Go With the Floe

go with the floeHeading to the North Pole? South Pole? Or perhaps you’re on an unintentional grand tour of the globe? Hop on this convenient ice floe with some slightly puzzled penguins and polar bear and prepare to see the world!

We read Poles Apart, written by Jeanne Willis, and illustrated by Jarvis (Nosy Crow, 2015). One fateful day, the Pilchard-Brown penguin family depart for a picnic at the South Pole. But a wrong turn takes them to the North Pole and Mr. White the polar bear, instead. Mr. White kindly offers to help the penguins get home. Unfortunately, Mr. White’s sense of direction isn’t much better then the Pilchard-Browns. He leads them through the United States, England, Italy, India, and Australia. Finally, they arrive at the South Pole, where Mr. White must say goodbye and travel back to the North Pole. He’s feeling lonely…and that’s when he discovers a little surprise in his hat.

You’ll need:

  • 1 small box (ours was 2” x 4” x 4”)
  • White poster board
  • 2 sets of wheels (more on this below)
  • 1 piece of string (ours was 26″)
  • 1 packing tape core
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • Black and white construction paper
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

ice floe

First, the ice floe! This is a white poster board “floe” hot glued (or taped) to the top of a small box. Just make sure you make the floe large enough to carry the polar bear and all 3 penguins. The pull string attaches to the front. Here’s the underside of the floe:

underside of ice floeWe used plastic wheels from Kelvin Educational (originally purchased for this Richard Scarry program). But wooden spools also work. Cut 2 bamboo skewers to approximately 6″ (they might need an inch or two longer if you use wooden spools). Next, cut 2 drinking straws a few inches shorter than the skewers (my straws were 4″). Thread the skewers into the drinking straws, and slide wheels on the ends of the skewers.

Now for the polar bear and the penguins! For the bear, we wrapped a 3.5″ tall packing tape core with white construction paper. The earmuffs are a sparkle stem and two pom-poms attached with hot glue.

polar bear with earmuffsTo make the penguins, wrap 2 toilet paper tubes with construction paper. Cut one of the tubes in half to create the 2 small penguins. Attach wings, faces, and tummies. We also added ribbon scarves and a world map to our penguins trio (and if you want to be true to the book’s illustrations, attach the map upside down).

penguin family with mapPlace the polar bear and penguins on top of the ice floe and travel the world! Some kids opted to tape their passengers to the ice floe to keep them from falling off…

ice floe and trainI snapped this adorable traveling quartet en route to our gallery, but did you also notice the vehicle in the background? One little boy decided to create a “snow train” using project materials. The penguins are riding inside the engine. Fantastic!

Mission: Hugs for All

hugs for allIt’s a big world out there. A world with lots of things in it. And those things need HUGS. The question is…are you up to the task? Are you a Hug Machine?

We recommend Hug Machine by Scott Campbell (Atheneum, 2014). Prepare yourself world. The Hug Machine (a little boy in a striped shirt and red rain boots) is on a mission to cheer people up, calm people down, and make things right. Tree? Hug! Park bench? Hug! Crying baby? Hug! Even a spiky porcupine gets a special padded hug. It’s impossible to read this book without smiling. Highly recommended!

Today’s simple project was designed by Jennifer Hyde, an ingenious teacher in Logan, Utah. Jennifer’s “Paper Hug” was featured in Family Fun magazine many years ago. I modified it only slightly for today’s post.

You’ll need:

  • Poster board
  • Scissors
  • Markers

Trace your left and right hands at each end of a 5.5″ x 27″ strip of poster board. Keep the hands connected as you cut them out of the poster board.The result is a long “hug.” Decorate the hug with markers (or use color masking tape like we did).

poster board hugOK, you’re ready to start hugging – and by hugging we mean go forth and find things to wrap your poster board hug around! You can just use the paper hug, or get right in there and use your arms too. Always dedicated to seeing a project through, Katie and I hit the streets on a rainy afternoon to share the love with Princeton.

Hugging John Witherspoon, Founding Father and past President of Princeton University…

witherspoon statue hug

The classic tree hug. It was a little damp, but who cares?

tree hugA mailbox clearly in need of a hug.

mailbox hugHugging a roaster and barista pal at our awesome local coffee shop, Small World.

small world coffee hugA hug for House of Cupcakes, who sell me donuts and cupcakes. Like, everyday.

house of cupcakes hugHugging a rainbow narwhal at JaZams, our stupendous local toy store.

jazams hugNo park bench escapes me…

bench hugNor jungle-like foliage…

leaf hug

A super-sweet hug from the folks at the Bent Spoon, best bakery in the world.

bent spoon hugAn attempted hug of one of Princeton’s famous black squirrels…yeah, no go.

attempted squirrel hugFinally, a hug from a random person who totally rocked the love. Awwwww!

random person hug


Sending hugs to those experiencing devastation and loss in Florida following Hurricane Michael. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Blue Skies Ahead

blue skies ahead

We’re zooming into the wild blue yonder with this amazing aviator hat AND a pair of custom airplane wings and propeller belt. The sky is the limit!

plane costumeWe read Pilot Pups, written by Michelle Meadows, and illustrated by Dan Andreasen (Simon & Schuster, 2008). Join a pair of enthusiastic stuffed dogs as they fly through the house in a toy plane. Dodging mountaintops (Dad’s head), encountering fog (tea kettle), and careening past the creek (kitchen sink), and returning to the bed before anyone notices their daring adventures.

You’ll need:

It took a little tweaking, but I finally came up with a single piece aviator hat template that works. Here’s what the template looks like with its various dimensions:

aviator hat template with measurments

And here’s an unmarked shot of it, so you can clearly see its shape:

aviator hat template blank step 1First, fold the rounded part of the template upwards and inwards, so it tucks under the back of the template. Later, this will be the bill of your aviator hat.

aviator hat template step 2Hold the template to your forehead and curve the long ends around your head. Secure the ends together with staples. This is the headband of your hat (and, if the template band doesn’t go all the way around your head, just add a little extender piece in the back).

aviator hat template step 3Next, fold the right and left flaps over the top of your head. Secure them together with staples. Note: you want the flaps to form a bit of a “dome” over your head, not fit super tight on top of your skull.

aviator hat template step 4Fold the the center flap down over the top of your head, gently tucking it into the back of the hat brim. Trim off any excess flap sticking out from under the brim.

aviator hat template step 5

Turn the hat over and squish and round the edges of the center flap to make the hat look more rounded. Decorate the goggles (yay steampunk story time!) and buckles from the template, then attach them to the hat like so:

aviator hat template step 6That’s your hat, now for the rest of the costume! The wings are super simple. We cut pairs of 9.5″ x 16″ wings from white poster board, which the kids decorated with markers, color masking tape, and star stickers. Add poster board wrist and shoulder loops to the undersides of the wings. You can see the placement of the loops in the photo below (most kids chose to grasp the wrist loops in their fists while “flying”):

wing loopsThe propeller belt is a strip of poster board with holes punched in each end. Wrap the belt around your waist and secure it in place with a snippet of ribbon (decorate with markers and color masking tape of you like to) threaded through the belt holes. You can simply attach a poster board propeller to the front, or you can make it spin by using a brass fastener.

You’re ready to soar!