Bird, House, Hat

bird house hatEvery bird needs a home, and this deluxe house has everything one needs – doors, windows, a chimney, flowers, and a white picket fence. Best of all, it’s a HAT!

We read Brimsby’s Hats by Andrew Prahin (Simon & Schuster, 2014). Brimsby the hatmaker lives in a quiet cottage. His life is full of making hats and chatting with his best friend over tea. But one morning, his friend announces that he’s off to pursue adventures on the high seas, and Brimsby becomes very lonely. Trudging through the snow on a solitary walk, he finds some birds who might make good friends. Unfortunately, they’re too busy shoveling snow out of their nests to chat. That gives Brimsby a tremendous idea. He eagerly sets to work, making hat houses for all the birds. Once the hat houses are in place, there’s no more snow shoveling, no more freezing nights, and the birds are free to visit their new friend!

You’ll need:

This is an incredibly easy project that only involves a few steps:

  1. Circle the crown of the hat with construction paper and/or patterned paper
  2. Create a hatband using the white picket fences from the template
  3. Cut, color, and attach the windows, door, and welcome mat from the template
  4. Add tissue paper shrubs (hot glue is best when attaching these to the hat)
  5. Attach flowers from the template to pipe cleaner stems, then tape them to the hat

If you’d like a chimney, roll a piece of construction paper into a 4″ tube, cut three, 1″ tabs in the bottom, spread the tabs, and attach them to the top of hat using tape or hot glue.

finished house hatNow for the bird! Wrap a toilet paper tube in white construction paper. Then, wrap another color of construction paper three-quarters of the way around the bird, thus creating a white tummy. Add wings, eyes, and a beak (our beak was a snippet of self-adhesive foam). Tape a small feather to the top of the tube.

bird for houseIntroduce the bird to its new home (if the hats are a little big, stuff them with tissue paper)!

bird meets house

So Very Verdant

so very verdantSpell something special with tissue paper topiary letters! Bedeck your initials, festoon your name, or spruce up your favorite word. Your personal topiary is guaranteed to stay green all year round, and no watering is required!

We read Grandpa Green by Lane Smith (Roaring Brook Press, 2011). A boy walks through a beautiful garden. As he walks, he narrates the life of his great-grandfather, which is in turn illustrated by the garden’s delightful topiary. And even though the boy admits that great-grandad tends to forget things these days – he is reassured to know the garden will always remember for him.

You’ll need:

  • 3-4 cups or tape cores for your topiary bases
  • 3-4 craft sticks (mine were 4.5″ long)
  • tagboard or thick poster board
  • Green tissue paper
  • Topiary base decorating supplies (full list later in the post!)
  • Masking tape, if needed
  • Scissors, glue, and tape for construction
  • Hot glue

Our topiary bases were packing tape cores. We had 90 suddenly arrive through our recycling program! If you don’t have packing tape cores handy, there are a couple alternatives you can go with (I’ll show you those in a minute).

If you are using a tape core, cut a circle of tagboard to cover the top of the core. Use a box cutter to make a small slit in the center of the tag board circle, then hot glue it to the top of the core. Insert a craft stick into the slit.

basic topiary baseIf you don’t have packing tape cores, use paper cups or paper soup containers. Simply flip them over, cut a slit in the bottom, and inset a craft stick into the slit.

alternative topiary basesSince these bases are lighter than the tape cores, they run the risk of tipping over after you attach your topiary letters. If this happens, simply hot glue some pennies or flat glass marbles to the insides of the cups.

The next step is to decorate your bases. We offered construction paper, embossed foil paper, craft ties, patterned paper in botanical prints, dot stickers, paper crinkle, flower stickers, butterfly stickers, ribbon, patterned tape, mesh tubing, sparkle stems, pipe cleaners, and crepe paper streamers. We tried to keep everything in soft botanical colors – greens, yellows, and whites.

completed topiary baseWhen the bases are finished, it’s time for your topiary letters! We asked the kids to limit themselves to 4 letters or less (and we announced this at the very beginning of the project, so they would know how many bases to decorate). After some experimentation, we determined that 6″ letters looked best. We whipped up some topiary letter templates for kids to trace onto tagboard (or poster board). To decorate the letter, ball up 4″ x 4″ squares of green tissue paper, and glue them to one side of the letter.

