Candle on the Water

candle on the waterA lighthouse shines in the darkness, allowing your little boat to safely navigate our story time waters – which look surprisingly like blue contact paper. Huh. Who knew the ocean came in long, rectangular sheets?

navigating the ocean maze

We read Who Sees the Lighthouse?, written by Ann Fearrington, and illustrated by Giles Laroche (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2002). With a blink, flash, and twirl, a lighthouse sends its light over the waters to watchful sailors, pilots, turtles, whales, and a few even more interesting visitors. This charming counting book has a surprise ending when it comes to concept and scale!

You’ll need:

  • 1 small oatmeal container
  • Construction paper
  • 1 plastic cocktail cup
  • 1 craft stick (use a 4.5″ one)
  • 1 box cutter
  • 1 LED light or mini glow stick
  • 1 small box (ours was 2″ x 3″ x 3″)
  • 2 strips of poster board
  • 1 foam bead
  • 1 drinking straw
  • 1 piece of string (ours was 39″ long)
  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • Hole punch, scissors, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

We’ll begin with the lighthouse! First, wrap a small oatmeal container with construction paper. We used color masking tape to create stripes, and self-adhesive foam to make a doors and windows, but you can also use construction paper or markers for this.

finished light houseThe most important part of this lighthouse is the light! You can put an LED votive or a mini glow stick in there and be done. But we wanted two things: 1) The top of the lighthouse to rotate; and 2) The light inside to “spotlight” like a real lighthouse. So I grabbed a bunch of submersible LED lights from the floral section of Michaels Craft (bring a 40% off coupon, because these are pricey at $20 for 12).

lighthouse spotlight First, wedge one end of a 4.5″ craft stick into the clip on the back of the LED light. Next,  cut a slit in the top of a soft plastic cocktail cup. Thread the free end of the craft stick up through the slit in the cup. Finish by adding a masking tape or construction paper flag to the top of the craft stick.

So why the craft stick? Submersible LED lights need to be twisted to turn the bulb on, but it’s awkward to twist a small light inside an equally small cup. With our design, you can lower the craft stick to drop the light outside the cup, then pull the stick upwards to return the light inside the cup. Cool, right? When the LED is lit, place the cup on top of the oatmeal container. Then simply rotate the unattached cup on top of the oatmeal container. You now have a lighthouse spotlight!

lighthouse finished spotlight Next up, the sailboat! Cut the top and/or lid off a small box, then hot glue 2 poster board strips on each side of the box. Pinch and hot glue the free ends of the poster board together in the front and back to create a boat shape. Tape a string to the top front of the boat (if you tape the string to the bottom, the boat will keep capsizing).

lighthouse boat with pull stringNext, use scissors to enlarge the hole of a foam bead. You want the hole large enough to hold a drinking straw. Hot glue the foam bead to the front of the boat. Note how the foam bead is not centered in the boat – it’s glued a little ways towards the front:

lighthouse boat with foam beadWhy is the foam bead slightly forwards in the boat? So you can fit your toilet paper tube person behind the sail of the boat (though if you use a slightly larger box, this might not be an issue).

lighthouse person in boatTo finish the boat, use a hole punch to create holes in the top and bottom of a triangle of white construction paper. Decorate the sail with markers, then thread it through a drinking straw. Insert the bottom of the straw into the foam bead (we also recommend a masking tape or construction paper flag to the top of the mast to keep the sail from popping off). Use construction paper and markers to decorate the boat and a toilet tube person.

When all the lighthouses and boats were done, we led the kids to an area of the gallery where we had created an ocean “pathway” using a roll of blue contact paper. We placed all the lighthouses along the pathway and turned off the overhead lights.

lighthouse ocean mazeThe kids pulled their boats along the pathway, which was lit by beautiful little lighthouses…

navigating the ocean mazeBecause Who Sees the Lighthouse? is a counting book, we asked the kids to count each lighthouse they passed. Then they came to me with the final number and were awarded fish stickers!

