Sleepless in the Southwest

sleepless in the southwestSettle down Southwestern critters! As the moon rises over the cacti in this lovely construction paper landscape, it’s time for the birds, animals, and reptiles to find their special spots. Turn off the lights, and your moon and stars glow in the dark!

glowing moon in the southwestWe read Bedtime in the Southwest by Mona Hodgson, illustrated by Renée Graef (Rising Moon, 2004). Twilight has come to the Southwest, and it’s time to go to bed. But is everyone ready? The little hare is hopping on his bed, the skunk appears to be ignoring Mama, and the porcupine is poking quills in his pillow in protest. But eventually, everyone scoots, snuggles, and nestles down to sleep.

You’ll need:

  • A large, flat piece of corrugated cardboard (ours was 22″ x 25″)
  • Dark blue poster board
  • Orange poster board
  • Brown, green, white, and gray construction paper
  • Several pieces of green self-adhesive foam for cacti (optional)
  • A southwest critter template color printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • Scissors, glue and tape for construction

This project was a step-by-step endeavor, as opposed to our more go-crazy-with-the-supplies-and do-anything-you-want projects (here’s looking at you, Roy). And while crazy art is fun, there’s also something soothing about methodical projects. That was definitely true of this project. It was very mellow. We even removed all the tables and chairs and worked in a big, relaxed circle.

working circleWe also prepped all the project items in advance, so it would be easier for the entire group to progress through the project together.

First, the backdrop boards! Glue a 7.5″ x 22″ piece of dark blue poster board to the top of the backdrop board. Then, cut mountain ridges in the top of a similarly-sized piece of orange poster board, overlap it a little with the blue poster board, and glue it in place. Glue a white card stock moon and stars to the night sky. Next up, your critter habitats!

sleepless in the southwestBut first, a word about the little pockets each critter gets tucked into. We had a ton of old archival mylar lying around, so we used that to create clear pockets. Overhead projector transparency sheets work too. But you can opt for non-transparent pockets and use good old construction paper. Also, your pockets needs a little wiggle room at the top for sliding the critters in and out. So leave 0.75″ of the pocket un-taped.

pronghornAs you can see, the pronghorn habitat is a small bump of brown construction paper with a pocket taped in front of it. Super easy! The coyote habitat is 3 brown dirt mounds, one cut to look like the entrance to a burrow. The pocket is taped behind one of the mounds.

coyoteThe roadrunner habitat is a big spiky green bush with a little construction paper nest in front of it (the pocket is under the nest). Then we we then covered the nest with (optional) brown raffia pieces.

roadrunnerThe gila monster habitat is 4 gray rocks, with the pocket behind 3 overlapping rocks.

gila monsterFor the hummingbird habitat, cut a branched tree trunk out of brown construction paper, then tape the pocket over a fork in one of the branches. Cut a tree canopy with a big hole in it, then glue it over the top of the tree trunk and the pocket, leaving plenty of room to slide the hummingbird in and out. The hare habitat is at the bottom of the tree. It’s a pocket covered by a fringed 6″ piece of green crepe paper (or just use construction paper).

hummingbird and hareFinally, the elf owl. Did you know that elf owls live in cacti? We wanted to capture that awesomeness, so Katie painstakingly cut holes in 2 dozen cacti. Tape the owl’s pocket directly to the board, slide the owl in the pocket, and then position the hole in the cactus directly over the owl’s face.

elf owlBecause you need to retrieve your owl, you only want to attach the bottom section of the cactus to the board. We used self-adhesive foam for our cacti, and solved the problem by leaving the paper backing on the top part of the cactus, but peeling and sticking the rest:

peeled cactusWe used self-adhesive foam for all our cacti. It gave them a terrific texture, and it was fun for the kids to peel and stick them wherever they wanted. But construction paper works too! At the very bottom of our background boards was a long mylar pocket to store the animals when they’re not tucked into their habitats. We slid some cool Southwestern patterned paper into the pocket too.

critters in bottom pocketYou might have noticed that we kept the names of the critters on our template cut outs. I also broke from tradition and presented them to the kids already colored in. That’s because we wanted the kids to see what the various Southwestern critters looked like, and to learn their names. However, if you’d like the same template in black & white, here it is!

critters with namesThe very last thing Katie and I did was go around with a bit of glow-in-the-dark paint and fill in their moon and stars. We also added optional shooting stars (by painting glowing lines behind one of the stars on the board).

painting the moon and starsAnd that’s it! I like to think that, later that night, little Southwestern landscapes were glowing softly across town as kids tucked the animals in and went to sleep. Goodnight, sweet Southwest.

glowing moon in the southwest

A Good Knight’s Kiss

a good knight's kiss

Helmets! Shields! Dragons! And…kiss-catching nets? That’s right! The royal kiss has gone amiss, and these natty young knights must find it, posthaste!

