Tin Foil Regatta

tin foil regattaHoist the sail and glide down a tin foil waterway! You can race another boat, or simply bob along at your own pace. This project was designed for a story time at my community pool. The project had to be simple, creative, and appeal to a wide age range. Since there were 50 kids at the program, the project also needed to be inexpensive and easy to assemble, with minimal adult assistance.

We also needed a super fun book. And I knew just the one to read!

We enjoyed The Old Pirate of Central Park by Robert Priest (Houghton Mifflin, 1999). In an apartment in New York City, an old retired pirate builds a model of his former ship. Excited, he take the ship to the Central Park Sailboat Pond. The Laughing Dog sails the waves beautifully, and the Pirate is delighted. But then a retired Queen arrives with her ship, the S.S. Uppity Duchess. The Queen’s ship races around the pond, being rude and swamping other boats. When the Pirate tries to put a stop to the rampage, the Queen’s ship opens fire! The Laughing Dog fires back and the “infamous battle of Central Park” begins (very funny, you must read it). Finally, in need of a nap, the Queen declares an end to the battle and proposes a truce. The Queen and the Pirate shake hands and peace returns to the pond. Now the Queen and the Pirate are friends, they enjoy the sailboat pond together – the two “Old Retirates” of Central Park.

You’ll need:

  • 4 wine corks
  • 4 craft sticks (mine were 4.5″ long)
  • 1 wooden bead
  • 1 wooden coffee stirrer
  • 1 triangle of white construction paper (mine was 6.5″ tall)
  • A selection of color masking tape
  • Hole punch
  • Scissors
  • Markers for decorating
  • Roll of tin foil
  • Hot glue

Begin by hot gluing 4 corks together. Then, hot glue 4 craft sticks on top of the corks. Finish by hot gluing a wooden bead to the center of the craft stick deck. Your boat’s base should now look like this:

boat bodyWe prepped 50 of these boat bases in advance of the program. We also prepped the sails by punching holes in the top and bottom of a triangle of white construction paper.

holes punched in sailI made a dozen extra sails in case some ripped, got dunked the water, got lost in the fray, or someone made a coloring mistake and wanted to start again (and all four things happened at the program, multiple times!).

Insert a wooden coffee stirrer into the hole of the wooden bead. If necessary, stabilize the coffee stirrer with hot glue or color masking tape. Make sure to have extra stirrers on hand, in case the first one you grab doesn’t fit into the bead’s hole.

sailboat mastDecorate the sail with markers, then slide it onto the coffee stirrer

sail on mastTo make the sailboat’s flag, wrap a section of color masking tape around the top of the coffee stirrer. You can leave your flag square, or trim the sides with scissors to make it triangular.

flag stepsYour boat is finished! I managed to snap a few photos of boats at the program. Look how much personality they have!

We also had this fantastic non-boat creation…a pair of fish made out of tin foil and color masking tape. Awesome.

fishNow for the waterway! The waterway idea is from FamilyFun magazine (they called it “The Tinnissippi River.” How cute is that?). Basically, you use a whole lot of tin foil to make a long, high-sided tray (I recommend doubling up the tin foil to make it extra strong). Then you fill the tray with water. Our waterway was 10-12 feet long. I didn’t get a good photo of the waterway during the program, so I recreated a shorter version of it for this post:

full tin foil sheetAlas, our waterway sprung a leak during the pool program. But quick-thinking Katie filled up several dish tubs with water. The kids were just as happy to float their boats in the tubs, so if you don’t want go the tin foil route, just grab a couple dish tubs and set sail. Or haul that old baby pool out of the garage and fill it up!

tub alternativeIf you want to turn this activity into a riveting regatta, give the kids drinking straws and instruct them to use the straws to blow their boats down the waterway. First one to the end wins!

