Picture Books and Paper Crafts

In order to keep students engaged during those last few days of school before summer break, I was on the hunt for some short picture books that would lend themselves to paper craft activities while still having some meaningful content. I found one picture book called Snippets that incorporated paper scraps into an activity about accepting others. Snippets led to a book called Perfect Square, which led to a book called Beautiful Oops.

Crafty Paper Techniques, tinkering, growth mindset

The list of picture books exploded. I discovered stacks of new picture books that have a STEAM/tinkering element to them. The central messages in most address either persevering through mistakes and developing resilience or appreciating individual qualities and embracing our unique gifts. One buzzword for all this in education right now is “growth mindset”.

Crafty Paper Techniques, tinkering, growth mindset

Growth mindset is all about embracing a challenge and not giving up. It’s about recognizing that you might not be able to do something… yet. Or, you might be able to do something in a completely different way than your neighbor. It’s about having an attitude where you are willing to take risks and try. It’s about recovering from a set back in a positive way. It’s part of character education, and it’s becoming an essential lesson in classrooms today.

Crafty Paper Techniques, tinkering, growth mindset

One student roadblock I see every year is the fear of completing an assignment the “wrong way”. Because students are scared of making a mistake (or an even worse fate– the dreaded start-over) they insist on checking with me for approval before completing each individual step. As a parent, I see how we train many children to be dependent on adults for permission before making choices. Kids don’t freely travel the neighborhood making up group games with rules that change and adapt depending on who joins the game, who leaves the game, who is too little or too big… Few kids sit in a room with no screen of any kind and must entertain themselves (i.e. activate their creative thinking skills) to fill the time. So, they need help to get themselves started on a task unless we build in some “let’s look at the problem and find a solution” practice.

Crafty Paper Techniques, tinkering, growth mindset

How Can You Prompt Students to Trust their Abilities?

  • Encourage them to self-solve. Don’t answer a question immediately.
  • Ask them to think about what they might have in their possession that would help them complete the task. Do they have a handout with directions? Can they look at what a friend is doing? Can they look at the materials and remember the oral directions?
  • Give them one step or hint only to get started and send them back to their work space to continue independently.
  • Have the student list what he/she thinks should be happening. Often, saying the task aloud is confirmation for a child.

The activities I used at the end of the year involved changing one type of paper shape into something new. Not only did our class see the relationship between the characters in the pictures books and how it related to our classroom community, they also had the opportunity to alter the paper from a generic shape into something that reflected their personality and style.

I distributed ordinary white copy paper to my students as the background paper for our masterpieces, but you could print THESE TEMPLATES to use with your group’s paper tinkering. Any of the picture books in the list below would make great first week of school read alouds as you begin to set the tone for the year. If you need more specific activity ideas, click HERE and HERE to view and purchase my complete activities for Snippets and Perfect Square.

Crafty Paper Techniques

Crafty Picture Books (a starter list)

  • Snippets: a story about paper shapes by Diane Alber (and others by this author)
  • Perfect Square by Michael Hall
  • Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg
  • Perfect by Max Amato
  • The Dot and Ish by Peter H. Reynolds (and others by this author)
  • What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada (and others by this author)
  • The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak
  • You are Light by Aaron Becker
  • The Color Monster by Anna Llenas
  • I Can Only Draw Worms by Will Mabbitt
  • I Have an Idea by Herve Tullet (and others by this author)
  • The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken
  • Shape by Shape by Suse MacDonald

Mason Jar Snow Globe Toppers

Bookmark this idea for next Christmas. In fact, go buy the clear plastic ornament sets at a major discount at Michael’s Crafts right now, so you are ready to make these next year. That’s what I did. Even two weeks before Christmas, Michael’s had already marked down the ornament sets to 50 cents (originally $1.29). I bought a class set, so my students could make personal Mason jar toppers to take home as gifts for their families. They are fun to make, and you can fill the jars with all kinds of treats.

Materials

  • plastic ornament in two halves (2.75″ diameter– fits 4 oz. and pint mason jar lids, regular mouth)
  • full body photo printed on cardstock that shows above the head and below the feet (printed ~1.75″ and then cut down)
  • mini trees, presents, snowmen shapes or other accessories for the scene inside the snow globe (found these at Michael’s in the snow scene section– these materials did sell out close to the holidays)
  • fake snow flakes (sold in bags during the holidays– a little different than glitter)
  • sparkly pipe cleaners
  • hot glue gun
  • Elmer’s glue

Directions

  • Remove the lid pieces from a Mason jar. Separate the ring from the flat lid part. Run a bead of hot glue around the flat edge of one half of the plastic ornament. Quickly and firmly, press the dome to the edges of the lid ring. The hot glue cools quickly, so you have to move fast. If you attach the ornament part off center, carefully pull it apart, remove the cooled glue and start the process over.

