Monkey Business

monkey businessWith a turn of the wrist, this gymnastic little money swings around (and around and around) his colorful rainforest branch!

monkey swingsWe read BIG Little Monkey, written by Carole Lexa Schaefer and illustrated by Pierre Pratt (Candlewick, 2008). A little monkey wakes up one morning, ready to play, and finds that his family still wants to sleep. He decides he’s ready to be a Big Little Monkey and leave the tree to find some new friends to play with. He encounters a sloth, a parrot, and finally…Sly Boa. The game “curl my tail around in tricky ways” doesn’t sound too good to Big Little Monkey, so he quickly scoots back to his family, happy to be their Little Monkey once again.

You’ll need:

  • 1 small oatmeal container
  • Dark brown construction paper for body, hair, and ears.
  • Light brown construction paper for mouth (approximately 2.25″ x 3.5″)
  • 1 oval of self-adhesive foam (approximately 1″ x 1.5″)
  • 2 wiggle eyes
  • 1 strip of brown poster board for the tail (approximately 2″ x 10.5″)
  • 1 monkey business template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • An 8.5″ x 8.5″ square of tagboard for arm & leg templates and tree branches
  • box cutter
  • 1 brass fastener
  • 1 paper towel tube
  • A pencil for tracing
  • 6 – 8 green construction paper leaves
  • 2 small feathers
  • Scissors, tape, and glue stick for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Begin by wrapping the oatmeal container with dark brown construction paper. Fringe more dark brown construction paper and tape it to the top of the lid for hair. IMPORTANT: Make sure you don’t tape the lid to the oatmeal container closed! You’ll open the container later to secure your monkey’s swinging arm.

Cut the light brown construction paper rectangle into an oval, and glue to the front of the head. Attach the wiggle eyes (using hot glue), the self-adhesive foam oval, and two dark brown construction paper ears. I used the markers to drawl little swirls in the ears and put a smile on my monkey’s face.

monkey faceYou’ll notice that the ears very close to the eyes and mouth. This is so the ears don’t hamper the movement of the monkey’s swinging arm.

The face is done, now for the body! Curl one end of the brown construction paper tail around a marker, then tape or hot glue it to the back of the oatmeal container. Cut the arms and legs out of the template and tape (or hot glue) the two legs and the short arm to the container. I curled the short arm up in the classic monkey “hand in the armpit pose.”

classic monkey armFinally, the monkey’s swinging arm. Cut a tagboard arm from the template, then place the paper towel tube on the round part of the swinging arm. Use the pencil to trace the diameter of the tube onto the template. Then cut the circle out.

swinging arm stepsUse the box cutter to make a small slit at the bottom of the swinging arm (you can see it in Step 3 of the image above). Make another slit in the side of the oatmeal container. Push the brass fastener through the slit in the swinging arm:

swinging arm 1 Then remove the oatmeal container’s lid and push the brass fastener through the slit in the oatmeal container.swing arm 2cReach inside the container to unfold the prongs, then replace the oatmeal container lid.

swinging arm 3The monkey is done, now for the rainforest swinging branch! Cut two tagboard branches (mine were about 8.5″ long):

branchesHot glue or tape the tagboard branches to the very end of the paper towel tube. Use markers to color the bird and the butterflies. The butterflies and green construction paper leaves can be glued of taped onto the tagboard branches. The bird requires just a few extra steps. First, fold the template like so:

bird step 1Using the dotted lines as guides, fold the two tabs outwards.

bird step 2Use tape to attach 2 small feathers to the bird template as a tail. However, when you finally tape or hot glue your bird’s tabs to the branch, make sure the bird is at the very end and the tail faces away from the monkey’s swinging area.

end of tubeAgain, attach the branches and bird on the very end of the tube! Otherwise, those items will be smacked repeatedly (or completely taken out) by the swinging monkey. We had a few tangled monkeys and squashed birds at story time, and had to do some quick repairs.

To operate the monkey, slide the swinging arm over the paper towel tube, hold it at arm’s length, and begin swaying the tube back and forth. As you build more momentum, the monkey will circle around and around on it’s branch. It’s virtually impossible to not make monkey noises while you’re doing this. Go on. We dare you to not make monkey noises!

