Mandrake Made Easy

mandrake made easy

Behold! An easy – but totally awesome – mandrake that even the littlest wizard or witch can repot. Katie and I created this project while planning a Harry Potter event. We were looking for something creative, simple, low mess, and appropriate for a wide age range. Ultimately, we decided to not do this mandrake craft at our event, but we definitely wanted to share it with you!

You’ll need:

  • Crayola Model Magic (we used the color terra cotta)
  • 1 small plastic cup (we used 1.25oz Solo cups)
  • Green construction paper
  • Clay sculpting tools (chopstick, paperclip, X-acto knife, pencil, etc.)
  • Scissors

Since this craft was going to take place in our carpeted gallery, we wanted zero mess. Model Magic is perfect for this purpose. It’s light, soft, spongy, non toxic, leaves no residue on the hands, and air dries beautifully. A 4oz package made 4 mandrakes.

First, take a chunk of Model Magic and form a root plug at the bottom, 2 arms, and a head. Gently twist the arms and head to make them appear gnarled and root-like.

twisting the arms and headUse sculpting tools and smaller bits of Model Magic to create the face. Then push the mandrake’s plug into a small clear plastic cup. Cut leaves from green construction paper, and gently pinch the Model Magic around the leaves to hold them in place. I love the expression and leaf placement on Katie’s mandrake:

mandrake with leavesYou can add a label to your pot if you’d like. Ours was a bit of manila paper adhered to the plastic cup with a glue stick. We went with the plant’s Latin genus name, Mandragora.

Also optional for this project: a pair earmuffs, charmed with extra soundproofing.

Costumed Champions!

costumed champion

It’s your dog’s day! Dress your canine in a stylish outfit and enter our story time dog show. From pink tutus to super hero capes – everyone wins a trophy!

We read Zorro Gets an Outfit by Carter Goodrich (Simon & Schuster, 2012). Zorro and Mister Bud are ready for a walk. But before departing the house, Zorro’s owner dresses him into a super hero cape with a hood. Zorro is totally embarrassed, and for good reason. Every single dog (and cat!) they encounter on the walk has a good laugh at Zorro’s outfit. Mister Bud tries to cheer him up, but nothing works. Things change, however, when a new dog arrives at the park. Dart is fast, fun…and he’s wearing an outfit too! So Zorro’s outfit is no longer a problem. In fact, he’s proud of it!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large box (mine was 4.5” X 4.5” x 9” – a large tissue box works too)
  • Construction paper in assorted colors
  • 1 pair of wiggle eyes
  • 1 medium pom-pom
  • 1 gold paper cup
  • 1 black paper cup
  • 2 small strips of gold poster board (approximately 1″ x 4.5″)
  • Scissors, tape, and glue for construction
  • Hot glue

The dog is basically a box with construction paper ears, paws, and tail. Hot glue a pom-pom nose and wiggle eyes and you’re set! Use more construction paper to create the dog’s outfit. We offered a choice of a white or brown box and then let the kids take care of the rest. It’s always a good idea to provide examples, so Katie made this dashing dog with a sweater and ear muffs.

dog in sweaterI made a princess poodle, in a tutu, with construction paper eyelashes. Her name is Kami.

poodle in tutuIn addition to construction paper for the outfits, we couldn’t resist adding tissue paper, ribbon, felt, cotton balls, and the Bling Bin to the mix.

To make a trophy, cut a black paper cup down to 1.5″. Flip it over, then hot glue a gold paper cup to the top of it. Add a pair of gold metallic poster board handles with tape or hot glue. We prepped a bunch of trophies in advance, and attached blank labels to the front.

dog show trophyWe also came up with some potential award categories in advance. Such as:

Most Photogenic
Best Stripes
Best Use of (Color)
Most Original
Best Spots
Most Magical
Nicest Smile
Best Ears
Most Creative

While kids were decorating, Katie and Melinda circled around, making notes on what the kids were doing and what award their dogs might win. They also created some new award categories, depending on what they saw. Then they put on their official judge hats…

dog show judgesAnd everyone headed to the library’s lobby! Acting as the announcer, I asked the kids to circle, change direction, halt, and twirl for the judges. While they were doing this, Katie and Melinda were furiously writing award categories on the trophies. I recommend writing a few general ones (Most Creative, Most Original, Best Smile) on the trophies in advance, because the kids get tired of circling around the show grounds pretty quickly!

Finally, it was time for the awards. One by one, I called the kids up to receive their prizes to the applause of the story time crowd. Then it was back to the program area, where Katie hot glued their choice of a large gemstone to their trophies.

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Happy Birthday Mr. Carroll

Today is the 185th birthday of Lewis Carroll, and we decided to celebrate with Katie’s Top 10 Alice in Wonderland cakes. And, if you need some party favors, we’ve listed a couple of our Alice-themed craft projects and activities at the end of the post!


Alice in Wonderland inspires all sorts of creativity, and I’ve definitely had a lot of fun coming up with Alice-themed projects over the years. In fact, in 2009 I coordinated a large-scale Alice event that included a giant chess set, Earl Grey chocolate gelato, a Snark Hunt, performances of Jabberwocky, flamingo croquet, Victorian history activities, giant mushroom bowling, horse-drawn carriage rides around campus, and more!

horse-drawn carriage nassau hallIf you’d like to see the event map, here it ’tis. The front of the map lists all the activities. The back features book quotes or informational blurbs tying the activities back to the books, Lewis Carroll, or Victorian England. Like all of our programs, the event was open to the public and free of charge.

On the blog, you can check out this playful, but incredibly easy-to-make Cheshire Cat grin.

cheshire cat grinOr this really cool Victorian visual toy called a thaumatrope. At the very bottom of the thaumatrope post, you can also see Marissa and I channeling our inner 80s – and I don’t mean 1880s folks.

thaumatrope demoAnd what about tea? 2016 was the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and we put together an elaborate Victorian tea program, complete with big hats, mini scones, and a generous serving of history.

tea instructionThe Library of Congress went all out for the 150th anniversary as well. In this post, you can see some of their activities, lecturers, and Miss Joani in a replica of Alice’s iconic dress.

caucus race at the LoC photo by shawn miller 2016However, the award for the most whimsical Alice connection goes to the Mazza Museum of International Art from Picture Books (which I blogged about here). In their children’s loft, you can follow the White Rabbit down the hole…

rabbit-hole

And return to the main gallery via twisty slide!

mazza-gallery-slideDang. I want a twisty slide in my place of employment.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY MR. CARROLL!