An Ape About Town

ape about town

New York City is the place to be, especially if you are an ape who has escape the Central Park Zoo and are determined to take in all the sights! He’s wearing a disguise and the master of hiding – can you find Marvin the Ape?

We read The Escape of Marvin the Ape by Caralyn and Mark Buehner (Dial Books, 1992). It’s feeding time, and Marvin makes his move. Leaving a baffled zookeeper behind, Marvin enthusiastically explores the subways, museums, restaurants, shops, and parks of New York City. He’s definitely not going back to his former life, and what’s more, Helvetica the Hippo is hot on the heels of his success!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large oatmeal container
  • Construction paper
  • 1 paper bowl
  • Scissors, glue, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

This is a simple project and a hide-and-seek game to boot! You can construct your oatmeal container ape entirely using construction paper, or you can add a few things like dot sticker eyes and a self-adhesive foam nose with dot sticker nostrils.

finished apeThe baseball cap is a trimmed paper bowl with a card stock (or construction paper) brim. We recommend using hot glue to attach the hat and the feet to the oatmeal container.

ape baseball hatThe baseball hat is just one optional for headgear of course. We basically gave the kids a bowl, a strip of white construction paper “shirt” and the Bling Bin and let them put together whatever ape disguise they wanted.Check out this feathery tiara and killer eye shadow!

fancy apeWhen everyone was done decorating, we played a game of Hot/Cold Hide-and-Seek. Kids hid their apes around our gallery and invited their grown-ups to find them. The kids gave hints if the grown-ups were getting “hot” or “cold.” Hiding games are always popular at our story times. One enthusiastic group played for over 15 minutes!

hiding apes

Going Underground

going undergroundHello from the Big Apple…we’re riding New York City’s subways today! We made tissue box subways, toilet paper tube passengers, and customized some special story time dollars. A quick stop at the MetroCard machine, and we were ready to zip through the tubes (and we mean that quite literally)!

We read Subway by Christoph Niemann (Greenwillow Book, 2010). It’s raining, and a Dad and his two kids decide to spend the entire day riding NYC’s subway trains. The clever, bouncy rhymes not only introduce the subway trains and their riders, but the various routes as well. There’s even a shout out to the “critters” who live on the tracks of the J! This vibrantly illustrated book is a fun read-aloud and a useful map for the twists and turns on NYC’s famous transit system.

You’ll need:

  • 1 large tissue box
  • 1 subway template, printed on two, 8.5″ x 11″ pieces of white card stock
  • 2 jumbo paperclips
  • String
  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • Decorating supplies for subway passenger (more on this below!)
  • Magic bucks template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ paper
  • MetroCard template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 MetroCard machine (more on this below!)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

I did this project at my library’s story time, but I also brought it to my son’s kindergarten class!  I’ll begin with the story time version first, then show you how I simplified the program for a classroom setting.

Begin by cutting the top off a large tissue box. Cut and color the pieces of the subway template, then tape (or hot glue) them to the sides of the box.

finished subwayUse tape to attach a jumbo paper clip underneath the front of the subway. The paperclip should extend approximately 0.75″ past the box. Later, we’ll use this paperclip to pull your subway through the tunnel.

subway paperclipCut a toilet paper tube down until it fits inside your subway box, then decorate (we offered multicultural construction paper, regular construction paper, patterned paper, and patterned tape. Use markers to draw features on the face. Place the passenger in the subway.

subway passengerCut and color some magic bucks from the template (you might recognize them from this itty bitty retail story time). Cut the MetroCards from their template as well. All you need now is a MetroCard machine!

metrocardI made my machine out of a copy paper box. I cut slits for the money and the cards, then decorated it with poster board and construction paper. During story time, when the kids slid their cash into the slot, the machine would promptly dispense a MetroCard (this was done by a helper sitting behind the machine, catching the dollars and feeding cards through the slot).

The kids were super delighted by this marvel of technology! One little girl was peering closely at the machine, obviously working something out. Suddenly, she put her hands on her hips and shouted “Hey! I figured it out! There’s a person behind that machine!”

The subways are ready, the passengers are aboard, the MetroCard is in hand. Now for the ride! This entire story time was inspired by a 6′ tube gifted to me via library recycling. I taped some paper towel tubes to the sides to keep it steady. Voila! A subway tunnel!

recycled tubeIf you don’t have a tube, don’t worry! Throw a sheet over a table, or use a couple boxes to make a tunnel. So long as the subway travels through something, you’re good to go!

However, if you are using a tube, test to make sure your finished subway fits in it. We tested the boxes at the beginning of our prep work, but we didn’t test them after we attached the templates. “Pish,” we thought, “the templates don’t extend that far beyond the original box, yup no problem here.” Well, the morning of story time, we discovered that our subways were too tall to slide through the tube! We had to do some quick chopping to make it work.

Next, tie a long string to a jumbo paperclip, then bend one end of the paperclip out a bit.

subway paperclip stringYou’ll notice there are two strings attached to the paperclip in the above photo. The second string allowed my helper to pull the paperclip back through the tube after each subway had finished. Otherwise, we would have had to stop, stand the tube on its end, and let the paperclip slide back down to the mouth of the tube every time.

