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!

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!

Dream Boat

dream boatEveryone needs a jaunty Dream Boat hat. And this one has a special night time surprise on the back!

We read Arthur’s Dream Boat by Polly Dunbar (Candlewick 2012). One night, little Arthur has an amazing dream about a “pink-and-green boat with a striped mast, polka-dotted sails, a golden flag, and a beautiful figurehead.” As he continues to describe it, the boat (which first appears on his head) gets more and more elaborate. The only problem is, no one in the family is listening…until Arthur’s amazing dream boat simply can’t be ignored!

You’ll need:

  • 1 plastic fedora (I bought mine at Oriental Trading Company)
  • 1 strip of white poster board for a hat band (approximately 22″ x 2.5″)
  • A box (I used a 9” x 4 ½” X 4 ½” brown craft box, but a large tissue box will work too)
  • A selection of colored masking tape (optional)
  • 1 wooden dowel
  • 1 tall wooden bead that the dowel slides into (test it first!)
  • 1 piece of white construction paper
  • 1 strip of dot stickers for portholes (optional)
  • 2, 4″ x 2″ pieces of tagboard
  • 1 wooden clothespin
  • Glow-in-the-dark glue (or stickers, or stars)
  • Hot glue
  • Tape, hole punch, and scissors for construction
  • Markers for decorating

Cut the lid (or top) off the box. I also cut the sides of the box to make it a little more boat-like. I cut the long sides concave (1) and the short sides convex (2).

cutting the boatUse the colored masking tape to decorate the boat, and dot stickers to create portholes (or, simply use markers for this step).

Next is the mast. Slide the dowel onto the wooden bead FIRST, and then use the colored masking tape (or markers) to create a pattern on the dowel.

mastWhen the mast is complete, use hot glue to really, really, really attach the wooden bead to the bottom (inside) of your boat, right in the middle. I put a big glob of glue on the bottom of the bead and then added more around the edges once I stuck it to the boat. I also had the kids sing the ABC song while waiting for the hot glue to completely harden.

This might seem like overkill but trust me, masts are delicate things, especially when kids start blowing on the sails or adding stuffed animal passengers!

With the mast in place, it’s time for the sails! Cut two tall, triangular sails out of white construction paper. My large sail was about 12″ x 8″ and the small sail was 10.5″ x 4.” Punch holes in the top and bottom of each, then decorate with markers.

sailsTo “hoist” the sails, slide the bottom hole of the large sail on first…

sail step 1Slide the bottom AND top holes of the small sail on next…

sail step 2Then slide the top hole of the large sail on last.

sail step 3Top it off with a flag! Cut a 4″ piece of colored masking tape (we used golden metallic tape to match the description in the book) and wrap it around the top of the mast. Then snip the end like a banner.

mast flagThe figurehead is next. Take a 4″ x 2″ piece of tagboard and cut out your figurehead shape. Color with markers and hot glue a clothespin on the back. Clip to the front of your ship.

figureheadThe hat band is next. We suggested drawing waves, but each kid customized his/her hat band in different ways. Tape the hat band around the hat. Hot glue the boat to the hat to finish the project.

But there IS one last step. The day before the program, we used glow-in-the-dark glue to write “Dream” on a 4″ x 2″ piece of tagboard. After hot gluing it to the back of the boat, we invited kids to step into a darkened storage closet to see their dream boats light up. They LOVED it. In fact, my son still checks on his glowing Dream Boat every night at bedtime.

dream signIf you don’t have glow-in-the-dark glue handy, the same effect can be achieved with glow-in-the-dark stickers or stars.

As you can imagine, there were some pretty amazing Dream Boats. In fact, later that day, a mom sent me this fantastic photo of her rainbow-loving daughter and super stupendous Dream Boat!

dream boat girlFABULOUS!