The Ultimate Road Trip

the ultimate road trip Hit the road in a totally stylin’ pull string truck. Your mission? To deliver produce to the city market. But first, you have to navigate a 12 foot obstacle course packed with trees, animals, buildings, water, and bridges!

We read Little Blue Truck Leads the Way, written by Alice Schertle, and illustrated by Jill McElmurry (Harcourt, 2009). Little Blue Truck is heading to the city to deliver some fresh country produce. But the city is a lot bigger, faster, and unfriendlier than Little Blue  expects. A bus bullies, a grocery truck shouts, a police car wails, and a street sweeper hollers. Suddenly, the limousine carrying the mayor breaks down, creating a terrible traffic jam. But when conscientious Little Blue offers to give the stranded mayor a ride, the traffic jam turns into a delightful procession through the city, ending at the grocery store just in time for Little Blue’s delivery!

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 6” – a small tissue box works too)
  • 1 pickup truck template printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 4 circles of black construction paper (approximately 2.5″ in diameter)
  • A piece of string (approximately 24″ long)
  • 1 mini craft stick
  • 2-4 toilet paper tubes
  • 2-4 rectangles of green tissue paper (mine were 9″ x 12″)
  • 1 roadway obstacle course (more on that later!)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

finished pickup truckFirst, the pickup truck! I used a craft box with a lid, but I’ll also demonstrate how to use a small tissue box. If you’re using a craft box, begin by cutting the lid and tabs off the box. If you’re using a small tissue box, turn the box on its side and cut the side off.

tissue box cutSet the box aside for a moment. Cut the front of the truck from the template. There are 5 folds you’ll need to make on the template. Each fold is marked with a dotted line. First, fold the 2 tabs on either side of the hood.

truck template fold 1Next, fold the 2 panels on either side of the truck’s headlights.

truck template fold 2Finally, fold the hood down to meet the side panels, and secure it with tape.

truck template fold 3Tape the front of the truck to the front of the box like so:

attached truck hoodHere’s the tissue box version. As you can see, this results in a slightly shorter (but still very serviceable) truck.

tissue box truck alternativeNext, cut the roof piece from the template. Fold along the dotted lines and tape the roof to the top of the box.

attached truck roofDraw some lines on the grill template, then tape it to the front of the truck. Finish by taping black construction paper wheels to the sides. Make sure the wheels don’t extend past the bottom of the truck!

finished template truckThat’s the basic construction, but there are a couple variations on it. You might, for example, want to wrap the box with construction paper first. Also, we traced roof and grill templates onto different paper. Our roof was blue construction paper, and our grill was silver poster board. We also added some dot stickers to the wheels for hubcaps.

finished pickup truckUse red and gray construction paper to add tail lights and a rear bumper.

truck tail lights and bumperOf course, you can also skip these variations and just use the template pieces and markers! If you decide to go that route, have the kids decorate the template pieces with markers before they tape them to their boxes.

The final step is to make the truck’s pull string. Knot a piece of string around a mini craft stick, then attach it to the bottom of the box with tape:

craft stick attached to truckTo make your “produce,” stuff the tops of 2-4 toilet paper tubes with green tissue paper. Place the tubes in the back of the truck. We didn’t secure the tubes down with tape. We wanted them to wiggle and wobble while the trucks navigated the obstacle course.

truck produceAnd what an obstacle course it was! We used two, 6′ plastic tabletops to create it. These tables have shown up on the blog before – once for sled runs, and again for snail races.

the courseOne of the tables was (securely) propped up on a cushioned stool to add a challenging hill to the course. You can also see how we made the buildings…facades taped to tissue boxes, which were then secured to the tabletop with packing tape.

propped up courseThe building facades were Marissa’s handy work! Out in the country was a big red barn…

red barnAs well as an ice cream stand, a gas station, and a windmill…

ice cream standgas stationwindmillThere were ducks by a river bridge, and a trio of raccoons near a pond…and how do you like those towering conifer trees?

duck bridgelakeThe entrance to the city was marked with a big bridge. I made it out of a strip of cardboard, tin foil, tissue boxes, and silver poster board.

big bridgeOnce in the city, there’s a bank and a couple of skyscrapers…

bankskyscrapersAnd finally, at the veeeery top of the course, was “The Leafy Lettuce.” This is where you delivered produce to your eager customers.

the leafy lettuceWhile constructing the course, we taped the buildings down first, and then added the road. We considered using long strips of black paper, contact paper, or masking tape outlines (similar to what this clever person did). But then I found this glorious stuff at our local toy store. I had to give it a test drive:

playtape road tapePlayTape is basically masking tape with road printed on it! The 30′ rolls came in 2 widths (2″ or 4″). I went with the 4″ size, which was $13 a roll (the 2″ size is $9). I found the tape on Amazon as well (in different colors, with special curved pieces, as train tracks, and there’s even a “Mud Madness” version!). The tape was awesome. My only complaint is that at times, the ends curled up off the plastic tabletop. The tape did much better on the rugs and hardwood floors of my home. It peeled easily off all surfaces, and left no residue behind.

