Category Archives: sesame street

How to Find Treasures for your Classroom with Goodwill Online.

Disclaimer: Payment was received for writing this post and a gift voucher to try out what Goodwill online has to offer. All opinions are my own.

Teachers make the best treasure hunters. An early years teacher will always find a use in the classroom for bizarre objects you would otherwise throw away and they’re always on the lookout for bargains. If you have a list of weird and wonderful objects you have always coveted, then Goodwill Online could be the answer to all your wishes.

A few weeks ago, I was invited to visit Goodwill to find out more about their online auction site ( think Ebay, but where the money goes to a worthy cause) and learn tips about how to win an auction bid. We were given a chance to look around and I was amazed by all the cool things for sale.

A huge selection of musical instruments.

Bulk bags of Russian dolls

russian dolls goodwill online

Rock collections

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Old curiosities

and a whole warehouse of books

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Tips For Thrift Store Treasure Hunting

Tip 1: Patience and a long list is a virtue. Dee Arneberg, America’s top treasure hunter from Spanaway, never enters a thrift store with a specific item in mind. The key to brick and mortar thrift store treasure hunting is a large wish list and multiple visits to many sites over time.

As fun as it may be to spend hours browsing interesting items, teachers are short on time so use the PERSONAL SHOPPER to help. The personal shopper allows you to set up alerts for items you are looking for and get emails every time one becomes available in the Goodwill inventory. Let’s say you were looking for Lego ( which by the way they often auction by weight) then you would enter Lego into your personal shopper and an email would notify you as to which new Lego was available.

Search key words and try properly and improperly spelled words, to catch typos that might lead you to a treasure no one else has found. Program the personal shopper to scan both item titles and item descriptions and create your keyword list accordingly.
Tip 2: Comparison shop to know the treasure’s market value. Develop your list of online comparison sites such as E-bay and specialty sites for specific categories to know the market value of an item.
Personal considerations – such as a collector looking for the last item to complete a collection – can create an artificially high auction sale, so know your item’s value and
how much you are willing to pay.
Tip 3:  Household donors will often donate categories in groups,so check to see if one specific Goodwill is listing a group of luxury fashion brands or vintage lamps, or collectibles – all indicators of an estate donation of similar items. With knowledge of a specific Goodwill treasure chest, you can call up the inventory from that region and find other obscure items of interest!
Tip 4:  Knowing how to maneuver the site allows you to know how many bidders you are in competition with. You can also activate a cyber ‘proxy” to always
top the leading bid up to a confidential limit you establish. And if you
really want the specific item, plan to be online during the final half an hour
of the auction, as that is when new competitors and a flurry of
bids come in. Real-time bids go down to the last second on some
items so you want to be ready to override your proxy bidder if you
simply must have an item.
Tip 5: When you lose, you still learn … about the field of regular
competitors who are interested in your categories. Each completed
auction lists the bid history which reveals the beginning/end letters
of an email which you can track as unique and learn that bidder’s
tendencies over time. As an example, those same nine bidders for
say “vintage board games” will have two or three who bid in the final minutes and are willing to spend X% of retail market value. Learning the field will sharpen your competitive edge in the final frenzied minutes of some bids. And don’t worry, most of the time another of the same item will surface over time and you will have another shot.
Tip 6: Support your local Goodwill. Each participating Goodwill has a virtual “storefront” where their current auction items are listed ahead of the offers across the rest of the site. Each Goodwill maintains their own auction inventory and benefits only from their item sales. Goodwill’s local online helps support an $8.9 million career training and initial job placement effort across 15 counties in our region.

Watch out for shipping and handling costs and remember to add the price of shipping to what you are prepared to pay. Shipping varies according to weight, size and distance of travel but can also vary according to the chosen carrier. One of the items I ordered, had priority shipping, so the shipping costs were greater than other items using ground delivery. If you support a local Goodwill you can eliminate shipping costs altogether.
Tacoma’s operation is prototyping several new attractive features such as one-cent shipping, and an instant purchase price for an item (“buy it now”). Every local Goodwill offers pickup at their operations with only a small service charge eliminating shipping costs altogether.

My experience of shopping with Goodwill Online

Firstly, be warned, it is highly addictive and you may find multiple items you simply must have.  I decided to ask my personal shopper to look for puppets as this is my children’s current fascination.  I wasn’t prepared for the search to bring up such amazing quality puppets and it was really difficult to choose the ones I wanted most.

