The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend

In this charming story by Dan Santant, Beekle lives in a land of imaginary friends. He waits to be picked and watches as others around him leave one after another. When a friend does not come to find Beekle, Beekle goes to find his friend. This story of adventure and friendship stirred up our imaginations. We set out to create our own unimaginary friends. When the only directive is to create, it is amazing what the mind delivers.

What you need:

  • Crayola Model Magic
  • glue
  • water colors
  • paint brushes
  • anything you imagine (feathers, beads, pipe cleaners…)

The children were given lumps of white Model Magic and were free to take items from the craft bin. The children rolled, smushed, poked, and glued. We used watercolors to add color because our Model Magic was not dry yet, but once cry it can be colored in a variety of ways. These stunning creations air dried for a week. Then they went home with their new friends.


Spring Fling Writing Contest

It is time for the Spring Fling Writing Contest. The challenge is to write a spring story for children based on a gif and limited to 150 words. For the full description visit:

Spring in New England can have a bit of a sense of humor so this snowy gif spoke to me. Hope you enjoy.

Snow Garden

“I declare winter over,” said Mom as she packed away the mittens, hats, and scarves.

The birds were singing, trees were budding, and the Sox were playing baseball again. Spring had sprung!

The surest sign spring had arrived were the pops of color in the garden. Our tulips had woken after their winter slumber and opened to the warm sun.

“Breaking news,” said the radio. “On Friday, we will have an April snowstorm. Expect 6-8 inches of the white fluffy stuff.”


When Friday came we sullenly watched the snow coat everything, even our tulips, in a blanket of white.

I borrowed some food coloring from the kitchen and grabbed my paint brushes from the easel.

I dug the winter things out again, trudged outside, and got to work transforming a spring snowstorm into a spring snow garden.

Mom joined me. “Snow tulips are the best tulips of all.”

Lucy and the String

Lucy and the String, by Vanessa Roeder, is a sweet story about friendship, mistakes, and string. When Lucy spies a bit of string she cannot resist the urge to give it a tug. She discovers Hank (a bear) and his unraveling pants at the other end of the string. Lucy tries many ways to make her mistake right with hilarious accompanying illustrations. When Lucy finds the just right solution, she and Hank are bound in a close-knit friendship.

We decided to have some string fun in Creative Hands for children 3-5 years old.

What you need:

  • Burlap cut in rectangles
  • Yarn in various colors
  • Masking or painter’s tape
  • Plastic yarn needles
  • Sharpie

Before the children arrived, I cut the burlap and covered the edges with tape to prevent pulling and itchiness. Then I gave the children the option to draw a shape or letter in sharpie or sew free form. It was amazing to see how quickly the children took to the up and down pattern of sewing while working their fine motor muscles. The finished products are frame worthy!

The Rabbit Listened

The Rabbit Listened is my favorite book of 2018. When a child creates a magnificent block structure only to watch it fall down due to unforeseen circumstances, all of the animals come to help. Each animal has its own coping mechanism, but when the child does not take to the ideas presented by the animals, they storm off. Only the Rabbit listens to the child and what the child needs. After experiencing all of the emotions, the child rebuilds with the rabbit alongside. Not only is this book brilliant at teaching young children empathy and emotions but I find myself remembering to be the rabbit and listen, even to the silences, when my child feels all the feelings.

I had to find a way to incorporate this book into my class. So in Creative Hands, for children 3 – 5, we made our own amazing structures and talked about how it will be ok, if it falls apart. We can build again.

What you need:

  • Paper plate, cardboard, any firm paper surface
  • Magic Nuudles or cornstarch packing peanuts (same thing but the packing peanuts are all one color)
  • Wet paper towel or sponge

Hold one end of the nuudle to the wet sponge and count to 3. Place on your paper surface and count to 3. Repeat, sticking nuudles on the paper or to each other. Turn your paper upside down to see the magic. Have fun and create something amazing!

Valentiny Contest

I hope you have nothing but love for my submission to Susanna Hill’s Valentiny Contest. The contest rules and description can be found at

Here Goes:

Cupid Quits!

