them were fine, with the minor exception being the glitter decal. The foam did take some glitter off with it, but no more than comes off when you rub the decal with your fingers. However, when I peeled the foam off a mesh sports jersey with vinyl numbers, bits of the foam ripped off the snake and stuck to the vinyl numbers! So if you’re wearing a mesh sports jersey, peel slowly, and know that you might have to do a little extra peeling where the foam sticks.

And there you have it! A super easy shoulder snake, ready for your next story time. May I suggest Snake, His Story by James Marshall? It’s one of my favorites!

Ever-Ready

ever readyFrom sandwiches to personal flotation devices, we’re prepared for whatever picnicking perils come our way. We made a delicious paper picnic lunch for two, and then tested our emergency preparedness with a problem-solving card game. Bust out the marshmallows and the umbrella. Nothing’s going to get in the way of THIS picnic!

We read Ready for Anything! by Keiko Kasza (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2009). Duck wants to go on a picnic, but Racoon is feeling a bit paranoid. What if they get attacked by killer bees? Or fall in a river? What if a terrible storm blows in, they take shelter in a cave, and find a dragon inside?!? Duck counters his friend’s dire predictions with happier ones. What if it’s butterflies instead of bees? What if the river is cool and refreshing? What if they roast marshmallows with the dragon in the cave? Finally, Raccoon agrees to go, but he fortifies himself with all sorts of emergency equipment. At the picnic site, Duck realizes that he forgot the picnic basket. Uh on! A true emergency! Luckily, Raccoon is ready for anything. He’s brought a delicious back-up lunch.

You’ll need:

picnic basket with lunchFirst, the picnic lunch! If your box has a lid, cut the lid and tabs off (if you’re using a tissue box, just cut the entire top off). Decorate the box with patterned tape and colored masking tape (or just markers).

To create movable picnic basket handles, punch 2 matching sets of holes in both sides of the box. Next, punch a hole at both ends of your tagboard strips. Curve the strips over the box, line the holes up, and use a brass tack to attach the handles.

finished picnic basketIf you don’t want moveable handles, simply staple a tagboard strip to the center of the box.

Now for the food! Use construction paper to make two sets of the following picnic items: 2 slices of bread, 1 piece of lettuce, 1 tomato slice, 1 piece of cheese, 1 banana, and 1 cookie circle. Use markers to decorate the banana and cookie. Here’s what our pieces looked like (carefully arranged in what I’ve dubbed the “happy picnic food face”).

happy picnic food faceYou can simply glue the layers of the sandwich together. Or, if you want to add a bit of bulk to it, use little squares of double-sided foam mounting tape between the fillings. Here’s a shot of a square of tape connecting the bread and cheese:

taped sandwichTo make beverages, color the juice label template, then wrap each label around a toilet paper tube. Cut a drinking straw in half, and tape each piece inside a tube.

juice bottlesTuck your lunch in the basket (and don’t forget the napkins!). Your final step is to color the picnic emergency equipment cards from the template. You’ll notice there’s a blank card on the template. That’s just in case you’d like to add another piece of equipment. Like a big bar of chocolate. I’ve definitely had chocolate emergencies.

emergency equipment cardsAfter giving the kids a few minutes to play with their new picnic sets (and there was quite a lot of picnicking going on) I asked them to gather in the story time area. Then, loudly and with lots of drama, I read each scenario from the picnic emergency scenario sheet. The kids had to listen carefully and select the equipment card they thought would solve the problem best.

gameI kept the scenarios very simple, but feel free to create more complicated ones. Or write some that require a double card solution!