Egg Carton Crafts: Crabs

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We have made a lot of fun sea creatures with coffee filters (jellyfish, sea horses, and sea turtles); so now it’s time to move on to a new medium.  Our family of six eats a lot of eggs, giving us an egg carton or two every week to be creative with.  A few months ago, we studied crabs, and I thought how perfect an egg carton section would be for the carapace of a crab.

These snappy little crustaceans were a blast to learn about.  We borrowed multiple books from the library (our favorites being Crabs by Mary Jo Rhodes, The Magic School Bus Gets Crabby by Kristin Earhart, and A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle).  We examined hermit crabs at the pet store and found discarded crab legs at the beach. We watched a video about the amazing sandbubbler crab at National Geographic and learned about tiny crabs that help keep coral reefs clean at National Geographic for Kids.  In our research, we discovered that it is cruel to keep a hermit crab as a pet.  We learned about horseshoe crabs (not really crabs), spider crabs, and king crabs, but we decided that our favorite was the robber crab (also known as the coconut crab). Check out this video about this crab that likes to steal silverware and sneakers!

Now, let’s get on to making some cute little egg carton crabs.

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Here’s what you need to complete this project: two wooden spring clothespins, an egg carton section, paint, paintbrush, two flexible drinking straws, two pipe cleaners, two googly eyes, scissors, and glue (you can use school glue but I opted to use a hot glue gun for speed and security for the clothespin pincers.)

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First, you will paint your carapace (the egg carton section) and pincers (clothespins).  Some of my kids used lots of colors and lots of paint, and others were much more sparing. Allow to dry completely before moving on to the next step.

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Cut each pipe cleaner into four equal sections so that you have eight legs total. Cut the tops off each flexible drinking straw underneath the bendy part.

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Start gluing your crab together.  I began with the pincers, asking the child how they wanted the pincers positioned on the body and then gluing them on.  I held them tight to the carapace for a few minutes while the glue set up.  Then I glued on the legs underneath the carapace, bending them out and then giving them a little bend in the middle for the “knee.” Finally, I glued the straws to the top of the carapace as eye stalks and added the googly eyes on top of those.

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These adorable crusty creatures make great decorations but can be useful as well.  Gabi’s crab sits on my kitchen windowsill and holds recipe cards with its pincers.  David gave his to his therapist, and she uses it at her desk to hold memos and photos.

And, if you are feeling pretty technical and want to be super accurate with your egg carton crab, go ahead and give him two more pipe cleaner legs.  Crabs are decapods, meaning they have ten limbs. We did eight because artistic license and all that. (and maybe I forgot that little fact when we were creating this craft?) Just maybe.

Coffee Filter Crafts: Sea Turtles

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Last week, I woke up to a dreadful discovery: my Keurig machine was not working. After several desperate attempts to fix it, it became clear that a new machine must be purchased. Stat.   And so we carted away the old machine and said hello to a shiny, red, and most importantly, operable model to fuel my daily caffeine needs.  I briefly considered getting a regular coffee maker, but ultimately opted for the convenience and ease of a Keurig.  Therefore, my giant pack of coffee filters is still ready for crafting projects.

In keeping with our ocean animals unit study, we decided to make sea turtles next.  (You can find instructions to make coffee filter jellyfish here and coffee filter sea horses here.)  Sea turtles were a favorite to study around here – we probably spent over two weeks examining the lives and habits of these cute sea creatures.  We borrowed lots of sea turtle books from the library – my favorite was Turtle Summer: A Journal for My Daughter by Mary Alice Monroe.  It tells a real-life story of a mom and her daughter helping sea turtle babies get to the ocean safely with beautiful drawings and photographs of sea turtles and other ocean life.  There are fun and thought-provoking activities included at the end of the book.  Of course, we also love the drawings and easy-to-understand text of Gail Gibbons’ books, and her Sea Turtles is no exception.  For our online resources, I found this link to a free sea turtles unit study and used some of its printables, like the Sea Turtle Anatomy Matchbook.  The kids enjoyed tracking sea turtles on SEATURTLE.ORG.  Sea World’s website also had a lot of information on sea turtles for the kids to practice looking up.  Netflix and Hulu and YouTube are all great resources for sea turtle videos – this one was my kids’ favorite: 

All right, let’s make some super cute sea turtles!

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Here’s what you will need: lima beans, washable markers, styrofoam bowls, chalk pastels, craft glue, paper, and of course, coffee filters.

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First, flip the bowl upside down and glue lima beans all over the top and around the rim of the bowl.  Let dry completely before going to the next step.

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Next, get out those markers and color all over those lima beans!  (Painting them would work too, but we needed a break from painting around here.)

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Now, take two coffee filters and fold each of them in half. Color them with your chalk pastels however you like.  To keep the chalk dust from rubbing off your sea turtle project, spray the filters with a fine mist of aerosol hairspray.

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Then, cut each of your folded coffee filters in half and glue them to the underside of the turtle’s body (the bowl) as shown.  Cut out a triangle shape and a turtle head shape from your paper and glue on in the appropriate spots.

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Use the markers to decorate the turtle head and tail.  Your colorful sea turtle can sit (swim, I mean!) nicely on a shelf, or you can use thumb tacks to hang it on the wall.

