I remember bounding up to the front of my kindergarten class one breezy fall morning. I was super excited and had bounced in my seat in the car on the way to school until my mom told me to stop because I was shaking the whole car. It was my birthday, and now I was five, but I didn’t care about that. What I wanted was my book. See, my kindergarten teacher had a huge box of shiny new books she pulled out on every child’s birthday, and you got to choose whatever book you wanted. Then she’d smile, and with a blue Sharpie write, “Happy birthday! Love, Mrs. O,” on the inside cover. I had watched other children beaming as they slid their chosen book into their backpacks—of course, there were a couple of kids who tossed their books in, hardly looking at them, which I never understood—and stared longingly at the box of books as Mrs. O tucked it back into her cabinet until the next birthday. I knew exactly which book I wanted, and when Mrs. O started morning circle by saying, “Let’s all sing to the birthday girl!” I instantly forgot the classroom rule of walking nicely around people and plowed straight through my classmates and yelled, “I want Chicka Chicka Boom Boom please!” I don’t even remember the rest of the day, if I had cake or ice cream or any of the other presents I’m sure I received. I just know I hugged Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to my chest with a giant smile on my face.
Many years later, my daughter is now two and a half, and loves the alphabet. I called my mother up and asked her to paw through the attic and dig up my dog-eared copy of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom with the faded inscription from my kindergarten teacher that I knew was still on the inside cover. I knew my daughter would love the book as much as I did. To my horror, Mom called back a week later to say that she’d torn the attic apart and could not find it. I hung up the phone, upset—but moms always know how to solve problems. A few days later a package came in the mail, and I pulled out a brand new copy of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. My daughter leaped to her feet from her play space a few feet away and pointed at the cover. “Iz the alphabet! Read? Read book?” And so we’ve read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom every night before bed for the last month.
Of course, being a parent in the 21st century means I apparently need a Pinterest board named “Child-Led Activities Relating To The Thing My Kids Are Most Interested In At This Very Moment,” but really, kids do like activities relating to books they are currently fans of, so my daughter and I put together this Chicka Chicka Boom Boom tree so she could act out the story on her own.
- Construction Paper
- Magnetic Letters
- Cookie Sheet, sans cookies
The Chicka Chicka Boom Boom tree is actually pretty simple. The trunk of the tree is straight, the coconuts are lopsided circles, and the leaves are oddly shaped so no worries about your artistic abilities here. Older kids can probably cut everything out themselves! I helped my 2 year old. Make sure your tree will fit onto the cookie sheet.
Glue your tree together. I pulled out the glue sticks because of how much my daughter enjoyed using them for our spring blossom craft, but she just pushed them away with a “Mom, that was SO last week, tape is what all the cool kids use these days,” roll of her eyes. So we taped everything together. You probably want to tape the tree to your cookie sheet anyway, lest your next batch of sugar cookies end up with a gluey taste. If you’re really ambitious you could put magnets on the back of the tree.
Grab your magnetic letters and play! Since cookie sheets are flat and the letters and tree stick onto the cookie sheet nicely, you can pick this up and lug it around your home without pieces scattering everything. This is a standard sized cookie sheet–if you had a smaller one, you could even make a smaller tree and bring it in the car or toss it in the diaper bag, etc. And there you go. Thank you, Mrs. O, for your introduction to a childhood book that has delighted more than one generation.