We read The Kiss That Missed by David Melling (Barron’s Educational Series, 2002). When a busy King hurriedly blows a good night kiss to his son, the royal kiss misses its mark and flies out the window. A great hullabaloo is raised, and the King orders his Knight to find the errant kiss. Unfortunately, the kiss appears to have strayed into the wild wood, which is dark, smelly, and chock full of horrible creatures. Things are looking bad for the Knight when the kiss bounces past, causing all the horrible creatures to settle down to sleep. Except for a dragon, who hoists the Knight and his horse into the sky. Things are looking bad – again – when the royal kiss streaks right up the dragon’s nose. Ah! The dragon decides he doesn’t want to eat the Knight. He wants to kiss him goodnight, instead. They head back to the castle where the kiss is restored to the Prince, and everyone settles down for a good (and much deserved) night’s sleep.

You’ll need:

  • A piece corrugated cardboard for the shield
  • A selection of color masking tape
  • A box cutter
  • 2 brass fasteners
  • 2 strips of heavy-duty poster board
  • Hole punch
  • 1 jumbo popcorn bucket
  • Silver poster board or mirror board
  • A snippet of a toilet paper tube (approximately 1″ tall)
  • A bit of tin foil
  • 1 full sheet of tissue paper (ours was 19.5″ x 29.5″)
  • 1 butterfly net
  • 1 royal kiss (more on that later!)
  • Scissors, stapler for construction
  • Hot glue

The project consisted of a shield, helmet, and a kiss-catching net. Look, I beg of you, at this adorable knight:

adorable knightYou will find the instructions for the shield in this post. For this particular story time, we used a 12″ cake circle)s, color masking tape, and metallic and glitter markers. And here’s the template for 6 large emblems for the fronts of the shields.

round shieldNext came the helmets! Gentle lords and ladies, I found the most amazing DIY knight helmet at the blog Meaningful Mama. Jodi Durr, genius crafter, made one out of a jumbo popcorn bucket!

knight helmetThe instructions for Jodi’s helmet are here. We did, however, make some modifications. We used gray primer paint instead of metallic spray paint. We used silver mirror board for the visor. Jodi has 8 slits on her visor template, we only have 6. Also, instead of using brass tacks to make the visor move up and down, we held it in place with glue dots.

Finally, instead of a feather plume, we folded, then fringed, a 19.5″ x 29.5″ sheet of tissue paper. Then we rolled it up and hot glued it inside a tin foil-covered bit of toilet paper tube. Then we hot glued the plume to the top of the helmet.

paper plumeOur jumbo popcorn buckets were 8.5″ tall and the mouths were 7.5″ in diameter. Even so,  many didn’t slide easily over the kids’ heads. No problem! To make more room, cut a strip out of the back of the bucket until it fits. Here, for example what the back of my helmet looked like:

back of bucket helmetI’d like to send a big shout out to the Princeton Garden Theater for donating 25 jumbo popcorn buckets to our knightly cause! Last year, we collaborated on a How To Train Your Dragon event (check it out here!) and I do believe we’re going to have some more movie fun in the not-too-distant future.

Your last piece of knightly equipment is a kiss-catching net. I used butterfly nets I found in the $1 section of Target (you might recall seeing them in this post). I’ve also seen them at the Dollar Store. A little color masking tape around the handle helped me coordinate the net with my shield.

kiss catching netAll you need now are some kisses to catch! Given visor visibility and catching abilities, we wanted ours to be fairly large and substantial. We stuck gold embossed foil seals on the lids of 2″ favor tins, and dropped 6-8 flat glass marbles inside. Then we pinched four, 1.5″ x 7.5″ strips of gold mylar table cloth under the lid. Behold! A royal kiss, ready to be caught!

royal kissNow for the best part. Marissa is the proud owner of not one, but two dinosaur onesies. Ever since she sported one at this story time photo shoot, I’ve been looking for a reason to suit up. Dressed as “dragons,” Marissa and I lead the kids outside and had them form two lines. When we said “Go!” a kid from each line would chase me or Marissa.

knight gives chase to dragon danaWhen they caught us, we tossed a kiss in their net!

knight catches kiss from dragon marissa

Important! Keep the chase as orderly as possible. The last thing you need are 20 excited 3-5 year-olds with reduced vision running in a herd with with long sticks. As I mentioned, we had the kids form 2 lines. But we also had a parent volunteer stand at the front of the line to insure the kids wouldn’t all take off at once. Some kids elected to run without helmets (or shields), which was perfectly fine.

the kiss is caughtIt allowed me to see those beautiful smiles when the kiss was caught!

