The Cuddly Alphabet

soft sensory alphabet by environments

I’m always on the lookout for literacy, and this has to be the cutest alphabet set I have EVER seen. Sweet little stuffed alphabet letters in various patterns, colors, and fabrics. Best of all, some of the letters crinkle, some squeak, some rattle, and some jingle. Just…so…adorable!

We discovered this set while putting together our new library baby program which involves unstructured social time and soft playscapes. But we also wanted a way to work in our best buddy, the alphabet. Enter the Soft Sensory Alphabet by Environments. The set comes with a fabric basket, and each machine washable letter is 5″ tall.

soft sensory alphabet with fabric basket by environmentsThe set retails for $62 online at Discount School Supply. The price is a little steep, but we couldn’t find it less expensively through any other vendors. Etsy, of course, has some fabulous fabric letters, but I don’t imagine they’re machine washable like this set.

How did the set go over? The babies and toddlers loved it. They pounced, sorted, stacked, and rattled the letters. Some traversed the gallery, grasping a favorite. Others spent a good amount of time removing letters from the fabric basket and putting them back in again…

alphabet playtimeThis little girl and her grandparents were naming all the letters as she picked them up. It was incredible to see her grab one and proudly say “W!” all on her own. The Soft Sensory Alphabet by Environments is definitely recommended!

alphabet friends

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

Blue Skies Ahead

blue skies ahead

We’re zooming into the wild blue yonder with this amazing aviator hat AND a pair of custom airplane wings and propeller belt. The sky is the limit!

plane costumeWe read Pilot Pups, written by Michelle Meadows, and illustrated by Dan Andreasen (Simon & Schuster, 2008). Join a pair of enthusiastic stuffed dogs as they fly through the house in a toy plane. Dodging mountaintops (Dad’s head), encountering fog (tea kettle), and careening past the creek (kitchen sink), and returning to the bed before anyone notices their daring adventures.

You’ll need:

It took a little tweaking, but I finally came up with a single piece aviator hat template that works. Here’s what the template looks like with its various dimensions:

aviator hat template with measurments

And here’s an unmarked shot of it, so you can clearly see its shape:

aviator hat template blank step 1First, fold the rounded part of the template upwards and inwards, so it tucks under the back of the template. Later, this will be the bill of your aviator hat.

aviator hat template step 2Hold the template to your forehead and curve the long ends around your head. Secure the ends together with staples. This is the headband of your hat (and, if the template band doesn’t go all the way around your head, just add a little extender piece in the back).

aviator hat template step 3Next, fold the right and left flaps over the top of your head. Secure them together with staples. Note: you want the flaps to form a bit of a “dome” over your head, not fit super tight on top of your skull.

aviator hat template step 4Fold the the center flap down over the top of your head, gently tucking it into the back of the hat brim. Trim off any excess flap sticking out from under the brim.

aviator hat template step 5

Turn the hat over and squish and round the edges of the center flap to make the hat look more rounded. Decorate the goggles (yay steampunk story time!) and buckles from the template, then attach them to the hat like so:

aviator hat template step 6That’s your hat, now for the rest of the costume! The wings are super simple. We cut pairs of 9.5″ x 16″ wings from white poster board, which the kids decorated with markers, color masking tape, and star stickers. Add poster board wrist and shoulder loops to the undersides of the wings. You can see the placement of the loops in the photo below (most kids chose to grasp the wrist loops in their fists while “flying”):

wing loopsThe propeller belt is a strip of poster board with holes punched in each end. Wrap the belt around your waist and secure it in place with a snippet of ribbon (decorate with markers and color masking tape of you like to) threaded through the belt holes. You can simply attach a poster board propeller to the front, or you can make it spin by using a brass fastener.

You’re ready to soar!