Did you know that leatherback sea turtles can weigh up to 2,000 pounds?  That’s like half my minivan!  Thankfully these coffee filter sea turtles are a lot lighter (and a lot cuter than the leatherback, in my opinion!)

 

 

Fluff Books: Learning to Love to Read

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When I was studying to be a teacher several years ago, I took a class called “Children’s Literature.”  It really was one of the most delightful (and easy!) classes I took during my college time since I love reading and especially enjoy well-written and beautifully-illustrated children’s books.  I wrote a paper extolling the pleasure and value of reading children’s classics such as The Secret Garden and The Jungle Book.  One day, the teacher started a discussion about “fluff” books versus classic, well-written literature for kids.  She posed the question – Is there any place in a child’s library for Nancy Drew books or other ‘fluff’ literature?”  An animated debate followed.  Some felt that children should not be exposed to that kind of book at all.  I recall one girl declaring that it was “brain candy,” which would ruin children’s taste for “real” literature, and some day when she was a mother, her children would never waste their time on those!  Some had the opinion that an occasional “fluff” book might be okay, but the parents and teacher should heavily moderate what choices the child made.  And a few, myself included, voiced the idea that maybe they weren’t so bad.  If they were getting kids to read, why not?  

 

I vividly remember being turned on to books when I was young by my mother.  She took us to the library every week, and we were allowed to check out as many books as we wanted.  We kept them in a large crate in the living room, and everyone traded and enjoyed each other’s choices as well.  I’m not sure exactly when my mother pointed out the long shelf full of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books and encouraged me to try one.  I was probably in third grade, and once I finished The Secret of the Old Clock, I was hooked.  I got up early in the morning to read them before school and rushed through my homework in the afternoon so I could get back to my book.  I devoured them like candy, and, as long as my homework and chores were getting done (and I wasn’t totally ignoring my family), my mother allowed me to continue.  At some point, I tired of the series.  Maybe I was beginning to realize that the plot in each book was amazingly similar, or maybe I had just had too much “candy.”  Either way, I was ready then for meatier books, and I eagerly delved into Anne of Green Gables and Little Women.  I had learned to love reading, and that love continues to this day.

 

Now, as a homeschooling mother, my opinions have not changed much from my college days.  I do allow my kids to read “fluff” books, and I even read the books to them sometimes.  Gabi is currently into the Cam Jansen series (which I also read when I was young.)  Of course, she also loves reading books about the human body, insects, and mushrooms.  David’s “fluff” reads are Star Wars readers.   Mikey often chooses books about his favorite characters.  Here’s why I think “fluff” books are actually a very important part of a child’s literary diet.

 

1.  They inspire a love for reading.  

I already mentioned that the Nancy Drew books caused me to love reading.  My son David used to get very agitated whenever I mentioned reading time, but ever since we discovered the Star Wars readers, he has been asking for reading time every day.  Sometimes, we skip the Star Wars books and choose something else from the shelf.  Surprisingly, he doesn’t mind and looks forward to it.

 

2.  They broaden a child’s vocabulary.

They may not be the most well-written books, but I have found that they usually contain a great variety of new vocabulary for the children to learn.  Just the other day, Gabi and I had a good discussion about the word dilemma.  She had read it in her Cam Jansen book and was curious about it.  David is obsessed with big words, and thankfully the Star Wars readers are full of them.  It amuses me to hear him using the words in context as he plays with his Star Wars toys.

 

3.  They can be tools in building character and good values.  

They may not be written for that purpose, but “fluff” books can absolutely be a jumping-off point to learning good morals and behavior.  Nancy Drew was a good role model in that she was goal-driven, humble, and respectful to her authorities.  When reading Cam Jansen books with Gabi, we can discuss whether the character said or did something appropriate to the situation.  The Star Wars readers are naturally inclined to teach character.  The whole premise of Star Wars is good versus evil and the consequences of choosing each side.  Yesterday, we read the story of Boba Fett, who was consumed with getting revenge for his father’s death.  He loved his father very much, which was good; but he handled the situation by choosing evil.  He ended up being responsible for the death of many innocent cadets as well as associating with some people of very questionable morals.  Seeing the pain and heartache at the end of the story showed my David plainly that choosing to do wrong has very undesirable consequences.

 

4.  They build critical thinking skills.

Many “fluff” reads tend to be mystery novels or fast-action, high-intensity books.  Readers learn to try to think ahead – what will happen next?  What happens if the character opens that door?  Were there any hidden clues on this page that might help me know the ending of the book?  These are valuable skills for evaluating everything they read later in life.

 

Now don’t get me wrong.  I don’t believe that “fluff” reading should be “anything goes.”  Just because your child wants to read a book about witches doesn’t mean you need to allow it.  Use discretion when choosing enjoyment reading.  I personally read each book before I let my children have them.  It’s extra work for me, but it’s worth it to not be surprised by an inappropriate or “too-adult” theme.  And although our library book box is full of Star Wars  readers and mysteries, there are also some great classic books in there.  They can’t survive on “candy” alone; and it’s my job to point them to good reading for their minds and souls.

 

What do you think?  Did you do a lot of “fluff” reading in your childhood?  Has it helped or hurt your desire for reading now?