Camping? Nom Nom Nom

camping nom nom nom

Pack your tents and hit the great outdoors with your friends Monster and Mouse. But keep an eye on Monster…he tends to eat the equipment!

We read Monster and Mouse Go Camping, written by Deborah Underwood, and illustrated by Jared Chapman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018). Mouse is very excited to camp, but Monster is reluctant…camping seems a little scary. However, with the promise of food, Monster is happy to try. Except that he eats the lantern, sleeping bags, and tent. Another problem? Mouse forgets to pack the ACTUAL food. Now the two friends are quite cold and hungry. Then they spot another campsite. Polite inquiries are made…only to get a unexpected reaction that makes this one of the FUNNIEST read-alouds, ever. Highly recommended!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large tissue box
  • 1 box cutter
  • A selection of construction paper
  • 1 manila file folder
  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • 1 monster camping equipment template on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • Scissors, tape, and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating

front of camping monster

First, the monster! Use a box cutter to create a mouth in a large tissue box. Then decorate the box with construction paper (we also offered large eye stickers). While you are decorating, make sure to leave the tissue box hole hole open in the back. This will allow you to retrieve your camping food later.

back of camping monster

As you can see in the above photo, our monster is also sporting a backpack. Ours was fashioned from an old manila file folder using this template. Curl the wings of the template around the circle, then secure everything in place with tape to create a “cup” backpack (we used color masking tape to decorate the backpacks too).

Attach the cup to an extra strip of manila paper, then tape or glue it to your monster box. Add a toilet paper tube mouse if you’d like:

side view of monster backpack

Now for the equipment! Color and cut the items from the template, then feed each item into the monster’s mouth. Retrieve the items using the hole in the back of your monster box. And yes, we did make sure to include all the fixings for s’mores in the set:

monster edible camping equipment

One things I love about the simple and open-ended decoration projects is the styles and color combinations kids come up with. Here are just a few from story time!

To Blend or Not to Blend

to blend or not to blendAlways on the lookout for literary and word games, I spotted this fantastically stylish box on the shelves of JaZams, our local independently-owned toy store. The game came highly recommended by their staff, and has won several awards to boot. Did it live up to the hype? Read on!

“The Chameleon,” released by Big Potato Games, retails for around $15. It’s a card and category game for 3-8 players. But it’s also a game of deception, because the whole point is to fake out the other players when you are the “chameleon.” The game includes 40 topic cards, 14 code cards, 2 chameleon cards, 2 die, a marker and custom card, instructions, and one super awesome Big Potato Games logo sticker. Here’s a sample of the box contents:

chameleon box contentsLet’s say there are 4 people playing this round. As you can see below, there are 3 identical Code Cards, but only 1 Chameleon Card. Each player randomly chooses a card and keeps it secret from the other players.

chameleon cardsThe dealer flips over the Topic Card and rolls the yellow and blue die. Players with Code Cards quietly match the die roll results to the appropriate category of the Topic Card. So, in the case of the roll below, the secret category is “The Three Little Pigs.”

game playStarting with the dealer, each player takes a turn describing the secret category with one word. But if you are the chameleon, you are faking your little heart out, trying to come up with a word to describe a category you have NO idea about. But you can listen to the other players and wager a pretty good guess, all the while keeping a straight face.

When everyone has said a word, the players have to guess who the chameleon is.

Having played a couple rounds, I can say that this game is a LOT of fun! The creative word usage, fake outs, shifty looks, pointing fingers, and increasingly bold accusations make it low stress, non-competitive, and utterly hilarious. The more players involved, the funnier it gets. Bonus…there’s also a blank laminated Topic Card and dry erase marker to make a custom Topic Card!

chameleon blank topic cardThe game manufacturer’s recommended age range is 14 & up, but we test ran the game with the 9-12 year-olds in Cotsen Critix, our children’s literary society (we just made sure we pulled out some of the more mature Topic Cards, like ones that included the names of alcoholic beverages). After just a touch of trouble with the instructions and locating the secret category from the dice roll, the kids were off and running!

They liked the various topics, coming up with the description word, and how funny it was to both be, and try to figure out, the chameleon. As one kid so aptly put it “Something is fun about lying to your friends’ faces.” Hah!

The beautiful packaging, clever concept, interesting topics, clear instructions, and devious social nature of this game make it extremely enjoyable. 5 out of 5 stars. Highly recommended!

Super Stoic Skunk Squad

skunk squad

Become a dynamic crime-busting duo that thwarts theft and keeps the peace! JUST DON”T STARTLE OFFICER SKUNK.

We read Please Don’t Upset P.U. Zorilla by Lynn Rowe Reed (Alfred A. Knopf, 2006). When Mayor Tootlebee receives a letter from a well-mannered skunk named P.U. Zorilla, he immediately offers him a job. Unfortunately, the town quickly learns that no matter what the job – school bus driver, pet store clerk, ball park popcorn seller – something always happens that upsets P.U. Zorilla. And…well you can guess what happens next! However, when crime strikes at a local jewelry store, P.U. Zorilla manages to save the day, earning him a new job as Chief of Police!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large tissue box
  • Black and white construction paper
  • 1 paper cup
  • Dark blue poster board
  • Crime fighting game (more on this below!)
  • Scissors, tape and/or glue for construction
  • Hot glue

The skunk is basically a large tissue box decorated with black and white paper. The nose is a paper cup, cut down to 2.5″ and attached with hot glue. We also added a jumbo pom-pom nose and wiggle eyes, but you can simply draw these on with markers.

front of skunkThe books hilariously builds up to P.U. Zorilla inevitably doing what skunks do. We wanted to capture some of that fun, so our skunk box actually “sprays” when startled, courtesy of a rectangle cut in its rear and a white plastic grocery bag…

back of skunkAlso part of the story time project? A police hat for you, and a police collar for your skunk. The hat is from our You’ve Got Mail post – we just swapped the red headband for a black one. Your skunk gets a blue construction paper collar as well. Notice the gold foil seals on the hat and collar? Kids earned those in the “Crime Fighting” portion of our story time:

hat and skunkKatie printed 6 images on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock. Half of the images were calm (flowers, puppies, ice cream truck) and the other half were alarming (robber, loud noise, ghost). Katie walked the kids through the training, asking them to react to the different scenes. If it was alarming, the kids pulled the plastic bag out of their skunks and sprayed!