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…

Night Rider

night rider

Navigate the nocturnal highways with this fantastic vehicular nightlight, complete with convenient carrying handle!

We recommend Night Light by Nicholas Blechman (Orchard Books, 2013). A charming blend of numbers, vehicles, and a guessing game, the book flips between night and day. The solid black pages only reveal the dotted lights of a vehicle, along with a textual clue (ex: “5 lights, cleaning day and night?”). Following each night page is a day page in which the identity of the vehicle is revealed. Fantastically fun.

You’ll need:

  • 1 small box with a lid (we used a tea box)
  • Construction paper
  • A box cutter
  • White printer paper, tracing paper, wax paper, or parchment paper
  • 1 submersible LED light (or glow stick)
  • Scissors, tape and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating

First, use construction paper to turn a small box into your favorite vehicle. Marissa did a twine carrying handle on her awesome VW van, but you can also make a handle out of construction paper or a pipe cleaner. Next, use a box cutter to create a pair of headlights at one end of the box. Inside the box, tape a piece of white printer paper, tracing paper, wax paper, or parchment paper over the headlight holes. This gives the headlights a nice diffuse glow.

led headlights We used a submersible LED to light Marissa’s van. You can find them in the floral section of Michaels craft store – 9 cost $21, but I always use a 40% off coupon.

led in vehicle boxIf the LEDs are too pricey, a glow stick will do the trick. Drop the illumination of your choice in the vehicle box, close the lid, and you’re done. Vroom vroom vroom!

When Life Gives You Lemons…

lemonade standIs there anything better than a refreshing glass of lemonade on a hot day? Served from your very own lemonade stand? Besides being a retail operation, this lemonade stand also involves counting, sorting, and sequential thinking exercises for the young shopkeeper. Yes, it’s a perfect blend of math and…wait a minute! Is that a RED lemon I see on the tree?!?

We read The Red Lemon by Bob Staake (Random House, 2006). Farmer McPhee is enthusiastic about his beautiful lemons and the delightful things they can produce (sherbet! pie! cookies! cakes!). However, while gallivanting through his grove, he discovers a RED lemon. Needless to say, he is outraged and huffily hurls the offending lemon far away, where it lands on a little island. Two hundred years pass, and the McPhee lemon grove is gone. But on that faraway island, a bustling metropolis has risen. Their world famous product? Red lemons, of course.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9”) – a tissue box works too!
  • craft sticks (mine were 4.5″ long)
  • 3 rectangles of tagboard (mine were approximately 2″ x 4.5″)
  • 1 circle of green poster board (approximately 7″ in diameter)
  • 1 paper towel tube
  • 1-2 rectangles of green poster board (approximately 2.25″ x 4″) for bushes
  • 1 corrugated cardboard base (approximately 9.75″ x 13.75″)
  • 3 paper cups
  • 1 wooden dowel
  • A selection of color masking tape
  • 3 small plastic cups (mine were 1.25 ounce clear cups, purchased at Party City)
  • 3 yellow cotton balls
  • 1 drinking straw
  • 1 lemonade stand template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • Flower stickers (optional)
  • Scissors, tape, and white glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

First, use white glue (or hot glue or tape) to attach 4 craft sticks and 3 rectangles of tagboard to the front of the box. I used this part of the activity to introduce (or revisit) the concept of a pattern.

stand base Color the small lemons on the template (be sure to make a red one!) and glue them onto a 7″  circle of green poster board. Then hot glue the circle to a paper towel tube. As you can see in the image below, I left about 3″ of space between the top of the circle and the top of the tube.

back of treeTo make a bush for your stand, cut a bush shape out of a rectangle of green poster board, and then tab it at the bottom.

bushNow to put the set together! First, hot glue the box to a corrugated cardboard base (I used a cake pad, but you can also make one out of a copy paper box lid). Then glue 3 paper cups behind the box (i.e. the side that isn’t decorated with craft sticks & tagboard). Glue the bush to the right of the stand, and the tree to the left. Here’s a bird’s-eye view of the stand with everything glued in place.

bird's-eye viewA word about the tree. As you can see, it’s hot glued to the base AND to the side of the box. The double attachment makes the tree extra sturdy (which is especially important if the project has to survive a car trip home).

attaching treeNow for your lemonade stand’s sign! Wrap 2 pieces of color masking tape around the top of a wooden dowel, then trim the ends into triangles to create 2 flags. Tape the dowel on the right side of the box.

flagsDecorate the rest of the items on the template and add them to the stand. The large lemon sign gets taped to the wooden dowel and the “Fresh” garland gets taped on the front of the stand. We added some flower stickers too (you could also opt to draw flowers on using markers). We had some extra bushes., so I offered kids a second bush to double the landscaping fun.

lemonade stand All that remains is the cash register and your merchandise! You can see the register in the above photo. It does require a little assembly. I’ll demonstrate the steps below with an undecorated register, straight from the template.

First, fold the bottom tab of your register inwards like so:

cash register step 1Then, fold both sides downwards from the base like this

cash register step 2Curl the tab around to meet the opposite side of the register

cash register step 3Then secure the tab with tape. Hot glue (or tape) the register to the top of the stand!

cash register step 4Finally, the lemonade. You might recall that the lemonade stand has 3 paper cups glued behind it. These paper cups are to help kids practice sorting their small plastic lemonade glasses, yellow cotton balls, and mini straws.

cup setupFirst, I showed the kids the sequence in which you need to make a glass of lemonade. Cup first, lemonade second, and straw third (to make the mini straws, simple cut a drinking straw into thirds – my mini straws ended up being about 2.5″ long).

glass of lemonadeWhen your customer is finished, you take apart your lemonade in reverse order, making sure to sort everything back into its proper paper cup. I used yellow cotton balls for lemonade (purchased from Discount School Supply), but you could also use crumpled yellow construction paper. Or red paper – I hear those red lemons are all the rage!

As we stocked the lemonade stand with supplies, we had the kids count out loud with us: 1-2-3 cups, 1-2-3 cotton balls, and 1-2-3 straws. I suggested to parents that they use the stand and some fake (or real) money to give kids a taste of monetary math at home. But for now, let’s simply raise a glass to our lemonade-loving friends!

cheersInterested in other retail opportunities? Check out our ice cream truck and produce stand. Or get historical with our covered wagon & trading post story time! If you’re looking for ways to add a little math to your literacy programs, there are some hints on our Sneaky Math post.