It’s Tubing Time

it's tubing timeSwoosh down the plastic table slopes in your magnificent snow tube, then grab a delicious cup of hot chocolate (enhanced with chocolate scratch-and-sniff stickers) at the sweetest little snow station in the universe – the Cocoa Chalet!

cocoa chalet customer

We read Snow Day! written by Lester L. Laminack, and illustrated by Adam Gustavson (Peachtree, 2007). Did the weatherman just predict snow? Woo hoo! No school! A dad and his two kids run through the list of marvelous things they’re going to do on their snow day…hot chocolate, warm blankets, snow forts, sledding. Up the stairs to bed they go, anticipating all the fun. Except it doesn’t snow. Dang. Dad’s especially upset…because he’s the teacher!

You’ll need:

  • 2 small tissue boxes
  • 2 pieces of tagboard
  • 4 mini craft sticks (ours were 3″ long)
  • 2 large plastic buttons
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • A selection of construction paper
  • 1 snow tubing slope (more on this below)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

finished snow tubesSnow tubes first! Cut the bottom off a tissue box, leaving 1″ sides on the box. Cut a circular tube shape out of tagboard or poster board. Decorate it, then hot glue (or tape) it to the top of the box. Next, flip the snow tube box over and glue two mini craft stick runners to the bottom – this will allow the tube to slide most effectively. Finally, hot glue (or tape) a large plastic button to the inside bottom of the box. This provides the weight that will send your tube zipping down the hill rather than slow-poking to a halt.

snow tube steps The tube rider is a toilet paper tube decorated with construction paper and markers. We added a felt scarf and a pair of mini pom-pom earmuffs as well. Did you recognize the red-cloaked rider on the right? That’s Little Red Skating Hood from this magnetic ice rink story time! We had kids make 2 snow tubes and 2 riders so they can race them down the hill.

tp tubersYour snow tubes are done, now for the slope! These were two, 6′ plastic tables we secured on stools. We’ve done exactly the same thing for this sled run and this country-to-city truck run. For snow tubing purposes, however, we made 4 racing lanes:

testing the snow tubesWe took four, 60″ pieces of PVC pipe, and speared wads of polyester fill on them. Then, we used packing tape to secure the PVC pipes to the tables. We left 11″ of space at the bottom of the racing lanes to encourage exciting tube crashes. Important! Test the tube riders on your slope a couple times. If the poly fill is bulging out too much, the riders will get stuck and won’t slide down the slope.

The mini-craft stick runners, the plastic button weight, testing the poly fill snow bulges…it might seem like a lot of extra steps, but the project won’t work as well without these things. We believe snow tubes need to zip, slide, and careen off things. Check out the results!


After everyone had played in the slopes, we headed over to “The Cocoa Chalet” for a delicious drink. This blog has amply demonstrated how much we love crafting retail opportunities (exhibits a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, and i). So bring on the hot chocolate stands I say! I made the Cocoa Chalet with a box lid and a poster board roof. The snow is fabric batting someone donated:

the cocoa chaletHere’s the back of the chalet. As you can see, the whole thing is attached to a cake pad base. Oh, and the chimney is a bubble tea straw.

back of cocoa chaletThe hot chocolate was a little piece of brown construction paper curled into a 1oz plastic sample cup. I topped it off with some poly fill whipped cream, then added a chocolate scratch-and-sniff sticker so the cup would exude a chocolatey bouquet.

hot cocoaHey! Do you want to see the most amazing hot chocolate in the world that I consume far too much of? Right here, my friend. Right here.

Adventure Awaits

adventure awaitsSolve the riddles, find 3 keys, and discover an ancient temple at To Be Continued, our chapter book story time for ages 6-8. Crawl inside the temple to find treasure, but be warned – the traps hidden within these dark walls will make your blood run cold. Unless, of course, you like traps. Then it’s going to be AWESOME!

We read Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas by Jonathan W. Stokes (Philomel Books, 2016). Addison Cooke and his younger sister Molly live in New York City with their  Aunt Delia and Uncle Nigel, who are world-renowned archeologists. Uncle Nigel has just discovered the first of three mythical Incan keys rumored to lead to a vast treasure. Unfortunately, Uncle Nigel’s nemesis, the ruthless Professor Ragar, wants that treasure very badly. He kidnaps Uncle Nigel and Aunt Delia, expecting them to lead him to the treasure. But what he doesn’t expect is the intrepid Cooke children mobilizing their friends and, with the assistance of Uncle’s credit cards, heading off to South America to beat Ragar to the treasure and rescue their family. Caiman-infested rivers, booby-traps in buried treasure vaults, limousines driven by panicky middle-schoolers…nothing can stop Addison Cooke when he sets his mind to something!

When the kids arrived at story time, I read them the first of 4 clues. This led them to a plastic box with a key and a clue to the next box (here’s the template for the keys if you’d like it).

clue box with key The 3 box locations were quite some distance apart on Princeton University’s campus, so there was a fair amount of excited running. Marissa went with the gang, and managed to get some great action shots.

prospect garden clueHere’s my favorite. Look at those feet coming completely off the ground!

feet off groundI don’t know about you, but I find rhyming clues really challenging to write. Especially when you want the kids to figure out where to go without being too obvious or clunky. I was, however, pretty happy with this one. Here’s a photo of the location:

chapel clue settingAnd here’s the clue that led to it:

It’s time to hurry! The last key awaits!
Next to the Chapel, in a special place.
Facing Firestone, peaceful and bright,
Benches of stone and flowers of white.

While Marissa and the kids were finding keys around campus, I was busy setting up the mysterious temple back at the library. It was a whopping 87″ long and 50″ high. We used 15 boxes, 2 tubes, 7 cardboard flats, multiple rolls of packing tape, and gray paint we had left over from this knight helmet project. The temple broke into three pieces so we could get it out of storage, hustle it through a doorway, and set it up in the gallery.

Incan templeHere’s a shot from the side so you can get an idea of the size and how we constructed it.

side of Incan templeThe ramp in the front of the temple lifted to reveal a felt-covered doorway. From there, kids entered a creepy, cob-web covered chamber illuminated with votive LED candles. One at a time, the kids crawled across a floor rigged with bubble wrap to snag a golden treasure box (which we lit from above with an LED light mounted in the top of the treasure vault box).

interior of templeThe minute the treasure left the vault, it triggered cardboard spikes dropping from the ceiling! That was me outside the box, manually raising and lowering the spikes from a slit in the ceiling. There was lots of laughing and screaming. Good times!

interior of temple with spikesThe characters in the book have a couple run-ins with caiman, so the final touch was an alligator puppet (operated by Marissa) that snapped at the kids as they exited the temple. The hard-earned treasure boxes were plastic jewelry boxes I found at the Dollar Store. They were loaded with plastic gemstones as well. Each kid received a treasure box, and, to make reloading the treasure vault easier, we cut a little trap door in the back of the box.

treasure box and gemsAfter everyone had received a treasure box, we opened the temple back up and just let the kids have fun entering and exiting, dodging the spikes. Some of the younger siblings tried too (sans spikes of course). And then there was this little baby who was totally fascinated by the interior of the temple. She hung out for quite a while!

brave babyAddison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas is a fantastic read-aloud. It’s hilarious, adventurous, faced-paced, with strong strains of Indiana Jones and The Goonies. Definitely looking forward to reading more books in this series!