  • In small sections, run a bead of glue along the line where the plastic ornament half attached to the Mason jar ring. Press the pipe cleaner into the glue. Keep running a small bead of glue and press the pipe cleaner as you move around the edge of the ring. When you have finished the circle, let the glue cool and then snip the extra pipe cleaner length off.
  • If you want to personalize the snow globe topper, take a photo of a loved one that shows the full body and has space above the head and below the feet. Pet pictures would work well too. To look more authentic, have the subject look cold in the photo or hold hands up like it is snowing. We added props like scarves and Santa or elf hats when taking our photos. Print the photo on cardstock or another stiff paper. Set the height of the photo to 1.75″. You will cut around the shape of the body and may need to cut the bottom part of the legs off too. Cut around the entire figure and when it is time to attach to the jar lid, you can make adjustments to the height of the picture after testing to see if it stands straight inside the plastic dome.

  • Using a hot glue gun, attach the photo and scene accessories like a mini present or mini snowman foam sticker to the flat plate-like part of the Mason jar lid. Attach the objects, so they stand straight, and they should be as close to the center of the jar lid as possible. Test the height of the objects to make sure they will not get squashed down when the ring with the plastic ornament is screwed down. Cut off the the bottom of any little figures as necessary.

  • Drizzle Elmer’s glue all over the rest of the flat part of the lid and around the edges of the little figures in the center. This piece of the Mason jar lid has a slightly raised edge, and it makes it easy to fill the center area. Avoid the edges of the plate.

  • Scoop fake snow onto the Elmer’s glue and let dry.

  • Fill your glass jar with its contents. There are many fun options– cocoa mix, cinnamon sugar, soup mix, spiced nuts, candies…
  • Carefully lift the flat part of the lid with the snow scene onto the top of the jar. Gently put the domed ring over the snow scene and carefully screw the ring down to tighten.

 

Reindeer Food Craft

reindeer-food-bags

Holiday market week is here! After working all semester, my students’ products are bagged, tagged, and ready for purchase. The first product we assembled back in September were these reindeer food ornaments to hang on your Christmas tree (we also made these BIRDSEED ORNAMENTS and several MASON JAR MIXES). On Christmas Eve, you open the bag and sprinkle the reindeer food on your lawn to attract Santa’s reindeer.

I originally received a bag of reindeer food from a grandparent in my son’s 3-year old nursery school class. I kept that original bag all these years and duplicated (modified) the pattern over the years. The original reindeer food is a little fancier than the version my fourth graders made this year. Mass production with a 10-year old work crew forced us to simplify a few of the steps.

reindeer-food-materials

Materials

  • old fashioned oatmeal (not instant)
  • glitter (we prefer silver, light blue, or clear colored)
  • bead bags with ziploc top (3″ x 5″)
  • tan or light brown cardstock or scrapbook paper (3″ x 4″ pieces, folded in half)
  • dark brown cardstock or scrapbook paper
  • googly eyes (10 mm)
  • red pom poms (10 mm)
  • jingle bells (3/4″)
  • skinny ribbon (~12″ strips– curly ribbon works)
  • stapler
  • Elmer’s glue or hot glue gun
  • scissors

Directions

  • Mix oatmeal and glitter in a bowl. You will need 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of oatmeal mix per bag, so mix the amount you need and add the amount of glitter sparkle you like!
  • Scoop sparkly oatmeal into a bead bag and seal the bag closed making sure the ziploc is secure. Don’t overfill the bags. I like the bags to be about half full and not overly plump. Set aside.
  • Make an antler template. I cut up a manila file folder to make my template. The antler is about 2 1/2″ tall and 1 1/2″ at the widest bumpy part.  Using the template, trace the antler pattern on the dark brown paper and cut as many antler pairs as you need.

reindeer-food-antlers

  • Fold the light brown 3″ x 4″ paper in half, so the paper is 2″ x 3″. Glue two antlers on the back and let dry. Watch that the antlers do not slide while the glue is wet. You may need to hold the antlers in place for a minute until they stick in position.

reindeer-food-paper-pieces

  • Thread one jingle bell onto a piece of ribbon. Silver jingle bells were easier to thread than gold; they had a bigger “loop” on the bottom in the brand that I purchased from Michael’s Crafts. Move the jingle bell to the middle of the ribbon piece. Match the ends of the ribbon and tie a knot close to the ends. After the antlers dry, wrap the loop of ribbon around the folded piece of paper, so the knot of the ribbon sits up against the fold, and the jingle bell is above the paper near the antlers (like a handle for hanging).

reindeer-food-ribbon

  • Slide the oatmeal bag into the folded paper and line up the top of the bag with the crease at the top of the paper fold. You may have to adjust the ribbon strip a little, so everything sits neatly. Staple the bag in place in the center of the paper where the mouth would be.
  • Glue eyes and nose onto the front of the paper and let dry.
  • If you want to dress up your reindeer food a little, see the picture below with embellishments like the bow on the front (to hide the staple) and pointed face. This one is my original reindeer food bag that I have been using as my model all of these years– and not letting my children open and use it!

reindeer-food-original

Thanksgiving Craftivity

turkey-napkin-ring-place-setting-2

I pulled out the turkey toilet paper roll napkin rings my children made when they were in kindergarten. I like to use them for a few weeks around Thanksgiving– not just on Thanksgiving day. The year my son built his, we made sets for all of the grandparents and extended family and brought them with us to our family Thanksgiving meal. My in-laws still have their napkin rings.

