Merry Mixer

mix it up

Even with practically zero prep and minimal supplies, this story time will get kids sharing and giggling at different crazy creature combinations. The silliness is endless!

We recommend reading I Saw a Bullfrog by Ellen Stern (Random House, 2003). Playful from the very start, this book takes kids through the twisted linguistics and hilarious illustrations of a bullfrog (bull head and frog body), rat snake (rat head and snake body), tiger shark (tiger head and shark body), and so on. At the very end, however, the author provides the actual illustrations and interesting information about the real mammals, reptiles, plants, insects, and birds depicted in the book.

You’ll need:

  • Paper plates (the sturdier the better)
  • Pencil, ruler, and scissors for construction
  • Markers for decorating

The key to getting this project to work? Making sure your creatures’ body sections ultimately mix and match with the other paper plates. In order to do this, use a ruler and a pencil to divide the bottom of each paper plates into 3 sections. Then make 2 little “notches” along each dividing line. I made my notches at 2″ and 4″ like so:

marked paper plateThat’s ALL the prep you need! Now draw your creatures on the plates (we went fantastical instead of realistic). Make sure the necks, bodies, and tails start and stop along the notches:

paper plate creaturesCut the paper plate along the pencil lines, resulting in 3 separate pieces. Have the kids walk around the room with their pieces, mixing and matching with others. The results are very funny…

mixed up creatureYou might wonder why we used paper plates instead of index cards or pieces of paper. We found the elevation of the paper plates nice to draw on, and the workspace just tall and wide enough for many forms of creatures. Also, the raised edges of the paper plates make it easy for little hands to pick up, manipulate, and match the pieces.

The Bear Went Over the (Book) Mountain

bear book mountainThis intrepid bear marionette marches over all obstacles in our library landscape… searching for new friends and a cozy place to call home!

We read Otto the Book Bear by Katie Cleminson (Disney Hyperion, 2011). Otto the Bear is a character in a book. He possesses the delightful ability to come to life and rove outside his book. Otto explores the house, reads, and journals on the family typewriter. When his book is tragically overlooked when the family moves away, Otto decides to strike out on his own. But it’s a big world for a tiny bear, and he soon grows downhearted. But what’s this? A building full of light, hope, and characters like him? Now, Otto lives in the library with tons of new friends and readers. He is a very happy bear!

You’ll need:

  • 1 small box (ours was 4″ x 4″ x 4″ – a small tissue box works too)
  • String
  • Brown construction paper
  • 1 wooden dowel
  • 2 large plastic buttons
  • 3 toilet paper tubes
  • Red felt (optional)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Hole punch
  • Hot glue

bear mariontteThis marionette is designed with simplicity in mind! First, cut the bottom off a small box.Then cut the box down to about 2.25″ tall. Punch two holes in the top of the box, and thread a 29″ piece of string up and out of both holes like so:

bear marionette stringTie the free ends of the string to a wooden dowel rod. If the top of your box has a lid like ours did, make sure to tape it down tightly.

Next up, the bear’s face! The snout is half a toilet paper tube with a circle of brown construction paper covering one end. Hot glue the snout in place, then add a plastic button nose, a pair of wiggle eyes, and ears. We made the ears (and the bear’s tail) out of the extra cardboard we cut from the box earlier.

bear marionette faceTo make the bear’s legs, cut 2 toilet paper tubes in half. Punch 2 holes in the top of a half, then thread a 10″ piece of string through the holes like this:

bear marionette legRepeat the above steps with the remaining three legs, then tape all 4 legs to the inside “ceiling” of the box. Here’s a shot of the underside of the box with the leg strings taped in place.

underside of bear marionetteDid you notice the black button in the image above? We hot glued that to the inside rear of the bear to counterbalance the button on the bear’s snout. It helps keep the marionette from leaning forward too much.

In the book, Otto wears a handsome red messenger bag. We crafted our bags out of red felt, using hot glue to seal the sides. A little piece of black masking tape held the bag closed.

bear marionette bag When the bear marionettes were finished, we encouraged kids to pull books off the shelves and use them to create mountains, walls, ramps, bridges, and paths for their bears to travel across. A few kids also made cozy little places for the bear to nap. Awwwww!

hibernating bear

Night Vision

night visionChange a familiar landscape to a nocturnal world full of shadow and intrigue. It’s our Snap Story Time version of night vision googles, ready to go in a few simple steps!

We recommend reading The Night World by Mordicai Gerstein (Little, Brown, 2015). When Sylvie the cat wakes a sleeping boy, it leads to a nocturnal adventure through the house to a backyard sprinkled with stars. The animals gather, waiting for sunrise, which comes with wild, gorgeous bursts of color.

You’ll need:

In the Author’s Note, Gerstein describes waking up in the dark as a child and seeing his familiar backyard transformed into a place “full of dark shadows and strange silvery shapes.” I loved that concept, and designed this project to semi-replicate the experience.

First, use a box cutter or scissors to cut eye holes in the bottom of a large tissue box:

night vision goggles step 1Then tape rectangles of blue cellophane over the opening of the tissue box. We did 3 layers of cellophane to darken things down quite a bit.

night vision goggles step 2We added a black poster board frame to the tissue box with a foil moon and stars as well:

night vision goggles step 3To operate, place the goggles up to your eyes and watch as your familiar space is transformed to a cool blue night world!

looking through night vision goggles