Message in a Bottle

message in a bottle

Messages of love, thoughtful notes, warm invitations…they’re all heading your way to be captured and stashed in your fishing creel AND your heart!

We read The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, written by Michelle Cuevas, and illustrated by Erin E. Stead (Penguin, 2016). The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles’ job is to spot message bottles and deliver them to their proper recipients. But secretly, he yearns for someone to write a message to him. One day, a bottle arrives with a party invitation, but no name. So the Uncorker asks a number of people if the message belongs to them. Finding no success, he decides to take the bottle to the party and report his failure. However, when he arrives, he finds everyone he talked to earlier, waiting and ready to have a party with him!

You’ll need:

  • 1 tissue box
  • 1 strip of poster board strip for a box handle
  • 1 wooden dowel
  • 1 piece of string
  • 1 wine cork
  • 1 button magnet
  • 1 message bottle template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 3 rectangles of clear plastic (more on this below!)
  • 3 paperclips
  • Scissors, tape, and stapler for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

First, your equipment! The fishing creel is a box with a poster board handle stapled to the lid. We decorated ours with color masking tape, but markers work too! The fishing pole is a wooden dowel, and the “hook” is a button magnet hot glued to a wine cork.

bottle catching creel and poleColor and cut the 3 bottles from the template, then tape a little pocket of archival mylar to one side. You can find mylar sheets on Amazon, or you can use clear gift wrapping cellophane. Tape a paper clip to the top of the bottle. Finally, use extra paper from the template to write messages and tuck them into the pockets of the bottles.

message bottle constructionReady to fish? My son and I crafted this awesome row boat we dubbed the “Cape May III.”

the cape may III

At story time, I scattered the kids’ bottles in the “ocean” while they sat in the boat. Then they “fished” off the side, connecting the magnet hook to the paper clipped bottles, which were then hoisted and deposited into the creel!

catching message bottlesThe Uncorker of Ocean Bottles was actually a special request from Lydia, a little girl who was aging out of our Tiger Tales story time program. So Katie and I made a very special bottle message for her, and snuck it in with her other bottles. A little story time magic, straight from the heart :)

Whale Tale

whale tale

Join a big blue whale on an ocean of adventures, and don’t forget to stop by your adorable lighthouse island to play in some waves, chill on the beach, and collect shells!

We read Beachy and Me by Bob Staake ( Random House, 2016). Pixie Picklespeare is the only child living on a very tiny lighthouse island. She is BORED. But after rescuing a beached blue whale, the new friends spend a whole summer playing games, riding waves, and exploring the ocean. But when Beachy the whale hears the call of migration, Pixie is alone and bored AGAIN. But what’s that she hears? Her whale friend, coming back to visit, just like he promised.

You’ll need:

  • 1 corrugated cardboard base
  • 1 small box
  • 1 small oatmeal container
  • 1 plastic cocktail cup
  • 1 wine cork
  • Construction paper
  • Scissors, tape, and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

The lighthouse island is basically a small oatmeal container and small box, hot glued to the top of a corrugated cardboard base. The light is a plastic cocktail cup flipped upside down and placed on top of the oatmeal container (we left it unattached so the construction paper light bulb taped inside can rotate).

front of lighhouseOur “ocean” consists of a curved, light blue crepe paper streamer and a fringe of dark blue construction paper waves. We had mini shells handy for the beach, but you can use images of shells, or just have the kids draw the shells on the beach with markers.

lighthouse beachWe also decided to cut the backs out of the box and the oatmeal container to create a dollhouse. Use a circle of white card stock to create the second floor of the lighthouse, then decorate the walls and floors with paper. Need furniture and some framed artwork? You’ll find templates and instructions in this post.

