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!

Monster Class

monster class photo

Even monsters need to learn their ABCs! These easy monster mask / hat combination costumes made it easy for terrifying young scholars to brainstorm ideas for their very own spooky alphabet books.

We read My Creature Teacher, written by Laura Leuck, and illustrated by Scott Nash (South China Printing Company, 2004). It’s your typical day at school…monster school that is! Hang up your spider sack, raise your paw in class, spell spooky words, and take the fire-breathing class pet out for a little fresh air. Teachers, no matter where they are, or how big their fangs are, all deserve our respect and gratitude.

You’ll need:

  • 1 plastic hat
  • Poster board
  • Mask decorating supplies (more on this below)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

The thing I like best about these masks is that they’re attached to a hat. This makes it easier to avoid the dreaded “mask sag.”  And let’s face it, hats are awesome, especially on werewolves!

werewolf maskWe offered 3 different types of hats, all purchased from Oriental Trading Company:

  1. Top hat ($7 a dozen, item #13743494)
  2. Fedora ($10 a dozen, item #31/243)
  3. Derby ($7.50 a dozen, item #25/562)

Cut a mask from poster board, then curl it a little and tape it to the inside front of a plastic hat. In the below image, you can see where we attached the Creature from the Black Lagoon mask to the plastic fedora:

creature from the black lagoon maskHowever! It’s best to decorate the mask before you attach it to the hat. Just make sure you leave some empty space at the top of the mask so it rests flat on the inside of the hat.

For decorating supplies, we offered curling ribbon, paper crinkle, crepe paper streamers, tissue paper, pipe cleaners, sparkle stems, craft ties, mesh tubing, iridescent cello, patterned paper, foam beads, pom-poms, dot stickers, goose quills, cone water cups, fabric flowers, and self-adhesive foam. And the Bling Bin of course.

The crepe paper streamers were INCREDIBLY popular for making braids down the sides of the masks. The more streamers, the thicker the braids. We secured the braid to the hat with tape, but we secured the bottom with staples.

skeleton maskOnce the transformation to monster students was complete, we gathered in the “classroom” to learn the monster alphabet. Basically, I created a template with space for illustrations (see mine below). I had the class recited the monster alphabet with me (even though it was hard not to giggle).

monster alphabetWe also printed and stapled together a set of alphabet letters for kids to take home a illustrate themselves. And yes, Z is for ZOMBIE!

z is for zombie

Gone Fishing…For Vowels

gone fishing for vowelsSome wild and crazy vowels are on the loose, and you must grab your magnetic fishing rod and catch AEIOU…and sometimes…that mysteriously elusive Y.

We read Sue MacDonald Had a Book, written by Jim Tobin, and illustrated by Dave Coverly (Henry Holt, 2009). Sue MacDonald had a book, but AEIOU made a break for it. So Sue must hop a train, ride a hot air balloon, delve into a sewer system, wield a fishing rod, and more to catch those rascally vowels. Honestly, this book should be in every early education classroom. Fantastic writing, great illustrations, and best of all…you SING the book to the tune of Old MacDonald!

You’ll need:

  • 1 vowel template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • A long piece of (ours was 32″)
  • A selection of color masking tape
  • 7 jumbo paper clips (mine were 1.75″ long)
  • 1 magnet
  • A piece of string (approximately 55″ long)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

The fishing poles are just about identical to the ones we constructed at our ice fishing story time. First, tie a jumbo paper clip to a piece string, then lower the paper clip into a piece of PVC pipe. Keep lowering the paperclip until it’s hanging well below the pole and there’s just a few inches of string sticking out of the top. Next, turn your pole so it looks like this:

polePush the unattached end of the string against the pole, and cover it with color masking tape. Continue wrapping the pole until you’ve created a 3″ handle. If you’d like, use the color masking tape to decorate the rest of the pole.

wrapped handleFinally, tape a magnet to the paper clip. We used little ceramic block magnets. Since these were potential choking hazards for younger siblings, we checked, double checked, and triple checked to make sure everyone’s magnet was firmly taped in place.

vowel magnet hookNext up, the VOWELS! Cut the vowels out of the 2-page template. You can use just markers to decorate them, or you can do what we did and bring out the Bling Bin and eye stickers.

wild and crazy vowels When you’re done decorating, tape a jumbo paperclip to the back of each letter. Spread the vowels on the floor, take a few steps back, and try “hooking” them with your rod.

catching the letter ACheck out Mr. Expert Fisherman…3 on 1 hook! Nice!

3 in 1The letter Y is on the template, but at our story time, we decided to do something a little special with it. We traced the Ys onto gold mirror board:

golden letter Y Then, as kids were fishing, we quietly dropped the golden Ys into their pile of vowels. If they caught the Y, they got to take it home (and of course, everyone caught the Y)!

Did you notice that some our our fishermen and women in the photos are wearing backpacks fashioned from manilla office folders? If you’d like to make one for your vowels to ride home in, the instructions are right here in this camping post.