topiary CWhen the letter is done, hot glue it to the craft stick. Repeat until you have all your letters mounted on their bases:

DCSYou might wonder why we went with topiary letters instead of animals or objects. We did try a few animals and objects, but they became quite unrecognizable after the tissue paper was glued on. The letters held their shapes extremely well, and it never hurts to get an early start on letter recognition! Some topiary letters did go floppy from the glue, however. If this happens to you, simply use extra craft sticks to reinforce the back of the letter.

reinforced MAnother thing you can do to reduce floppiness? Use masking tape to secure the craft stick to the base. Here’s a shot of some tape stuck inside the base:

taped stick in baseUsually, our craft area is loud and boisterous during the projects. But for this particular project, the room was filled with quiet concentration as kids put their gardens together. Perhaps it was the soothing botanical colors?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We did this project the Friday before Mother’s Day, and 3 kids decided to turn their projects into a gift for Mom. Fantastic!

Baked Goods for Bovines

baked goods for bovinesDo cows and cookies go together? You bet. Especially in this matching and sequencing game we created, complete with a grinning, cookie-eating cow!

We read The Cow Loves Cookies, written by Karma Wilson, and illustrated by Marcellus Hall (Simon & Schuster, 2010). All the animals on the farm enjoy their daily fare. Horses eat hay, the chickens enjoy chicken feed, and the hogs dig enthusiastically into slop. But the cow gets (and LOVES) cookies! Why? Everyday, the farmer and the cow share a picnic, and finish the meal with cookies (which he provides) and milk (which she provides). The clever rhymes make this a super fun read-aloud. By the end, the kids were all joining me in the refrain, “But the cow LOVES cookies!”

You’ll need:

  • 1 small box (mine was 4″ x 4″ x 4″)
  • A box cutter
  • 2 strips of white card stock (mine were 1.25″ x 10.5″)
  • 1 large box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9”)
  • 4 toilet paper tubes
  • White, brown, black, and pink construction paper
  • 2 medium pom-poms (approximately 0.75″ in diameter)
  • 2 black dot stickers
  • 1 cookie game template, printed on 2 sheets of 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • Scissors, tape, and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

First, the cow’s head. Use a box cutter to slice 3 sides of a small box. The uncut 4th side of the box is the hinge of your cow’s mouth. Use a black marker to draw “tooth lines” on 2 strips of white card stock, then attach the strips to the upper and lower parts of the mouth.

cow teeth stepsStick a brown oval nose on the front of the box (we used self-adhesive foam, but construction paper works too). Hot glue a pair of pom-pom eyes to the top of the box, and use black dot stickers (or circles of black construction paper) to create pupils. Use white construction paper to add ears and a fringed forelock.

cow's faceWrap 4 toilet paper tubes with white construction paper, then hot glue them to the bottom of a large box. Hot glue the cow’s head to the edge of the box as well. Add an udder, a tail, and 4 brown construction paper hooves.

cow from the sideThe final step is to cover your cow with spots. We used sheets of self-adhesive foam that the kids cut into customized spots, but construction paper is also an option. I definitely recommend offering a rainbow of spot colors – the results are fantastic. Check out this pink and white cow with the heart spot on her flank!

pink and white cowThe cow is finished, now for the cookie matching and sequencing game! Here’s how it works. Cut 4 white circles from the template, then use markers to decorate each circle like a cookie. All the cookies needs to be different.

circles to cookiesCut the rest of the template into 5 strips, making sure that each strip contains 4 cookie circles. Decorate the strips with different cookie sequences. All the strips should be different (and it’s totally OK if you don’t decorate all 5 strips).

various cookie patternsTo play the game, randomly select a cookie strip. Match your cookie circles to the sequence on the strip, and then feed the cookies to the cow in that order. When done, remove the cookies from your cow’s mouth, select a different strip, and play again! You can play the game at your own pace, or have a countdown from 10 to make it more challenging. Another option – place the cow on the other side of the room, so you have to run back and forth from the cookies to the cow!