Do Your Own Thing

sheep-gridOne of these sheep is not like the other! Revel in your creative individualism by designing a fluffy cotton ball sheep that is utterly unique.

We read Woolbur, written by Leslie Helakoski, and illustrated by Lee Harper (Harper Collins, 2008). Woolbur doesn’t do what the other sheep are doing. He likes to run with the dogs, card his own wool, and dye himself bright blue. Despite Grandpaa’s assurances that there’s nothing to worry about, Maa and Paa spend many sleepless nights fretting. Finally, they take Woolbur aside and explain that he must be like everyone else. That’s what sheep do. Woolbur’s solution? He teaches everyone how to do the different things he was doing. Now, everyone is happily playing, exploring, and experimenting just like Woolbur!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large box (mine was 4.5” X 4.5” x 9” – a large tissue box works too)
  • 4 toilet paper tubes
  • White construction paper
  • 1 paper (or styrofoam) bowl
  • 1 oval of tagboard or brown construction paper
  • 2 wiggle eyes
  • White cotton balls
  • Sheep decorating supplies (more on this later!)
  • Scissors, tape, and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

plain-sheepBegin with the basic sheep. Wrap 4 toilet paper tubes in white construction paper, then hot glue the tubes to the bottom of a box. Hot glue a brown oval nose and 2 wiggle eyes to a paper (or styrofoam) bowl, then hot glue the bowl to the box. Attach a pair of construction paper ears with tape (or hot glue). Finish by gluing white cotton balls to the box.

Once all the story time kids had completed a basic sheep, we brought out the art supplies so they could individualize them! In addition to the Bling Bin, we offered ribbon, color cotton balls (yellow, blue, and pink), iridescent fabric shapes, fabric flowers, fabric leaves, pipe cleaners, craft ties, and sparkle stems. Don’t forget to draw a smile on the face too!

decked-out-sheepThe results were fantastic. There were anklets, headdresses, bows, decorative wooly coats, and some very interesting tail modifications. Here’s our happy herd!


This Tea Party RULES


It might look like a proper tea table with matching teapot, cups, saucers, sugar bowl, creamer, and a platter of cookies. But beware! Your guests want those cookies something fierce, and aren’t afraid to get grabby in our fast-paced cookie snatching game! Video, of course, at the end of the post.

We read Tea Party Rules, written by Ame Dyckman, and illustrated by K.G. Campbell (Viking, 2013). A bear cub follows the delicious smell of cookies to a little girl’s tea party. Pretending to be the girl’s stuffed bear, the cub eagerly awaits the moment when he can devour the cookies. He’s got her completely fooled, but then the girl decides that her toy bear needs to follow the “Tea Party Rules.” In other words, he needs to be clean, neat, fancy, and dainty. Poor Cub is subjected to a bath, ribbons, perfume and a dress. But when it comes time for a lecture on dainty eating, he snaps. He attacks the cookies. When only one cookie remains, Cub stops. Suddenly, he realizes that he’s not only ruined the tea party, he’s made the girl very sad. So he gives the final cookie to her. Does she eat daintily? No she does not. She decides it’s time to play BEAR!

You’ll need:

  • 9 – 10 paper cups
  • 1 corrugated cardboard base (I used a 9.75″ x 13.75″ cake pad)
  • A selection of patterned tape
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • 1 small paper plate (mine was 7″ in diameter)
  • 1 spouts template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • Extra poster board for tea set handles, spouts, and sugar tongs
  • 1 small pom-pom
  • 2 circles of white poster board (approximately 3.5″ in diameter)
  • 3 circles of tag board or brown poster board (approximately 3.5″ in diameter)
  • 3 button magnets
  • 1 rectangle of or brown poster board (approximately 2.5″ x 9.25″)
  • 1 rectangle of white poster board (approximately 3.5″ x 9.25″)
  • 2 jumbo paper clips (mine were 2″ long)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

finished-tea-tableThis project consists of 1) A tea set with cookies; and 2)  A pair hand grabbers for the snatching game. The cookies have magnets hot glued to them, and the hand grabbers have paper clips taped to them. Thus, when the hand slaps down on the cookie, it picks it up!

glove-with-cookieWe’ll begin with the tea set. To make the table, hot glue 4 paper cups to the bottom of a corrugated cardboard base. The cookie platter is a flipped-over cup hot glued to a small paper plate. You don’t want the cookie platter to be too tall, so you can either cut a full size paper cup down to 2.25″ inches, or use a shorter cup (we used 3.5oz plastic drinking cups from Target). Decorate the platter and table with patterned tape, colored masking tape, and/or markers. Then hot glue the platter firmly to the top of the table.

tea-tableTo make the teapot, flip a paper cup over, then tape (or hot glue) a poster board handle to one side. Cut the spout from the template and trace it onto white poster board. Fold the tea pot spout in half (the fold is marked with a solid black line on the template). Next, fold the spout’s tabs outward (the tabs are marked with dotted lines on the template). Attach the tabs to the tea pot with tape (or hot glue). Finish by hot gluing a small pom-pom to the top of the tea pot.

tea-pot-and-tea-cupsTo make tea cups, cut 2 paper cups down to 2″. Use tape (or hot glue) to attach a white poster board handle to the side of each cup. Then place the cups on a white poster board “saucers.” Decorate the teapot, cups, and saucers with patterned tape, colored masking tape, and/or markers.

