Make a groundhog push-up puppet.
- Puppet master:Your kid, a.k.a., the budding Jim Henson.
- Several cone-shaped coffee filters or a snow cone cup:If you choose coffee filters, look for #4 size (preferably) or #6 size filters.
- A chopstick
- Four small brown pom-poms:For the critter's legs.
- Googly eyes:Go for the biggest ones you can find, to keep your groundhog from looking too "shifty."
- Glue:Either white craft glue or a hot glue gun. Remember, kids and hot glue don't mix so make sure you do all the hot gluing.
- Newspaper strips:Let Junior rip up your daily paper. By the time you get around to reading it it'll all be old news, anyway.
- Paper-maché paste:Mix one part water with two parts flour in a mixing bowl. Stir well to get a glue-like oatmeal-ish consistency.
- A bowl
- An old pair of (clean) stockings:Dark brown or dark tan.
- A bunch of cotton balls or craft stuffing
- Two (2) rubber bands or some yarn:The smaller the rubber bands the better, because you'll be wrapping them around a chopstick and you don't want to be doing that 100 times.
- White tempera paint
- Double stick tape or glue
- White glitter
- Brown felt and black yarn:Optional, if you want to get fancy and add detail to the groundhog's face.
- First, help your kid mix up some paper-maché mix (see above) and shred some newspaper into 2-inch strips.
- Then grab a stack of cone-shaped coffee filters (enough to make a sturdy form) or a snow cone cup and let your kid begin to cover the outside of it in paper-maché. Do this by dipping both sides of one strip of paper into the flour/water mixture and putting it on the cone.
- Let your kid dip another strip and place it on the cone, slightly overlapping or crisscrossing the first strip.
- Continue with the paper-maché routine until the outside of the cone is completely covered in gooey newspaper strips. You'll want about 3 or 4 layers of paper, when it's all done.
- Before it dries, cut a hole in the bottom of the cone big enough for your chopstick to fit through.
- Set the cone aside to dry while you move on to the next step. It could take up to a day and a half to dry, depending on how thickly layered your cone is, so you may want to do this step a day ahead to ward off too many, "Is it dry yet?" questions.
- Next, cut off about 10 to 12 inches from the toe end of a pair of brown stockings or knee highs. Discard the remnants.
- Using the cotton balls, have your kid stuff the end of the stocking into a chunky potato shape. This will be the head and body of your groundhog, so let your kid make him as fat or skinny as she likes. Just make sure that the resulting stuffed potato shape will fit inside the cone. Leave 3 to 4 inches of unstuffed stocking at the end.
- Next, help your kid use the rubber bands or yarn to shape the stuffed stocking into a groundhog shape. Use one rubber band or a small piece of yarn near the top to separate his head from his body by wrapping it around the stocking and the stuffing.
- To make the groundhog's body, have your kid shove the end of the chopstick into the open end of the stocking and help her wrap a rubber band tightly around it or tie a piece of yarn securely around it to keep it together. Leave 3 to 4 inches of the stocking unstuffed and hanging below the bottom rubber band.
- Then, run a thick line of hot glue around the chopstick, under where you secured the stocking, to further secure it and to keep the chopstick from sliding out of the cone when it's all done.
- Next, help your kid use the googly eyes and pom-poms to turn her stuffed stocking into a groundhog. Use hot glue to glue the eyes onto his head and the pom-poms onto the body where his legs should be.
- If you're feeling really creative, help her shape some tiny groundhog ears out of brown felt and glue them on. Add some groundhog whiskers with yarn or a black marker.
- When you're all finished, you should have a groundhog on a stick, with about 3 to 4 inches of pantyhose dangling from his bottom. Nice, right?
- Now, when the cone is completely dry, remove any extra coffee filters from inside of the cone (if you used them) and then have your kid paint it white to create a snow-covered "burrow" for her groundhog or green for a grassy one. Sprinkle some white glitter onto the wet paint to add a little bling.
- Next, have your kid slide the end of the chopstick down through the cone and out the hole in the bottom so that the groundhog can pop out of the opening.
- Finally, line the inside rim of the cone with double-stick tape or a thin layer of glue, and help your kid attach the loose end of the stocking to the inside top of the cone. The extra material gives the groundhog some leeway to pop in and out of his hole without popping completely out the top.
- Now your kid's ready to forecast. Get her to push the chopstick up and down to make the groundhog pop in and out of his burrow. For extra fun, shine a light onto the pop-up puppet to simulate the sun and see if the groundhog sees his shadow this year. (We recommend shining it to make sure he doesn't. Who needs six more weeks of winter?)
- Paper-maché more than you can manage? Make the same craft using a large plastic cup instead of the paper-maché cone. Your kids will still think you're a rock star!
- For a little more longevity than just one day a year, have your kid make other animal puppets to pop out of holes. Challenge her to think of animals that live underground and make a few more puppets to keep her groundhog company when it's not February 2.
- Want to look smart in front of your kid? Rattle off a little groundhog trivia:
A groundhog is another name for a woodchuck, as in, "How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?"
They hibernate all winter in little burrows. They go into hiding in October and come out some time in March or April. That's a heck of a nap!
When they wake up, they feel so fabulously well-rested, they're ready for a little hanky panky and typically mate some time in March or April. The babies are born 28 to 30 days later. Wouldn't you kill for a pregnancy that short?
Punxsutawney Phil is probably the most famous groundhog of all time. He's named after his hometown, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. On Groundhog Day (February 2) each year, the town of Punxsutawney throws a big bash in honor of its little resident rodent. And you know how the story goes: if Phil pops up and sees his shadow, winter will last another six weeks. If he doesn't, we're golden, and spring is on the way. They say Punxsutawney Phil is 122 years old and drinks a special potion to maintain his immortality. Hey, where can we get some of that?