With the road in place, the course was ready! Drivers started at the bottom, then tugged, steered, turned, and yanked their cars up the course.

truck en routeMake sure you tape everything firmly in place (even the animals) because there will be plenty of hilarious crashes. Oh yes, there will.

crashHere’s one of my favorite trucks on course. Look at that fantastic rainbow roof!

rainbow truckEventually, all the trucks found their way to The Leafy Lettuce. We left the course open for a good 20 minutes after story time. It was very busy. A few Hot Wheels cars even showed up to take a drive…

hot wheels test drive

Welcome to My World

welcome to my worldCreate your perfect paradise, complete with a picturesque bridge, comfortable hammock, airy hut with a platform room, supply bucket on a pulley, convenient clothesline, and a stupendous sun clock. Do those towering red flowers remind you of anything? If you answered “swist,” you know exactly where we’re going with this!

We read Weslandia, written by Paul Fleischman, and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Candlewick Press, 1999). Wesley, an inquisitive dreamer and inventor, is different from the other kids at school. These differences worry his parents and attract bullies. Undaunted, Wesley launches an ambitious summer project – he’s going to grow his own crop and found his own civilization. Magically, his idea is planted in the ground, where an unusual plant begins to grow. The plant (which he names “swist”) shoots skywards and quickly becomes the foundation of “Weslandia.” Wesley eats the fruit from the plants, weaves clothing from its fibers, invents a time-keeping system based on its petals, and records his civilization’s history with ink pressed from its oil. Scornful at first, the other kids quickly become intrigued. Soon, they join Wesley in enjoying and exploring Westlandia. When school resumes in the fall, Wesley no longer has to worry about friends!

You’ll need:

  • 1 courrugated cardboard base
  • 4-6 champagne corks (optional)
  • 5 wine corks
  • A permanent markers
  • At least 4 toilet paper tubes
  • A rectangle of fabric (approximately 3.5″ x 5.5″)
  • Extra fabric (or patterned paper), if desired
  • 2 pieces of string (one is 9″, the other is 30″)
  • 1 small box (mine was 4″ x 4″ x 4″ but a small tissue box works too)
  • At least 1 paper towel tube
  • 1 small wooden spool
  • 1 small wooden bead
  • 4 small paper sample cups
  • Brown, green, and red construction paper
  • A long strip of blue cellophane
  • 1 rectangle of tagboard (approximately 6.5″ x 2.5″)
  • 8 flat glass marbles
  • 1 petals and sepal template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • Glue, scissors, tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

At story time, we had each kid make the same 8 elements (cork person, hammock, clothesline, hut, pulley bucket, river, bridge, and sun clock). Then we invited the kids to arrange, design, and decorate their worlds however they liked!

misslandiaThe first step is optional: hot glue legs to the bottom of your corrugated cardboard base. Champagne corks work beautifully for this purpose. Our bases were big (18″ x  24″) so we used 6 champagne corks per base. If you do use champagne corks, make sure you glue the flat part of the cork to the base (not the wider, rounded part):

cork feet

You can, of course, skip this step and keep the base flat. But we really liked the way it looked AND we still have an insane number of corks left over from this floating island project.


CORK PERSON

Use a permanant marker to draw a face on a wine cork. Then wrap the cork with paper and/or fabric. We just made one cork per kid at story time, but feel free to populate your world with as many cork characters as you like!

cork person


HAMMOCK

Hot glue the short ends of a 3.5″ x 5.5″ piece of fabric together, forming a long, shallow pocket.

hammock step 1Next, cut matching 3″ slits down the sides of 2 toilet paper tubes. Slide the ends of the fabric pocket into the slits. Close the slits with tape. Hot glue the tubes to the base.

hung hammock


CLOTHESLINE

Cut matching 0.5″ slits into the tops of 2 toilet paper tubes. Slide a 9″ (or shorter) piece of string into the slits. Tape paper clothes to the clothesline. Hot glue the tubes to the base.