Next up – the sugar bowl and creamer. To make the sugar bowl, cut a paper cup down to 1.5″. Drop a paper baking cup inside for extra flair. To make tongs, fold a narrow strip of poster board in half. Those cute little sugar cubes? Foam packing peanuts, cut in half.

sugar-bowl-and-creamerThe creamer is a paper cup cut down to 2″. Cut the creamer spout from the template, and trace it into poster board. Fold the spout in half (the fold is marked with a solid black line on the template). Next, fold the spout’s tabs outward (the tabs are marked with dotted lines on the template). Attach the tabs to the cup with tape (or hot glue). We filled the creamer with white cotton ball “cream.”

Finally…the cookies. These are circles of tagboard (or poster board) decorated with markers. We made 3 cookies per kid. Hot glue a button magnet to the back of each cookie.


Now for the game! We had 2 hand grabbers – a bear paw and a fancy white glove. To make the bear’s paw, round one end of a 2.5″ x 9.25″ strip of tag board (or brown poster board). To make the glove, cut a hand in one end of a 3.5″ x 9.25″ strip of white poster board. Tape a jumbo paperclip across the palms of both grabbers.

game-handsReady to play? Have 2 kids select a grabber and sit down at the table. On “Go!” each kid must use his/her grabber to quickly remove cookies from the platter. The kid who grabs the most cookies, wins!

Don’t Get Caught

dont-get-caughtNavigate your way through a laser maze, steal a bear from a snoring sleeper, and snag some hidden diamonds. Stealthiness, sneakiness, and silence are strongly encouraged at To Be Continued, our story time for 6-8 year-olds!

We read Pilfer Academy by Lauren Magaziner (Dial Books, 2016). George isn’t a bad kid, but he just can’t seem to keep his hands off his siblings’ stuff. His older brothers’ stereo, for example. Those comic books he’s not supposed to touch. The $10 on the night table. His sister’s private diary. When George is once again caught red-handed, he bolts out of the house…and is kidnapped by a pair of inept ice-cream truck drivers. As it turns out, the truck is a fake, and the drivers are faculty at Pilfer Academy, an elite school for master thievery. George soon finds himself taking classes like Stealth 101, Practical Applications of Breaking and Entering, and Intro to Gadgetry. But when it comes time to steal for his midterm exam, George discover that he feels horrible about it. Now George and his talented friend Tabitha must find a way to escape Pilfer Academy. Would I be giving too much away if I tell you the escape involves guard chickens, a pit of spaghetti, a deadly laser room, and a runaway mansion?

Story Time Task #1: In the book, George and Tabitha navigate a laser obstacle course, something I’ve been dying to create ever since I spotted this fantastic piece of fun. To create the course, we zig-zagged green crepe paper streamers on our gallery bridge. The streamers were attached with masking tape.

laser-obstacle-courseStarting at the bottom of the bridge, kids had to squeeze, crawl, and slide through the course without touching a single “laser beam.” I stood nearby, making “Zzzzzt!” laser noises at key moments.

navigating-the-lasersStory Time Task #2: George’s midterm exam involves stealing a teddy bear from a sleeping toddler. I grabbed a bear puppet, flopped on some pillows, closed my eyes, and started snoring wildly.

dr-dana-snoresOne by one, the kids had to sneak up and grab the bear without me noticing them (and they were quite astonishingly good at this). To increase the challenge, sometimes I would randomly thrash around in my sleep, throw the bear around, or grab it tightly to my chest.

stealing-the-bearStory Time Task #3: The diamond hunt. Pilfer Academy is a massive Gothic mansion with arches, spires, and stained-glass windows. I thought it would be fantastic to immerse kids in a similar environment, so we headed over to one of my favorite places, the Chancellor Green Rotunda.

chancellor-green-rotundaThis beautiful room was once the original library for Princeton University. Now it’s a study space for the Andlinger Humanities Center. Here’s a shot of its elegant stained-glass dome.

rotunda-skylightOn this particular afternoon, however, the room was full of hidden diamonds!

bag-of-diamondsI found these acrylic diamonds in the wedding section of Michaels Craft store. A $5 pack contained over 75 diamonds of assorted sizes (from 0.75″ to 1″). I hid the larger diamonds in various locations in the room.

diamond-in-windowSometimes I got a little sneaky. Can you spot the diamond in the wood paneling below?

diamond-in-wooden-panelOne by one, kids went searching for diamonds in the room. Once you found two diamonds, it was another person’s turn to search. And you had to be completely silent while searching!

search-for-diamondsAt the end of the program, each kid got to take home a little drawstring bag with some diamonds in it. Score!

This book was a terrific read-aloud, and we had a total blast with the activities – but it gets even better. Last weekend, the Princeton Public Library held their annual Children’s Book Festival, and guess who I got to meet?

lauren-magazinerThat’s right! Lauren Magaziner herself! Totally rocking a bandit mask, I must say. Thanks for the fantastic book Lauren. We absolutely loved it.

p.s. – Total props for using the word “collywobbles” in your book. The kids didn’t believe it was an actual word. We looked it up in the dictionary!