Sneak Peek: The Secret Garden

champagne glass butterfly feederTomorrow, our library is kicking off the programming year with a Secret Garden event at Morven Museum & Garden. Today, we have a sneak peek at one of the hands-on projects, a champagne glass butterfly feeder!

This project is based on the one designed by Leslie Garisto Pfaff for FamilyFun magazine. Leslie mounted her feeder on a 4-foot garden stake using a bit of vinyl tubing. We simplified ours down to a “tabletop” version.

You’ll need:

  • 1 plastic champagne glass
  • 1 plastic pot scrubber
  • Craft foam
  • Scissors for construction
  • 1 batch of homemade butterfly nectar (recipe below, template here)

Cut leaf and flower shapes from craft foam. Cut slits in the centers, then slide the foam shapes up the stem of a plastic champagne glass. Pop a plastic pot scrubber in the top, and you’re done:

side view of champagne glass butterfly feederTo make the homemade butterfly nectar, mix 9 teaspoons of water with 1 teaspoon of white sugar. Pop it in the microwave for about 45 seconds. Pour the nectar on top of the pot scrubber…your butterfly buffet is ready!

Take Only Photos, Leave Only Footprints

take only photos leave only footprints

Hike along the majestic Grand Canyon, stopping along the way to enjoy the view, snap photos, and take a much-needed water break!

hiking the canyon

We read In the Canyon, written by Liz Garton Scanlon, and illustrated by Ashley Wolff (Beach Lane Books, 2015). Join a little girl and her family as they hike down the Grand Canyon. The clever rhymes, bold illustrations, and depictions of nature and wildlife make this the perfect read-aloud for story time!

You’ll need:

  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • Construction paper
  • 1 small box (ours was 2.5″ x 3″ x 4″)
  • Aluminum foil
  • 1 tape core
  • 1 canyon photos template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 canyon game (more on this later!)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

First, the camera! Any small box will do, you’ll just need to cut a slit in the front of the box for your “photos” to slide into. Luckily, we had a whole bunch of recycled OcuSoft lid scrub boxes that made perfect old-school Polaroid cameras. We covered the box with tin foil, add a tape core lens, made a flash out of a large gemstone on a large plastic button, and used a little patterned tape to add some color!

camera boxesNext up, the hiker! We encouraged kids to use construction paper and patterned paper to make mini versions of themselves. Since you should never hike without a hat, we had the kids fashion one out of trimmed 3.5oz plastic cups with construction paper brims.

hikerNotice the little paper clip sticking out the back of the hat? If you’re going to play the canyon game, you’ll need to tape a small paperclip to the back of the hat. And speaking of the canyon game, here it is…

finished canyon gameThis is a huge flat box we wrestled out of the recycling pile. I hot glued crumpled brown packing paper to create a hiking trail back and forth across the box. I also hot glued little “rest stop” boxes along the pathway. This is a rest stop in the middle of the path:

hiking rest stopLater, I covered the rest stops with paper, and added photos from the template to signal that this was a “photo op.” Here’s the photo op at the very end of the trail.

final stop on canyon trailWe fashioned a fishing pole out of PVC pipe, and attached a paper clip to the end of the string. To play the canyon game, hook your tp tube person onto the fishing pole, and walk him/her up the canyon path, taking time to pause at the rest stops and snap a photo with your camera. We also had a “water break” station and gave kids a little sample cup of water.

hiking the canyonEvery time the camera “snapped” a picture, we would give the kids a matching photo from the template to slide into their cameras.

canyon photosWhen you’re done hiking, you can color in your photos! Oh, you’ll notice the template has one blank photo. That’s so you can draw whatever photo you’d like. We recommend a well-deserved canyon selfie!

canyon selfie

These Butterflies Can Book

these butterflies can bookRecently, while in Brooklyn, I wandered into a little toy store called Matt & Juliette. There, I discovered some neat-o wind-up butterflies by Seedling. The clerk at the toy store explained that some people like to put the butterflies inside birthday cards. When the recipient opens the card, the butterfly flutters out. If it works for cards, I thought, it’ll totally work for books! I immediately purchased a pair to test out. They retail for $3 each and come in 4 different colors and styles.

magic butterflies by seedlingAs you can see, the toy is pretty simple. You hold one half and twist the other half. This motion winds the 2 rubber bands, which ultimately propel the toy skyward.

butterfly toyThe directions warned that winding the rubber bands too tightly could cause them to snap. This is true. Over the course of 20 test flights, we broke 2 rubber bands. But there are two spare rubber bands in each package, so no problem! Alas, one of the plastic hooks on the smaller butterfly snapped within 5 minutes, rendering the toy useless, but the other one held out just fine. Ready to see a butterfly in action?


There’s no denying it. It’s fun to have a butterfly sail out of a book. But the toy is erratic. Sometimes it flutters around the table, sometimes it dives to the floor, and sometimes it tears out of the book and zooms away like a bird.


There is absolutely no way to predict, or manipulate, the butterfly’s path out of book. Especially when it decides it wants to attack you.


The erratic flying made me wonder if this toy would freak out kids. So I tested it out on my unsuspecting children (ages 5 and 7). They loved it! There was no flinching or shrieks of alarm when a butterfly suddenly flew out of the book. In fact, they took turns winding it up and releasing it from their hands. This made me realize that the toy is a simple machine, and might work at a STEM program too.

In short, for $3, this is an inexpensive piece of magic for your next story time or program. Just make sure to buy extra butterflies in case the plastic breaks. Happy flying!