Yes! Dinosaurs on Wedding Cakes

It’s not June, but we’re already rolling out the fancy wedding cakes for romantic reptiles! This simple project was met with incredible enthusiasm with the story time kids, both with cake decorating, and well-dressed dinosaurs.

We read There’s a Dodo on the Wedding Cake by Wade Bradford, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Candlewick, 2021). When Mr. Snore, violinist for hire, arrives at the Sharemore Hotel for a wedding reception, he quickly discovers a dodo nibbling on the wedding cake. He shoos him away, but is soon accosted by two beavers who also want the cake. The situation escalates, with more and more creatures invading the room until FINALLY it’s a booming dinosaur. What’s Mr. Snore to do? Thankfully, the wedding planner explains that the animals are all guests (except the mischievous dodo). Apologies are made, and a delightful wedding reception ensues.

This book is HILARIOUS and so fun to read for a story time. Highly recommended!

You’ll need:

  • A number of assorted boxes
  • Cake decorating craft supplies
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • Construction paper
  • Scissors, glue, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

First, the cake! As you can below, the cake is very simple – just stack some boxes on top of one another and decorate. We offered tissue paper, color tape, stickers, cotton balls, pipe cleaners, self-adhesive foam, and crepe paper streamers. Kids were free to be as elaborate as they liked!

To make your dinosaur cake toppers, wrap 2 toilet paper tubes in green construction paper, then add mouths, eyes, wedding togs, and little arms.

We had a number of different wedding topper combinations – including no wedding togs at all, just dinos running all over the tiers of the cake. It’s all good!

Gingerbread Architecture

Recently, we coordinated a very special program celebrating the opening of our new exhibit,  “Once Upon New Times: Reimagining Children’s Classics.” The exhibit brings fresh takes to old tales in Cotsen’s special collections, and we decided to bring the story of Hansel and Gretel to life with “Gingerbread Architecture,” a creative construction extravaganza!

At community family events, we try to offer activities for all ages, so for the youngest set we had a gingerbread neighborhood (the cardboard houses are from Target, you can find them in the art section this holiday season):

All four houses included plenty of markers for decorating, a task many artists took very seriously, spending at least an hour concentrating mightily…

Inside the houses were cute paper gingerbread plates and cups (set of 24 pieces for $15 on Amazon), as well as a couple plastic cookie sets (65 piece set $15 on Amazon):

Elsewhere in the gallery was a mini exhibit on “Gingerbread Geography.” We pinpointed different locations on a world map that highlighted the origin of various ingredients, some fun facts (example: Shakespeare mentioned gingerbread in Love’s Labour’s Lost!), and a take-home copy of Mary Ball Washington’s 1784 recipe – yes, the President’s mom was a gingerbread enthusiast!

Nearby the map was a “Meet the Spices!” station where kids could see actual ginger root, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon sticks.

Our final display was a gallery of various gingerbread kits – from DUPLO to paper punch outs. The goal was to inspire the builders with different variations of houses.

Finally…the main event! Decorating! Out of respect to visitors with food allergies (and future dental bills) our houses were made exclusively with art supplies. We purchased several varieties of gingerbread houses for different age ranges. Here are the more sophisticated templates, which we acquired from Amazon (32 houses for $95 on Amazon. which came to about $3 a house) :

Since the sets arrived with a tiny photo label and no instructions, we built one of each to display. Kids picked the one they wanted, and we handed them the set to build from scratch! For those who wanted a more basic build, we offered three options, also purchased from Amazon (left house was 15 for $12; middle house was 50 for $12; right house was 50 for $25):

Once the house was assembled, families headed to our craft section to load up on decorations! We offered white self-adhesive foam sheets, tons of candy stickers, mini pom-poms, cotton balls in various colors, heart erasers, sparkle stems, striped straws, plastic peppermints, ric rac ribbon, foam beads, and mini plastic candy canes.

The workshop area was stocked with scissors, markers, tape, and glue, but we also had a hot glue station running for trickier pieces. The results were full of variety and creativity, as you can see from the gallery below!

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As always, Katie and I wore something to identify us as staff on the event floor. This time, it was these awesome “Gingerbread Running Team: You Can’t Catch Me” t-shirts.

team gingerbread 3 What’s really cool is that the shirts are a literary nod to “The Gingerbread Man,” which was originally printed as “The Gin-Ger-Bread Boy” in St. Nicholas Magazine in 1875. And yes, we did have a copy in our special collections, so here’s the original printing!

St. Nicholas : an illustrated magazine for young folks. Conducted by Mary Mapes Dodge. Volume II Nov 1874-Nov 1875 (New York : Scribner & Co.). Cotsen Children’s Library, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

This was a big event so we’d like to extend our extreme gratitude to Princeton University students Anna, Cathleen and Shruti for volunteering their time for the build! Thank you!

Zippity Zebra

This zebra is so handsome and dashing…right down our story time zip line! But can he outrun the lion, who is also headed for the finish line?

We read Zebra on the Go, written by Jill Nogales, and illustrated by Lorraine Rocha (Peachtree Publishing Company, 2017). The circus is in full swing, but when Zebra accidentally steps on lion’s foot, a chase ensues through the fairgrounds, town, park, and pier! But when lion falls in the water, zebra is the first to lend a hand in the rescue. The squashed paw is forgiven, the chase is over, and all is well again!

You’ll need:

  • Two large tissue boxes
  • Construction paper
  • 2 pipe cleaners
  • 2 large paper clips
  • Wire for zip line
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

The lion and zebra for this project are basically two large tissue boxes decorated with construction paper and markers. You can see the zebra at the start of the post, but here is the lion box…

Once the box animals are complete, loop together a pipe cleaner, then tape it to the top of the box, right in the middle. At the top of the loop, either attach a large paperclip to form a hook, or use a carabiner (we had some leftover from this project).

Your animals are ready to race! We set up two zip lines using coated wire. One end of each wire was stabilized on the ceiling of the library, and the other end was held by a volunteer, who could adjust the slope of the zip line to make the box animals go slower or faster. Each kid brought their box animals to the starting line, then scooted over to the finish line (which we marked on the floor with red masking tape). We clipped the boxes to the wire, counted to three, and the race was on!

A zip line is a simple thing, and it took just a few second for each race, but seeing your newly created artwork zip down from the ceiling never fails to delight. Kids could have as many turns as they wanted, and could even race their friends’ animals!