Operators Are Standing By

Hey, how are you doing? The answer to that question may vary hour to hour, but here’s a chance to voice those feelings on your very own “Feel-O-Fone” line! All you need are a few household items to chat with your head and your heart.

We recommend reading The Boy With Big, Big Feelings, written by Britney Winn Lee, and illustrated by Jacob Souva (Beaming Books, 2019). Read here by Hannah Michahelles. A boy’s emotions are so big, he worries he can’t hold them in, deal with them, or make friends. But he soon learns that big hearts are better then ok, they’re the BEST!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large tissue box
  • 1 toilet paper roll
  • Construction paper
  • 1 large paper clip
  • A bit of string, ribbon, shoelace, or wire
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

Wrap your tissue box and toilet paper tube with construction paper, then decorate your phone with markers. I used pushpins to create textured buttons on my phone, but you can also glue on clothing buttons, bottle caps, or draw the buttons with markers.

The toilet paper tube is the phone’s “receiver.” To hang the receiver, slightly unfold a large paper clip, then tape it to the side of the box. The receiver tube slides onto the bent paperclip:

Connect the receiver to the phone box with a piece of ribbon, string, or a shoelace (I used the cable from an ancient set of ear buds). Hang the phone on the wall, and you’re done! To operate the Feel-O-Phone, unhook the receiver and simply talk…tell it how you’re feeling! Happy? Sad? Scared? Worried? Silly? Share away, operators are standing by…

The Gift of Garden

the gift of garden

Create some potted plants, and then share the love with a delightful on-the-go garden!

We read Anywhere Farm, written by Phyllis Root, and illustrated by G. Brian Karas (Candlewick Press, 2017). Want to grow a farm anywhere? All you need is soil, sunshine, water, and a seed. From alleyways to the insides of a old trumpet, your garden will blossom and bloom! The rhymes in this book are so clever and endearing, and the illustrations are delightful depictions of gardens everywhere and anywhere. A highly recommended story time read!

You’ll need:

  • Several toilet paper and paper towel tubes
  • A selection of construction paper
  • A selection of pipe cleaners
  • Scissors, glue, and tape for construction

For the optional wagon:

  • 1 large tissue box
  • 1 wheel assembly (more on this below)
  • 2 drinking straws (our were 10″ long)
  • An 16.5″ piece of string
  • 1 small rectangle of tagboard (approximately 1.25″ x 2″)

little potted plants

First, your garden! Cut toilet paper and paper towel tubes down to 2″. Then create plants using construction paper and pipe cleaners (we also provided , patterned tape, fabric flowers, tissue paper, and plastic buttons for decorating). We asked kids to make at least one pot that wouldn’t mind trading at the end of story time.

You can end the project with the pots, or you can take it a step further…we loved the idea of an anywhere garden on-the-go, so we crafted tissue box wagons to make things mobile! The wagon and wheel assembly instructions can be found on this post.

finished red wagonWhen the wagons were assembled, kids popped their potted plants in and we circled the library’s lobby. Everyone was invited to trade at least one pot with Katie (and we pre-made a number pots for this purpose).

sharing plants

Some kids also traded with each other spontaneously, which was VERY sweet!

A School of Sharing

school of sharingJoin this beautiful school of fish with their bright, sparkling scales! These easy-to-make fish were created with poster board and construction paper. Then we grabbed a set of sparkling rainbow scales and had a glittery share-fest. That’s right! You could only stick your scales on other peoples’ fish!

We read The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister (North-South Books, 1992). With his sparkling silver scales, Rainbow Fish is the most beautiful fish in the ocean. He’s also the most stuck up, making it clear that he’s too beautiful to accept invitations to play. When a little fish dares to ask for a silver scale, Rainbow Fish rudely tells him to go away. That does it. The other fish decide to ignore the snobby Rainbow Fish. With no audience to admire him, Rainbow Fish grows lonely. Seeking the council of the wise octopus, she advises him to give his shining scales away to the other fish. Only then will he discover what happiness is. So Rainbow Fish gives away his silver scales, and as he sees them glittering and flashing around him on the other fish, he realizes that he finally feels at home among his new friends.

