The Ultimate Road Trip

the ultimate road trip Hit the road in a totally stylin’ pull string truck. Your mission? To deliver produce to the city market. But first, you have to navigate a 12 foot obstacle course packed with trees, animals, buildings, water, and bridges!

We read Little Blue Truck Leads the Way, written by Alice Schertle, and illustrated by Jill McElmurry (Harcourt, 2009). Little Blue Truck is heading to the city to deliver some fresh country produce. But the city is a lot bigger, faster, and unfriendlier than Little Blue  expects. A bus bullies, a grocery truck shouts, a police car wails, and a street sweeper hollers. Suddenly, the limousine carrying the mayor breaks down, creating a terrible traffic jam. But when conscientious Little Blue offers to give the stranded mayor a ride, the traffic jam turns into a delightful procession through the city, ending at the grocery store just in time for Little Blue’s delivery!

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 6” – a small tissue box works too)
  • 1 pickup truck template printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 4 circles of black construction paper (approximately 2.5″ in diameter)
  • A piece of string (approximately 24″ long)
  • 1 mini craft stick
  • 2-4 toilet paper tubes
  • 2-4 rectangles of green tissue paper (mine were 9″ x 12″)
  • 1 roadway obstacle course (more on that later!)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

finished pickup truckFirst, the pickup truck! I used a craft box with a lid, but I’ll also demonstrate how to use a small tissue box. If you’re using a craft box, begin by cutting the lid and tabs off the box. If you’re using a small tissue box, turn the box on its side and cut the side off.

tissue box cutSet the box aside for a moment. Cut the front of the truck from the template. There are 5 folds you’ll need to make on the template. Each fold is marked with a dotted line. First, fold the 2 tabs on either side of the hood.

truck template fold 1Next, fold the 2 panels on either side of the truck’s headlights.

truck template fold 2Finally, fold the hood down to meet the side panels, and secure it with tape.

truck template fold 3Tape the front of the truck to the front of the box like so:

attached truck hoodHere’s the tissue box version. As you can see, this results in a slightly shorter (but still very serviceable) truck.

tissue box truck alternativeNext, cut the roof piece from the template. Fold along the dotted lines and tape the roof to the top of the box.

attached truck roofDraw some lines on the grill template, then tape it to the front of the truck. Finish by taping black construction paper wheels to the sides. Make sure the wheels don’t extend past the bottom of the truck!

finished template truckThat’s the basic construction, but there are a couple variations on it. You might, for example, want to wrap the box with construction paper first. Also, we traced roof and grill templates onto different paper. Our roof was blue construction paper, and our grill was silver poster board. We also added some dot stickers to the wheels for hubcaps.

finished pickup truckUse red and gray construction paper to add tail lights and a rear bumper.

truck tail lights and bumperOf course, you can also skip these variations and just use the template pieces and markers! If you decide to go that route, have the kids decorate the template pieces with markers before they tape them to their boxes.

The final step is to make the truck’s pull string. Knot a piece of string around a mini craft stick, then attach it to the bottom of the box with tape:

craft stick attached to truckTo make your “produce,” stuff the tops of 2-4 toilet paper tubes with green tissue paper. Place the tubes in the back of the truck. We didn’t secure the tubes down with tape. We wanted them to wiggle and wobble while the trucks navigated the obstacle course.

truck produceAnd what an obstacle course it was! We used two, 6′ plastic tabletops to create it. These tables have shown up on the blog before – once for sled runs, and again for snail races.

the courseOne of the tables was (securely) propped up on a cushioned stool to add a challenging hill to the course. You can also see how we made the buildings…facades taped to tissue boxes, which were then secured to the tabletop with packing tape.

propped up courseThe building facades were Marissa’s handy work! Out in the country was a big red barn…

red barnAs well as an ice cream stand, a gas station, and a windmill…

ice cream standgas stationwindmillThere were ducks by a river bridge, and a trio of raccoons near a pond…and how do you like those towering conifer trees?

duck bridgelakeThe entrance to the city was marked with a big bridge. I made it out of a strip of cardboard, tin foil, tissue boxes, and silver poster board.

big bridgeOnce in the city, there’s a bank and a couple of skyscrapers…

bankskyscrapersAnd finally, at the veeeery top of the course, was “The Leafy Lettuce.” This is where you delivered produce to your eager customers.

the leafy lettuceWhile constructing the course, we taped the buildings down first, and then added the road. We considered using long strips of black paper, contact paper, or masking tape outlines (similar to what this clever person did). But then I found this glorious stuff at our local toy store. I had to give it a test drive:

playtape road tapePlayTape is basically masking tape with road printed on it! The 30′ rolls came in 2 widths (2″ or 4″). I went with the 4″ size, which was $13 a roll (the 2″ size is $9). I found the tape on Amazon as well (in different colors, with special curved pieces, as train tracks, and there’s even a “Mud Madness” version!). The tape was awesome. My only complaint is that at times, the ends curled up off the plastic tabletop. The tape did much better on the rugs and hardwood floors of my home. It peeled easily off all surfaces, and left no residue behind.

