Seagull & Crickets Game

 



 We're celebrating Pioneers again here in Utah, and in honor of one of my favorite pioneer stories, I'm sharing a game I made for my kids a few years ago.  For those of you unfamiliar with the story, when Pioneer settlers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, they planted crops hoping for a harvest in time for that first winter.  Just before harvest, an infestation of crickets descended on the crops, devouring everything.  These were not average crickets - they were huge, menacing, rotten things and their role in this historical plague earned them the nickname "Mormon crickets," forever after.  Despite all their efforts, the settlers could not save the harvest and were about to despair when flocks of seagulls came out of nowhere - eating the crickets and saving the crops.  It was called the Miracle of the Gulls and is the reason the seagull is the Utah State bird even though the state is landlocked.  Neat, eh?

For Pioneer Day, I made a "fish pond"style game with the magnet in the seagull's beak enabling it to "eat" the metal parts on the crickets, made out of clothes pins. My kids love it - and it's a favorite whenever I bring it to Primary, so I'm sure you want one of your very own.


Crickets: 
The crickets are super fun to make, even if you don't make the rest of the game.  The kids had a blast making these!  Paint the clothes pins black.  You could probably spray paint for speed, but my kids LOVE to paint, and I enjoyed the character it gave my bugs to have imperfections in the coverage.



For eyes, glue metal BBs in place.  This took me awhile to figure out what to use because I wanted buggy looking eyes, but I also wanted to provide a metal that would be attracted to magnets so that the seagull would have a surface to grab onto.  BBs worked perfectly and look a little bit creepy, while being highly magnetic.  Hot glue worked fine, but after losing a few BBs, I reinforced with E6000 and haven't lost a BB since (3 years of hard play...)


For legs, cut two pieces of chenille stem.  Back leg piece is 8 inches. Front leg piece is 4 inches.  Thread the chenille stem legs through the holes in the clothes pin and glue in place at center.  Wait to shape legs until antenna are inserted.

For antenna, cut a piece of black craft wire anywhere from 5-7 inches long. (Different lengths give different personalities).  Thread through the front clothespin hole with the front leg chenille stem and put a little more glue in there to keep it in place.    Hot glue works fine here.
With a pair of needle-nose pliers, round ends of wire into little circles.

Shape antenna into curls, cross them, keep them straight - whatever you think looks buggy.

Shape legs by bending at the knee and again to form a foot.











Seagull:

The concept of the seagull is a simple softie - by which I mean it's made out of felt and not turned inside out.  I don't know if that's the exact definition of softie, but that's what I think of when I hear that term.  So simply cut out the body and wing tip pieces.  Tack wing tips to top side of body.  Then with wrong sides together, topstitch all the way around, leaving an opening for stuffing. (note: the neck is the hardest part to stuff, so I suggest leaving the opening somewhere around the neck instead of trying to get stuffing through that narrow channel.)  Also leave open between dots on pattern at the top of the head, indicated on pattern, to insert the beak.

For the beak, I used bright yellow lycra - simply because I had some on hand.  I recommend any fabric thin enough to allow the magnet to do its thing.  Cotton or poly would be fine.  Fleece or Felt might be too thick.  Cut the beak piece and fold along line, right sides together.  Sew along edges, leaving top open, using the tiniest seam allowance possible.  Turn right sides out.  Insert a high-powered magnet.  I used a magnetic rock my son got in a set of magnetic rocks.  It works ok, but I'd like a stronger one if I can find one.  If you need stuffing to fill out the beak, add it, but make sure that the magnet stays at the tip of the beak with no stuffing blocking the magnet.
Insert the beak into the opening at the top of the Seagull head and topstitch across opening, between dots indicated on pattern.  Depending on how uptight you are about this whole process, you can either topstitch through all layers, closing off the beak opening, or you can hand-stitch around the circle of where the beak joins the head to keep the beak more dimensional.

I glued on googlie eyes for silliness, because kids giggle over googlie eyes.  If I had my druthers I'd embroider some eyes with personality and pizazz, but hey - googlie eyes rock too.

To Make & Play the Game:

The Seagull must be attached to a stick in order that it may "fly" - then it's just like a fishing pole.  Any broomstick or dowel will work. I happen to have a leg from a three legged table that is perfect for stuff like this. In fact, you'll notice that my seagull is only pinned and not permanently attached - that's because I have multiple versions of "fishing" games, and all of them use this same table leg with an excellent piece of string strongly knotted to the screw at the top.  The seagull gets attached for Pioneer Day, using a safety pin, then goes into storage :)  You could make a more permanent toy by sewing the string to the seagull body and knotting it to your stick.

To play, I like to start with telling the story of the Seagulls & the Crickets, using a dollar store green plastic table cloth to represent the crops.  This keeps the field of play defined.  On the bottoms of the crickets are stickers.  When I use these for Singing Time, the stickers have song numbers on them and the cricket "eaten" shows what song to sing.  For fun, the stickers can tell the child a prize they've won, or an activity they have to do (i.e. 10 jumping jacks).  HINT: The magnet grabs 3 things on the cricket - the eyes, the metal wire in the chenille stem legs, and best of all, the spring that constructs the clothespin.  Those are the best targets.  The wire antenna were rather disappointing as far as magnetic attraction goes.  They look great though, so that's something!  And sometimes they'll hook the felt, and I say that counts too. :)

Happy Pioneer Day, and Have Fun!!
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