When Monsters Go Mobile

when monsters go mobileWe’ve made a lot of monster projects on the blog, but this is our first monster…on a bicycle! Where is he going? To find YOU, of course. And make a very special delivery.

We read Bedtime for Monsters by Ed Vere (Henry Holt, 2011). There are monsters out there. In fact, there’s one thinking about you at this very moment…and now he’s heading your way! But as he’s cycling, climbing mountains, and crossing swamps, is his thinking of how delicious you’ll be on toast? Or how tasty you would be slathered in ketchup? No silly! He just wants to give you a big goodnight kiss!

You’ll need:

  • 1 small oatmeal container
  • Construction paper
  • 1 small box
  • 1 piece of yarn (ours was 30″)
  • 1 set of wheels (more on this below)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

In one section of the book, the monster rides a bicycle. We loved the idea of a pull string bike and a pursuing monster. But it turns out, crafting working 2 wheel bikes is really hard! So you’ll have to pardon us if our bike ultimately had 4 wheels.

monster bikeThe bike is a 4″ x 4″ x 4″ craft box cut down to 2″ tall (a small tissue box works too!). We also cut the lid off the box and used it to create the T shape handlebars for the bike. Use color masking tape or markers to decorate the bike and handlebars.

The yarn pull string gets taped to the bottom of the box, and we also added a jingle bell secured with twisteez wire. To get things rolling, we recommend our “classic wheel assembly” (instructions here), but wooden wheels or spools work too. And did you notice the basket on the back of the bike?

basket on monster bikeUse a small box or extra cardboard to create a small bike basket, then tape or hot glue to the back of the bike box. Not only does the basket keep the bike from tipping too far back when you’re pulling it, the basket holds something VERY special a little later. Finally, we have our monster…

monster bike riderWrap a small oatmeal container with construction paper, then add arms, legs, eyes, ears, and horns. We added a little paper crinkle to the top of his head as well. Note: if your bike box was small like ours, you might consider folding the monster’s legs upwards so they don’t get crushed. A crushed monster is an unhappy monster.

When the bikes and monsters were finished, kids pulled their creations around the gallery to where I was sitting with some construction paper hearts.

monster bike kissesThese were “kisses” the monster was carrying with him in his bike basket for you! Awww!

monster delivers kisses

The Violet Beauregarde Fail

violet beauregarde failWe always promised that we would share the good, the bad, and the ugly on this blog. Well, today we present a complete and total fail. We tested a 6ft, 72″ latex climb in balloon. Yes, a giant balloon you climb inside.

Why?

Well, we were doing research for new Willy Wonka escape room Katie is designing (you can see her awesome Sherlock Holmes one here). We spotted the balloon on Amazon and immediately thought of the gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde and her unfortunate turn as a blueberry in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Here’s the shot from the seller’s listing:

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From Amazon

We imagined a Violet-like character in the escape room, giving hints and so forth. However, we were more than a little skeptical the balloon would work. But after watching several hilarious YouTube videos of people trying and succeeding, we decided to test one to see if it would work for us.

It didn’t.

For starters, even though this was listed as a “Climb In Balloon,” the instructions that arrive with the product DON’T tell you how to climb inside it. They instruct you to fill the balloon with helium and float it. Thankfully, YouTube had all the answers. In order to inflate it and wear it, we needed to use a leaf blower. Good thing Katie has a super duper electric one!

The balloon arrives in a plastic bag with the aforementioned instructions. It looks just like a little balloon, but supersized. I snapped a photo of it with a tape measure, just to give you an idea of the diameter.

climb in balloonThe technique for getting inside the balloon is to inflate it a little, stretch the neck open, and then quickly slide a foot in. Inflate again, and slide the other foot it.

feet in balloonThen you stand up, inflate, and start shimmying the balloon up your body. But in order to create the space for your legs and torso, the balloon has to stay semi-inflated at all time. Which means someone is running a leaf blower next to your head as you try to ease your way into your balloon suit.

balloon progressWe made it a little past my knees before the balloon ripped. NOOOOO! Maybe it was the roughness of my clothing? Something smooth like running tights, yoga pants, or even wearing shorts might have made the difference.

Or perhaps it was they way the neck of the balloon kept curling downward, stressing the sides of the balloon until it finally ripped? If we’d had a couple of balloons to test, my guess is that we would have eventually succeeded (but at $25 a balloon, this was simply not feasible). Whatever the reason for the fail, I was really, really, really sad. I wanted it to work folks. I really wanted to be inside a giant balloon with just my head sticking out.

Well, you can’t win them all.

The amount of work to get inside this balloon, the high potential for failure, and the price per balloon means we’ll have to figure out something else for the Willy Wonka escape room. And whatever it is, it’ll be Katie’s turn to climb inside it. Heh heh.

The Plowman Cometh

the plowman cometh

A huge snow storm demands the toughest snowplow around. But not necessarily the BIGGEST. Sometimes, small gets the job done!

We read Small Walt, written by Elizabeth Verdick, and illustrated by Marc Rosenthal (Simon & Schuster, 2017). Walt is the smallest snowplow in the fleet, and he’s always last in the pack to get picked by a driver. But when a huge storm hits, Walt and a good-natured driver named Gus get to work, plowing mile after mile. Even the biggest hill in town can’t stop this terrific team!

You’ll need:

  • 2 small boxes, or 1 large tissue box
  • 1 snowplow cab template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • Black poster board
  • 1 craft stick
  • 2 medium yellow pom-poms
  • A piece of yarn (ours was 24″ long)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

snowplow

Shout out to Katie for designing such an awesome snowplow! We hot glued two, 4″ x 4″ x 4″ craft boxes together. One of the boxes is cut down to 2″ of course, to create a snowplow with a pickup truck bed. But you can also cut a large tissue box down like so:

tissue box snow plow Color and cut the side doors and windshields from the template, then tape them to the box. I would, however, like to bring your attention to this very clever variation on the template. The kid bent the doors outwards, and drew a snowplow driver inside!

driver inside snowplowWe provided color masking tape for stripes and other details. And added a craft stick bumper to the back as well…

back of snowplowThe wheels and blade of the snowplow are black poster board. Add 2 yellow pom-pom “flasher lights,” a yarn pull string, and you’re done! We decided to add an extra challenge to our story time project in the form of these fabric snowballs. I scored a dozen packages of these on deep, deep discount this summer.

snowtime snowballsKids were challenged to navigate our gallery, rolling the snowballs in front of the plow without losing them. Then they got to take some snowballs home!

snowballs and snowplowDid you notice the little blue bow on the snowplow’s windshield? In the story, Gus ties his blue scarf on Walt to celebrate the little plow being “Number One!” We definitely wanted to capture that sweetness here as well.

And in case you’re wondering if we played with the piles of fabric snowballs, the answer is YES. Here’s our friend and former office-mate Ian, being ambushed at his desk this summer. This was only one of many such incidents.