Splashy Spelling

Get kids C-L-E-A-N with this simple alphabet activity for your bathtub. Rubber ducky not included, but you shoud T-O-T-A-L-L-Y get one!

You’ll need:

  • Cellophane
  • Scissors
  • Bathtub or tub of water

The concept of this project is simple. Cut a bunch of alpahbet letters out of cellophane, then float them in the tub during your next bathtime. Gently moving the different letters around, you can spell CAT, RAT, BAT, MAT or whatever combination you would like to try!

And if you try SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS, definitly send me a pic.

Cellophane is notoriously crinkly, so two hints: 1) Draw the letter template on a sheet of paper, lay the cellophane piece on top, then cut both; 2) If your desk scissors are tearing the cellophabe, use fabric scissors (seen below).

As you can see from the image that started this post, the cellophane floats easily on the water, sinking a bit as the bath progresses and the waters shift. However! I learned that not all cellophanes act like this!

I ordered some rainbow cello sheets from Amazon, wanting to use a fun assortment of colors for the letters. Well, I put them in tub and they just curled and melted like some sort of Wicked Witch of the West. And when I grabbed them, they stained the water AND my fingers pink! Noooooooooooo!

Luckily, I had another roll of blue cellophane in the house, purchased from Michael’s Craft store. Nervous, I laid the cellophane letters on the water…it worked! Floating, no curling, no staining! So if you want a pretty sure bet for this project, head to Michael’s to pick up some cellophane rolls. And test a sample of your cello before putting them in the tub with your child. This activity can also be done in a convinient dishtub or kiddie pool.

Happy splashing and spelling!

Bugging Out

bugging out_4I don’t know about ya’ll, but the Brood X cicada noises sound like someone is trying to remateralize on my street via a Star Trek transporter. Every day. Alllll day. Very LOUDLY. Katie, feeling similarly inspired (or perhaps crazed), put together today’s blog post featuring cicada connections and some of our awesome bug story times and projects!. Take it away, Katie!


Calling all entomologists! The Brood X cicadas (magicicada septendecim), the largest of the periodical cicadas that are endemic to the eastern United States, have awakened from their 17-year slumber. The swarm will spend the next month in the foliage, singing and mating before they bury themselves back in the ground, not to be seen again until 2038. It truly is a spectacle that is enjoyed by many (but feared by some!). Cicadas may be scary looking, but they are absolutely harmless to humans.

There is a fun musical connection to Princeton University and the 1970 Brood X cicadas, which were the inspiration for the tune “Day of the Locusts” by Bob Dylan. Dylan wrote the song to describe his experience receiving an honorary degree from Princeton. He was on campus for commencement and the cicadas were so loud, he could not hear his name being announced during the ceremony. April Armstrong, Deputy AUL for Special Collections, wrote more about Dylan and his degree on the excellent Mudd Manuscript Library blog.

Bob_Dylan_1970_AC112_Box_AD31_Folder_23

Bob Dylan (center) at Princeton University, June 9, 1970. Historical Photograph Collection (AC112), Box AD31, Folder 23.

Scientist and naturalist Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) is often regarded as one of the first people to document the 17-year cycle of the Brood X cicadas. He wrote and published a scientific almanac, where he specifically said about the cicadas: “Their periodical return is 17 years, but they, like the Comets, make but a short stay with us…” Learn more about Banneker, along with four other famous scientists, by visiting our virtual escape room, The Discovery Museum.

Scientist Museum cropped

And! for more buggy connections, try these fun projects…starting with the sweetest story about teamwork you’ll ever read with Horsefly and Honeybee

you complete me

An easy-to-make butterfly feeder from our Secret Garden event (and speaking of butterflies, you might also like this STEAM butterfly project/ magic trick).

champagne-glass-butterfly-feeder_cropped

A simple to assemble centipede puppet AND shoe store activity? Oh yeah!

you can never have too many shoesBudding young entomologists create a bug and tell our story time film crew about it here

news crew

Create a simple beetle and carrier with every day household items

bug jarAnnnnd a magnetic fake cockroach maze. Yes, you read that right…

cockroach pizza box

Finally, award-winning author Shaun Tan wrote and illustrated a beautiful and touching picture book titled Cicada. We talked to Shaun about Cicada (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2019) and his other amazing work during our interview for The BiblioFiles.

Pocket Books

Looking for an inexpensive project that will keep youngsters busy for a bit? If you said YES empathically and in ALL CAPS, this post is for you! Today, we bring you pocket books, cool little books that can be created with stuff you find around home (or can easily acquire on your next shopping trip).

Pocket books have been around for ages, and today’s template will allow you to make a blank book that kids can turn into their own illustrated stories. The pockets not only add a cool 3D element, they also allow the artist to play with the various story pieces, then stash them neatly away!

You’ll need:

  • White poster board
  • Regular printer paper
  • Binder clips
  • Scissors and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating

Below is what a finished, undecorated book looks like. The covers are poster board, the pages are regular printer paper, and everything is held together with binder clips. The important thing to notice in the photo below is the folded crease on the book’s cover:

This not only makes the book easier to open and close, it also allows you to mark the margins of the pages. Why do this? It’ll be MUCH easier for kids to work on a page if it’s flat and the cover isn’t constantly flopping over. So once the book is assembled, draw a margin line down each page, using the fold as a guide.

Then disasseble the book, and give your artist the flat marked pages to decorate!

How you proceed with the decorating depends on the age of the artist. You could, for example, add the pockets yourself, and they can write the story and make the illustrated objects to go in them. Or, you can write the story on the pages, and they can do the pockets and drawings. It can be a team effort, or they can do everything themselves!

I used a heavier patterned cardstock for the pockets, but plain poster board, construction paper, or regular printer paper works too! However, when it comes to the objects in the pockets, definitely use poster board. It’s sturdier, can hold up to lots of handling, and easier to push in and out of the pockets. For fun, try doubling the pockets per page!

When the pages are complete, reassemble the book and enjoy! I recommend whipping up a batch of blank books at one time, just in case your first book expands into an epic series.