Fair Trade

wagon and goodsPack your wagon and get ready for a long journey! We made a little covered wagon and 2 sets of goods to go inside it. Then, we traveled to the story time store to do some good old-fashioned trading!

We read Ox-Cart Man, written by Donald Hall and illustrated by Barbara Cooney (Viking Juvenile, 1979). A farmer prepares for a journey, packing his ox cart with all the surplus things his family has produced throughout the year – wool, mittens, brooms, apples, etc. Then he sets off on a ten day journey to Portsmouth, where he sells everything (including the ox and the cart) and purchases items for his family especially (and this was very important when I was a little kid) 2 pounds of wintergreen peppermint candies. Pockets still full of coins, he returns to his farm and the beautiful cycle of seasons, work, and life begins again. It’s a lovely, lovely book.

For the wagon, you’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9”)
  • An 8.5″ x 14″ piece of tagboard (optional)
  • 1 wagon wheel template, printed on an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of white card stock
  • 1 piece of string (approximately 37″ long)
  • An 8.5″ x 11″ piece of white card stock
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • Scissors, glue stick, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

For the goods, you’ll need:

  • 1 quilt template, printed on an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of white paper
  • craft sticks (mine were 4.5″ long)
  • 2 rectangles of brown construction paper
  • 1 brown paper lunch bag
  • 1 small bunch of polyester fill
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • 2 pieces of twine (mine were 57″ long)
  • 2 paper baking cups
  • Red & brown pom-poms (mine were medium-sized, about 0.5″ in diameter)
  • Scissors for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • 1 trading post (more on this later!)

Begin with the wagon! Cut the top of the box off, and cut the sides down to about 3″ high.

wagon 1The next step is optional (but fun). Cut strips of tagboard to fit the sides of the box, draw wood grain patterns on each of them, and use tape, a glue stick, or hot glue to attach them to the sides of the box. Or you can go super simple and draw wood grain on the sides of the box. Or skip this step entirely and leave the box blank.

wagon 2Next, color and cut the wagon wheels from the template and tape or hot glue them to the box.Make sure the wheels are flush with the bottom of the box. Otherwise, the wagon won’t slide very well.

wagon 3Time for the pull string! It’s important to really attach this well, so you don’t have any pull string fails during your long journey. Cut a slit in the front of the wagon. Then, knot the end of the string (I used heavy kite string) and slide the knot into the slit. Tape the string to the inside of the box, and then put another piece of tape above the knot it’s really secure.

pull string stepsThe final step for the covered wagon is…the cover! Use colored masking tape to create two “bows” on the piece of card stock “canvas” (the bows are the wooden ribs that hold up the canvas on a real covered wagon).

bowsNow hot glue (or tape) the ends of the card stock canvas to the insides of the wagon. Be sure to adhere it no lower than 1″ from the top of the wagon (if the canvas is too low, it makes it hard to get the stuff in and out of your wagon).

attaching canvas topYour wagon is finished…now for the goods! Remember, you’ll be making two of each item (with the exception of the bag of wool). For the quilts, use markers to decorate and cut out the quilt template.

quiltsFor the broom, fringe 2 rectangles of brown construction paper, then wrap them around the bottom of the craft sticks. Attach the construction paper to the craft sticks with colored masking tape.

broomFor the bag of wool, cut the bottom off the paper lunch bag. You want the sides of the bag to be no taller than 3″. Open the bag and pop the polyester fill inside it.

woolFor the rope, simply coil and knot the two pieces of twine. Or don’t coil them and leave them loose. Plenty of kids did!

ropeFor the sacks of produce, fill two baking cups with red and brown pom-poms to represent apples and potatoes. Your wagon is ready to roll!

The ox-cart man traveled quite a long way to get to the market, so I decided to replicate that experience. I  set up a little store at the end of the an exhibit gallery that is adjacent to the entrance to our library. It’s a looong gallery, and I tucked the store off to one side, so I marked the way with red arrows made of colored masking tape.