It’s another bonus points blog title! Best Disney song, ever. Still waiting for someone to bust it out on The Voice…

Tin Foil Regatta

tin foil regattaHoist the sail and glide down a tin foil waterway! You can race another boat, or simply bob along at your own pace. This project was designed for a story time at my community pool. The project had to be simple, creative, and appeal to a wide age range. Since there were 50 kids at the program, the project also needed to be inexpensive and easy to assemble, with minimal adult assistance.

We also needed a super fun book. And I knew just the one to read!

We enjoyed The Old Pirate of Central Park by Robert Priest (Houghton Mifflin, 1999). In an apartment in New York City, an old retired pirate builds a model of his former ship. Excited, he take the ship to the Central Park Sailboat Pond. The Laughing Dog sails the waves beautifully, and the Pirate is delighted. But then a retired Queen arrives with her ship, the S.S. Uppity Duchess. The Queen’s ship races around the pond, being rude and swamping other boats. When the Pirate tries to put a stop to the rampage, the Queen’s ship opens fire! The Laughing Dog fires back and the “infamous battle of Central Park” begins (very funny, you must read it). Finally, in need of a nap, the Queen declares an end to the battle and proposes a truce. The Queen and the Pirate shake hands and peace returns to the pond. Now the Queen and the Pirate are friends, they enjoy the sailboat pond together – the two “Old Retirates” of Central Park.

You’ll need:

  • 4 wine corks
  • 4 craft sticks (mine were 4.5″ long)
  • 1 wooden bead
  • 1 wooden coffee stirrer
  • 1 triangle of white construction paper (mine was 6.5″ tall)
  • A selection of color masking tape
  • Hole punch
  • Scissors
  • Markers for decorating
  • Roll of tin foil
  • Hot glue

Begin by hot gluing 4 corks together. Then, hot glue 4 craft sticks on top of the corks. Finish by hot gluing a wooden bead to the center of the craft stick deck. Your boat’s base should now look like this:

boat bodyWe prepped 50 of these boat bases in advance of the program. We also prepped the sails by punching holes in the top and bottom of a triangle of white construction paper.

holes punched in sailI made a dozen extra sails in case some ripped, got dunked the water, got lost in the fray, or someone made a coloring mistake and wanted to start again (and all four things happened at the program, multiple times!).

Insert a wooden coffee stirrer into the hole of the wooden bead. If necessary, stabilize the coffee stirrer with hot glue or color masking tape. Make sure to have extra stirrers on hand, in case the first one you grab doesn’t fit into the bead’s hole.

sailboat mastDecorate the sail with markers, then slide it onto the coffee stirrer

sail on mastTo make the sailboat’s flag, wrap a section of color masking tape around the top of the coffee stirrer. You can leave your flag square, or trim the sides with scissors to make it triangular.

flag stepsYour boat is finished! I managed to snap a few photos of boats at the program. Look how much personality they have!

We also had this fantastic non-boat creation…a pair of fish made out of tin foil and color masking tape. Awesome.

fishNow for the waterway! The waterway idea is from FamilyFun magazine (they called it “The Tinnissippi River.” How cute is that?). Basically, you use a whole lot of tin foil to make a long, high-sided tray (I recommend doubling up the tin foil to make it extra strong). Then you fill the tray with water. Our waterway was 10-12 feet long. I didn’t get a good photo of the waterway during the program, so I recreated a shorter version of it for this post:

full tin foil sheetAlas, our waterway sprung a leak during the pool program. But quick-thinking Katie filled up several dish tubs with water. The kids were just as happy to float their boats in the tubs, so if you don’t want go the tin foil route, just grab a couple dish tubs and set sail. Or haul that old baby pool out of the garage and fill it up!

tub alternativeIf you want to turn this activity into a riveting regatta, give the kids drinking straws and instruct them to use the straws to blow their boats down the waterway. First one to the end wins!