My first bid was for a Muppets Wotnot puppet. I am a huge muppet fan and after a little research, found that FAO Shwartz in New York, used to have a Wotnot Studio where fans could go and make a custom puppet. The reserve on the puppet was $9.99 and postage and handling around $10.  As this is a totally unique item, I wasn’t certain how far I would go with my bid but 5 mins before the auction ended, I joined the auction and decided to try a maximum bid of $35.  I was really pleased to win the item at this price.

puppet muppet

An even better surprise was when the puppet arrived. It totally surpassed all of my expectations. It looks just like a muppet, was larger than I expected and came complete with original booklets and receipts.

My 2nd puppet George was bought for $9.99 and I was the only bidder.  There were a number of similar puppets available at this time so I decided on my maximum bid a few hours before the end of the auction.  If I didn’t win the item, I would bid on a similar one later. The postage on this one was more that the puppet so be careful to check before bidding.

puppet

By this point I had to begin to be really selective about the puppets, as there were so many great ones. I decided only to bid on unique items or collections of puppets. I chose a Big bird and Bert puppet and my girls chose a pair of girl puppets because they wanted more female puppets. Both of these were won for under $20 with postage.

Just when I thought we were finished a 1970’s Kermit and Miss Piggy puppet came up on my personal shopper search. We have a Kermit puppet and a good Miss Piggy is hard to find so I couldn’t let this one pass. With an extra Kermit we can turn one into the evil Constantine.

Now I must stop looking at puppets because each new one that arrives is as irresistable as the one before.

What other interesting things could teachers find?

  • Building blocks
  • Overhead projectors
  • Old typewriters
  • Outdoor play equipment
  • Toy cars/trains in bulk
  • Globes
  • Beakers and test tubes
  • Maps and charts
  • Balance scales with weights
  • Shells
  • and my personal favourite, browsing the vintage section to find weird and wonderful old  objects like washboards, apple corers , record players, old cameras etc.

If you don’t want anything for your classroom or preschool Goodwill online is also the perfect place to find unusual and unique gifts for the people in your lives who have everything. I think this will be my go to place from now on.

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How to Make Jim Henson Inspired Hand Puppets

Following our visit to the Jim Henson exhibition and the girls fascination with puppet play, they wanted to try making hand puppets.

When they were younger we watched this inspirational video from the 1960’s, where Jim Henson talks about making muppets.

We made a few puppets from old tights with foam pieces for the mouth. The girls didn’t like the foam mouths as it restricted their fingers.

This time, they are a little older and have their own ideas (always better than mine) for making puppets.

The first puppet was made with a sock.  We used a sock from an aeroplane wash kit. They followed the steps on the video and I helped them with ideas.

How to make a Sock Puppet

  1. Cut an oval of cardboard and fold it.

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2. Place the cardboard inside the sock and secure with an elastic band to make a mouth.

making a sock puppet

3. Add eyes. We used adhesive Velcro strips to join on our eyes and nose.

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4. Add a nose. We used a pompom.

making a sock puppet

5. Add hair.  Use wool, string or fur. This was also joined on with Velcro but you could also stitch it on.

how to make a sock puppet

Step 6: Add a tongue. We made a paper tongue and glued it on but you could also use felt or fabric.

how to make a sock puppet

My daughter named her Izzy. I think she is an amazing addition to our puppet collection.

Here she is in action.

How to Make a Puppet from an Envelope

The Jim Henson video also inspired them to make a puppet from an envelope.

1.  Fold the envelope into a beak shape and decorate it.

puppet making

2. Glue the envelope head onto a sock. We used double sided pads used for sticking pictures to the wall.

how to make a hand puppet

3. Wrap material around the sock .

How to make a puppet

4.  If desired add clothes and make hands using sticks and cardboard. American Girl doll, or build a bear clothes work well.

how to make a puppet

They decided this one should be called Pierre.

Here is Pierre in action.

Young Puppeteers: Puppet Play Inspired by the Jim Henson Exhibition at MoPop

My love for Jim Henson’s creations isn’t a secret. As most children of the 70’s and 80’s, I grew up watching Sesame Street, The Muppets and Fraggle Rock. I love the Muppet Movies new and old, I cried buckets when I watched the documentary ‘Being Elmo’ and my greatest ambition is to sing on Sesame Street some day.

My love affair with puppets began when I was nine years old and bought Snoopy and Charlie Brown marionettes with my Christmas money.  I joined the Pelham puppets club, who would send me magazines with short play scripts in them. My granddad made me a wooden puppet theatre with a hand painted back drop and curtains you could open and close.  I would perform the plays with my friends and remember making costumes for my puppets and performing a show about a witch for my Brownie pack.

Being an early years teacher, gives me the perfect excuse to continue buying puppets as an adult. I love the way young children respond to puppets and they are invaluable props for my parent and toddler music groups.  My girls have inherited most of my collection and added some of their own.

I have been looking forward to the Jim Henson exhibition at MoPop since the summer.  We decided to save our visit until the winter when the wet weather often drives us indoors. The Jim Henson Imagination Unlimited exhibition continues until 25th February, so there is still chance to visit.