At the January meeting of Holiday Mascots, Cupid stomped his feet and whined, declaring himself grown-up. He traded in his bow and arrow for a guitar. He ditched his diaper for leather. Throwing a tantrum, Cupid quit.

Two weeks later an emergency Mascot meeting was held. Cupid needed replacing.

Easter Bunny hopped up and down. Turkey trotted back and forth. Jack-O-Lantern looked dim.

They thought Santa could do it (right colors).

But he was on vacation.

They pondered giving Groundhog double duty.

But if he saw his shadow he would sleep through Valentine’s.

They considered hiring someone new.

Armadillo had inquired about work.

The Mascots turned to their leader. “Cupid needs time to realize his gift for spreading love is irreplaceable.” Father Time stroked his long beard. “He needs to know our love too”

The door creaked open. In shuffled Cupid with a guitar strapped where his bow once was. His fingers trembled as his eyes darted from mascot to mascot. Cupid’s lip quivered. He placed his guitar on the table and dropped his leather jacket to the floor. He begged for forgiveness. He pleaded for his job back.

Father Time handed Cupid his arrows. Relieved, Cupid picked up his bow.

Father Time handed Cupid his leather jacket. Joyful, Cupid pinned on his diaper.

Flora and the Peacocks

I have a bit of a kidlit crush on Flora, created by Molly Idle. The Flora series with their wordless stories allow for so much interpretation in the classroom. Today, we looked at Flora and the Peacock with my Creative Hands group, ages 3-5. Flora and her fan encounter two peacocks. They are wary of her at the start but then vie for her affection in a beautiful peacock dance. When the two peacocks fight over Flora and her fan, tearing it in two, they realize they must do something to make things right. In a beautiful fold out spread, the story ends with Flora and the two peacocks happily fanning their plumes.

In this exercise I chose to look at symmetry with my students. We created a line of symmetry with a ruler on the rug and discussed that whatever we do on one side must be done on the other in mirror image to create symmetry. Then we played with blocks to make a symmetrical design.

Now for the art. You will need:

  • White paper
  • Green, blue, and yellow paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Scissors (not sown)
  • Peacock head shape precut (not shown)
  • Googly eyes (not shown)
  • Glue (not shown)

We folded our white paper in half and painted on side with heavy globs of paint using a dotting motion. When one side of the paper was covered in thickly coated dots of paint we folded the paper in half and mushed for several seconds. Taking a scissor, we cut the paper with a rounded arch (adult assistance required for the younger set). Upon opening our papers we saw symmetrical peacock plumes. Finally we created little faces for our peacocks and glued them on. I realized afterward that my choice of brown paper was incorrect and blue would have been preferred. Please learn from my mistake and enjoy your lovely peacocks.


In my opinion Herve Tullet is a master of interactive children’s books. When I saw SAY ZOOP! on the bookshelf in my public library, I knew it was a must borrow. SAY ZOOP! did not disappoint and I immediately made plans to use it as inspiration for Messy Play with twos and threes. Similar to PRESS HERE and MIX IT UP the children are invited to participate in the story and seemingly move the story forward with their actions. In SAY ZOOP! the children are asked to not only play with the colorful dots but to make the coordinating sounds. In the end Herve Tullet challenges the reader to create their own sounds. Well… challenge accepted.

What you need:

  • Large white paper
  • Finger paint
  • Paint dotters
  • Colored coding stickers

The children dotted, dabbed, and made all sorts of noises as they made their creations. Some made dots of various colors and sizes, similar to the book,

others blended and mixed,

all had a good time in the process.

A Busy Creature’s Day Eating

A BUSY CREATURE’S DAY EATING is a fast favorite for the kids and grownups in my family. Mo Willems has created an alphabet book that has a complete story arc from first bite to bedtime. The reader follows a sweet little creature as it eats through the alphabet. The creature also suffers the repercussions of eating everything and anything. This alphabet book is anything but bland so I created an alphabet art activity accompany it.

