Snap Story Times

bug jarI admit, some of my story times can get a little…elaborate. We’ve had drive-through car washes, candy factories, cow wrestling, train trips, ice fishing, spooky old trees, equestrian show jumping courses, crêpe carts, sushi sets, a covered wagon trading post, and kitty karaoke. And let us not forget the giant gingerbread cookie chase across Princeton University campus.

run cookie run croppedWhen I first started doing preschool story times (11 years ago!) I knew I wanted to concentrate on a single picture book and then do an art project that creatively and concretely connected the child with the story. Also, our preschool story times are an hour long, so we need to do projects/activities that take a little more time. Hence, the projects you find on our Tuesday posts (and on this Pinterest board).

But that’s not everyone’s story time! Sometimes there’s very little budget, time, or staff to plan and execute craft projects, no matter how badly you’d like to incorporate them. So today, I’m launching “Snap Story Times.” These are very simple projects you can do with very few materials, along with a book recommendation (or recommendations) for story time success.

We’ll start the fun off with a plastic cup bug jar.

You’ll need:

  • 1 clear plastic cup (we used a 9oz “cocktail” cup)
  • Poster board
  • Pipe cleaners and/or twisteez wire
  • A pair of wiggle eyes or eye stickers (optional)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Color pencils or crayons for decorating

First, the bug! Cut a 3″ oval out of a piece of poster board. This is your bug’s body. Use color pencils or crayons to add buggy details to the oval (I would avoid markers, as they can saturate the poster board and cause it to buckle). Use scissors to cut pipe cleaner (or twisteez wire) legs and antennae, then attach them to the body with tape.

the bugTo make the jar, trace the mouth of a plastic cup on a piece of poster board. Cut the circle out. Place your bug inside the cup, then tape the poster board circle to the mouth of the cup. To make a carrying handle, simply circle and tape a pipe cleaner to the top of the bug jar.

the jar


Please note: There are swarms of bug books out there, but Marissa selected ones that she actually pulled off the shelves and paged through herself :)

I Love Bugs, written by Philemon Sturges, and illustrated by Shari Halpern (Harper Collins, 2005) A little boy loves bugs. He describes different bugs he finds in his backyard. He looks for bugs, takes pictures of bugs, and observes bugs. But his favorite bug is his little sister, who dresses up like a lady bug.

Summer Days and Nights by Wong Herbert Yee (Macmillan, 2012). A little girl enjoys summer and the sights, sounds, and bugs that come along with it. She tries to catch a butterfly, watches a bee fly by, and ants join her picnic.

Juna’s Jar, written by Jane Bahk, illustrated by Felicia Hoshino (Lee & Low Books, 2015). Juna uses an old kimchi jar to collect bugs and rocks with her friend Hector. When Hector moves away, Juna’s brother buys a fish to cheer her up. She puts the fish in the jar and dreams of undersea adventure. The next day, the fish is too big for the jar, so her brother gives her a bean sprout. Juna puts the sprout in the jar and dreams of jungle adventures. She replaces the overgrown sprout with a cricket she finds in the park, and dreams of flying on the cricket’s back over the city. The next day, she lets the cricket go and meets a new friend in the park (who asks to use her jar for an inchworm).

Hello, Bugs! [board book]. Written by Smriti Prasadam-Halls, illustrated by Emily Bolam (Tiger Tales, 2010). A bunch of shiny bugs saying hello to each other. The book uses black and white illustrations with shiny foil paper inserts.

Ugh! A Bug written and illustrated by Mary Bono (Walker, 2002). The book asks questions (in rhymes) about how you would respond to different creepy, crawly, bugs. Bugs are everywhere and we mostly encounter them when we enter their space. So there’s no need to freak out! The book concludes by saying, “bugs are happier when they are not in a jar” (so make sure you let those craft bugs out at the end of story time!).

Order Up!

order-upGet your piping hot hamburger, crispy crinkle fries, and ice cold soda served over the counter of this awesome 1950s diner! The cook is taking orders, and our fun matching game insures that your customers will get exactly what they like.

