Timeless Classic


In a dark castle, a clock hangs, hands frozen. Our stylish cardboard clocks, however, work perfectly! This clock was one of the most popular To Be Continued projects of all time. Considering our previous projects have involved singing stones, tabletop magic shows, and booby-trapped Incan temples, that’s saying a lot!

We read the classic book The 13 Clocks, written by James Thurber, and illustrated by Marc Simont (Yearling, 1950). Once upon a time, in a castle full of stopped clocks, there lived a cold and ruthless Duke and his beautiful niece, the Princess Saralinda. Scores of suitors seek the Princess’ hand, but all are chased away, sent on impossible tasks, or slain for trivial reasons (such as starting at the Duke’s gloves for too long). One day Prince Zorn, disguised as a minstrel, asks for Saralinda’s hand. The cruel Duke decrees that Zorn must find 1,000 jewels in 99 hours. Also, when he returns, ALL the frozen castle clocks must be striking the hour. However…unlike the other suitors, Zorn has the help of the Golux – a funny little man with an indescribable hat and distinctly sideways logic. An impossible task, yes. But you never know. With the Golux, things might just work out happily ever after!

You’ll need:

  • 1 box lid
  • 1 box cutter
  • 1 circle of white card stock
  • A couple pieces of brown poster board or tagboard
  • 1 clock mechanism kit (more on this below)
  • Scissors and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating

First, let’s talk about clock movements. You know the hour hand, minute hand, second hand, and the little motor that makes them move? All those parts are knows as a clock movement. You can find clock movement kits in the woodworking section of Michaels Craft store.

clock movementAt $8.50 a pop, they can get pricey, especially if you’re doing this project with multiple kids. However, you can find them for a couple bucks cheaper on Amazon. The important thing to keep in mind is the length of the motor’s shaft (i.e. the part that the clock hands slide on to). The shafts can range anywhere from .25″ to 1″.  For this project, you want to aim for the shorter shafts. Otherwise, your clock hands will stick pretty far out of your cardboard clock base. Also pay attention to the lengths of the clock hands. You don’t want them to extend past the body of your clock.

So…onto the clock! The project begins as a cardboard lid. We used these 9.5″ x 11″ cardboard trays (you might recognize them from this bear cave and this butterfly garden). Decide where you want your clock face to be, then drill a hole into the lid (I used an electric drill to keep things tidy). If you’re going to add a pendulum, you’ll also need to cut a narrow rectangular slit in the bottom of the box (our slit was .25″ x 3″ ).

clock box step 1Next, place a piece of tagboard and a circle of white card stock over the hole, then redrill the hole. The circle is your clock face, and the tagboard piece elevates the clock face a little bit.

clock box step 2Before you glue the tagboard and the clock face to the lid, however, you’ll want to use markers to add numbers and decoration to your clock face. Check out these awesome clock faces. The smiling kitty!

clock facesWhen your clock face is finished, glue it to your clock. Then start adding a bunch of tagboard flourishes. We cut a bunch of different shapes and styles of flourishes, and let the kids decide what they wanted to use on their clocks. The more layers and texture, the better it looks.

finished working clockYou can also use markers to decorate the clock. We offered Crayola metallic markers, and the results were fantastic.

decorated clocksWhen all the decorating is done, install the clock movement. Just follow the instructions on the packaging, add a battery (a single AA), and you’re done!

If you’d like to add a pendulum, punch a hole in one end of a narrow rectangle of tagboard, then glue a tagboard circle to the other end. Stick the top of the pendulum through the slit in the clock body, then thread a piece of balloon stick (or a drinking straw) through the hole. Secure the balloon stick to the inside of the box with tape. Here’s a shot of the interior of the clock box with the threaded pendulum.

attached pendulumTap the pendulum to watch it swing back and forth. Eventually, it winds down and comes to a stop, but while it’s swinging, the illusion of a working clock is quite real!

Race Around the Clock

race around the clockGo beyond Hickory Dickory Dock with this clever crank clock!  Turn the handle on the back to send the characters dashing around the numbers and through the big red barn (scroll to the bottom of the post to see it in action)!