The first part of the exhibition explains Jim Henson’s early career. Jim Henson started out by manipulating his puppets to sing along to  music tracks. At the exhibition, you can choose a puppet, and a track and record the puppets miming along to the music.  The girls were totally captivated and loved watching themselves on the screen. It was difficult to drag them away.

The other sections feature Jim Henson most famous creations.  The journey begins with Sesame Street.  I was very exited to see Ernie and Bert, Grover and the Count.

The girls learned about the generic  blue puppet used in Sesame Street to create multiple characters. The puppet is blank and features are stuck onto the face to change its appearance,  according to the requirements of the script.  The girls played at creating different characters.  We have a similar puppet at home, made by playskool. The girls have made additional features from felt with Velcro attached.

My favourite part of the Muppets section, was a fascinating video explaining how Miss Piggy and Kermit were able to ride bicycles in one of the muppet movies.

The girls loved showing off their theatrical poses and seeing their favourite character, Beaker.

The final section showed exhibits from The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and Fraggle Rock.

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Outside of the exhibition was a muppet stage set up with miniature instruments. You choose your puppet, a piece of muppet music and create your own puppet show. The girls thought this was wonderful and they were surprisingly good at it.

This inspired them to make a puppet show at home. They often make puppet shows on the stairs, peeking over the bannister. This time, we made a screen from our photo backdrop.  The girls went to town customising it and spent the next few days writing a muppet show, full of jokes, magic, music and dancing.

My favourite was four puppets singing along to the Pentatonix sugar plum fairy.

The song features Kermit, the wotnot, and one of our favourite puppets, a Melissa and Doug ballerina named Peh .The girls called her Peh because when she dances her hair falls in her face, so to get it out of her eyes, she tosses her head, saying, ‘peh’.

We have a few recent additions to our collection.

Melissa and Doug chef

Melissa and Doug cowboy and his cow.

A giraffe

And a cute cat.

We’re now adding even more to our collection, as I’ve discovered Goodwill online is great place to find unusual puppets at great prices. I’m a little bit hooked. I recently won an amazing Jim Henson puppet ( more on that to come soon).

I love how the puppets have inspired them to create stories, costumes and props. They have also become interested in how puppets are made, what makes a particularly good puppet and how to be a ventriloquist. I’ll share some of their home made puppets in a future post.

Disclaimer: this post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase products via these links, I receive a small compensation.

Furchester Hotel – The Sesame Street Gang Come to CBeebies

CBeebies and Sesame Street

 

It always feels good to get a little something from CBeebies drop into my inbox.  We miss CBeebies quality programming featuring British accents and no adverts. American children’s television isn’t all bad though.  Through childhood, student years and as a mother I have always been a huge Sesame Street fan.  The wonderful documentary Being Elmo made me an even bigger fan.  The latest news from CBeebies was the most exciting I’ve received in a long while. CBeebies and Sesame Street are working together to create a new series,  The Furchester Hotel.

Filming started on Monday 24 February, and will continue for just over three months. The enormous Furchester Hotel set fills all 700 square metres of the HQ2 studio at dock10, MediaCityUK, and was transported in 10 lorries from the three construction companies employed to build it over two and half months. It shows the interior and the garden of The Furchester Hotel and is raised 1.1 metres off the floor in order for the puppeteers to perform standing in the main areas. The set is double height with a sweeping staircase that guests take to the bedrooms when the lift isn’t working – which is almost always.

How amazing does that set sound and how disappointed am I that I can’t accept an invite to visit the set for myself? It makes me want to jump on a plane right away.

What is The Furchester Hotel?

The Furchester Hotel, is about a close-knit family of cheerfully incompetent Muppet monsters who own and operate an ‘almost’ world-class hotel. The proprietors are Funella Furchester, the welcoming monster owner, her loving husband, Furgus Fuzz, and their daughter, the unflappable Phoebe Furchester-Fuzz. The Furchester family is joined at the hotel by Elmo, Phoebe’s cousin who is on an extended visit, and Cookie Monster, who has landed his dream job as room service and dining-room waiter.

The Furchester Hotel aims to promote and build creative problem-solving skills for its young viewers. As the Furchester family scrambles to meet the needs of its guests, the monsters use their exceptional thinking skills to brainstorm possible solutions to problems that arise. And even when they think they have exhausted all the possibilities, their perseverance prevails because their family motto is, “A Furchester never gives up!” The daily mishaps and mix-ups at The Furchester Hotel will provide many opportunities for our young Muppet friends to model ways in which pre-schoolers’ natural curiosity and creativity can be harnessed to collaborate and solve problems.

