How to trap a leprechaun: A children's fantasy for St. Patrick's Day

There is nothing quite like St. Patrick's Day - especially in Chicago. It's the one day anyone can be Irish - no matter where your family hails from across the globe. To celebrate, you can don green clothing, drink or eat green-dyed food and/or drinks, catch a lively parade, or head to one of the city's many Irish pubs or restaurants. And, for my family, St. Patrick's Day festivities now include light-hearted attempts by my two sons to catch tricky leprechauns.

It started with a simple school assignment to build a leprechaun trap...

One of Last Year's Traps

One of Last Year's Traps

It all started last year when my older son was in kindergarten. For a class assignment, he had to build a leprechaun trap for St. Patrick's Day. Because, you see, as legend has it, each leprechaun has a pot of gold, which it hides in a secret spot - like at the end of the rainbow. And, if you catch it, the leprechaun will give you the gold as a bribe for its release.

The simple assignment quickly became an all-consuming, never-ending project that my husband and I were pulled into for assistance. And, of course, my younger son, only in preschool, had to build one too.

As a family, we researched a leprechaun's favorite things. We tried to figure out how to entice a leprechaun to unwillingly enter our oh-so-tricky trap. And, we plotted how to keep the magical creature stuck within the clever confines of our trap if we were so lucky as to catch one.

Traps built on a hope and a prayer - and with lots of Lucky Charms

With our plans in place, we went shopping for the required goods. In our case, it meant loading up on cardboard boxes, shiny green wrapping paper, loads of pipe cleaners, chocolate-covered "gold" coins, and the all-important Lucky Charms (the breakfast of leprechauns).

My sons spent days upon end building, gluing, coloring and creating their leprechaun trap masterpieces. Then, on March 17, it was finally time for the leprechauns to show themselves - and hopefully unwillingly end up in one or both of my sons' traps.

But, alas, while they visited our apartment and ventured close to our traps, the leprechauns got away. They left chocolate wrappers behind and holes in our traps, but some how they found a way out of the traps. And, with their escape went our hopes of asking them to show us the way to the much sought after pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

The notes my sons wrote and laid out for the leprechauns said we didn't want to harm them, we just wanted to say hi and be friends, and then send them on their merry ways. I guess our kind words didn't win them over or reassure them either.

And, so, my sons are at it again this year to build even better, even stronger and even more enticing leprechaun traps.

May the luck of the Irish be with us this year as we try once again

And Trap #2...

And Trap #2...

With less than a week until St. Patrick's Day, my sons are busy sketching out the architectural blueprints for leprechaun traps version 2.0. They're also fiercely deliberating on how much wood, plastic, paper and other products to buy this year.

Oh yes. While my sons were content to get all of our leprechaun-trap supplies at our local drugstore last year, they're in it to win it this year. So it's Home Depot or bust for us.

But, rest assured, we're still going to load up on Lucky Charms this year. We just may need two boxes instead of just one.

A few tips for other leprechaun-trap building families this year

For anyone who also wants to get in on the leprechaun-catching game and try your own hand at building traps with your family, here are a few links to other blogs and websites with simple instructions to offer some inspiration and help get you started:

As someone who's got one year of leprechaun trap making under her belt, I offer a few simple words of advice to other parents out there:

  • Have fun. Remember to keep your kids focused on the fun part. At first, I was troubled by the notion that my son's school was encouraging him to trap creatures. But, once I chilled out, I was able to embrace the myth, the adventure and the fun that comes with leprechaun trap building.
  • Let your imaginations run wild. There are no rules when it comes to building leprechaun traps - so anything goes. Allow your children - and yourself - to explore any possibility in creating your very own traps. I mean, something has got to work one of these days, right?
  • Set expectations. It's very fun, but also very difficult to catch those oh-so-clever leprechauns. Throughout the course of the project, my husband and I tried to make sure  our sons understood the inherent challenge of catching a leprechaun so they weren't disappointed when they didn't catch one. We also helped soften the blow by leaving them short notes from the tricky leprechauns themselves.
  • Learn from your experience. Take it from me - there's always next year. Even if your family isn't able to catch a leprechaun this year, that doesn't mean you won't be lucky next year. Talk to your children about what they think worked or didn't work - and get ready to try again - in another 365 days.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Here's to the luck of the Irish - may it help you catch a tricky leprechaun! Have fun and enjoy the tradition. Just remember to send some gold my way if you're lucky enough to trap a leprechaun. I will be forever grateful!

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