You can see our cork person creation in the photo as well:

back of lighthouseWhen the lighthouse islands were done, we announced that a whale had been spotted in the library’s main lobby. This was a red wagon with a whale facades taped to both sides. Kids took turns getting rides and smiling at local whale watchers!

whale rides

Candle on the Water

candle on the waterA lighthouse shines in the darkness, allowing your little boat to safely navigate our story time waters – which look surprisingly like blue contact paper. Huh. Who knew the ocean came in long, rectangular sheets?

navigating the ocean maze

We read Who Sees the Lighthouse?, written by Ann Fearrington, and illustrated by Giles Laroche (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2002). With a blink, flash, and twirl, a lighthouse sends its light over the waters to watchful sailors, pilots, turtles, whales, and a few even more interesting visitors. This charming counting book has a surprise ending when it comes to concept and scale!

You’ll need:

  • 1 small oatmeal container
  • Construction paper
  • 1 plastic cocktail cup
  • 1 craft stick (use a 4.5″ one)
  • 1 box cutter
  • 1 LED light or mini glow stick
  • 1 small box (ours was 2″ x 3″ x 3″)
  • 2 strips of poster board
  • 1 foam bead
  • 1 drinking straw
  • 1 piece of string (ours was 39″ long)
  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • Hole punch, scissors, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

We’ll begin with the lighthouse! First, wrap a small oatmeal container with construction paper. We used color masking tape to create stripes, and self-adhesive foam to make a doors and windows, but you can also use construction paper or markers for this.

finished light houseThe most important part of this lighthouse is the light! You can put an LED votive or a mini glow stick in there and be done. But we wanted two things: 1) The top of the lighthouse to rotate; and 2) The light inside to “spotlight” like a real lighthouse. So I grabbed a bunch of submersible LED lights from the floral section of Michaels Craft (bring a 40% off coupon, because these are pricey at $20 for 12).

lighthouse spotlight First, wedge one end of a 4.5″ craft stick into the clip on the back of the LED light. Next,  cut a slit in the top of a soft plastic cocktail cup. Thread the free end of the craft stick up through the slit in the cup. Finish by adding a masking tape or construction paper flag to the top of the craft stick.

So why the craft stick? Submersible LED lights need to be twisted to turn the bulb on, but it’s awkward to twist a small light inside an equally small cup. With our design, you can lower the craft stick to drop the light outside the cup, then pull the stick upwards to return the light inside the cup. Cool, right? When the LED is lit, place the cup on top of the oatmeal container. Then simply rotate the unattached cup on top of the oatmeal container. You now have a lighthouse spotlight!

lighthouse finished spotlight Next up, the sailboat! Cut the top and/or lid off a small box, then hot glue 2 poster board strips on each side of the box. Pinch and hot glue the free ends of the poster board together in the front and back to create a boat shape. Tape a string to the top front of the boat (if you tape the string to the bottom, the boat will keep capsizing).

lighthouse boat with pull stringNext, use scissors to enlarge the hole of a foam bead. You want the hole large enough to hold a drinking straw. Hot glue the foam bead to the front of the boat. Note how the foam bead is not centered in the boat – it’s glued a little ways towards the front:

lighthouse boat with foam beadWhy is the foam bead slightly forwards in the boat? So you can fit your toilet paper tube person behind the sail of the boat (though if you use a slightly larger box, this might not be an issue).

lighthouse person in boatTo finish the boat, use a hole punch to create holes in the top and bottom of a triangle of white construction paper. Decorate the sail with markers, then thread it through a drinking straw. Insert the bottom of the straw into the foam bead (we also recommend a masking tape or construction paper flag to the top of the mast to keep the sail from popping off). Use construction paper and markers to decorate the boat and a toilet tube person.

When all the lighthouses and boats were done, we led the kids to an area of the gallery where we had created an ocean “pathway” using a roll of blue contact paper. We placed all the lighthouses along the pathway and turned off the overhead lights.

lighthouse ocean mazeThe kids pulled their boats along the pathway, which was lit by beautiful little lighthouses…

navigating the ocean mazeBecause Who Sees the Lighthouse? is a counting book, we asked the kids to count each lighthouse they passed. Then they came to me with the final number and were awarded fish stickers!

It’s another bonus points blog title! Best Disney song, ever. Still waiting for someone to bust it out on The Voice…