Preschool Pirating

Have we all gone stir crazy yet?

Imagine if you were on a 17th century ship, with nothing around you but ocean for three months – or six months. Sure, you didn’t have bored kids fighting over whose turn it is with the TV, or a toddler screaming that Tickle Me Elmo is out of batteries again, but eventually that parrot is going to look pretty tasty when all you’ve had to eat is wormy hardtack and stale beer. If you’ve ever been to the Charles P. Morgan at Mystic Seaport, or the Mayflower up in Plymouth, Mass, or Old Ironsides in Boston proper, you know that those ships are pretty tiny on a ten minute walk-through. Now cram them with fifty people for three months, and suddenly your 1500 square foot house doesn’t seem so bad. At least you’re not seasick.

Pirates, whether illegal or privateers working for King and Country, were often violent men – and a few women – who were not very nice. But legends and lore get romanticized, and pirates – whether Captain Hook, Jack Sparrow, Long John Silver, or Blackbeard himself, and kids are attracted to each other the way ants love sugar. Fancy hats, eye patches, wooden legs, cannons, swords, boats, and treasure – how cool is that?

When a new dog-proof garbage can arrived in a box larger than my three year old, it became her favorite toy of the month, and for one of the weeks we turned it into a pirate ship. Anything that keeps a bored three year old busy for a week deserves to be bronzed. We hung a garden flag from a broom handle for a sail, used a brass fastener to make a spinning wheel, dug out costumes from the older kids, watched a lot of preschool pirate videos and read a lot of pirate books. I drew a simple outline map of our living room and taught her to read maps by placing candy in various places as treasure, and marking X on the map. By the third candy, she was proficient on her own. Then we built our finale.

Using balloons, some Cheshire Herald strips, and a little watered down Elmer’s Glue, we made some cannon balls, and then painted them the next day. Then we built our cannon. The cannon balls were about 5 ½ inches, too big for a standard paper tube. But they worked just perfectly for a paint can! So we scavanged a paint can from the garage, which, thankfully, had only an inch of dried paint in the bottom. And these new-fangled plastic paint cans? The paint doesn’t stick! A few taps and peels, and all that dead paint came falling right out. A quick rinse, and we were good. I cut the bottom off with my Ginsu knife (a product that has lived up to every claim ever made on it – thirty years later it still cuts fences AND tomatoes, and plastic paint cans). I strung a piece of waistband elastic across the hole, held tight by Gorilla Tape, and we had our cannon. It was tricky getting the right angle, but pull the elastic back far enough with the cannon ball sitting on it, and we could get the ball to shoot four or five feet, which is plenty inside a house.

We won Preschool Zoom that week.

So scrounge your house, and see what you can come up with! With warmer weather, try staking out a ship outside with lawn chairs or wooden pallets.  Anything that keeps a kid busy and sparks some interest is a good thing – and they just might learn something.  And by the way, Saturday September 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day – check out these awesome stories to get you in the pirate mindset:

Pirate’s Perfect Pet        Pirates Go to School               Peter Pan   

Pirates Past Noon           Pinkalicious and the Pirates

Pirates Don’t Take Baths        No Pirates Allowed, Said Library Lou

Pirates Don’t Change Diapers        Sea Queens:  Women Pirates Around the World

  Treasure Island      Pirates of the Caribbean     Jake and the Never Land Pirates 

It’s National Talk Like Pirate Day, Celebrate with Picturebooks!

Today is National Talk Like Pirate Day! Celebrate this fun day with us by enjoying some great pirate themed picturebooks! Everyone loves a great pirate tale, and these are fun stories that you can share with the whole family while getting into the spirit of a silly holiday.

Pirate Pete’s Talk Like a Pirate by Kim Kennedy
In search of a crew, Pirate Pete and his parrot look for “stanky scallywags” who possess certain conversational skills.

The Pirate Princess by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Tired of the royal life, Princess Bea boards a pirate ship and sets out for adventure on the high seas but soon finds she is not good at swabbing decks, cooking in the galley, or keeping watch from the crow’s nest.

Small Saul by Ashley Spires
Small Saul is a different kind of pirate. Will Small Saul be able to prove his worth as a pirate or will he be thrown overboard?

Henry & the Buccaneer Bunnies by Carolyn Crim
Captain Barnacle Black Ear, baddest of the Buccaneer Bunnies, is ashamed of his book-loving son, Henry, until the day a great storm approaches.

You might also want to check out  The Pirates Next Door: Starring the Jolley-Rogers by Jonny Duddle, Pirate vs. Pirate: the Terrific Tale of a Big Blustery Maritime Match by Mary Quattlebaum, The Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup, The No-Good Do-Good Pirates by Jim Kraft, or Henry & the Crazed Chicken Pirates by Carolyn Crimi.

Would you prefer to learn about real pirates instead of reading picturebooks, or to follow up a fun tale with factual adventures? Then check out these children’s nonfiction books that they whole family can enjoy.

The Pirate Queen by Emily Arnold McCully, Women of the Sea: Ten Pirate Stories by Myra Weatherly, Blackbeard, the Pirate King: Several Yarns Detailing the Legends, Myths, and Real-life Adventures of History’s Most Notorious Seaman: Told in Verse by J. Patrick Lewis, Pirates: Facts, Things to Make, Activities by Rachel Wright, I Wonder Why Pirates Wore Earrings: and Other Questions about Piracy by Pat Jacobs, Pirates by Peter Chrisp, Real Pirates the Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship by Barry Clifford, Pirates : Robbers of the High Seas by Gail Gibbons, and Sea Queens: Women Pirates around the World by Jane Yolen.