Pocket Books

Looking for an inexpensive project that will keep youngsters busy for a bit? If you said YES empathically and in ALL CAPS, this post is for you! Today, we bring you pocket books, cool little books that can be created with stuff you find around home (or can easily acquire on your next shopping trip).

Pocket books have been around for ages, and today’s template will allow you to make a blank book that kids can turn into their own illustrated stories. The pockets not only add a cool 3D element, they also allow the artist to play with the various story pieces, then stash them neatly away!

You’ll need:

  • White poster board
  • Regular printer paper
  • Binder clips
  • Scissors and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating

Below is what a finished, undecorated book looks like. The covers are poster board, the pages are regular printer paper, and everything is held together with binder clips. The important thing to notice in the photo below is the folded crease on the book’s cover:

This not only makes the book easier to open and close, it also allows you to mark the margins of the pages. Why do this? It’ll be MUCH easier for kids to work on a page if it’s flat and the cover isn’t constantly flopping over. So once the book is assembled, draw a margin line down each page, using the fold as a guide.

Then disasseble the book, and give your artist the flat marked pages to decorate!

How you proceed with the decorating depends on the age of the artist. You could, for example, add the pockets yourself, and they can write the story and make the illustrated objects to go in them. Or, you can write the story on the pages, and they can do the pockets and drawings. It can be a team effort, or they can do everything themselves!

I used a heavier patterned cardstock for the pockets, but plain poster board, construction paper, or regular printer paper works too! However, when it comes to the objects in the pockets, definitely use poster board. It’s sturdier, can hold up to lots of handling, and easier to push in and out of the pockets. For fun, try doubling the pockets per page!

When the pages are complete, reassemble the book and enjoy! I recommend whipping up a batch of blank books at one time, just in case your first book expands into an epic series.

Oh, The Places You’ll Snow!

We’ve had PLENTY of snow this winter, and the last storm to blow through resulted in an unexpectedly zany backyard colorscape! The blue and yellow snow mound you see above is a nod to the striped tower on the cover of Dr. Seuss’ book, Oh, The Places You’ll Go! (I couldn’t resist adding a smiley face too). And today is Dr. Seuss’ birthday, so it’s timely as well!

You’ll need:

  • Snow
  • A box of liquid food coloring
  • Spray bottles filled with water

dye bottles 4

I used McCormick brand food coloring and spray bottles I found in the housecleaning section of my local grocery store (I’ve also seen them at Dollar Stores and in the beauty/travel size section of Target). I filled the bottles with warm water, then dribbled in dye until the desired color was achieved. Then we headed out to the backyard!

backyard 4

This photo was taken at the very beginning of our adventures…I’m afraid I don’t have a crazy “after” photo! But the kids painted a multi-color path around the yard (and constructed a micro sledding hill as well). I decorated a little higher, spraying the snow along the top of our fence:

snow hedge 3

We also made some hearts on the opposite side, for the neighbors to enjoy…

heart in snow 4

A couple hints:

  1. Fill the water bottles to the top, so you don’t have to keep going inside to refill.
  2. Make sure the tops are screwed on tightly. Hah!
  3. Wear gloves (fleece or knit). Bulky mittens make it difficult to operate the spray lever.

Did this project make a huge mess? Actually no! I thought it was going to be much worse. Our clothes didn’t get stained, and I didn’t even need to wash our gloves afterwards. The melting snow has NOT left dye on anything, including foliage or the wood fence.

If you’re looking for another Seuss-inspired activity, but need to keep it indoors, check out our Seuss mini golf post! Here, you’ll find instructions for making inexpensive putters and holes.

You’ll also find suggestions for putting together a custom course! You can build it with recycled boxes, plastic cups, paper tubes, old pool noodles…and just about anything else you can haul out of your closet!

oh the places you'll go 2


As part of our library’s mission of diversity, equity, and inclusion, we would like to share a link to a statement from Dr. Seuss Enterprises addressing their commitment to action regarding the content of six particular Seuss titles

Totally Random

Writers! Get ready for something TOTALLY random, because this handy-dandy machine, constructed out of a simple pasta box, could house the perfect prompt for your next story. Pull the cardboard tab, and your prompt will drop out, ready to be elaborated upon!

You’ll need:

  • 1 pasta box with window
  • A box cutter
  • A bit of cardboard or poster board
  • A set of writing prompts
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

This budget-friendly pasta box project was inspired by a mini claw machine in my own house, which is also stocked with writing prompt scrolls:

Why do I have a mini claw machine in my house? The short answer is: the pandemic. The long answer is that my kids and I didn’t take our annual beach vacation last summer. We always spend a couple days in Cape May, including fun evenings at the Wildwood boardwalk. It’s our one and only vacation each year. It didn’t happen, and spirits were low. So I surprised them with a boardwalk in my studio, which we visited nightly:

I had tabletop versions of our favorite games (claw machine, air hockey, skee ball). There was a mini roller coaster, remote control mini bumper cars, and balloon darts. I also decorated the room with string bulbs, flashing party lights, and blasted three kinds of music from three different places in the room (techno, pop, and calliope classics).

To be sure, this amount of stuff was a splurge for me. However, the most expensive item (the claw machine) is currently enjoying a second life as a writing prompt dispenser. Oh, and the remote control bumper cars have resolved many a sibling fight (TRIAL BY BUMPER CARS! THIS IS THE WAY!).

To make your own random prompt generator, you’ll just need an empty pasta box with a window! Use a box cutter to cut an opening in the front of the box, close to the bottom. This is where the prompt will slide out. Above that, cut a slot with a little, folded down ledge:

Next, slide a piece of cardboard (or poster board) into the slot so it rests on top of the ledge. This is the cardboard “floor” that holds the prompts in place inside the box. Make sure the cardboard extends well past the ledge, so kids can pull and push it back easily:

You’ll also need to tape a matching ledge inside the box to hold the cardboard floor steady (otherwise, the pile of prompts will just drop out). You can see the little white cardboard ledge I taped inside my pasta box below:

Finally, make your prompt scrolls! Here’s a list Katie and I put together to get you started. Just make sure the scrolls are thin enough to be removed from the bottom of your box! Slide the cardboard floor into place, and load the scrolls into the box from the top. Done!

To operate, pull the cardboard floor slowly outward until a single scroll drops down. Then push the floor back in. Grab your prompt, unroll it, and get writing! Reload new prompts into the top of the box as needed. You can also add a facade on the front of the box…just make sure it doesn’t cover your ledge or your windows:

If you would like some feedback on that fabulous story, we have an email editing service here, as well as a one-on-one Zoom program here. And 50 zillion bonus points if you recognized the final writing prompt on our list…yup, it’s from our annual 350 for 50 writing contest, which will be happening again this spring! So stay tuned!