Home Aquarium

home aquarium

Need an aquarium in your home? How about we just make the whole HOUSE the aquarium? Turn the tab at the top of this house to twirl ocean creatures past your window. Video, of course, at the end of the post!

We read Faucet Fish, written by Fay Robinson, and illustrated by Wayne Anderson (Dutton Children’s Books, 2005). Elizabeth adores fish, and spends quite a lot of time at the local aquarium. Alas, she only owns a guppy, and her parents aren’t keen on getting any more fish. But one day, a trout drops out of the faucet! The faucet fish keep coming, getting larger and larger until a baby beluga emerges in the tub. Only one thing left to do…turn the entire house into an aquarium!

You’ll need:

  • 1 small tissue box
  • A box cutter
  • A square of blue cellophane
  • A selection of construction paper
  • 1 brass fastener
  • 1 snippet of poster board
  • 1 plastic cup
  • 1 strip of white card stock
  • Scissors, tape, and hole punch for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

The box for this project definitely requires a lid! We used a 4.5” X 4.5” x 6” craft box, but a small tissue box works as well (just flip the tissue box upside down). Use a box cutter to create a small slit in the center of the box’s “roof.” Next, cut a window in the box. Use leftover cardboard scraps to craft window panes, and tape blue cellophane over it.

window of aquarium houseNow decorate the outside of your house! We offered construction paper, color masking tape, and patterned tape, but you can also just use markers. One thing to note…the roof is just a triangle of paper attached to the front of the box. It doesn’t extend backwards over the top of the box.

home aquariumNext, decorate a strip of white card stock with ocean creatures. Make sure to measure the strip carefully…it needs to wrap fully around your plastic cup and not extend past the top or bottom. Our strip was 4″ tall x 11″ wide. And can I say what a fine job Katie did with her ocean creatures? Just look at that happy jellyfish!

strip of ocean crittersThe final piece of the project is the spinning cylinder. This is a plastic cup attached to the roof of the house with a brass fastener. Two tabs extend from the top of the box, allowing you to easily turn the mechanism:

plastic cup attached to houseOur tabs were created with a 0.75″ x 3″ snippet of poster board. Punch a hole in the center, then thread a brass fastener through the hole. Push the ends of the fastener through small slits cut in the top of the box and the bottom of a plastic cup. Unfold the fastener’s prongs inside the cup.

You really want the connection to be strong, so we recommend hot gluing AND taping the head of the brass fastener on the snippet. Hot glue a small square of cardboard over the prongs inside the cup as well:

reinforced cup connectionFinally, wrap your strip of ocean critters around the cup. As you can see in the above photo, the cup is tapered, so the strip won’t wrap around it in a perfect circle. No problem! So long as the strip is secured tightly to one point of the cup (we suggest the strip’s seam) it will work. Here’s a shot of the finished mechanism, which is then tucked inside the house. Secure the lid down with tape.

finished aqarium cylindarReady to see this little contraption in action? The colors were a little muted in the video, so I removed the blue cellophane from the window to showcase the ocean critters more clearly. Swim my little friends, swim!

Walk on the Wild Side

walk on the wild sideDare to be different! Stroll down the street with your skunk. What could possibly go wrong?

We read Don’t Take Your Snake for a Stroll, written by Karin Ireland, and illustrated by David Catrow (Harcourt, 2003). What happens when you take a pig shopping, an elephant to the beach, a duck to a wedding, or a rhinoceros to a swing party? Trust me, it’s not good. This hilarious book had our story time kids in stitches. Not only are the rhymes fun and fantastic, the stupendous illustrations show you exactly what happens when you take a coyote out for a night on the town!

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9” – a large tissue box works!)
  • Construction paper
  • 1 rubber band
  • 1 paper cup
  • 1 pair of wiggle eyes (optional)
  • 4 wheels (optional – more on this below)
  • A 36″ piece of yarn or string
  • Markers for decorating
  • Scissors, tape, glue for construction
  • Hot glue

Wrap a box with your choice of construction paper, then slide a rubber band “collar” onto the box. Add legs, tail, ears, mouth, eyes, and a nose. A paper cup makes a terrific snout, should you need one (I recommend attaching it to the box with hot glue). We had pieces of self-adhesive foam on hand for noses and mouths, as well as Twizteez wire for whiskers. We made a few example critters to get the creative juices flowing…

skunkmonkeymouseoctopusBecause we intended to take our animals out on the sidewalk, we put the boxes on wheels. I used these plastic wheels from Kelvin Educational.