Much like my three year old at home, my twos and threes at Messy Play are learning their letters. A great place to start is with the first letter of a child’s name. With that in mind we had fun making paintball splattered letters. For this project you will need:

  • Mixed media paper large
  • Mixed media paper slightly smaller
  • Washable tempera paint
  • Coffee filters
  • Rubber bands
  • Scissors
  • Painter’s tape (not shown)
  • Something to cover the table (not shown)

Cut the slightly smaller paper into letters for each child. Affix letters to the larger paper using a roll of tape on the back. Create paintballs by pouring paint into coffee filters and closing them with rubber bands. Then move the chairs away, step back, and start dropping paintballs on the letters below. The coffee filters create an interesting texture by allowing a little paint to seep through. When the letters and backing paper are covered in paint remove the letter from the backing. It will reveal another copy of the child’s letter created with whitespace. Ta da!  

Contest Entry

We take a break from our regularly scheduled program to share my entry to the Susanna Leonard Hill 8th Annual Holiday Contest. If you are unfamiliar with Susanna Leonard Hill’s contest or overall awesome site, check it out here

Now for the story:

Super Santa!

by Monica Acker

Santa is busy in December prepping presents, making mall visits, and of course dropping deliveries one special night. But what does Santa do the other 11 months?

Santa takes the names of the very naughty and takes them to jail, as Super Santa – crime fighter.

This December a particularly naughty criminal has evaded the police. First the gingerbread construction company crumbled, then a chocolate chip caper left the world chip-less, the sugar cookie factory was flooded with milk, and the hot cocoa towers were emptied of fluid.

All the Christmas cookie swaps, cookie decorating parties, and gingerbread constructions are cancelled.

Santa must stop and help. He jumps on Bolt, the speediest reindeer. Together they fly into the night to track down the sweet stealing thief. On a hunch, they head to Marshmallow Mill. He stealthily slinks through the shadows and comes upon Leif von Leaf stuffing marshmallows in a sack.

Super Santa flings fruitcake at the sack, knocking it aside. He hooks Leif with giant candy canes. Leif turns to Santa and sobs. “I only wanted to give other food a chance to shine in December. All the children want cookies, candy, and cocoa. What about some kale, arugula, or spinach? No one ever has a leafy green party.”

Santa returns home after wrapping Leif up with a bow for the police to find in the morning. Christmas returns to normal. But Santa did make Leif one promise. For Christmas Eve, please forgo cookies and leave Santa a salad instead.

Gingerbread Friends

I have Christmas on the brain so a gingerbread story seemed just the ticket. GINGERBREAD FRIENDS by Jan Brett inspired my Messy Play class for two and three year olds. The Gingerbread Baby lives with a little boy named Mattie and loves him dearly, but when Mattie goes off to play with friends, the Gingerbread Baby feels lonely and sets off to make friends of his own. Into the village goes the Gingerbread Baby to the bakery where there are many figures like him, but they are all still as stone. After several disappointing friendship attempts and an unwelcome encounter with a mouse, the Gingerbread Baby races home. At home, the Gingerbread Baby spots a cupcake trail leading to a gingerbread land full of friends cooked up by the best friend of all, Mattie.

The children and I set out to make our own gingerbread friends, well almost. We made salt dough friends instead. You will need:

  • ½ cup salt per child
  • ½ cup flour per child
  • ¼ cup water per child
  • A mixing bowl for each child
  • Cookie cutters
  • Wax or parchment paper
  • A straw (optional to make an ornament hole)

Scoop and pour the salt, flour, and water into the mixing bowl. Mix the ingredients together with your hands to reach a dough consistency. Put your dough onto wax paper sprinkling additional flour if sticky. Play with the dough, shape the dough, squeeze the dough. A rolling pin can be used to flatten the dough, but with this age group we decided to smoosh with our hands. It is Messy Play after all. Use cookie cutters to make friends for the Gingerbread Baby or other fun shapes. A straw works well to add a hole to your design, creating an ornament. Leave dough to dry out or bake in a 200 degree oven to speed the process. When the salt dough is thoroughly dry it can be painted.