Go Snail Go

racing snailOn your mark…get set…GO! The race is on with these fantastic pull string snails and tabletop race track. But it’s not speed that counts in this event. Sweet victory goes to the slowest snail in the race!

go snail goWe read Snail Boy by Leslie McGuirk (Candlewick, 2003). Meet Snail. He’s as big as a pony! Being big and extremely rare, Snail spends most of his days hiding from snail hunters. At night, he is plagued with nightmares about being captured. But one day he has an inspiration! If he can find just the right owner, he’ll be safe from snail hunters forever. Venturing to the park, Snail spots a boy and introduces himself. While the boy is reluctant to have a giant snail as a pet (snails are way too slow for his tastes), Snail finally convinces him by performing some excellent tricks. Plus, he has a private clubhouse on his back! The two friends ride off slowly, slowly, sloooowly together.

The boy in the story is reluctant to adopt Snail because of his lack of speed. I thought it would be fun to have super slow snail races to show that slow is just as fun as fast!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large rectangle of tagboard for snail body (approximately 2″ x 11.5″)
  • Hole punch
  • A 68″ piece of yarn
  • 2 small rectangles of tagboard for eye stalks (approximately 0.5″ x 2.25″)
  • 2 squares of white poster board (approximately 5.5″ x 5.5″ each)
  • 1 small box (mine was 4″ x 4″ x 4″)
  • A Bling Bin
  • 1 wooden dowel
  • Construction paper (we offered orange, green, yellow, red, and purple)
  • A selection of color masking tape
  • A 28″ piece of ribbon
  • A 2″ gold embossed foil seal (or use metallic paper)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

We’ll start with your snail! Round both ends of a large rectangle of tagboard. Fold the rounded rectangle twice – once to create your snail’s head, and twice to create your snail’s neck. Your snail’s body should now look like this:

snail step 1 Punch a hole in the snail’s body, right at the base of the neck. Thread one end of a 68″ piece of yarn through the hole, and tape it tightly to the snail’s body.

snail steps 2 and 3Round the ends of 2 small rectangles of tagboard and tape (or glue, or hot glue) them to the back of your snails head. Use markers to draw a pair of eyes on the ends of the stalks.

snail eyesNow for the shell! Round three sides of a white poster board square. Use a marker to draw a spiral on the shell. Repeat with the other white poster board square.

shell stepsHot glue a box to the top of your snail’s body, and then hot glue both pieces of shell to the sides of the box. The flat part of the shell pieces should align with the bottom of the box. Don’t let it extend beyond the bottom of the box, or your snail will have trouble sliding later.

snail shell step 2 and 3Finally, use markers and the Bling Bin to decorate your snail’s shell! We also whipped up a flag for demonstrating your team spirit. It a 9″ triangle of construction paper taped to a wooden dowel with color masking tape. Decorate the flag with markers if you like.

flagNow for the race track! We created our track on a 6′ plastic-topped table (the same type of table we used to make these sled runs actually).

race track First, I used color masking tape to create 3 racing lanes, a starting line, and a finish line. I also used the tape to number the lanes (you can see the numbers in purple all the way to the left on the picture). I attached 8 wooden dowels to the sides of the table using packing tape, and then I strung the dowels with kite string. Katie and I used color masking tape to make flags along the kite string (just double a 2″ piece of tape over the string, then snip the tape with scissors to make it triangular). We finished by attaching construction paper flags to the dowels by the start and finish lines.

Ready to race? Have the kids place their snails behind the starting line in lane 1, 2, or 3. Then have them walk down the table to the finish line and stand in their snail’s lane. Leaving the snails at the starting line, deliver the long pull strings to the waiting hands of the snail jockeys. A quick tweet of a starting whistle, and they’re off! The slowest snail wins!

super snailThe hilarious thing about this activity is that it’s nearly impossible for kids to go slow in a race. Especially when people are waving flags and yelling in excitement. Most of the snails burned down the track in seconds. But some snails were Olympians of slowness. You can see one of the record breakers in the photo above, finally approaching the finish line.

The prize was a gold medal on a ribbon. We mounted a 2″ gold foil seal on a circle of poster board, then taped a 28″ piece of ribbon to the back. Everyone received a gold medal for finishing, regardless of how their snails placed in the race!

medal


Postscript: Wow! Leslie McGuirk sent us a signed copy of her book! Thanks so much Leslie. I absolutely love the snail…

snail boy inscription