Barnyard Pinball

It’s a merry chase! Use your motor skills to navigate a yellow pom-pom hen around the barnyard. But beware the red pom-pom fox, who’s also on a roll!

We read Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins (Aladdin, 1971 read here by Miss Gray Educates). Rosie the Hen decided to take a little stroll around the farm, not realizing that she’s being followed by a hungry fox. Fortunately for Rosie, the Fox’s luck is horrible. He runs into misfortune after misfortune in pursuit of his chicken lunch. Happily, Rosie makes it back to her coop, none the wiser. The wordless sight gags on each page had our kids chuckling!

This book also gets a gold star rating from Katie. It was her son’s FAVORITE as a kid!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large box top (like a copy paper box lid)
  • 1 paper towel tube
  • 1 small box
  • 1 paper cup
  • Construction paper
  • 2 large pom-poms
  • Scissors, glue, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

As you can see in the above photo, we used a copy paper box lid as the base of our barnyard. Then we glued a number of elements in place. The bee hive was a paper cup with an arched door. The haystack was a construction paper tunnel. The ramp was a paper towel tube, cut in half length-wise and elevated with a snippet of the remaining tube. The hen house was a small box with the lid positioned as a ramp, also elevated with a snippet of paper towel tube. We added a pond, fabric flowers, and tissue paper shrubs as well.

With all the obstacles complete, drop two jumbo pom-poms into the box lid. We thought about decorating these like a fox and hen, but they rolled much easier as simple poms.

With your poms in place, commence the chase! Tip and jiggle the box lid to make the fox and hen race around the barnyard, ducking into buildings and rolling up ramps.

Mysterious & Puzzling

It’s truly a puzzler! Katie (and friends) test drove a Sherlock Holmes mystery jigsaw puzzle…deerstalker and pipe not included. Take it away Katie!


The Sherlock Holmes and the Speckled Band mystery jigsaw puzzle is by BePuzzled, a company that touts itself on forcing people to think and solve their games in unconventional ways. The puzzles are classic mysteries with a challenging twist: you read, build, and solve using clues from both the written story and the completed puzzle. I bought mine in a toy shop for $18.95 while on summer vacation in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, but you can find it online for slightly less. The suggested age range is 15 and older.

The short story Sherlock Holmes and the Speckled Band originally appeared in the UK edition of The Strand magazine in February 1892. The story was later included in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes collection, which was published in October 1892.
Inside the box is the 1000-piece unassembled puzzle and a booklet with the mystery to read.

The solution, which is the conclusion of the story, is provided but it is cleverly printed backwards. You read it by simply holding it up to a mirror, which is such a unique way to hide the answer!

I started by building the edges, and this is the point when I realized this puzzle was going to be more difficult than I had originally thought. In keeping with the mysterious nature, the finished image does not match the box cover. An SOS was sent to my library colleagues, inviting them to help.

A few folks answered the call and worked with me on Holmes’s latest case. Interestingly enough, every one of them had a different puzzle approach. One person took pieces that looked similar and lined them up in a row. Another moved pieces into piles and worked specifically on building a small section to later drop in.

One colleague clearly loved puzzles because she slowly and methodically finished around 1/6 of the mystery in just a few hours’ time. She’s the reason I can say I completed the puzzle in just under two weeks!

And yes, dear blog readers, I used some Photoshop magic to blur the puzzle. No spoilers from me!

Despite my (sometimes constant) groaning over not having an image to work from, I thoroughly enjoyed the puzzling challenge. It added an extra layer of intrigue and definitely more excitement when the puzzle was solved. I feel younger children can get involved with the puzzle build, though they may get frustrated since they don’t have any reference to a solution.

Even though I have partnered with Detective Holmes on many Cotsen-related adventures, I have never read Sherlock Holmes and the Speckled Band. I was entirely unaware of who or what was behind the unfortunate events described in the story, so the solution was quite a surprise. For those who may have already read the story and know what happened, this particular puzzle may not be the best option. Thankfully there are several other BePuzzled mysteries to choose from, including one from Alfred Hitchcock, and I assume each has a unique story line.

The mystery puzzles are afoot!

Interested in more Holmes posts? Try our virtual escape room, our live escape room, a review of a snail mail mystery game, and this super fun simple activity with rebus cards from our special collections!

Book Title Mash Up

Does your taste in books vary wildly? No problem, just combine them! We designed this book title mashup activity as an ice breaker for Cotsen Critix, our literary society for kids ages 9-12. It was inspired by the hilarious Very Condensed Book postcards designed by Hilary Brown Greetings.

The kids had a fantastic timer recounting titles and mixing them up, as well as talking to each other about the books they love. Here’s our favorite dozen…

Are you my Mother, Harry Potter?
The Twilight Games
We the Big Idea Math People
Beauty and the Deathly Hallows
Warriors on the Prairie
Snow White and the Titan’s Curse
Under the Holes
A Wind in the Wardrobe
Go BFG Go!
Where the Sidewalk Ends Wild Things Are
If You Give a Mouse a Chocolate Factory
The Confessions of Charlotte’s Web