Ship in a Bottle

ship in a bottleAhoy! Don’t toss that little plastic water bottle! This simple ship can be put together with supplies laying around any pirate den.

You’ll need:

  • An empty 8 oz plastic water bottle
  • A 4″ x 4″ square of standard white paper
  • 2 pennies
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

Remove the label from the water bottle. I used Poland Springs brand because it has a paper label that comes off easily. There was still some adhesive stuck to the bottle…

adhesiveBut it came off right away with some scotch tape. Press the tape to the adhesive, and then rip it off! Repeat until all the adhesive is gone and you have a nice clean bottle.

Now for the ship! For the step-by-step folding instructions below, I used marbled origami paper to better illustrate the folds. But you can definitely use plain old white paper for your ship. Start with a 4″ x 4″ square of paper.

ship step 1Now cut the paper in half, forming 2 triangles.

ship step 2Moving forward, you’ll just be using one of the triangles (give the other to yer shipmate). Orient your triangle like so…

ship step 3Then fold the lower right point up to the top of the triangle.

ship step 4Repeat with the left point. Your paper will now look like this:

ship step 5Open your triangle like so…

ship step 6Then fold the top point down to the base of the triangle like this:

ship step 7Fold the right point up again…

ship step 8Then repeat with the left point.

ship step 9Fold the bottom point up…

ship step 10Then gentle push it back down again. This creates the base that props up your ship.

ship step 11Your ship is done!

ship step 12Since you’ll be folding a ship using standard white paper, your ship will of course be all white. Therefore, your next step is to color the base of the ship with markers (and the sails too if you like).

colored ship baseThen turn the ship around and tape two stacked pennies to the base. The pennies are important. Not only do they keep the ship upright, they also anchor the bottle on its side  AND act as a counterbalance for the bottle’s cap.

pennies on baseReady to get that ship in the bottle? Gently fold the base upwards, and curl the sails loosely around it. Try not to pinch the ship too tightly.

rolled shipInsert the rolled ship through the mouth and neck of the bottle. Use your finger or a pencil to gently unroll the ship and straighten the sails. Twist the cap on your bottle, and you’re done!

finished ship in bottleThis project was a bit hit at a large-scale Treasure Island event we hosted. Even though the origami fold is relatively easy, we folded a fleet of ships in advance for very young children, who were able to jump right into decorating them. We also developed this extremely popular (and inexpensive) pom-pom cannon  for another event table.

We had a real cannon too, courtesy of the Pennsylvania State Navy historical reenactors.

cannonThese folks were amazing. The history, artifacts, and knowledge they brought to the event were absolutely top rate.

pa navyAnother amazing educator was this gentleman from the Trenton Old Barracks Museum, who portrayed Dr. Livesey. He brought all of his period medical implements and described them in great detail. And yes, before you ask – he did bring leeches.

dr livesey

Live By The (Foam) Sword

crossed swordsEvery pirate needs a cutlass, every musketeer needs a saber, and every knight needs a sword! But the combination of kids and swords can get a bit… dicey. Someone always get dinged, bonked, poked, or conked.

So you need a sword that will hold up in battle but that won’t bruise on impact. Foam is usually the way to go but foam swords can get a little pricey and fall apart quickly.

I have a solution for you. Straight from the plumbing section of your local hardware store.

foam tubesIt’s tubular foam pipe insulator. Also called “that gray foam tube that gets wrapped around pipes.” It’s made out of polyethylene (the same stuff as pool noodles and kickboards). I use the 1/2″ diameter foam, which comes in 6′ tubes and costs 97 cents. You can cut it easily with scissors. I can get 3 good-sized (i.e. 20″ – 21″) swords out of 1 tube. That’s 32 cents a sword. Oh yeah.

You can wield the sword as a plain tube, or you can create a “hilt” by wrapping the base with color masking tape. To reach the pinnacle of royalty, try hot gluing a large gemstone to the hilt as well. Grab your shield, and you’re ready to sally forth!

hiltsPssst! If you’re looking for another amazing find in the plumbing section, check out this post. If you’re yearning for a cannon to go with that pirate sword, you can find it here. Looking for a dragon to adventure with? Click here!


pom-pom cannonIf you do programs with kids, inevitably, you’re going to do something with pirates. Now, you can come well-armed with this amazing pom-pom cannon!

I created this project for a large-scale Treasure Island event, so it’s designed to be quick to make, cheap to produce, and fun to play with. It was a huge hit. The brave crew at the Historical Society of Princeton helped kids make 500+ cannons at the event. Arrr!

You’ll need:

  • 1 paper towel tube
  • 1 piece black construction paper
  • Metallic markers for decoration
  • cannon wheel template printed on an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of card stock
  • 2 jumbo paperclips
  • Hot glue or glue dots
  • Tape for construction
  • 1 jumbo 2″ pom-pom (any color)

Wrap the paper towel roll in black paper and tape to secure. Then use the metallic markers to decorate the cannon and the wheels. We used metallic Sharpie markers.  Silver showed up the best on the black paper.

Slide the two jumbo paperclips on one end of the tube. These are the “weights” on the base of your cannon so it won’t slump forward when sitting on a table. I found it’s best to put the clips side by side, like so:

paper clip placementNow it’s time to attach the wheels. I used hot glue for the version you see here, but we used glue dots and/or tape at the event (while I love hot glue, I’m not big on running a hot glue gun for 5 hours amongst thousands of kids).

You’ll notice that the wheels are attached almost in the center of the cannon. You’ll have to play with the placement of the wheels a little to get the cannon to tilt just right.

pom-pom cannonReady to fire? Hold the cannon aloft in one hand, push the pom-pom into the “mouth” (i.e. the non-paperclip end) of the cannon, and then blow a big puff of air into the opposite end. The “cannonball” will launch!

Now, how about some swords matey? Printable tattoos? A floating island hideout? A parrot pal to perch on your wrist? Or this lovely (and incredibly easy) ship in a bottle?