If you make the napkin ring at school, it’s a fun little craft students can take home to their family. If you are building these with a whole class, you may want to pre-make certain steps, and you will need two days to let paint and glue dry– or do some work at the beginning of the day and finish construction towards the end of the day.

turkey-napkin-ring-group

Materials

  • toilet paper or paper towel rolls cut into 2 inch wide rings.
  • brown and yellow tempera paint
  • brown pipe cleaners (for the feet, optional)
  • red felt
  • assorted colored feathers (we used red, yellow, and orange)
  • googly eyes, 3 mm
  • wood craft spoons ~3/5 inches in height (I used THESE)
  • Elmer’s glue or hot glue gun

turkey-napkin-rings

Directions

  • Paint the wooden craft spoons yellow and the toilet paper roll rings brown. Let dry. (This step can be prepped ahead of time if you do not want the mess and clean-up of lots of tempera paint.)
  • Cut the red felt into a tear drop shape about 1-inch tall.
  • After the paint dries, glue the red felt tear drop shaped piece onto the middle of the spoon end of the wooden stick. Glue two googly eyes above the read waddle. Let dry flat.
  • Glue the yellow wooden stick turkey face to the side of the painted toilet paper roll piece. You may need to hold the craft spoon in place for a few minutes, so the face does not slide to the side. ** Note: Hot glue might be a better option here since the Elmer’s glue takes longer to dry and hold.

turkey-napkin-ring-pipe-cleaner-feet

  • If you are adding the pipe cleaner feet, you will need an adult to poke two holes at the base of the wooden spoon. Thread the pipe cleaner through the two holes, so a loop runs around the inside of the toilet paper roll. Fold and bend each pipe cleaner end into feet shape with 3 toes. Cut any excess length of pipe cleaner off.
  • Glue 3 feathers onto the back of the toilet paper roll and arrange, so the feathers are fanned out.

turkey-napkin-ring-side

  • Roll a napkin and slid into the napkin ring and set at each place setting for your Thanksgiving feast!

turkey-napkin-ring-place-setting

 

Teacher Valentines

eraser valentines finishedSince I teach 4th grade, the students are still at an age where they decorate a bag or shoebox and make Valentine deliveries to classmates in honor of Valentine’s Day. Many of my sweet students bring me a Valentine along with the Valentines they share with classmates. I like to reciprocate and give my students a cute Valentine too. This year, my teacher teammate and I are wrapping erasers with white tissue paper to look like a piece of taffy. At this point in the school year, the students have rubbed, chewed, or picked away every pencil eraser they own and desperately need a way to cleanly fix writing mistakes or remove stray marks from their papers, so this little Valentine is actually more of a gift for the teachers!

eraser valentines suppliesMaterials:

  • rectangular erasers (I used PaperMate “Expressions” erasers, but you could also choose something like the classic “Pink Pearl”)
  • white tissue paper, ~6″ x 3 1/2″ (wrap a test piece of tissue around your eraser to determine the best size)
  • small stickers (I used Avery 5195, 2/3″ x 1 3/4″, 60 labels per sheet)

Directions:

  • Determine the tissue paper size you will need. I wrapped the tissue around one eraser, so the tissue covered the wide flat side two times. I had about 2 inches on either end of the eraser for twisting. Cut all of the tissue paper rectangles that you need first, so you can create an assembly line for wrapping the erasers.

eraser valentines assembly

  • Wrap a tissue rectangle around each eraser and twist both ends.

eraser valentines twist

  • Put a sticker with your name and/or Valentine message on the side of the eraser with the edge of the tissue paper to keep the tissue from unwrapping. I had a tiny glitch with my labels. If you choose to print with a return address sized label like I did (Avery 5195), make sure your words or any images are not up against the edges of the label in the document. The labels are so small that if the printer does not grab the label sheet at exactly the right starting point, the labels print into the label below (see my cut off hearts in the pictures). Yes, the mis-alignment makes me CRAZY, but I ran out of labels and I am trying not to let the OCD side of me take over on this. I think little heart or Valentine themed stickers would be a good option too.
  • Cut the edge of the twisted ends off a little if they seem too long and flappy.

eraser valentines with labelNotes:

  • I tried parchment paper and wax paper before settling on the white tissue paper. The stickers don’t adhere, and the twisted ends with the parchment and wax paper do not stay twisted together as well.