The store consisted of a copy paper box lid stocked with some fun doodads – shells, spotted feathers, large gemstones, finger puppets (left over from this program) tiaras made out of pipe cleaners, gro-dinosaurs, and cake erasers left over from this story time.

trading postKids could trade 3 things in their wagons for 3 things in the store. With 20 kids at story time, we did a pretty brisk business that day.

at the trading postThen, laden with goodies, the wagons headed off home (sorry the photo is a little blurry, but you get the idea)!

wagons heading home

Want Fries With That?

want fries with thatIt’s flippin’ fun! This fast food restaurant will have you grilling like a pro and serving up some tasty shakes to your customers.

serving upWe read Fast Food! Gulp! Gulp! by Bernard Waber (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2001). Welcome to fast food town, where meals can be eaten in under 30 seconds and the menu reads like a rhyming list of dreams for fast food fanatics. The book cavorts at a mad dash until…the cook up and quits. She heads to a health food place to enjoy life at a slower pace.

Here’s a bird’s-eye view of the whole shebang:

birds eye viewAnd a view from the front!

zipsBefore we get started, it’s important to note that we made two of everything food-related. 2 burgers with all the toppings, 2 servings of fries, 2 pickles, 2 shakes, 2 straws, and 2 bags for your customers to take their orders home!

For the restaurant part, you’ll need:

  • 1 large box (mine was 16.5″ x 12″ x 6″)
  • 1 smaller box (mine was 9” x 4 ½” X 4 ½”)
  • 1, 6 – 8oz plastic cup
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • Strips of yellow and red cellophane
  • 4 jumbo craft sticks
  • 1 large strip of silver poster board (approximately 8″ x 1.25″)
  • A menu and sign template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 1 paper visor (I bought mine online at Discount School Supply)
  • 2 white paper bags
  • 1 small strip of silver poster board (approximately 7.75″ x 1″)
  • 1 sparkle stem
  • 1 square of silver poster board (approximately 2.5″ x 2.5″)
  • Scissors, tape, hot glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating

For the food, you’ll need:

  • Felt for various “burger” colors: tan for buns, brown for patty, yellow for cheese, red for tomato, and green for lettuce
  • Multiple strips of yellow construction paper (approximately 0.5″ X 3.25″)
  • 2 pieces of green craft foam for pickles
  • 2, 6 – 8 oz. paper cups
  • A selection of dot stickers
  • 2 straws
  • 2 handfuls of polyester fill
  • 2 pipe cleaners, 1 brown & 1 pink

The first step is to decorate the large box and the small box with the colored tape (I went for a single red line around the boxes). Then, you’ll want to hot glue the smaller box to the surface of the large box, right in a corner. Finish by hot gluing the plastic cup inside it.

box and cupDirectly behind the box goes the “grill.” First, tape your strips of yellow and red cellophane to the box’s surface. I had great success with twisting the strips of cellophane to add a little “flame” texture.

flame twistsThen I wrapped the craft sticks in black masking tape, and hot glued them on top of the cellophane. Some kids decided to leave the craft sticks brown, or just colored them with markers. It all looked great!

grillNext comes the milkshake faucet, which is the large strip of silver poster board, curved and taped inside the box.

faucetNow for signs! Color the menu and signs template and attach to the front (or the sides, depending on the size of your box).

menu and signsThe milkshake buttons go on the back of the small box, by the faucet. If your box is too small, you can attach them to the back of the larger box, or embed them in the top of the counter.

milkshake buttonsSince you’re already in a coloring frenzy, this is a good time to decorate your visor and your paper bags. To make the bags easier to open and close, I cut off the tops, resulting in a bag that was 6.5″ high.

Now for cooking implements! To make the french fry tongs, simply fold the small strip of silver poster board in half. To make the spatula, fold the sparkle stem in half and tape to the back of the silver poster board square. Flip it over, then bend the sparkle stem slightly upwards to finish. This spatula is kid-tested. It does flip the burgers!

spatulaWe prepped the burger materials in advance (and dotted the top bun with a brown Sharpie marker):

burger partsThen piled them up to create the ultimate burger!

burgerTo make crinkle fries, accordion-fold the strips of yellow construction paper and drop them in the plastic cup to “cook.” You’ll definitely want to “crinkle” the fries, otherwise the tongs won’t pick them up. And don’t forget the pickle (a pickle-shaped piece of green craft foam, with lines drawn in with markers).

pickleFinally, milkshakes. Start by decorating the paper cups with dot stickers. Then, shorten the drinking straws so they fit better in the cups. I cut 0.75″ off the top, and 1.25″ off the bottom of each straw. To create a flavored shake, roll the polyester foam between your palms (like you’re making a clay snake). Then wrap the pipe cleaner around it in a loose spiral, and drop it in the cup.

shake stepsPop in the straw and you’re done!

milkshakeWant to SUPERSIZE it? Sink your teeth into this gigantic burger story time! Or perhaps you’re looking to round out your meal with some fruits and veggies? Check out our fabulous produce stand.

