Snap Story Times

bug jarI admit, some of my story times can get a little…elaborate. We’ve had drive-through car washes, candy factories, cow wrestling, train trips, ice fishing, spooky old trees, equestrian show jumping courses, crêpe carts, sushi sets, a covered wagon trading post, and kitty karaoke. And let us not forget the giant gingerbread cookie chase across Princeton University campus.

run cookie run croppedWhen I first started doing preschool story times (11 years ago!) I knew I wanted to concentrate on a single picture book and then do an art project that creatively and concretely connected the child with the story. Also, our preschool story times are an hour long, so we need to do projects/activities that take a little more time. Hence, the projects you find on our Tuesday posts (and on this Pinterest board).

But that’s not everyone’s story time! Sometimes there’s very little budget, time, or staff to plan and execute craft projects, no matter how badly you’d like to incorporate them. So today, I’m launching “Snap Story Times.” These are very simple projects you can do with very few materials, along with a book recommendation (or recommendations) for story time success.

We’ll start the fun off with a plastic cup bug jar.

You’ll need:

  • 1 clear plastic cup (we used a 9oz “cocktail” cup)
  • Poster board
  • Pipe cleaners and/or twisteez wire
  • A pair of wiggle eyes or eye stickers (optional)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Color pencils or crayons for decorating

First, the bug! Cut a 3″ oval out of a piece of poster board. This is your bug’s body. Use color pencils or crayons to add buggy details to the oval (I would avoid markers, as they can saturate the poster board and cause it to buckle). Use scissors to cut pipe cleaner (or twisteez wire) legs and antennae, then attach them to the body with tape.

the bugTo make the jar, trace the mouth of a plastic cup on a piece of poster board. Cut the circle out. Place your bug inside the cup, then tape the poster board circle to the mouth of the cup. To make a carrying handle, simply circle and tape a pipe cleaner to the top of the bug jar.

the jar


Please note: There are swarms of bug books out there, but Marissa selected ones that she actually pulled off the shelves and paged through herself :)

I Love Bugs, written by Philemon Sturges, and illustrated by Shari Halpern (Harper Collins, 2005) A little boy loves bugs. He describes different bugs he finds in his backyard. He looks for bugs, takes pictures of bugs, and observes bugs. But his favorite bug is his little sister, who dresses up like a lady bug.

Summer Days and Nights by Wong Herbert Yee (Macmillan, 2012). A little girl enjoys summer and the sights, sounds, and bugs that come along with it. She tries to catch a butterfly, watches a bee fly by, and ants join her picnic.

Juna’s Jar, written by Jane Bahk, illustrated by Felicia Hoshino (Lee & Low Books, 2015). Juna uses an old kimchi jar to collect bugs and rocks with her friend Hector. When Hector moves away, Juna’s brother buys a fish to cheer her up. She puts the fish in the jar and dreams of undersea adventure. The next day, the fish is too big for the jar, so her brother gives her a bean sprout. Juna puts the sprout in the jar and dreams of jungle adventures. She replaces the overgrown sprout with a cricket she finds in the park, and dreams of flying on the cricket’s back over the city. The next day, she lets the cricket go and meets a new friend in the park (who asks to use her jar for an inchworm).

Hello, Bugs! [board book]. Written by Smriti Prasadam-Halls, illustrated by Emily Bolam (Tiger Tales, 2010). A bunch of shiny bugs saying hello to each other. The book uses black and white illustrations with shiny foil paper inserts.

Ugh! A Bug written and illustrated by Mary Bono (Walker, 2002). The book asks questions (in rhymes) about how you would respond to different creepy, crawly, bugs. Bugs are everywhere and we mostly encounter them when we enter their space. So there’s no need to freak out! The book concludes by saying, “bugs are happier when they are not in a jar” (so make sure you let those craft bugs out at the end of story time!).

Copying…It’s Not Just for Cats

copy crocsCopy cats? How about copy crocodiles? What happens when everyone has to copy at least ONE element from a highly artistic crocodile? Ravishing repetitious reptiles of course!

We read The Copy Crocs, written by David Bedford and illustrated by Emily Bolam (Peachtree Pub Ltd, 2004). Crocodile is sick and tired of being bashed about in the croc pool by all of his friends. So he slips away to be alone. But everywhere he goes – slippery mud, a sun-filled river bank, a floating log in the river, even the top of a mountain – the copy crocs follow and do exactly what he’s doing. Finally, Crocodile manages to shake his friends and enjoy the splendor of his pool, all alone. But is he really enjoying it? It turns out that having some friends around is actually pretty wonderful. But so is being alone – every once in a while.

Each kid built a crocodile and decorated it, but while decorating, he/she also had to copy at least one thing from my model crocodile. We’ll begin, as we did at story time, with building the crocodile body first.

plain crocYou’ll need:

  • A rectangular box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9”)
  • 4 small rectangles of poster board for the legs (approximately 2″ x 3.5″)
  • 1 medium rectangle of poster board for the tail (approximately 3.5″ x 11.5″)
  • 1 large rectangle of poster board for the mouth (approximately 4″ x 15″)
  • 4 small strips of white construction paper for the teeth (approximately 1.5″ x 4″)
  • 2 small rectangles of poster board for the eyes (approximately 1.5″ x 2″)
  • Materials for decorating (more on that later!)
  • Scissors, tape for construction
  • Hot glue

First, cut crocodile toes in one end of 4 small rectangles of poster board. Bend the bottom of the poster board to make a foot, then bend the top to create a tab

legs 1Squeeze some hot glue on the top of the tabs, and attach each leg to the bottom of the box. For the tail, cut a medium rectangle of poster board into a pointed tail, tab the non-pointy end, and then hot glue (or tape) the tab to one end of the box. For the mouth, fold a large rectangle of poster board like so:

mouth step 1But before you attach it to the box, round the upper and lower edges to make it look more like a crocodile snout.

mouth step 2Hot glue the mouth to the box. If you’d like to add teeth, cut pointy tooth shapes into strips of white construction paper (definitely use construction paper, poster board is too heavy). Tab the tops of the tooth strips, the hot glue or tape inside the mouth. Last step – the eyes! We found that a tall and slightly rounded eye shape looked best.

croc eye shapeCut the eye shapes out of the small poster board rectangles, tab the bottoms, and hot glue (or tape) them to the top of the box. Done!

plain crocAt this point, everyone had the same croc. So we turned the kids loose with plenty of art supplies and let them decorate. Again, the only rule was to copy at least one thing from my example croc. And we made sure there was no lack of options…

decorated crocDecorating supplies included:

The resulting crocs were magnificent. I would guess that the pom-pom eyes, sparkle stem eyelashes, and the self-adhesive foam fruit shapes inside the crocodiles’ mouths were the most copied elements.

gang of crocsWhen everyone was finished, we celebrated by taking our crocs for a swim in our cozy crocodile pool (i.e. a blue sheet sheet stretched on the floor)!

swimming crocs