Sponge Stamping

In the days leading up to the arrival of Baby I, I spent a lot of time in our garage in search of baby clothes, the car seat, and other long forgotten baby paraphernalia– and along the way I found a box of sponges shaped like letters, hearts, and flowers that I’ve been hauling around since my early art teaching days.

Inspired by my find (and, frankly, thrilled that I could finally justify keeping all this junk to my poor husband), I set up a bowl of red and yellow paint, put out some paper, and showed my toddler how to dip the sponges in paint before stamping them on the paper. The project is incredibly simple, and managed to hold my child’s attention for almost, er, ten minutes. In giving her two warm colors I thought it would help her focus on how the sponges work with the paint, but in hindsight, having a few extra colors may have sustained her interest longer. All said, as a first sponge stamping experience I’m pretty pleased with how it all played out.

Stamping N’s and Hearts.

I showed N  how to dip the sponge in the paint and both smear and stamp it on the paper. She opted for stamping. I always do my demonstrations on my own piece of paper to allow her the freedom to create her own work without my influence.

Thick, wet, stamped paint.

I think I picked up these sponges at a dollar store, which might be a good place to forage for something similar. My neighbor Stephanie had us over for sponge stamping, and she used make-up wedges. What’s so great about these is that they’re dense like foam, and hold their shape nicely in the cluthes of little hands.

Homemade Stickers

After sending our 4 year old friends Josie and Callie some stickers a few months back, they reciprocated by sending us a few sheets of mailing labels to make our own stickers. Brilliant!  Stickers have long been popular around here, they’re fun, and they seem to make their way onto everything from lunch bags to birthday cards. Making stickers from mailing labels is an easy spin on everyday drawing, more imaginative and less expensive than pre-designed stickers, and the perfect activity for kids who like drawing AND stickers. Since receiving our label sticker gift, we’ve stocked up on more sheets of these, and added them to our self-serve paper basket. If you decide to open your own homegrown sticker factory, pretty much any sort of blank office stickers should do the trick.

It was a very cool moment when I realized she could see the perforations of each sticker, and made each rectangle its own element.

N is going through her circle period!

Peeling off and adding stickers to a sheet of paper.

The final product.

I’ve noticed that N has tendency to layer papers and stickers in her art, so I also used this as an opportunity to talk with her about layering. I would say things like, “I see you’re putting that sticker on top of the other ones. You’re making layers. Can you say ‘layers’? Can you say ‘I’m layering the stickers’?”  She gets into this kind of “repeating me” discussion, and it works for us a good way to teach and reinforce new vocabulary words and sayings.

Do your kids love stickers too?

What kind of sticker projects are happening in your home or school?

We interrupt this program…

In case you’re wondering what happened to TinkerLab this week, I’m on an early mini-vacation at the hospital for the arrival of little girl #2!  At 36 weeks, our baby moved into a breech position, and after trying everything under the sun to turn her — External Cephalic Version, spending hours on a slant board, swimming, chiropractic adjustments, long walks, acupuncture, and even moxibustion (check it all out here) — our child remained steadfast in her cozy sideways position.

My incredible OB scheduled a C-Section for tomorrow, September 10, but the baby had her own ideas and we welcomed her into the world on Monday, September 6. Although she’s so far nameless, her big sister has decisively named her “Baby Rainbow.” It’s a compelling name, but I’m pretty sure it won’t pass once it goes to committee.

N sings the first song to her baby sister: Down by the Station, Early in the Morning…

While I’m not sure how life will pan out once I move back home, I expect that TinkerLab will be back in business in no time. Please stay tuned and check back often! And until then, I leave you with these creative thoughts:

“The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.” Alan Alda

If you can, do something today that you’ve never done before. It can be simple or elaborate.

  • If you’ve been afraid to paint with your kids, now’s the time to pick up some paints and set up a painting project.
  • Get your little one/s sewing with some easy and cute handmade sewing cards.
  • Pick up a basket for a “collecting” nature stroll around the neighborhood. See what new and unusual objects you can find.  Print this list of nature/camping scavenger hunt items, this list for a garden scavenger hunt, or grab your GPS and roll your family into the fun of Geocaching.
  • Make a homemade marble run from a cereal box.
  • Brainstorm a list of 30 possibilities for your child’s (or your own) Halloween costume. Push that list to 50 or more. Did you come up with anything really cool?
  • Make a Fortune Teller with or for your kids.

Art Supply Organization

If your child’s art supplies are anything like ours, they tend to overflow into a state of disorganization pretty quickly.  As a self-proclaimed scatterer, I won’t profess expertise at organization, but in attempting to bring some order to my home I’ve landed on some decent solutions toward wrangling art materials in a small space.  And, in the process, I found some compelling solutions by other creative folks that may appeal to you too. If you’d like to share your own great space-saving, kid-friendly, easy-access solutions, I’d love to hear about them.

First, there are the art staples that live on our art table for easy access. If I notice something is going unused, I’ll replace it, but these mainly remain the same. For now we’re using Markers, Crayons, Dot Makers, Glue (squeezable and stick), Painter’s tape (for taping paper down), and Small Pads of Paper. I found these nifty little metal bins in the dollar section of Target that are small enough that they don’t overwhelm the table. The crayons are mostly ignored, but for some reason I feel the need to keep them around. Maybe it’s time to replace them with some stickers?

Next, I think it’s important to give kids easy access to paper, so they can make art when the fancy strikes. Because our art area in in our living room, the solution I came up with is filling a basket with paper and placing it on one of our low bookshelves. I really like the 80 lb. white sulphite paper from Discount School Supply. Thanks to The Artful Parent for this tip! It’s heavy enough to take wet media and large amounts of glue, but flexible and thin enough that it doesn’t get bulky when you want to store completed projects. N is now in the practice of saying “I want to make art!” and grabs her own paper. Not that I’m especially lazy…well, maybe just a bit…but it’s really nice when kids can help themselves! Adults are more relaxed and kids are more empowered.

And finally, we have storage all over the house for the extra supplies like paints, play dough, stickers, stamps, pipe cleaners, brushes, sponges, rolls of paper, etc. Most of it is stored away in a locked cabinet or high shelf, but it’s nice to have little things handy for on-the-spot art making. So, another area of our living room shelves (a little higher than the paper) is dedicated to little things that I can get to on the fly. And they’re high enough — for now — that my daughter can’t unload them without my assistance.

Other Solutions

Top Row:

  1. Marker/Pen/Pencil holder upcycled from a phonebook. From Makezine.
  2. Keep the tabletop clear with pockets made from kids aprons. From Lowes Creative Ideas.
  3. Preschool-style bins for organizing supplies at kid height. From Day Care Mall.

Bottom Row:

  1. Bookshelf/Art Supply area. Low access for kids and high access for adults. From Jessica Lucia on Flickr.
  2. Art supplies that are easy to see. From Gently Down the Stream on Flickr.
  3. Corkboard, Chalkboard, and Painting station. From Pottery Barn Kids.

And finally, Amberlee at Giver’s Log has written a nice post on organizing kids’ art supplies that’s worth checking out.