You Light Up My Life

you light up my life

Get illuminated! This cordless DIY desk lamp actually lights up, allowing for writing, drawing, and cozy late night reading binges.

We read Mary Had a Little Lamp, written by Jack Lechner, and illustrated by Bob Staake (Bloomsbury, 2008). Mary has a little lamp that goes everywhere she goes, much to the incredulity of her parents, friends, and classmates. From school to swings to weddings, the lamp never leaves Mary’s side. But after a summer at camp, Mary finally outgrows her lamp and moves on. Now, she has a toaster.

You’ll need:

  • 1 small box with lid
  • 1 box cutter
  • A 1.25oz plastic cup
  • A strip of tissue paper (approximately 4.5″ x 29″)
  • 1 cup of uncooked rice
  • 2 plastic sandwich bags
  • A 13.5″ piece of PVC pipe (1/2″ in diameter)
  • 2 button magnets (ours were 0.75″ in diameter)
  • 1 submersible LED light
  • 1 paper cup
  • A selection of patterned tape and color masking tape
  • 2 rectangles of self-adhesive foam (approximately 1.25″ x 1.5″)
  • A 3″ mini craft stick
  • 1 pipe cleaner
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue

finished lamp

This lamp consists of 5 parts: base, neck, shade, plug, and light bulb. We’ll begin with the base! For starters, you’ll need a box with a lid. To counterbalance the long neck of the lamp, the box will also need to be fairly wide (we used a  2.5″ x 4″ x 4″ craft box with much success).

Use a box cutter to cut an X in the center of the box lid. Then open the box and hot glue a 1.25oz plastic cup to the inside the box, right below the X. Squish a long strip of tissue paper inside the cup – you’ll need this a little later. Finally, split the cup of uncooked rice between 2 plastic baggies, then tuck the sealed baggies into the box around the cup. Your base should now look like this:

inside lamp base

Close the box and decorate it with patterned tape and/or color masking tape, but DON’T seal the lid down yet! Next, curve a 13.5″ piece of PVC pipe. The pipe is tough and doesn’t curve so easily, but Marissa the genius figured out that you can press it over a book cart handle.

book cart handle techniqueAlso! The PVC won’t curve gracefully (you need a heat gun for that). But it will bend into 3 sections that approximate a curve. Once the PVC is bent, wrap it with color masking tape. Hot glue a button magnet on one end of the pipe, then push the non-magnet end through the X in the lid of the box.

inside lamp base with neck

Wrap the tissue in the cup around the bottom of the PVC pipe, then lower it into the plastic cup. Once the neck is in place, you can close and seal the box lid. Next, use the box cutter to cut an X in a paper cup (about 1.5″ from the bottom of the cup).

cut cupLeaving plenty of room around the X, decorate the cup with patterned tape and/or color masking tape (or just markers). Then push the neck of the lamp through the X. Your lamp will now look like this:

finished base neck and shadeTo make the cord, snap a mini craft stick in two, then place the pieces on the back of a 1.25″ x 1.5″ rectangle of self-adhesive foam. Place a pipe cleaner at the bottom the the rectangle as well, then press a matching rectangle of self-adhesive foam on top. Trim the sides down into a plug shape, then tape the plug to the bottom of the lamp’s base.

lamp plug stepsFinally, the light bulb! We wanted these lamps to shed light, but we didn’t want to mess with…oh…electricity. We also wanted kids to be able to switch the lamps on and off. LED votive candles flickered too much, and glow sticks eventually fade. But then I found these submersible LED lights in the floral section of Michaels Craft!

submersible led lightsTo turn the light on, you simply twist the clear dome clockwise. The LEDS also come in different colors! Woo! However, a pack of 12 costs $20, so make sure you go armed with a 40% coupon. We hot glued a button magnet to the back of each LED light, then connected it with the magnet at the end of the PVC pipe neck. Here’s a shot of the two connected pieces inside the lamp’s shade:

led bulb in shadeTo operate the lamp, simply reach inside the shade, disconnect the magnets, and twist the LED light on. Then reconnected the illuminated LED to the magnet inside the lamp. Kids didn’t even need to peer inside the lampshade to do this – the magnets found each other quite easily.

We added a couple of desk accessories too. A pad of recycled scrap paper held together with an old binder clip, and a paper cup pencil holder (cut the cup down to 2.75″ and decorate with patterned tape or markers). Add a few golf pencils and you’re ready to write your next bestseller!

working at desk