We read The Clock Struck One, written by Trudy Harris, and illustrated by Carrie Hartman (Millbrook Press, 2009). It’s 1pm and a mouse makes an untimely dash at just the wrong moment, catching the attention of the cat. A chase ensues that involves the mouse, the cat, the dog, some bees, the hen, the farmer’s wife, the farmer’s son, and the farmer! By 11pm, everyone is exhausted. By midnight, everyone is asleep. But at 1am, the clock strikes, and guess who’s in the wrong place at the wrong time again?

Kids loved this clock project, but parents were especially thrilled. Many sought me out after story time to thank me for such a fun introduction to numbers, clocks, and time.

You’ll need:

Begin by stacking both circles on top of one another, and using a box cutter to cut a slit in the middle of both. The top cardboard circle is the clock face. The bottom cardboard circle is the back of the clock.

First, the clock face! Cut, color, and glue (or tape) the numbers from the clock numbers template to the first cardboard circle. You can use markers to add flourishes to the clock face as well (we, for example, added a striped border). Next, trace the barn shape from the clock pieces template onto red poster board. Use markers to add outlines to the barn.

clock barnAttach the barn to the back of the clock face, right above the number 12. I highly recommend attaching the barn with hot glue. You really want the barn to stick because later, it can be used as a carrying handle for your clock! Here’s what the finished clock face looks like:

finished clock faceSet the finished clock face aside for a moment. Cut four, 1.5″ tabs in the end of a toilet paper tube. Then bend the tabs outward and hot glue the toilet paper tube to the back of the second cardboard circle:

clock handleYou’ll notice that the toilet paper handle gets glued on the perimeter of the cardboard circle. We experimented and found that was the best handle position for cranking the clock.

clock handle placementCut and color the animals from the template, and tape (or glue) them onto the ends of the craft sticks. Make sure there’s plenty of room at the bottom of the craft sticks – you’ll need some space to attach the sticks to the clock.

finished clock animalsTape the craft sticks to the cardboard circle. Note – the craft sticks need to be on the same side as the toilet paper tube handle. If the sticks are taped on the opposite side, they will rub and bump into your hand while you’re operating the clock. If you want to follow the order of the characters in the book, the mouse should go first, followed by the cat, dog, bees, and hen.

attached animalsThe back is done, time to put two clock circles together! Push a brass fastener through the clock face’s slit (you might need to enlarge the slit a little with a pair of scissors). Thread 2 foam beads on the fastener’s prongs:

clock tack step 1Push the prongs through the second circle’s slit, then unfold the prongs and secure in place with tape. Depending on your cardboard, foam beads, and brass fastener, you might have to do a little adjusting to get the circles to rotate smoothly.

clock tack step 2

Cut the minute and hour hands from the clock pieces template, then trace them onto red poster board. Arrange the hands to your preferred time, then attach them to the head of the brass fastener with a glob of hot glue. I say “glob of hot glue” because you want the hands to rest on the glob, slightly above the head of the brass fastener. If the hands are pressed flat to the head, they’ll get snagged on the clock numbers later. We stuck green mini dot sticker at the intersection of the clock hands. Done!

finished clockTo operate the clock, grip the clock face firmly at the bottom. Use your other hand to crank the toilet paper tube handle. You might have to adjust the animals a little, or bend the clock hands upward a bit, if they snag on the barn door or the numbers. But eventually, you’ll have a smooth race around the clock!

A quick word about a construction issue. You definitely need a 1.5″ brass fastener and foam spacers to get this project to work. You need that space in between the two cardboard circles in order to grip the clock, turn it, and have it operate smoothly. If the circles are too close together, animals repeatedly knock against your hand while the clock is turning. We experimented with shorter brass tacks, fewer foam beads, handles made out of 8″ craft sticks. Nope. The 1.5″ brass fastener with the 2 foam bead spacers is the combination that worked best!

Want to see my favorite project involving a brass fastener? Check out this little carousel!

Tick Tock Squeak

tick tock squeakThis friendly grandfather clock houses a squeaky surprise. A sweet little sock mouse that curls up inside with a pillow, blanket, and piece of cheese!

We read The Clock, written by Constantine Georgiou, and illustrated by Bermard Lipscomb (Harvey House, Inc., 1967). Inside a farmhouse, a clock ticks. Throughout the day and night, the clock stands in the hall and tells time. A little mouse lives and sleeps inside the clock. One night, however, the clock stops and it’s up to the mouse and the clock to get things fixed before the family wakes up!

