A Kid-Friendly Storytime Car Wash

Be warned: this post is picture heavy!

At the end of last summer, I spent a couple of weeks browsing through dozens of blogs and library sites for storytime inspiration. One of the most interesting projects I came across was an indoor “kid” wash, created by Claudia Haines at Never Shushed. I bookmarked the site, and made a mental note to build my own car wash when I tackled cars in January. Those sessions begin next week, so it was time to get moving!

The library was closed to patrons today in honor of Civil Rights Day, so I had a beautiful, wide-open day to create. And, by the grace of the library Gods, our brand new Cricut machine arrived this week, just in time to do some of my cutting for me. Here are the other supplies I used:

Materials Used

  • Two extra large, cardboard moving boxes (from Home Depot)
  • Blade or heavy-duty scissors
  • Duct tape
  • Hot glue gun
  • Poster board, construction paper
  • Optional: streamers, garland, sponges, etc.

The hardest part about building this thing is keeping it upright. I used two extra large moving boxes from Home Depot, then opened all of the flaps and pushed them together so that one was slightly inside of the other, and that helped to reinforce them slightly. I considered propping the boxes up against a wall or using chairs behind them, like Claudia does, but in the end I wanted this thing to stand on its own. Enter Dad.

My dad is a retired engineer, and sort of lights up when I bring home problems like this one. He told me that what I really needed were corner braces — triangular shaped pieces of cardboard glued inside the corners, to prevent them from falling in on themselves. He was absolutely right. As soon as I had four corners shored up, the boxes stood upright on their own (although they still wobbled slightly).

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The boxes, held together by half a roll of duct tape. The top two corners on each side are reinforced by extra cardboard.
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A closer look at the corner.

I made the corners out of those Home Depot logos that are plastered all over the box. I cut out two of the logos to create windows in one side, and used those cut-out pieces to shore up the corners.

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The window cut-outs. And a look at the road running through the middle.

Once the boxes were up, I glued poster board along the bottom to mimic a road. We have thin poster paper in our paper closet, and it was exactly the width of the box. No cutting or measuring required! I cut yellow strips and ran them along the middle.

Now for the fun stuff. Once the car wash is standing, you can decorate however you like. I followed Claudia’s lead and taped streamers through a slit I made near the front of the first box. This is supposed to look like water, and acts as our “rinse” station.

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I made two slits in the top of the box and strung the streamers through them.
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View from the inside. I made two layers to bulk things up, and cut some of the strips into thinner ribbons.

Farther down in the car wash, I wanted a “scrubbing” station that will really entail me blowing bubbles in through the open windows. This is what that looks like from the inside:

I used Dollar store garland for the “scrubbers,” and glued some sponges along the walls on both sides. I’ll be blowing bubbles through the windows there, too. Pretty simple!

The last stop will be a drying station at the back, which will simple be a fan running outside the exit. That should get the bubbles moving around nicely, too. And that’s it! Then I just spruced up the outside.

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Some colorful props to dress up the outside.
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The whole car wash from the side.
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Close up on the scrub station – the bubbles and letters were cut in just a couple of minutes by the Cricut.
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The front…
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…and the back, complete with loofah buddies.

I decided to implement the Stop sign to throw in some print awareness, and also to control the flow of toddlers. Because this thing is pretty fragile, I’m going to have the kids move through one at a time.

All told, I spent about 6 or 7 hours constructing the car wash and creating all of the decorations. So, it is a big project. But I hope it will get a lot of use! Next week I’m launching a three-week unit on all things transportation: cars, trucks, trains, planes, boats, construction vehicles, and road signs. I plan to bring this out at the end of each session, and a co-worker might use it for her group, too. I can’t vouch for its reception yet, but I’m sure the kids will enjoy it! I think it would also work well for a “drive-in” movie night, where the kids make their own vehicles out of boxes (like this. Something else I’d love to try.)

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