Illuminating Underwear

illuminating underwear

In my 11 years of crafting for the Cotsen Children’s Library, I must admit this is a first. Glowing string light underwear. But wait! We can explain!

We read Creepy Pair of Underwear!, written by Aaron Reynolds, and illustrated by Peter Brown (Simon & Schuster, 2017). Shopping for underwear doesn’t usually lead to terrifying episodes with creepy green glowing undies. But in the case of Jasper Rabbit, it does. No matter how Jasper tries to hide, vanquish, or destroy them, his creepy underwear return time and time again. Finally, he buries them in a deep pit and they are gone for good. Except…that creepy greenish glow was actually rather comforting in the dark. Perhaps Jasper can find a way to make peace with his creepy underwear? What can one do with underwear that glows in the dark?

You’ll need:

  • 1 string of battery-operated LED string lights
  • White card stock
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

For starters, we recommend using battery-operated string lights as opposed to plug-in lights. This avoids complications with that wild, unpredictable thing otherwise known as electricity. We found our string lights for $3 in the Dollar Spot section of Target. They were sporting little lanterns (which we removed and used on another project).

$3 string light lanternsTo make your illuminated underpants, cut underpants shapes from white card stock, then decorate with markers. Tape the underpants to the string lights, and let them glow!

creepy carrots underpants

Psst! Did you spot the Creepy Carrot on the underpants? They stalked our story time too!

Villainous Vegetables?

the carrotsThey’re coming…sneaking up on you with a soft tunktunktunk…breathing that awful carroty breath. That’s right, you are being stalked by CREEPY CARROTS (or, as my daughter calls them, “cweepy cawwots”)!

We read Creepy Carrots, written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown (Simon & Schuster, 2012). Jasper Rabbit loves to snack on carrots, and munches quite liberally on the ones that grow in Crackenhopper Field. Until the carrots start stalking him. It begins when Jasper is brushing his teeth. Glancing in the mirror, he sees three creepy carrots leering out at him from the bathtub. But when he whips around, the carrots appear to be nothing more than innocent orange bathtub items. The drama continues. Carrots appear everywhere, breathing their terrible carroty breath, stalking him (“tunktunktunk“) and generally driving Jasper mad. Finally, Jasper builds an elaborate fence (complete with an alligator moat) to keep the carrots from leaving Crackenhopper Field. The carrots rejoice. Their plan worked – Jasper will never be able to get into Crackenhopper Field for carrot snacks again!

We made some creepy carrots in a basket, oh yes we did. But then we challenged kids to  get their carrots into Crackenhopper Field. And sometimes, the carrots sneaked back out!

sneaky carrotsYou’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9”)
  • 1 strip of tagboard (approximately 2.5″ x 14″)
  • 2 brass fasteners
  • 1 piece of white construction paper (mine was 5″ x 8.5″)
  • 1 long piece of brown raffia (mine was 120″)
  • 3 paper towel tubes
  • 3 sheets of 8.5″ x 11″ orange construction paper (or regular orange printer paper)
  • 1 small rectangle of white card stock (approximately 1.75″ x 5.75″)
  • Green raffia
  • Green crepe paper streamer
  • Green construction paper
  • Green paper crinkle
  • A selection of eye stickers
  • 1 creepy carrot mouth template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • A few slivers of black self-adhesive foam
  • 1 Crackenhopper Field (more on that later)
  • Scissors, tape, glue stick for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hole punch

carrots in a basketWe’ll start with the basket, then add some creepy carrots! First, cut the lid and the tabs off the top of the box (or, if you’re using a tissue box, cut the entire top off).

basket step 1To make a basket handle, punch a hole in both ends of the strip of the tagboard. Then punch holes in the sides of the box. Attach the tagboard handle to the box using brass fasteners. Finish by taping the tagboard handle to the interior of the box to keep the basket from wobbling on its handle.

To create a wicker effect on your basket, tape one end of a long piece of raffia to the outside of the box, then wrap it around the box. Tape the other end securely.

We also drew patterns on white construction paper and lined the bottom of the basket with a “basket mat.” You can see the taped handle, the raffia wrapping, and the basket mat in the photo below. Your basket is finished!

completed basketOn to the creepy carrots! Draw lines on a piece of orange paper.

carrot paperThe lines, of course, represent the bumps or rings on the outside of a carrot. Technically, those are called “lateral root scars” (thank you World Carrot Museum, UK. Did you also know that average person will consume 10,866 carrots in a lifetime?). Wrap the lined paper around a paper towel tube and secure with tape. Repeat these steps with the remaining 2 paper towel tubes.