You’ll need:

  • 1 rectangular box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9” – a large tissue box works too)
  • 1 square box (mine was 4” x 4” x 4” – a small tissue box works too)
  • Brown construction paper or paint (if needed, to cover boxes)
  • A selection of patterned paper
  • An 8.5″ x 11″ piece of tagboard (or brown poster board)
  • 1 clock door and face template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ manilla (or white) card stock
  • 2 brass fasteners
  • 1 large button
  • 10-12 gold foil star stickers (optional)
  • 1 white baby sock (I used Target brand low-cut socks for 6-12 months)
  • A small ball of polyester fill
  • A 6″ piece of white yarn for mouse’s neck
  • 1 rectangle of white stiffened felt (approximately 1.75″ x 3.5″) for feet & ears
  • A 3″ piece of white yarn for tail
  • 1 mini pom-pom (mine was 0.5″) for nose
  • Black permanent markers (I used Sharpie fine tip, and ultra-fine tip markers) for eyes & whiskers
  • 1 white cotton ball
  • A rectangle of fleece cloth (mine was 3.5″ x 5″)
  • A small triangle of orange or yellow kitchen sponge (mine was 1.5″)
  • Scissors, tape, white glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • A box cutter
  • Hole punch
  • Hot glue

clockThe clock is first! The boxes I used for this project were brown. But if you’re using non-brown boxes, you’ll need to cover them with brown construction paper (or paint) first.

My rectangular box had a lid that I used to create the clock’s door. If yours doesn’t have a lid, you’ll need to use a box cutter to cut one in the side of the box. Once the door has been cut, open your clock and glue (or tape) a piece of patterned paper to the back wall. This is your mouse’s wallpaper.

wallpaperFor the exterior of the clock, we wanted lots of texture. So we pre-cut 14 tagboard clock pieces, as well as the card stock clock face and the “glass door” from the template. We put each set of clock objects in an envelope (along with 2 brass fasteners).

During story time, each kid was given an envelope and we went step-by-step, announcing the item they needed to find in the envelope and where/how to attach it to the boxes. Here are all the pieces laid out (everything can be attached with white glue, hot glue, or tape):

clock piecesYou certainly don’t have to get this elaborate. In fact, you can skip the tagboard flourishes and just put on a clock face, the clock hands, the glass door, and the pendulum and be done. Here’s how we did those particular steps.

First, cut the door and the face from the template. Use markers to draw a friendly face on your clock. Then use a box cutter to make a small slit in the clock face and the glass door like so:

door and face step 1Take your pendulum piece (a tagboard strip with a hole punched in one end) and your clock hands (2 small tagboard arrows with holes punched through the blunt ends) and thread a brass fastener through them. Push the brass fastener through the slits like this:

door and face step 2Glue, tape, or hot glue the glass door and the face to your clock boxes. Then hot glue the two clock boxes together. Hot glue a plastic button on the bottom of the pendulum…

buttonAnd add some gold foil star stickers to the outside of the clock. Or, skip the star stickers and decorate the clock with markers. You’re done with your clock, now for the mouse!

finished mouseStuff a white baby sock with some polyester fill. Don’t over stuff the sock. You definitely want to leave a little room at the bottom, where the sock opens. Gently roll the opening of the sock upwards and inwards (in other words, roll it into the sock). The rolled up part is now the base of your mouse.

sock stepsStand the sock up on its base and gently knot a 6″ piece of yarn around the top to create a “neck.” You don’t need to knot it super tight – just enough to suggest a neck. Trim the extra yarn off.

neck knotPut the sock aside for a moment, and cut the mouse’s feet out of a rectangle of white stiffened felt (use the leftover felt to make 2 little ears). Hot glue the tail to the mouse’s feet. The tail is a 3″ piece of white yarn, knotted on the unglued end so it wouldn’t unravel later.

feet and tailHot glue your mouse body to the feet. Then hot glue a mini pom-pom nose and 2 stiffened felt ears to the head. Use a fine point Sharpie marker to draw eyes, and an ultra fine Sharpie to draw whiskers. Done!

The mouse in the book sleeps in the clock with a pillow, blanket, and piece of cheese. We used a white cotton ball, a piece of blue fleece, and a triangle of orange kitchen sponge for the cheese. Sweet dreams little mousie!

sleeping mouse