Totally Egg-Citing

humptyWhy is this egg wearing a climbing harness and birthday hat? Read on for answers!

We read Humpty Dumpty by Daniel Kirk (Scholastic, 2001). Humpty Dumpty, tired of hiding indoors, begs to go to shy Prince Moe’s royal birthday parade. When the crowds get too thick for Humpty Dumpty to see past, he climbs higher and higher and…falls. Right on the royal carriage. Luckily, the puzzle-crazy prince manages to put the broken egg back together again, and they become the best of friends.

You’ll need:

  • 1 oatmeal container
  • White construction paper
  • 1 pair of wiggle eyes
  • Pom-pom for nose
  • A selection of patterned paper (or construction paper)
  • 4 white poster board strips for the arms and legs
  • 2 poster board strips for the egg’s climbing harness
  • 3 jumbo paper clips
  • 3 pipe cleaners
  • 1 super long piece of twine
  • Hot glue
  • Markers for decorating
  • Tape, staples, and hole punch for construction
  • 1 climbing wall (more on this later!)
  • Birthday eraser prizes (optional)

Start with the egg! Wrap an oatmeal container in white construction paper, then wrap an additional piece of patterned paper / construction paper around the bottom to create the egg’s pants. Hot glue the wiggle eyes and pom-pom nose. Draw the mouth with markers.

The birthday party hat is a patterned piece of paper curled into a cone and taped. You can tape a fringed paper tassel to the top if you so desire. Cut the hat to the right size, and then tape to the top of the egg’s head.

To make the harness, wrap one strip of construction paper around the egg’s waist like a belt. Staple. The next strip goes in between the legs like so:

plain harnessNow punch three holes in the harness (right, left, and back).

harness holesSlide the egg into the harness and set aside. Using markers, decorate the arms and legs. Feel free to use scissors to shape the egg’s hands and feet. Keeping the egg in the harness, attach the arms and legs with hot glue.

Now for the climbing wall (drum roll please)…

egg climbing wallTA DA! That’s my student assistant Iara belaying Mr. Dumpty on the wall.

We made the wall out of a large flattened box that was secured to an overhead metal bar with twine. You could also create the wall on a stairwell, ladder, tall box, tree…

The rock “holds” on the wall are crumpled pieces of brown paper. The “bushes” are crumpled pieces of green tissue paper. The “snow” is bunches of polyester stuffing. All of these items were hot glued to the wall before we hung it.

With the egg and the wall finished, all you need is the “climbing rig.” Wrap the ends of 3 pipe cleaners around 3 jumbo paper clips. Now bunch the 3 pipe cleaners together at the top and twist. Knot the super long piece of twine around the twisted pipe cleaner top. It should look like this:

harnessThen slide each paper clip through a hole in the harness (it’s easier to show this step without the egg in the harness).

harness attachedThen we threw the free end of the twine “rope” over the metal bar and dropped it down so kids could grab it and raise and lower their eggs (actually, we had 2 ropes on the wall, since we had 24 kids at story time and wanted to shorten the waiting time).

Ready to climb! Clip the pipe cleaner “rig” to the egg’s harness, and then have the kids pull the rope to make Humpty Dumpty climb the wall! In keeping with the spirit of the book, we created a game in which the birthday hat clad egg climbed to the top of the wall, “touched” a gold star, and dropped back down safely to receive a birthday cake prize (little cake erasers from Target).

cakesPostscript: Originally, this project was created for the book Humpty Dumpty Climbs Again by Dave Horowitz (Puffin, reprint edition 2011). In the story, Humpty Dumpty is an avid rock climber who falls and loses his confidence. He descends into a terrible depression (complete with moping around in his underwear). He revives when he learns that only he can save one of the King’s horses from a dangerous ledge, and ultimately saves the day!

We had prepped the whole project when I discovered that (the day before we were set to go) the book had gone missing! I frantically checked THREE bookstores and none of them had a copy. So I substituted Humpty Dumpty by Daniel Kirk. Mostly, it involved switching an alpine climbing hat for a birthday hat, and awarding a birthday cake prize instead of a gold star sticker prize.

However, if you’re interested in taking the project in this direction, here is an image of the hat. It’s a simple origami hat fold with a fringed construction paper tassel and marker decorations.

alpine hatYodel-lay-he-hoo!