You’ll need:

  • Poster board
  • A piece of self-adhesive foam (mine was a 1.75″ x 3″ oval )
  • 2 wiggle eyes
  • Hole punch
  • Construction paper
  • Small bits of cellophane
  • 1 pipe cleaner
  • Rainbow scales (more on this below!)
  • Scissors, glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating

Cut a fish shape from poster boar (we offered a choice of dark blue, purple, and light blue poster board). Because we wanted to leave plenty of room for decoration, our fish was extra-large (16″ from nose to end of tail). Here’s the outline:

fish shape

If you’d like a fish that fits on an 11″ x 17″ piece of paper, here’s the large fish template. Need something smaller? This small fish template fits on an 8.5″ x 11″ pieces of paper. I recommend cutting the fish shapes out in advance of story time. Another thing to cut in advance? Construction paper scales. We offered strips of purple, yellow, dark blue, and pink.

fish scalesTo create puffy lips for your fish, start with an oval of self-adhesive craft foam.

fish lips step1

Peel and stick it over the fish’s mouth.

fish lips step 2

Finally, use scissors to cut a smiley face in the foam.

fish lips step 3

Glue (or hot glue) a wiggle eye on both sides of the fish, and punch a hole in the top fin.

hole punch and fish eye

Decorate both sides of your fish with the construction paper scales and pieces of cellophane to add some shimmer (we offered blue and iridescent cello to add some shimmer). Just make sure you don’t cover the hole you punched in the top fin! Use markers to add some designs if you’d like. The final step is to loop a pipe cleaner through the hole so you can carry your fish easily.

completed fishNow for the sharing game…and…duh duh DUH…an EPIC STORY TIME CRAFTING FAIL!

rainbow scalesLook at these beautiful glittering scales! I found some sheets of self-adhesive hologram paper at Party City. Marissa painstakingly cut and peeled zillions of scales, and stuck each set on mylar. We tested peeling the scales off the mylar to make sure kids could do it quickly and easily.

It worked! Great. No problem.

To play the sharing game, we first gave kids a silver scale to start their fish off. Then we gave them a set of 4 scales (as seen above). The kids mingled around the gallery, sticking scales from their set onto other kids’ fish, making sure to share each color with a new person. At the same time, kids were accepting scales from other kids (the only rule was that you couldn’t accept a repeat color). Marissa, Joani and I circulated with extra sets of scales, to make sure no fish were going to be left out.

At least, that’s how we planned it.

Somehow, overnight, the hologram paper cooked onto the mylar. They were now impossible to peel off. Look at the scales again. Do you see how wrinkled the red one is at the top? That’s from me scrabbling at it with my fingernails, going “Nooo! No! NOOOO!”

rainbow scale failNo scale stickers meant no sharing game. Refusing to admit defeat, I sent Marissa and Joani over to quickly cut the strips of scales into individual scales. To buy them some cutting time, I whipped a roll of hologram smiley face stickers out of the cabinet.

smiley stickersI asked the kids to line up and, one at a time, tell me something nice that they had done for someone recently. Their good deed earned their fish a smiley face sticker AND a trip to see Marissa and Joani to get a set of scales hot glued onto their fish. Sure, it wasn’t the sharing game, but you still got a sparkly fish in the end.

one fishIf I was to do this again, I would definitely do the original sharing game. But I would use metallic dot stickers cut in half to replicate fish scales.

dot sticker fish scalesBecause I’ve learned my lesson. Peel the stickers off the original paper they come on. Don’t stick them on anything except the final product. Oooooooh yes.Interested in some other sharing and cooperative story times? Try this flower pot exchange, or these awesome viking vs. pirate cooperative games.