We read Hamburger Heaven by Wong Herbert Yee (Houghton Mifflin, 1999).
Every Friday after school, Pinky Pig works at Hamburger Heaven. She’s saving for a new clarinet. But slow business means that Pinky might soon be out of a job! Instead of despairing, she gets to work, asking different animals what they like to eat. She puts together a new menu and then papers the town with ads for Hamburger Heaven’s new offerings. That Friday, a huge line of customers is waiting to try burgers with pine needles, burgers with worms, burgers with beetles, burger with slugs, snails, stinkbugs, crickets…there’s something for everyone! Hamburger Heaven is back in business, and Pinky’s clarinet dream becomes a joyful reality.

You’ll need:

  • 3 paper bags
  • 3 small plastic cups (ours were 5oz)
  • Brown, yellow, and orange tissue paper
  • 2 drinking straws
  • 3 pieces of white card stock (approximately 4.25″ x 5.75″)
  • 3 jumbo craft sticks (mine were 8″ long)
  • Brown, green, orange, red, and tan construction paper
  • A 1950s diner (more on this later!)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

diner-food-setThis project consists of 3 paper bags, 3 sodas, 3 sets of fries, 3 burgers, and 3 “customer cards.” First, cut the paper bags down to 7″, then decorate the fronts with your restaurant’s logo. To make the soda, squish three, 9″ x 13″ pieces of tissue paper into 3 small plastic cups. Add a half of a drinking straw to each cup (our straws were 4′ long). For the fries, accordion fold 1″ x 3″ pieces of yellow construction paper. We’ll get to the burgers in just a moment.

In addition to the play food, this project is also a game in which you match individualized burgers to pictures of your customers. To make the “customer cards,” draw 3 creatures on 3 pieces of white card stock. Then tape each “customer card” to a jumbo craft stick, like so…

crab-customer-cardNow for the matching burger! Each burger consists of 6 pieces of construction paper: 2 brown buns, 1 slice of cheese, 1 lettuce leaf, 1 tan burger patty, and 1 tomato slice. Since you’re making 3 burgers, you’ll need 3 sets of those 6 pieces.

six-burger-piecesTo customize the 3 burger patties, draw what each creature eats on a patty. For example, one of our creatures is a crab. Among other things, crabs eat fish parts and algae. So we drew them on the burger patty (here’s a creature diet information sheet we posted during story time to help kids).

customer-card-and-burgerUse tape loops to stack and secure your burgers (just make sure you can lift the bun a little and see what you drew on the burger patty). We used a brown marker to add some “sesame seeds” on the top of the bun as well. Grab your food, and your customer cards, and head for the diner!

front-of-dinerThis diner is Marissa in all her awesomeness. The front is a recycled box lid (first used for this ice skating story time). The diner door is a recycled box lid. The whole thing is covered with silver metallic poster board. Just look at her fantastic metal corrugations on the front! The vintage “Open” sign on a string! The oval door with diagonal push bars! This has to be one of my favorite Marissa creations (after the pig marching band of course).

Here’s what the diner looks like from the back. In the box on the left you can see the crinkle fries loaded into the “fry basket.” We prepped the fries in advance, refilling the fry basket, as needed, during the matching game.

back-of-dinerIf you don’t have time to make a diner, no worries. Use a tabletop, small desk, or even an overturned box! However, I do recommend including a counter bell (in the past, I’ve borrowed the bell from the library’s circulation desk). Since our bell was going to get repeatedly slammed by kids, I taped it to the counter. You might want to do the same.

Here’s how to play the matching game. Kids gave their grown-ups (or siblings) the 3 customer cards. Then they sat behind the diner counter, food at the ready. One by one, the customers “walked” up to the counter.

lion-customer-cardKids matched the customer to the appropriate burger, took a drink order (we offered cola, lemonade, or orange pop), and grabbed a generous serving of crinkle fries.

adding-crinkle-friesThey bagged everything, briskly dinged the bell, and shouted “Order up!” Once that customer had left, it was on to the next customer until every creature had been matched to a burger. Did we have fun? Oh yeah! In fact, we left the diner up for 20 minutes after story time for repeat customers. There was lots of enthusiastic bell dinging and BIG smiles!

smiling-cookWant to supersize that? Check out these giant burger relay races at our Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs story time!