Cookie Monster and Elmo are in Town

It takes approximately 70 cast and crew to make the series, including nine puppeteers and four assistant puppeteers. Experienced puppeteer Louise Gold plays Funella; Mak Wilson, who has been designated Puppet Captain, performs many of the guest Muppets, including resident guest Harvey P Dull; Andrew Spooner performs Furgus; and Sarah Burgess plays Phoebe. Elmo and Cookie Monster are played by Sesame Street puppeteers Ryan Dillon and David Rudman respectively and the head writer for the series is Belinda Ward.

“We’re so excited to be starting work on The Furchester Hotel. The studio set is truly amazing, and to see the puppets arriving on site really brings the project to life,” says Alison Stewart, Head of CBeebies Production. “We’re delighted to welcome The Furchester family, Elmo, Cookie Monster and their friends to Salford.”

“The excitement in MediaCityUK is palpable as we begin production on The Furchester Hotel,” says Carol-Lynn Parente, Executive Producer, Sesame Workshop. “We know this series will engage children with humorous problems and quirky solutions in ways that only the beloved Muppets can. We look forward to seeing The Furchester Family, along with their friends Cookie Monster and Elmo, delighting children and families on CBeebies for years to come.”

“Me cannot wait to ‘work’ as dining-room waiter at The Furchester Hotel,” says Cookie Monster. “Me hear their cookies are delicious. Om nom nom.”

The Furchester Hotel is co-produced by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organisation behind Sesame Street, and the In House Production team at CBeebies, the BBC’s pre-school children’s channel. The 52×11-minute series is set to debut on CBeebies in Autumn 2014 in the UK.

Hopefully I can find a way to watch it here too.

 

 

Sesame Street Once Upon a Monster on Kinect – A Review

I have been so excited about the forthcoming release of this game for a number of reasons.

  1. I am a huge Sesame Street fan and think it is the best in pre-school entertainment
  2. I have been waiting for a game that my 3 year old can play easily on Kinect.
  3. It is billed as a co-operative game and I would love to find  a game that my children won’t argue over.
  4. I am interested in evaluating its educational merit and whether or not it could be used in a pre-school classroom.

So when I was offered a copy to review I jumped at the chance.

The game centres around a story book ‘ Once Upon a Monster’ that Elmo and Cookie Monster jump into to embark on adventures.  As each chapter unfolds they encounter monster friends both new and familiar (Grover and Oscar) and help them to solve problems through a number of fun tasks.  The graphics and the story behind the game are captivating and we were all excited to see what would happen next.

The game is designed with drop in/ out co-operative play.  It can be played solo or with the help of an adult or sibling, if you decide to join in half way through a small monster appears in the corner of the screen and directs you to wave. This is great for young children as they often decide to wander off in the middle of a game but it doesn’t spoil the game for the other child. The game is only suitable for 2 children which means that it probably wouldn’t be suitable for use in pre-school unless you wanted to use it as an exercise in turn taking. I would like to see it adapted for 3 children, partly because I have 3 children and it would avoid one being left out and partly so that siblings could play with a parent to help if necessary.

With Kinect games I have found that my 3 year old has struggled to keep within the sensor.  There is a helpful built in feature with this game in that if the child  steps outside of the sensors limits a monster pops up and points in the direction that they need to move.

I had high hopes for this game as a controllorless game that my 3 year old would be able to use easily.  However I encountered a few problems which meant that she couldn’t play it independently.  To get inside the page of a book the monsters ask you to bring both arms together.  This worked really well when my 7 year old or myself did it but it didn’t seem to work for my 3 year old or her friend, even though they were making the correct movements. The other problem is that if you go too close to the sensor (or my one year old runs in the way) a menu pops up .  You need to wave on the back button to go back to the game.  My girls became frustrated because the sensor found it difficult to pick up which player was trying to direct it.

So far we have played the first of 6 chapters.  This centres on cheering up Marco the monster and helping him get to a birthday party.  The tasks along the way include running through the woods collecting objects and avoiding obstacles, flying to the tree tops to collect fruit with Grover, choosing outfits for Seamus the monster, drumming and my personal favourite disco dancing with Grover.

The usual response from my 7 year old when playing Kinect is to moan at her younger sister for getting in the way.  When she tried to join in yesterday my 7 year old complained and I told her that it was meant to be for 2 players.  The mood soon changed  to a lovely picture as my 3 year old watched her sister intently and copied her every move.  It is certainly fulfilling some of the games aim to foster a social and emotional curriculum in our household.

There could be a few tweaks to make it easier for young children to play but the game is engaging and  fun and my high expectations were not disappointed. I’m really looking forward to seeing what the other chapters have in store.

Sesame Street Once Upon a Monster is released on 14th October

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