Message in a Bottle

message in a bottle

Messages of love, thoughtful notes, warm invitations…they’re all heading your way to be captured and stashed in your fishing creel AND your heart!

We read The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, written by Michelle Cuevas, and illustrated by Erin E. Stead (Penguin, 2016). The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles’ job is to spot message bottles and deliver them to their proper recipients. But secretly, he yearns for someone to write a message to him. One day, a bottle arrives with a party invitation, but no name. So the Uncorker asks a number of people if the message belongs to them. Finding no success, he decides to take the bottle to the party and report his failure. However, when he arrives, he finds everyone he talked to earlier, waiting and ready to have a party with him!

You’ll need:

  • 1 tissue box
  • 1 strip of poster board strip for a box handle
  • 1 wooden dowel
  • 1 piece of string
  • 1 wine cork
  • 1 button magnet
  • 1 message bottle template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 3 rectangles of clear plastic (more on this below!)
  • 3 paperclips
  • Scissors, tape, and stapler for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

First, your equipment! The fishing creel is a box with a poster board handle stapled to the lid. We decorated ours with color masking tape, but markers work too! The fishing pole is a wooden dowel, and the “hook” is a button magnet hot glued to a wine cork.

bottle catching creel and poleColor and cut the 3 bottles from the template, then tape a little pocket of archival mylar to one side. You can find mylar sheets on Amazon, or you can use clear gift wrapping cellophane. Tape a paper clip to the top of the bottle. Finally, use extra paper from the template to write messages and tuck them into the pockets of the bottles.

message bottle constructionReady to fish? My son and I crafted this awesome row boat we dubbed the “Cape May III.”

the cape may III

At story time, I scattered the kids’ bottles in the “ocean” while they sat in the boat. Then they “fished” off the side, connecting the magnet hook to the paper clipped bottles, which were then hoisted and deposited into the creel!

catching message bottlesThe Uncorker of Ocean Bottles was actually a special request from Lydia, a little girl who was aging out of our Tiger Tales story time program. So Katie and I made a very special bottle message for her, and snuck it in with her other bottles. A little story time magic, straight from the heart :)

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!

Teeter Tower

teeter tower

Balance the animals in a teetering, tottering tower…but will your stack stick the landing?

We read Chicken Cheeks, written by Michael Ian Black, and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Simon & Schuster, 2009). When a bear spots a honey-laden hive at the top of a very tall tree, he enlists a number of friends to attempt the reach it. The funny thing about this book, however, is that the narrative is driven by the…ah, alliterative body part each animal must balance on to stack upwards. Hence, “Chicken cheeks.” We’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

You’ll need:

  • An assortment of oatmeal containers, small boxes, and tubes
  • A selection of construction paper
  • A selection of eye stickers (optional)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

This project consists of a set of critters constructed out of tubes, boxes, and construction paper. We used eye stickers, but you can draw eyes on with markers as well. Any combination of animals will do, but here’s our story time stack:


MOOSE

The moose was the biggest and heaviest, and thus at the bottom of the stacking tower. This was a large oatmeal container wrapped in construction paper.

stack moose


DOG

This was a small box wrapped with paper. We went with a grey dog since there was already a lot of red and brown in the stack.

stack dog


TOUCAN

Our toucan was a round packing tape core, though a small box can easily be substituted. We used a cone water cup for the beak, but a cylinder of construction paper works as well. Feather crest optional!

stack toucan


POLAR BEAR

We decided to go easy with this one…the polar bear is a white craft box with a face. Done!

stack polar bear


TURKEY

Everyone’s surprise favorite was the turkey! It has a tape core body, but the tail is kids’ hands repeatedly traced onto construction paper. In other words, the classic kiddie turkey drawing, rendered in 3-D!

stack turkey


GIRAFFE

This is the same paper towel tube giraffe we created at our Don’t Rock the Boat story time. And if you want to add a tiger, turtle, parrot, ladybug, monkey, skunk, or elephant to your stack, you’ll find that post as well!

stack giraffe


BEE

By the time we got to the bee we were almost out of time. So I handed these to the kids almost fully constructed. They just had to add the pre-cut construction paper stripes (or draw them on with marker), choose a twisteez wire antennae, and stick the eyes on.

stack bee


Yes, this project was a lot of critter-building, but it was well worth the work. Especially when the artistic towers started growing taller and taller. Just look at this awesomeness!