To top off the carrots, we prepped a bunch of different types of carrot greens – fringed construction paper, pieces of raffia, swathes of crepe paper streamers, and crinkle.

carrot greensYou can attach these items to the interior of the paper towel tube OR you can try our patented carrot hairstyling technique. Namely, tape the greens to a small rectangle of white card stock…

carrot top step 1Then, flip the card stock rectangle over and apply glue with a glue stick.

carrot top step 2Gently circle the card stock, keeping the glue on the outside…

carrot top step 3And slip the card stock circle into the top of the paper towel tube. Push the glue onto the interior of the tube.

carrot top step 4The final step is creating carrot faces. You can simply draw the faces on with markers, or you can use eye stickers, mouths from the template, and small pieces of black self-adhesive foam for eyebrows. And there you have it. Creepy carrots.

way-creepy-carrotsOff to Crackenhopper Field! The field doesn’t have to be fancy. In fact, in can just be an empty box, bin, or paper grocery bag. But since we had a couple large, flat boxes on hand (and because I’m never one to “rein it in”) we built a fenced field with two little doors for carrots to sneak in and out of.

field box finishedFirst, we taped the boxes together to form a rough rectangle (60″ long x 26″ high x 23″ deep). We left plenty of room inside the box for one of us to sit.

field box 2Then we used a box cutter to cut two small doors in the front of the box.

field box 1Next, Katie the Stupendous Assistant (you officially met her in this post) wrapped the front and two sides of the box in black paper (we left the back undecorated). I cut fence pieces out of white poster board and Katie hot glued them to the box.

field box 3She super-reinforced the little doors with packing tape so they would hold up to a bunch of kids tugging on them.

During story time, kids were challenged to toss their carrots inside the field or sneak them in through one of the little doors. I, however, was sitting inside the box, tossing carrots back, rocketing them through the doors, or making the carrots poke their heads above the fence and laugh in a semi-creepy way. I lost count of how many times I was bonked in the head by paper towel tube carrots but who cares…they loved it!

field 1After story time ended, a delighted parent took Crackenhopper Field home for further adventures (the blank side was going to be converted into a play castle for a party). I managed to catch them as they were heading out of the library. What a way to travel!

field goes home


Many thanks to Kendra Tyson for recommending this fabulous book! Is there a book you’d like to see us do at one of our story times? E-mail danas@princeton.edu

How Does Your Garden Grow?

It’s a garden…

garden down…that grows before your very eyes!

garden upPssst…the secret is the little cardboard tabs on the side.

We read The Curious Garden by Peter Brown (Little, Brown, 2009). While taking a walk in a dreary city without any trees or greenery, little Liam discovers a neglected patch of wildflowers and plants. He decides to help. As the garden flourishes, it gets curious and begins to spread over the entire city, slowly changing the dull landscape into a fantastic, colorful masterpiece (and the citizens of the city into eager, joyful gardeners).

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 9” x 4 ½” X 4 ½” but a large tissue box works too!)
  • 1 piece of tagboard
  • 4 large large plastic buttons, or anything that has a little weight to it (pennies, bottle caps, etc.)
  • Hot glue
  • Construction paper, pipe cleaners, tissue paper & markers for decorating
  • Tape and scissors for construction
  • 1 white paper cup
  • 1 strip of poster board (approximately 1″ x 5″)
  • 1/2 of a bubble tea straw (approximately 4″ segment)
  • Blue cellophane
  • 1/2 sheet of dot stickers (optional)
  • A “Be Curious” banner template printed on 8.5″ x 11″ paper

Cut the top (or lid) off the box. Save for later. Next, hot glue the four buttons to the (outside) bottom of the box, like little feet:

buttons on bottomThese buttons will keep the box grounded when you’re pulling on the tabs to make the garden “grow.”

Now it’s time to construct the fake floor of the box. Since I used a box with a lid, I simply re-used the lid. You can also use tagboard. Cut the floor to fit the (inside) bottom of your box. Make sure the floor is smaller than the inside of the box, so it slides up and down smoothly.

Now cut 2 strips of tagboard to make the tabs that will raise and lower the floor. The size of the strips depends on your box, but make sure they are at least 2″ taller than the top of your box so kids can grab them easily. Staple the tabs on the short ends of the floor, then bend upward.

fake floorAfter some trial and error, we determined that cutting the corners off the floor allows it to slide up and down more easily.

Now it’s time to decorate! We provided green construction paper in various shapes and sizes, a rainbow assortment of tissue paper, three different types of green pipe cleaners…and let everyone go wild. But remind the kids that they can only decorate the fake floor of the box. If they tape stuff around the top or inside of the box, the floor won’t slide!

Since some kids (and parents) are somewhat daunted by tissue paper flowers, I created a really easy muffin cup flower. Punch a pipe cleaner through a muffin cup. To keep the muffin cup in place, put kinks in the pipe cleaner on both sides:

muffin cup flower stepsVariation: Punch the pipe cleaner through TWO muffin cups, and fringe one!

tissue paper variationOn to the watering can! Use markers to decorate the white poster board handle of the watering can and tape it to the white paper cup.

For the spout, cut four tabs on one end of your bubble tea straw segment. Spread the tabs out, and tape to the cup. When taping, you’ll need to adjust the tabs to get the straw to point upwards like a spout.

watering can spoutFinish the watering can by peppering it with dot stickers! For extra fun, I put squares of blue cellophane in a plastic tub “pond” and kids strolled over to “fill up” their watering cans. The final touch on the project was a “Be Curious” banner taped to the front of the box!

To “grow” your garden, drop the fake floor in the box with the tabs sticking upwards, sprinkle everything with “water” from your watering can, and then pull slooowly on the tabs to make your garden emerge!