It’s Elementary

elementaryCalling all consulting detectives…grab your sparkle stem magnifying glass and examine this most intriguing collection of 18th and 19th century puzzle cards. And, while the individual man is an insoluble puzzle, the answers to these cards are at the end of the post (and you can print a set of your own)!

You’ll need:

Cut a drinking straw down to 3″. Gently fold a sparkle stem in half (soft fold, not hard) and thread the ends into the straw. Round the sparkle stem loop sticking out of the top of the straw. Done!

sparkle stem magnifying glassAnd what of those curious cards? They are reproductions of 18th and 19th century rebus puzzle cards in our library’s special collections. A rebus (also called a hieroglyphic) puzzle is created using pictures in place of syllables or entire words. Sometimes, the placement of an object is important to the puzzle as well.

Here are 6 cards from our vaults, all hailing from England. The top three cards are from Feronica’s Hieroglyphical Riddles (publisher unknown, circa 1840). Across the bottom row, from left to right, are cards from Peter Ponder’s First Pack of Puzzle Cards (J. Aldis, 1808), Wallis’s New Pack of Puzzles for 1798 (John Wallis and Champante & Whitrow, 1798), and An Entire Pack of New Puzzle Cards (W. and T. Darton, circa 1805).

Want to try these puzzle cards on a few young detectives? You’ll find a printable set here!

rebus cards, from the collections of the cotsen children's library, princeton university


The solutions, moving top row to bottom row, left to right:

Handsome is that handsome does
Better a little fish than empty dish
Awl is well that ends well
Two implements of an excellent sport: bat and ball (for Cricket, of course!)
What most people are fond of: toasted muffin
Troublesome insects: ant, caterpillar, snail, earwig, and ladybird

Mindful Mismatching

mindful mismatchingWe’ve created plenty of matching games at story time, but what about an un-matching game? Search under the snow to find 4 leaves for your bird nest. But look carefully – no two leaves can be alike!

We read No Two Alike by Keith Baker (Beach Lane Books, 2011). Two red birds journey through a winter woods, observing everything from snowflakes to animal tracks. Trees, nests, branches, leaves, even patterns on feathers – each thing is different, and that’s something to admire!

You’ll need:

  • 1 small box (mine was 4” x 4” x 4” – a small tissue box works too)
  • Brown and red construction paper
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • 2 small feathers, each a different color
  • 2 small triangles of self-adhesive foam
  • 2 pairs of eye stickers
  • 1 un-matching leaf game (more on that below!)
  • Scissors, tape and glue for construction

red birds in nest

We’ll begin with your bird nest! To make the birds, wrap 2 toilet paper tubes with red construction paper. Cut wings from construction paper and attach to the tube. Use triangles of self-adhesive foam for the beaks (or snippets of yellow construction paper). We used eye stickers, but you can also draw the eyes on with marker. In the book, the birds are almost identical (but not quite). So we added two different color feather crests.

two red birdsTo make the nest, cut a box down to 2.5″ and then wrap it with strips of brown construction paper. We used multicultural construction paper, cut into different jagged lengths. Attach the strips to the box with tape or glue.

box nestSet the birds and nest aside for a moment, it’s time for the game! I had some “Fabric Fall Leaves” from Discount School Supply (a pack of 200 costs $6). Katie used a permanent marker to draw 24 sets of leaves. Each set consisted of 4 shapes – a triangle, a rectangle, a circle, and a square.

leaves marked with shapesWe scattered all 96 leaves on top of a brown bed sheet…

leaves on sheetAnd heaped a ton of polyester fill “snow” on top of them.

snow on leaf sheetThe story time kids dug into the snow to find a set of leaves, keeping in mind that the shapes on the leaves could NOT match! I did, however, post drawings of the shapes nearby, so they could remember which shapes they were looking for.

I was worried the game was going to be a crazy digging frenzy but it was actually quite relaxed as kids quietly dug and searched for the leaves to tuck into their nests.

searching for leaves

If you ARE in the mood for matching games, check out our cookie-eating cow,  our shopping spree with a fox, the sweetest little post office ever, and our giant burger relay race!

Headgear with Major Attitude Problems

headgear with attitude problemsNot in the mood to say please, thank you, or wait your turn in line? Are you grabbing stuff that isn’t yours, refusing to share, and not listening to others? This rude behavior could describe you. Or it could be your HAT.

We read Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins (chronicle books, 2015). Rude cakes are just that. Rude. They never say please or thank you. They take things that don’t belong to them, refuse to listen, don’t wait their turn, and never share. Interestingly, giant cyclopses absolutely LOVE rude cakes….to wear as jaunty hats of course (what else would they do with cake?). When a rude cake finds itself unceremoniously hoisted onto the head of a giant cyclops, it’s feeling pretty grumpy. And get this – giant cyclopses are perfectly behaved. They say thank you and please. They share and wait their turns in line. After a day of observing nothing but good behavior, the rude cake/hat finally learns to say please (as in “Please. I’m not a hat. I’m I tired cake, and I would like to go to bed now.”).  Perhaps being polite has its benefits after all!

You’ll need:

  • 1 plastic hat
  • A strip of poster board (mine was 6″ x 25″)
  • 1 standard-sized paper plate
  • Cake decorating supplies (more on those below!)
  • cake eyes and mouth template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • Scissors, tape, and glue for construction
  • Hot glue

We used “Neon Happy Birthday Derby Hats” from Oriental Trading Company ($7.50 a dozen). Oriental Trading also sells child-sized black plastic top hats ($7 a dozen). Those work too!

cake hat step 1Circle a strip of white poster board around the crown of the hat and attach it with tape. You don’t want your cake hat to be towering above your head, so our poster board strips were just 6″ tall. Additionally we offered the poster board in 3 different color choices: white, pink, or brown.

cake hat step 2Next, cut a paper plate to fit the top of the poster board circle, then attach it with tape or hot glue.

cake hat step 3Time to decorate! We cut a number of scalloped icing drips from white, pink and brown construction paper. We also offered crepe paper streamers, patterned tape, pipe cleaners, cotton balls, and assorted pom-poms.

When the decorating is done, cut a mouth from the template and attach it to your cake (you decide – is your cake smiling or frowning?). Attach the eyes as well, using a black maker or dot stickers to add pupils. Finish the look with ric rac ribbon eyebrows.

cake hat step 4We had sheets of tissue paper available for those who needed to make their hats a little more snug. But I have to share the following innovation with you – a pipe cleaner hat strap and jaunty tissue paper cape. May I present…the most dapper…Captain Cake!

captain cake