clothesline


HUT

The hut is basically a box that is open on one side with a little window cut in the back. I used a 4″ x 4″ x 4″ craft box, but you could totally do this with a small tissue box. Hot glue four wine cork legs on the bottom of the box…

hut steps 1 and 2Then add some tagboard (or construction paper) stairs! We also added a patterned paper rug and a felt sleeping pad. The hut has a platform roof as well (we added green construction paper grass and a little tagboard writing desk to it). When the hut is finished, hot glue its legs to the base.

finished hut


PULLEY BUCKET

We used little paper sample cups with twisteez wire handles for “buckets.” To make the pulley, hot glue a wooden bead to the top of a paper towel tube, and a small wooden spool to the bottom of the tube. Tie a 30″ (or shorter) piece of string to the bucket handle, thread the string through the wooden bead, and then wrap the free end of the string around the wooden spool. Hot glue the tube to the base.

pulley and bucket


RIVER & BRIDGE

Our “river” was a long strip of blue cellophane taped to the base. To make the bridge, tab the ends of a piece of tagboard, then attach the tabs to the base with tape or hot glue.

finished bridge


SUN CLOCK

Cut a circle of brown paper (ours was 5″ in diameter). Use a permanent markers to draw symbols on 8 flat glass marbles. Hot glue the flat marbles to the circle, then attach the circle to the base with hot glue or tape.

sun clock


When all 8 elements were finished, kids went wild decorating. We had extra tubes, patterned paper, green tissue paper squares, and fringes of green construction paper grass. We also gave each kid a choice of 2 plastic lizards, 2 shells, and 3 paper sample cups loaded with mini pom-pom fruit.

Additionally, we cut a ton of red paper flower petals and green sepals (i.e. those little green thingees you see under flower petals). Here’s the template for both of those items. In the book, the swist plant has 8 petals. To re-create this, take 2 of the petal templates and stagger them on top of one another.

staggered petalsGlue the staggered petals together, then gently fold the petals upwards. Glue the flower on top of a sepal, then tape (or hot glue) the complete flower to the tops of the toilet paper and paper towel tubes. Marissa also used black marker to draw some details in the centers of the flowers and added some tissue paper underneath the sepals, but that’s totally optional! Here’s that overhead view again…

misslandia

And here’s Marissa again! The final piece of this project was to name your civilization and be awarded with a gold poster board crown. Thus, may we present…MISSLANDIA!

welcome to my world

Run Cookie, Run!

run cookie runYes, that’s me. Dressed as a giant gingerbread cookie, on the run from some extremely determined children. We made adorable (and non-edible) gingerbread houses with a surprise inside. Pull the peppermint loop on the roof, and up pops a gingerbread person! However, in order to get one of those little gingerbread persons, you have to catch the BIG one first (scroll to the bottom of the post for the video)!

pop up gingerbread demoWe read The Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1999). On a cold, snowy day, Matti and his mother decide to make gingerbread. The cookbook instructs them to bake the cookie for eight minutes without peeking, but Matti can’t resist. He opens the oven and out leaps a feisty Gingerbread Baby, who promptly bolts out the door. A merry chase ensues involving Matti’s parents, the cat, the dog, the goats, two girls, a pig, a fox, a milk & cheese man, and assorted villagers. But clever Matti has his own plan. He builds an enticing gingerbread house, leaves it in the woods, and the Gingerbread Baby dashes inside. Home sweet home!

You’ll need:

  • 1 small box (I used a 4″ x 4″ x 4″ box, a small tissue box works too)
  • 1 rectangle of tagboard for the roof (mine was 4″ x 9.5″)
  • 1 square of tagboard for the door (mine was 3.25″ x 3.35″)
  • 2 pipe cleaners (1 white & 1 red)
  • Gingerbread house decorating supplies (full list in the post)
  • Brown wrapping paper or packing paper
  • Tape, glue, and scissors for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue
  • Optional gingerbread person costume (more on that later!)

