Sneak Peek: The Secret Garden

champagne glass butterfly feederTomorrow, our library is kicking off the programming year with a Secret Garden event at Morven Museum & Garden. Today, we have a sneak peek at one of the hands-on projects, a champagne glass butterfly feeder!

This project is based on the one designed by Leslie Garisto Pfaff for FamilyFun magazine. Leslie mounted her feeder on a 4-foot garden stake using a bit of vinyl tubing. We simplified ours down to a “tabletop” version.

You’ll need:

  • 1 plastic champagne glass
  • 1 plastic pot scrubber
  • Craft foam
  • Scissors for construction
  • 1 batch of homemade butterfly nectar (recipe below)

Cut leaf and flower shapes from craft foam. Cut slits in the centers, then slide the foam shapes up the stem of a plastic champagne glass. Pop a plastic pot scrubber in the top, and you’re done:

side view of champagne glass butterfly feederTo make the homemade butterfly nectar, mix 9 teaspoons of water with 1 teaspoon of white sugar. Pop it in the microwave for about 45 seconds. Pour the nectar on top of the pot scrubber…your butterfly buffet is ready!

If you’d like to send kids home with a print out of this recipe, you’ll find that template here.

The Small Screen

the small screen

It’s a mini puppet theater with a retro twist! With just a few supplies, you can create a B-movie extraordinaire…and did you notice the television screen illuminates?

You’ll need:

  • 1 cupcake box
  • A couple wooden coffee stirrers
  • White card stock
  • 1 sparkle stem
  • 1 light source (more in this below!)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • A pen for drawing your characters

This project works best when you use a cupcake box with a plastic window. I purchased my 4.5″ x 4.5″ x 3″ cupcake boxes from Oriental Trading Company (item #3/3581). A dozen boxes cost $5.

side view of television theaterThe mini theater is basically the cupcake box with the lid raised. Simple, right? I cut the tab off the lid and added a sparkle stem antennae, but I left the sides of the lid intact because it makes the screen more stable. I also added a rectangle of black construction paper to make the television appear to be resting on something, but that’s optional.

To make your puppets, draw your characters on white card stock, then tape them to the bottom of wooden coffee stirrers. Store your puppets in the box when not in use!

mini puppets on sticksThe real fun is when you turn down the lights and illuminate your screen by dropping a submersible LED light in the box! You can find these lights in the floral section of Michaels Craft store:

submersible ledHowever, at $20 for 12, they can get pricey. So bring one of Michaels’ standard-issue 40% off coupons, or go with a cheaper alternative, like a glow stick. Here, for example, is a green glow stick in action…

green screenDefinitely gives new meaning to the phrase “green screen special effects.”

Red Letter Day

red letter day

Hosting a community event table and need something creative, literary, and simple? We highly recommend this wooden letter key chain project, which clips oh-so-conveniently to your bag or backpack!

The project just requires wooden letters, markers, rubber bands, and carabiners. We bought our carabiners from Oriental Trading Company – a bag of 50 costs $12. Our 2″ wooden letters are from Amazon. A set of 120 pieces (which also included symbols # & @ $) cost $22. And they come in this handy-dandy tray too!

letter keychain table layoutAt the event, we simply laid everything out and invited kids to decorate! I think we made around 350 keychains that day. Also, since we were representing Princeton University, Katie and I wore tiger onesies (like we needed an excuse, right?).

dr dana and katie tigersThe project was quick, easy to explain, inspired a lot of creativity, involved alphabet letters, and kids of various ages (plus a few college students!) really enjoyed it. You can’t get much better then that!