Farm Fresh

produce standInspire a love of fruits and vegetables with this peppy little produce stand!

We read Market Day, written by Carol Foskett Cordsen and illustrated by Douglas B. Jones (Dutton Juvenile, 2008). When the Benson family oversleeps, they’re in such a rush to get their produce to market, they forget to feed the cow! The hungry cow solves the problem by following them to market, wreaking unintentional havoc along the way.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (I used a 9” x 4 ½” X 4 ½” brown craft box)
  • 1 piece of 10.5″ x 4.5″ poster board for your roof, any color
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • 1 tea tin (or another little box)
  • A selection of patterned paper
  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • 1 standard paper cup, any color
  • 1 corrugated cardboard base (approximately 14.5″ x 7.5″)
  • Hot glue
  • 2 jumbo craft sticks
  • 2 clothespins
  • 1 produce stand template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 1 red pipe cleaner
  • 2 green pipe cleaners
  • 2 beverage caps
  • Scissors, tape, and hole punch for construction
  • Markers for decoration
  • Scraps of tissue paper
  • Assorted pom-poms

First, pattern the box with colored masking tape (or markers).  Decorate the poster board “roof” with markers and fold lengthwise. Tape a piece of pattered paper around the tea tin. Snip a toilet paper tube into two pieces (one piece was 2.5,” the other was 1.5″). Cut the top part of the paper cup off, creating a “basket” out of the bottom, with 1.5″ sides.

Then bring everything to hot glue central.

Whip out your corrugated cardboard base and glue the box in the center, the tea tin on one side, the toilet paper tube pieces on the other side, and the paper cup in front of the tea tin.

produce stand pointersThen, hot glue the bottom of 2 craft sticks on either side of the box (sorry about the blah image, I thought it would be easier to demonstrate it this way).

craft stick supportsBlob hot glue on the tops of the craft sticks, then gently press the roof on.


Finish by hot gluing two clothespins on the front of the box to hold your “posters.”

clothespinsWhew! That’s quite a lot of hot gluing (especially since there were 24 kids at my story time that day)! To keep them busy, I handed out the produce stand template for coloring and cutting. Next up, the hooks for the hanging baskets! Cut the red pipe cleaner into fourths. Then, fashion each piece into a hook like this:

pipe cleaner hookThen tape the top of each hook to the underside of the roof.

hook taped to roofUse the hole punch to punch out the black dots on each hanging item on the template (namely, two baskets, a bunch of bananas, and a bunch of peppers). Hang each item on a hook. Now it’s time for other creative decorating details, such as:

  • Taping the template “trays” to the box “counter.”
  • Clipping the template “posters” to the clothespins on the front of the stand.
  • Taping the template flowers to green pipe cleaner pieces and tucking them in the toilet paper tube “vases” (you can put tissue paper in the vases too).
  • Filling the beverage caps with tissue paper & pom pom produce.
  • Filling the paper cup “basket” with pom pom produce.
  • Taping the template “Special!” sign somewhere. Perhaps on the paper cup basket?

I had some 3.5″ organza bags left over from another program, so I taped an extra hook to a craft stick roof support and hung 2 bags from it. Some kids started “shopping” for produce with the bags right away. Pretty cute!

organza bagNow for the FINAL challenge – the cash register! It’s a little tricky to fold, so some kids might need help. To begin, face the cash register towards you like this:

cash register step 1Then fold the “tab” downward.

cash register step 2Then fold the parts above and below the “base” downward.

cash register step 3Flip the register over, and tape the “tab” panel to the back of the sales panel (the sales panel is the one with “$3.00” written on it).

cash register step 4Done!

cash register completeTape the register to the top of the tea tin and your produce stand is complete!