Click the image to view or print the JUNK-BOTS craft.


Journal entries from your first grader’s composition book are priceless collections of misspelled words and random thoughts that can lead to laughter for years to come.

As a first grader, Alyssa once wrote about our neighbor who had recently “dumped his perfictly nice feonsay for a dum Barbie doll girl.”  What prompted her to write this in her classroom journal?  The perfectly nice fiancée  was her substitute teacher that day.  Alyssa also wrote a passage about how much our family hates fat grams.  The following day’s entry was about how much our family loves bacon.

In a journal entry about her grandparents, my husband’s parents, Alyssa wrote about how much fun it was to visit them.  Then to prove to her readers that it was the “funnest” trip ever, she described walking to the corner store with Gramma to get scratch off lotto tickets and coming back to the condo to scratch the tickets with Grampa while he drank Old Style beer.   Grant’s mom read the story.  She looked at me and laughed, “My goodness, her grandparents sound like real winners.”  And it was pretty funny, because during our visit we went so many places and did so many things, but to Alyssa, just spending time alone with her grandparents was the journal-worthy part of the trip.

Jack’s first grade journal entries were pretty funny, too.  One of my favorites started with the line, “Once when me and Bobby were digging to China…”  In the story Jack and his friend, Bobby, discover a rare species, but when someone tells them it’s a common grub worm, Bobby screams and crushes it.  Another great entry was a story about butterflies.  In the story Jack asks the question, “Where do they go when they fly away?”  Then he answers the question, “No putty knows.”  And, naturally, that became a catch phrase in our house. “Where are my tennis shoes?”  “No putty knows!”

Jack also wrote stories about Grant’s parent’s.  In one story he brags that Grampa gave him ten “dollers” to buy whatever he wanted at the store.  Jack doesn’t tell his readers that he used the money to buy pipe cleaners and pompons or that Grampa thought the purchase was a bit odd.   But when they returned to his house, Grandpa was impressed with Jack’s ingenuity and imagination.  Jack bent, twisted, curved, and folded pipe cleaners around pompons to create an assortment of creatures and characters that he played with for hours on end.  Grampa said, “I tried to talk him into buying a toy, and he kind of did.”


Jack’s creative purchase turned into an activity center at our house.  We filled a tabletop with pipe cleaners, pompons, washers, hex nuts, googly eyes, sequins, feathers, fun foam beads, and beverage straws.  Jack’s and his friends would use the pieces to create action figures we called junk-bots.  I have modified the craft by including a head and body box.  If you plan to make the craft with a child younger than 9, you’ll need to make the boxes for them.  Click on “JUNK-BOTS” to get the template and instructions for this craftivity.  Maybe your child will write a journal entry about it.

Sun Catchers

Click to view or print the pattern and instructions for this craft.


Growing up in the Midwest gave me an appreciation for blue skies in the summertime.  When I was a kid,  laying on my back and watching the clouds drift and shift to form pictures of people, animals, and imaginary creatures was something I could do for hours on end.  Often times my sister would lay on the grass next to me.  I’d point at a cloud and say, “Look at that dragon.”  And she’d reply, “I like the cute bear cub riding on the dragon’s back.  He’s waving at me.”  Then I’d say, “That cub better hold on to the dragon so he doesn’t fall.  There’s a dangerous lion right below them.”  She’d shudder, “I’m really worried for the bear!” It was like the sky was creating a movie just for us.

A few weeks ago my sister and I were talking about how we used to love looking up at the sky.  My sister not only remembered our cloud stories, she also recalled a time when our neighbor, who was a year younger than my sister, decided to look up at the clouds with us.  Apparently this girl listened to our cloud talk for a few minutes, started to cry, and ran to our house to tell on us.  Soon our dad was looking down at us, hands on his hips, and a stern look on his face.   He told us to, “Stop seeing things in the clouds.”  It was upsetting our neighbor.  We were kids.  We wanted to obey our dad, but, come on, how can you stop seeing what is right in front of you?

Now as an adult I look up at the clouds, but hardly ever see anything.  Where did my cloud movies go?  It’s like I had a magical power, but it’s gone.  I was describing this to my son, Jack.  “I used to be able to look up at the clouds and see a picture in every cloud formation.  Now I can’t see anything but clouds.  My imagination is really slipping.”  He said, “Yeah it is.  I can see something in every cloud.”  I was interested, “You can?  Tell me what you see.”  Jack pointed to three different clouds and said, “Chicken nugget.  Chicken nugget.  Chicken nugget.”  So now I am convinced, it’s not me…the sky doesn’t make movies anymore!


This summer craftivity is called “SUN CATCHER.”  Click the blue craft title to get the template and instructions.  Jack and I made one of these over ten years ago and I still have it.  The flower is now a dull golden-brown color, but it’s still preserved.