wheelsThread the wheels on pieces of bamboo skewer, and then thread the skewers through drinking straws taped to the bottom of the box like so:

axles and wheelsYou could also use wooden spools instead of plastic wheels. Or, if you’re planning to stay indoors, skip the wheels and just drag the box on the floor (like the dog from this post). No matter yours means of locomotion, just make sure your animal’s arms and/or legs don’t drag on the ground. Ditto for the tail. Tie a piece of yarn to the collar, and hit the sidewalks!

skunk on the street 1Sure, you might get a few curious stares…

skunk on the street 2Well, let them stare! Walk with poise and confidence. And as you’re walking, say to yourself “Me and my skunk look great. And darn it, we feel great too!”

skunk on the street 3Er. Just make sure you say it, don’t spray it.

skunk on the street 4Did you spot the mouse on a walk too? Look by the newspaper boxes!

A Box of Puzzles…and Ducks

contents of boxInside this box are a number of tantalizing puzzles, mazes, optical illusions, images of unusual hotel rooms, building projects, and…ducks. Can all of these things be some how related? The answer is mostly definitely yes.

This project was part of To Be Continued, our story time program for children ages 6-8. Typically, we do the projects during the program. But unfortunately, the timing on this particular day only gave me five minutes to present the project. To further confound things, it was also the eve of a one month programming hiatus. So I needed something the kids could grab, take home, and discover for themselves. Not unlike the main character in the book!

We read Floors by Patrick Carman (Scholastic, 2011). Ten-year-old Leo Fillmore and his father are the maintenance crew at the Whippet Hotel. But the Whippet isn’t an ordinary hotel. It has a room that’s a giant pinball machine, a roller coaster elevator called the Double Helix, a roof-top duck pond, a Cake Room, a Robot Room, a Pond & Caves room, and a shark head named Daisy. The Whippet is the brainchild of Merganzer D. Whippet, inventor, engineer, architect, and eccentric. Unfortunately, Mr. Whippet has gone missing, the hotel is going haywire, and two mysterious men have been making nefarious inquiries. But things take a turn for the strange when Leo finds a mysterious purple box. Inside is a letter from a lawyer and a clue that can only be from Mr. Whippet. Now Leo, his friend Remi, a duck named Betty, and a talkative robot named Blop have just two days to solve the clues, find more puzzle boxes, explore some of the hotel’s strangest rooms, and save the Whippet.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box
  • Different color printer paper
  • Puzzle box templates (located at the bottom of this post)
  • A piece of curling ribbon
  • Scissors for construction
  • 1 rubber mini-duckie (optional)

Any old box will do, but I decided to splurge and purchase these super-sturdy papier-mâché treasure boxes from Discount School Supply (a set of 12 is $21). My idea was that once kids were done with the activities inside the box, they could decorate the outside with art supplies at home. Here’s what my boxes looked like:

exterior of boxThe tag says “Always bring a duck if you can. They are more useful than you know.” That’s a quote from the book. It’s a very valuable piece of advice given to Leo when he finds the first box. Here’s an image of the full contents of the box:

contents of boxIn the book, Leo and his friend Remi have to follow cryptic clues, solve a number of riddles, and learn that things are not always as they seem. To replicate this experience for the story time kids, I grabbed mazes, optical illusions, and riddles from the internet.

mazes, optical illusions, riddlesI also scanned some Thinklers (i.e. visual riddles) from the book Thinklers! by Kevin Brougher (Missing Piece Press, 2000).

thinklersSince Merganzer engineered the Whippet himself, I included suggestions for a couple building projects involving things like gumdrops, marshmallows, toothpicks, toilet paper tubes, and card stock.

building activitiesThe rooms at the Whippet Hotel are fantastical and amazing. So I did a Google search for unusual real-life hotel rooms. And I found them. Oh yes I did. You must check out the ICEHOTEL in Sweden. Wow.

unique hotel roomsMr. Whippet is obsessed with ducks, and Betty the duck saves the day more than once. So I rounded up some duck jokes, duck memes, and other miscellaneous duck items.

duck memes, jokesI topped everything off with a rubber mini-duck. I found these on Amazon (12 for $6.87).

ducksReady to put together a box? Here are the templates you’ll need to reproduce everything.

The box tag template for the exterior of the box (you’ll need a hole punch too).

The box contents template 1 consists of 3 pages of duck memes, building activities, optical illusions, and images of unique hotel rooms. Since the images are in color, print them on white paper (card stock works great).

The box contents template 2 consists of 4 pages of Thinklers, mazes, riddles and duck jokes. I recommend printing each page on a different color paper. Also, to economize a little, I repeated the duck jokes and riddles twice on a single page.

Have fun! And may the duck be with you, always.