You’ll definitely need a box with a lid for this project. I’ll demonstrate with the box we used first, and then I’ll show you how to build the project using a small tissue box. First, fold a rectangle of tagboard into thirds to create a roof. Hot glue the roof to the lid of your box. Fold a square of tagboard in half, then hot glue it to the front of the box to create your house’s front door.

basic gingerbread houseTwist a red and a white pipe cleaner together. Circle the pipe cleaners into a loop, and twist them together tightly at the bottom. Tape the peppermint loop to the lid of your box, bending any excess pipe cleaner underneath the lid.

peppermint loopIf you don’t have a box like mine, no problem! Just use a small tissue box. Flip the tissue box over (so the bottom is facing up) and use a box cutter to cut a square lid. Then follow the same steps for the roof, door, and peppermint loop. Here’s what a tissue box version of the house looks like:

tissue box gingerbread houseWhen the basic house is done, all you have to do is decorate! We offered self-adhesive foam pieces (which I used to shingle my roof), white pipe cleaners, mini craft sticks, little squares of colorful paper, large gemstones, mini pom-poms, rickrack ribbon, construction paper we had cut into icing scallops, and striped paper straws.

finished gingerbread houseMarkers can also be used, especially if you want to draw a gingerbread person peeking out of the front door! We found that metallic markers worked best on the brown tagboard.

front door of gingerbread houseFinally, the gingerbread person that pops up when you tug the peppermint loop! Marissa and I prepped the gingerbread people in advance (we cut them out of brown packing paper and colored them with metallic markers). My only tip is to make sure the cookie fits neatly inside your house. In our early attempts, the cookie’s arms were too long. They jutted out past the roof, which, when closed, looked rather torturous for the cookie.

gingerbread cookie 2Attach your gingerbread person to the underside of the lid with tape. Done!

pop up cookieYou could stop there and be finished with the project. But we decided to take it one step further. In order to get that little gingerbread cookie, you had to catch the BIG one first!

gingerbread person approachesI used brown packing paper to create this stupendous costume (the thicker the paper, the better). The paper roll wasn’t wide enough to cover my full arm span, so we taped 2 long pieces of the paper together, reinforcing the seam with extra-wide masking tape. I didn’t photograph the step with the big taped pieces of paper, but here is a shot of a tape seam on one of the finished costume pieces:

masking tape seamSince you want the masking tape seams on the inside of the costume, flip one of the taped pieces of paper over. The taped seams should now face each other. Then lay down on the paper and have someone trace your body in the shape of a cookie. A couple things to keep in mind while doing this:

  1. Leave LOTS of room around your body while tracing. Otherwise, the costume is going to be too tight and rip very quickly.
  2. The paper isn’t very flexible, so your arms will have to be stuck straight out while wearing (and running in) this costume.
  3. Your feet will need to stick out the bottom of the costume. You don’t want to trip while running around in it!
  4. You’ll need a tall, round head to complete the look.

I’m 5’6″, so my costume was 81.5″ tall, and 68″ wide. Here’s the finished shape:

finished cookie piecesTo “stitch” the pieces together, we made a double seam of hot glue and staples. The hot glue goes first, and should be about 1″ from the edge of the paper. Really goop it on! The staple seam should be about 0.5″ from the edge of the paper. Each staple should be no more than 0.75″ apart.

IMPORTANT! While gluing and stapling the seams, you DO NOT want to close the area under the feet or inside the legs (outlined in red below). You need this part open so you can put the costume on.

no seams hereOnce the seams are done, have the person who will be wearing the costume slide it over his/her head. You will definitely need help with this step! Marissa stood on a stool and gently lowered the costume while I shimmied my arms into place. Then we marked where my mouth was and trimmed the excess paper from around my feet. That’s when this photo appeared on our Instagram. It was a bit claustrophobic in there!

Then Marissa, back up on the stool, slowly pulled the costume off. Using the mark we had made by my mouth, we cut an opening for my face, and added paper plate eyes with pom-pom pupils, masking tape icing, and pom-pom buttons.

finished cookie costumeThey’re hard to see in the above photo, but there are additional paper patches hot glued along the cookie’s armpits. When I tried the costume on the first time, the armpits ripped right away, so we added the patches to reinforce those areas.

We also figured the head of the costume was going to blow off while I was running, so we stapled a poster board head band to the front of the costume (right above the mouth). It worked, but only for a little while. The main problem was that once the head band slipped off, I couldn’t put it back on (my hand was encased in a paper mitten!).

head band inside costumeWhen it was time for the cookie chase, Marissa and I ducked out of the library with the costume, a stapler, and the cookie prizes. We hid behind a building, and, using some stairs to get some height, Marissa slid the costume over my head. Then she used the stapler to quickly close the seams along the insides of my legs.

When the kids were gathered outside the library, I walked out where they could spot me…and the chase was on!


The costume starting ripping right away, but the kids did not care. All they saw was a cookie in need of pursuit. It was like Lord of the Flies meets Candy Land! When the chase was over, all the kids were award a cookie and a high five.

high fives for all

Has this post made you hungry for some real gingerbread? Check out this truly astounding Strega Nona gingerbread cottage! Mmmmm…