Ninjas Needed

Gather, all you ninjas in training, for the ultimate obstacle course. Challenge your balance, hiding, and throwing skills to earn a noble blade of aluminum foil!

We read Ninja Camp, written by Sue Fliess, and illustrated by Jen Taylor (Hachette Books, 2019). A team of young ninjas gather at Ninja Camp to train and defend the Shadow Blade from a rival camp. A total story time win…this fun rhyming book packs plenty of action and adventure!

You’ll need:

  • 1 black t-shirt
  • 4 paper towel tubes
  • 1 piece of ribbon (ours was 13″ long)
  • Aluminum foil
  • A selection of color masking tape
  • A ninja obstacle course (more on this below!)
  • Scissors and tape for construction

Our story time project consisted of a ninja jacket, nunchucks, throwing star, and a sword. To make the jacket, cut a slit up the front of a black t-shirt (we used a kid’s size L). Then, cut a 2.5″ strip off the bottom of the shirt to create a belt. We offered metallic markers to add some designs to the jacket as well.

ninja jacketOur nunchucks are surplus foam book spine protectors recycled from Princeton University’s Department of Special Collections! But you can also use paper towel tubes. Connect the tubes with a 13″ piece of ribbon secured with color masking tape.

nunchucksThe throwing stars are of the classic origami variety (instructions here). The sword is 2 paper towel tubes connected with masking tape, then covered with tin foil. The hilt is masking tape as well. But the REAL stroke of genius? We added a tassel to the sword hilt, compliments of the Office of Student Affairs at Princeton University. Our tassels were surplussed from commencement, but you can also purchase them rather inexpensively on Amazon.

ninja swordOnce our ninja kids were ready, we gathered at the start of the obstacle course. First, ninjas walked the red masking tape tightrope to build balance skills:

obstacle course 1Next, they entered the forest to demonstrate their hiding abilities. Can you spot the ninja in this photo?

obstacle course 2Then the ninja stealthily moved along a dark corridor and crawled through a tunnel…

obstacle course 3Finally emerging at our throwing star range, where they took aim at targets:

obstacle course 4When the obstacle course was complete, the ninja headed over to the Shadow Blade stone, where they drew their swords under the proud eye of Sensei Katie!

sensei katieFun fact: Katie has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

Note to self: Don’t mess with Katie.

Big Frog ♥ Little Frog

big frog hearts little frogThe world is full of delightful things for a little frog to jump over, but the absolute best place to eventually land? The loving arms of Mama (or Dada!) frog. Our story time kids jumped box frogs over several obstacles, but waiting at the finish line – with a BIG hug – was their respective grown-up, bedecked in a frog headband!

We read Leap Back Home to Me, written by Lauren Thompson, and illustrated by Matthew Cordell (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2011). In this incredibly sweet rhyming book, a little leaping frog has a great time jumping over bugs, plants, trees, creeks, and hilltops, but he always returns to loving embrace of Mama frog.

You’ll need:

  • 1 small box (ours was 4″ x 4″ x 4″ – a small tissue box works too)
  • Green construction paper
  • 1 piece of (ours was 22″ long)
  • 1 mini craft stick (ours was 3″ long)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

To make a frog, cover a small box with green construction paper. Add big accordion-fold legs, arms, and eye bumps (we added eye stickers as well). Use markers to draw the mouth and nostrils.

simple frog boxTo make the bouncy jump cord, tape a 22″ piece of clear elastic beading cord to the top of the box, then knot the other end around a craft stick handle. We wrapped tape around the knot on the craft stick as well, just to make it extra secure.

jump string for frog Below is the big frog headband for grown-ups. This is also made of green construction paper. We added jumbo eye stickers as well, but you can also draw on the eyes with markers.

grown up frog headbandYour 2 frogs are done, now for the obstacle course! It can really be as simple as “jumping” over chairs, tables, and books. But we had a couple big boxes come in through our recycling program, so we got a little creative. We recruited a young man to act as both the line leader and start flag for the course…

starting flagWhen he shouted go, a kid / frog duo headed onto the course. First they leaped over the meadow, then jumped past an owl nest (which had an owl in it – another audience recruit).

meadow and owl nestNext was a log tunnel, and just beyond it, a blue twin sheet “river” to jump over.

log tunnel and river

Then the duo bounded over a “mountain” (two wooden step stools pushed together).

mountainAnd stopped to say hello to a rainbow cloud (i.e. Michelle, a Princeton University student assistant). Did you notice her little puff hat? Soooo cute.

michelle the rainbow cloudNext it was on to Miss Melinda, who had a lily pad for each frog to rest on. We made these out of green poster board and a paper muffin cup.

lily pad finish line The final step was to jump into the arms of your mom/dad frog, who was waiting at the finish line in a fine frog head band! Ready to see the course in action?

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