We read Gator by Randy Cecil (Candlewick, 2007). At the amusement park, a carousel spins, and Gator is the happiest animal on the carousel. He loves the lights, the wind in his face, and the laughter of the children. But when business slows and the amusement park closes, Gator becomes lonely and sad. He decides to leave. He travels through a deep, dark forest, falls into a stream, and stumbles upon some relatives in a zoo who are a lot bigger and scarier than he is. Completely disheartened, Gator slumps on a bench, crying. But suddenly, he is spotted by a little boy and his father, who recognizes Gator from the old days. Encouraged, Gator leads a crowd back to the carousel, which leaps to life once again, surrounded by the sounds of laughter and happiness.
- 1 small box with lid (mine was 2″ x 4″ x 4″)
- A selection of color masking tape
- A selection of patterned tape
- A box cutter
- A 10″ cake circle (or a corrugated cardboard circle, 10″ in diameter)
- 1 brass fastener
- 1 sturdy, 8.75″ paper plate
- Hole punch
- 1 paper bowl
- 1 paper towel tube
- A selection of patterned paper (or white printer paper)
- 2 mirror board ovals, each 2.5″ tall (optional)
- 1 carousel animals template, printed on 2 pieces of 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
- 4 drinking straws (mine were 7.75″ long)
- Metallic silver dot stickers
- 5 large silver embossed foil seals (mine were 2″)
- A strip of foil star stickers
- 2 white coffee filters
- 1 jumbo pom-pom (mine was 1.5″ in diameter)
- 2 large gemstones
- Scissors, tape, and glue stick for construction
- Markers for decorating
- Hot glue
We’ll build the carousel’s spinning mechanism first. Decorate the sides of a small box with color masking tape and patterned tape (or markers). Don’t decorate the lid of the box and definitely don’t tape it shut. You’ll need to open the lid in a few steps.
Push a brass fastener through the slit in the cake circle. Next, open the lid of the box and push the brass fastener through the slit in the lid. Open the prongs of the brass fastener to secure it in place.
Close the lid of the box, and tape it shut. The spinning platform for your carousel is done!
The next step involves a paper plate, but I wanted to say a quick word about the plate before we get started. You’ll definitely need a sturdy paper plate with a deep well and sides that slant upwards. The cheaper, flatter paper are simply too floppy, especially when you need to attach the carousel animals later. So think sturdy! That said, punch 4 holes in a paper plate. When punching your holes, keep them close to the edge of the plate like so:
Cut a paper towel tube down to 8″ and wrap with patterned paper (or white printer paper). Don’t, however, wrap the paper all the way to the top and bottom of the tube. Leave a little bit of the tube exposed at both ends. This will make it much more sturdy when your hot glue the tube to the platform and the canopy of the carousel.
Hot glue 2 mirror board ovals to the sides of the pole (these carousel “mirrors” are optional, but the kids really got a kick out of seeing themselves reflected in them). Now hot glue the tube to the center of the platform. Then hot glue the canopy to the top of the tube. Use lots of hot glue…you don’t want this coming apart later! Your carousel will now look like this:
Time to attach the carousel animals! I’ll use the horse as the example for the steps below. First, cut and color the horse from the template. You’ll notice that the horse has a tab extending from its top and bottom. Each tab has a circle on it, as well as a dotted line. Use a hole punch to punch out the circle, and fold each tab along the dotted line.
If you get stuck using clear plastic drinking straws like I did (I had a bunch leftover from this Cinderella program) you can use color masking tape to add stripes to it. Just make sure to leave the very top and the bottom of your straw tape free.
To attach the horse to the carousel, stick the top of the straw “pole” through a hole in the carousel’s canopy. The pole might stick up a little, but that’s totally OK.
To keep the pole from slipping downward, stick a piece of masking tape over the hole, but put the tape on the underside of the platform. Sorry about the awkward photo, but here you can see the underside of the platform, with 3 punched holes covered by pieces of red masking tape:
Now drop the bottom of the pole into the platform hole. The pole will stick to the masking tape, but I highly recommend putting a little hot glue in the hole before you slide the pole in, just to keep it extra secure. You can also skip the hole punching and simply attach the bottom of the pole to the platform with masking tape.
Finally, cover the canopy hole with masking tape to make the pole nice and snug. Repeat the above steps with the remaining 3 carousel animals.
Decorate the carousel with metallic dot stickers, embossed foil seals, and foil star stickers (anything shiny really). Hot glue a jumbo pom-pom to the top of the canopy, and hot glue 2 large gemstones on the sides of the pom-pom. If you want to add a bit of ruffle to your carousel’s canopy, cut the rounded edges off 2 coffee filters, and hot glue (or glue stick) the filters to the underside of the paper plate canopy.
To spin your carousel, hold the box base firmly in your hand, grab the platform, and turn! These turned out awesome, but if I was to do this project again, I would change 2 things: 1) I would cut all the carousel animals from the template in advance so there was more time to color and assemble the carousel; and 2) I would make the carousel animal templates double sided so they would look good from all angles. If you’d like to try doubled-sided animals, here is a reversed carousel animals template. Just slide the reversed image onto the corresponding pole, secure with tape, and you’re good to go!
The artwork for the carousel animals was inspired by Randy Cecil’s amazing, warm, and wonderful illustrations. You go Duck!