With the road in place, the course was ready! Drivers started at the bottom, then tugged, steered, turned, and yanked their cars up the course.

truck en routeMake sure you tape everything firmly in place (even the animals) because there will be plenty of hilarious crashes. Oh yes, there will.

crashHere’s one of my favorite trucks on course. Look at that fantastic rainbow roof!

rainbow truckEventually, all the trucks found their way to The Leafy Lettuce. We left the course open for a good 20 minutes after story time. It was very busy. A few Hot Wheels cars even showed up to take a drive…

hot wheels test drive

Ice Cream for All

truckBecome an ice cream entrepreneur! The lid of this fabulous pull toy opens to reveal a delicious variety of flavors to serve to your happy customers.

compositeIn addition to being simple, this project is highly portable. This summer, I brought it to a reading program hosted at the community pool and it was a big hit.

We read Issac the Ice Cream Truck by Scott Santoro (Henry Holt & Company, 1999). Issac is a relatively happy ice cream truck, but he can’t help fretting that other trucks seem to have more important jobs than him (lifting, hauling, moving, building). One day, a building fire traps Issac between several enormous fire trucks. After the fire is put out, the hardworking firemen (and firewoman!) are delighted to see a little ice cream truck waiting for them. Isaac realizes that he does have an important job after all…making people happy.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box. I used a 9” x 4 ½” X 4 ½” box
  • An ice cream truck template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock.
  • 4 black poster board wheels
  • Hot glue
  • 1/2 pipe cleaner
  • 1 jingle bell
  • 1 long piece of curling ribbon
  • Markers for decorating
  • Scissors and tape for construction

For the ice cream:

  • 1 cone water cup
  • 1 sheet of tissue paper (mine was 20″ x 29″)
  • Masking tape
  • 1 small pom-pom (mine was 1/2″)
  • 3 toilet paper tubes
  • Construction paper and/or patterned paper
  • 3 medium-sized craft sticks
  • Hot glue
  • 1 small plastic cup (mine was a 3 ounces)
  • 2 jumbo pom-poms (mine were 2″)
  • 1 small plastic spoon (or mini craft stick)
  • Crayons for decorating
  • Scissors and tape for construction

Start by using markers to customize your ice cream truck template. Cut and tape to the box. Then add the wheels. You can tape the wheels, or use hot glue to make them extra secure.

Next, cut a small notch in the front of the truck, right at the top. Knot one end of the ribbon and slide the knot into the notch. Then tape the knot inside the truck. This might seem like overkill, but trust me, these trucks take a real beating from their enthusiastic “drivers.”

notchNow it’s time for the bell! Bend1/2 of a pipe cleaner into an upside-down L, thread the bell on one end, then curl the end to keep the bell from falling off.

threaded bellTape the straight end of the pipe cleaner on the back of the truck like so:

bellYour truck is done…it’s ice cream time! I’ve included instructions for multiple types of ice cream, but you can modify according to your needs. For example, when I took this project to the local pool, we just did ice cream cups and single Popsicles (and I hot glued the sticks on the Popsicles in advance).

To make a cone, use crayons to color the cone water cup (marker just smeared on the cup’s semi-waxed surface). Then, take a sheet of tissue paper and gently squish it into a ball shape. Gather the bottom of the ball together and secure masking tape around it. This creates the “ice cream plug” for your cone.

ice cream plugHot glue a small pom-pom on top & pop it in the cone for the perfect finish!

cone with cherry

To make a Popsicle, wrap a toilet paper tube with patterned paper or construction paper, then hot glue a craft stick on the inside edge of the tube. To make it a double, simply hot glue two finished pops together.

popsFor an ice cream cup, drop 2 pom-poms in a 3 oz. cup and add a small plastic spoon. If a spoon isn’t handy, use a mini craft stick.

two scoops in cupA few months after I did this project, a mom made a special trip to my library to see if there was any chance of getting another truck template and box. Apparently, the ice cream truck was her son’s favorite toy, and it had finally succumbed to his various adventures with it.  She was hoping to build a new one with him. I was delighted to set her up with some fresh supplies and very flattered. You really really can’t get a better compliment than that!