Ready to ride? The kids gathered at the mouth of the tube with their subways. One by one, a helper slid the subway’s paperclip onto the string’s paperclip…

attached subwayThen the kids dashed to the other end of the tube, crouched down, and watched as I pulled their subway down the tube towards them. Awesome.

subway in tube

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I brought this story time to my son’s kindergarten class. I definitely had to tweak it. For starters, we only had 15-20 minutes! So I prepped all the subways in advance. I hot glued the subway templates to 16 tissue boxes and attached the paperclips to the front. At the story time, all the class had to do was color in their subways.

Also, instead of using lots of supplies to decorate the passengers, I brought white toilet paper tubes and asked the kids to draw directly on the tubes (if you don’t have white toilet paper tubes, wrap the brown ones with white paper). Here are the lovely passengers, waiting to board. I especially like the hairy one with the pink eyes all the way to the left.

classroom passengersFollow exactly the same steps with the magic bucks and the MetroCard machine…and then haul the subways through the tube. The story time was a big hit! And the MetroCard machine actually stayed in the classroom, where it happily dispensed cards for the remainder of the school year.

All Hail the Cab

taxiNeed to catch a cab in NYC? No problem! We made some pull string taxi cabs and picked up some passengers in a noisy – and most definitely doggy – traffic jam!

We read The Adventures of Taxi Dog, written by Debra and Sal Barracca, and illustrated by Mark Buehner (Dial Books, 1990). A stray dog’s life is changed forever the day Jim the taxi driver adopts him. Instead of being alone and hungry, Maxi now proudly wears a red bandana and helps Jim with his fares. From Sadie the Broadway singer to a young couple expecting a new baby (any minute!), Maxi loves his new life in New York City!

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9” – a large tissue box works too)
  • 2 plastic cups (mine were Walmart brand 5 oz clear plastic)
  • A 30″ piece of string or yarn
  • Yellow construction paper
  • 1 taxi parts template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 4 black poster board circles (mine were 2.75″ in diameter)
  • 4 orange dot stickers
  • 1 taxi cab roof template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ yellow card stock
  • 2 small strips of silver metallic poster board (approximately 1″ x 4.75″)
  • 1 rectangle of silver metallic poster board (approximately 2.5″ x 3.75″)
  • 4 silver metallic dot stickers
  • 4 red dot stickers
  • 1 large gemstone
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • 1 taxi driver and dog template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white paper
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

First, cut a rectangle out of the box’s lid (if you’re using a tissue box, flip it over and cut the rectangle out of the bottom of the box). It might be a little difficult to see in the image below, but my rectangle is cut slightly off center. There is approximately 3″ of space above the cut, and 3.5″ of space below the cut. The shorter, 3″ space will be the taxi’s “backseat,” and the longer, 3.5″ space is the taxi’s “hood.”

taxi box cutMy cut created a 2.5″ x 5″ rectangle, but your cut will vary according to the size of the plastic cups you’re using. You want the cups to rest snugly in the box. Later, these cups will become your taxi riders’ “seats.”

cup placement But DON’T tape the cups to the box just yet! Set the cups aside for a moment and cut the roof from the template. Tape the roof to the box like so:

roof attachmentYou’ll notice that the front legs of the roof get taped to the “dashboard” of the taxi, and the back legs of the roof get taped to the very back of the taxi box. Next, knot a 30″ piece of string on one end, and tape the knot to the top of the taxi’s hood.

pull string on taxiNow cover the hood, front, back and the sides of the taxi with yellow paper. Tape (or hot glue) the long and short checker strips from the template to the sides and roof of your taxi. Tape (or hot glue) the black poster board circles to the sides of the box for wheels, and add some orange dot sticker hubcaps. Now put the plastic cups back into the taxi, and secure them to the box with tape.

completed side of taxiOn to the front of the taxi! We used 4 metallic dot stickers to make double headlights, a strip of silver metallic poster board for a bumper, and a rectangle of a silver metallic poster board for the grill (I rounded the top of my grill and used marker to add grill lines). A large gemstone hot glued to the top of the grill adds a nice pop of color. The “On Duty” sign from the taxi parts template gets folded along its dotted line, then taped to the roof. Finally, I found some old white office file stickers in the art cabinet, which we turned into license plates (or you can use scraps of paper, and tape or glue them to the bumper).

front of taxiTo the back of the taxi we added: 4 red dot sticker tail lights, a silver metallic poster board bumper, a license plate, and a fabulous “I ♥ NY” bumper sticker (also created out of old office file stickers).

back of taxiThe final step is to color your driver and dog template pieces, and wrap each of them around a toilet paper tube. Drop them into the plastic cup seats.

dog and driverWhen the taxis were finished, it was time for our “traffic jam” activity! First, I collected all the dogs and lined them up on a windowsill. When I shouted “GO!” the kids pulled their taxis over to the windowsill, found their dogs, popped them into their taxis, and zoomed away. It sounds simple, but we had a lot of kids at story time that day, resulting in a stupendous traffic jam.

As you can see, the fastest taxi arrived at the dogs first…

taxi pickup 1It was quickly followed by another taxi…

taxi pickup 2More taxis started to arrive…

taxi pickup 3And more…

taxi pickup 4Pretty soon we had a full-on crazy NYC traffic jam!

taxi pickup finalI made a sound file that combined honking horns and barking dogs, looped it for 4 minutes, and burned it to CD. I played the CD during the activity, adding to the chaos and fun!