Sweet Potato Heart Prints

“A life without love is like a year without summer.” – Swedish proverb

Now that our light-up snowman and twinkly lights have finally come down (yes, we’re those people!), we’ve been talking up Valentine’s Day and all things hearts. While I see it as a holiday full of commercial hype and overpriced flowers, I’m reminded that for children it can be full of play and joy and loads of sugar. Mmmmm.

When N developed an addiction to sweet potatoes last week, I bought a five-pound bag of the little beauties only to find out she’s not eating them this week. Of course. So, amidst my plan to freeze a batch of roasted sweet potatoes I realized that they’d also be good for carving up some heart stamps.

So I cut one in half and carved out a couple hearts.

The heart shape rises about 1/2 inch off the potato base to help us get some nice, clean prints.


  • Potato Stamp/s
  • Tempera Paint. Acrylic works too, but you’ll see why I’m so happy I used washable tempera in just a moment
  • Brayer or Paint roller
  • Smooth, flat surface to squeeze the paint on
  • Paper for printing

I rolled out a little bit of paint so that N could cover the stamp in a mostly uniform fashion. And then she got stamping.

Lately, she’s been interested in figuring out how things work. And then once her curiosity is satisfied, she’ll move on to the next thing. So here she is, done stamping in about three minutes flat and apparently investigating the bottom of the stamp. I had to leave the room for five minutes to change her baby sister’s diaper, and now I see that perhaps she was actually wondering how that black paint would feel all over her hands and the table?

Wow! That was a surprise!

I calmly reminded myself that it’s all about the process. And thanked myself for using washable paints. On our old school table that has seen worse days.

If you try this project, I’ve added a new feature that allows you to leave a picture in the comment section.

Creative Experiment #1: Toilet Paper Roll

To mark the start of the new year, I’m starting a project called Creative Challenges. A new challenge will be introduced every month or so, and you are invited to join in on the fun. The project should be executed by children, but adults are welcome to facilitate or collaborate if the mood strikes! Okay, here we go…

Make something with a toilet paper roll.

We all have a few of these lying around (right?!), so why not have fun with them before they hit the recycling bin.

To join in on the Challenge

  • Use at least one toilet paper roll, along with any other materials of your choice
  • Attach a photo of the experiment along with a description of what you and/or your child/ren did in the comment section below.
  • There is no deadline for this project.

If you’re looking for inspiration, here are some thoughts to get you started:

  • As a provocation, put a variety of art materials in front of your child (i.e. markers, tape, yarn), and see what they come up with
  • Make an installation, using only toilet paper rolls, scissors, and string
  • Attach things to it with a glue gun
  • Decorate it to look like an object (person, animal, house, etc.)

Melted Plastic Bag Collage

I’m a recycler at heart, so projects that incorporate found materials (such as plastic lunch bags and wrapping paper) speak to my soul and my aesthetic. This is one such project. And it was also a true experiment as I’d never done this before and wasn’t at all sure how it would turn out. I love that! I borrowed this idea from MaryAnn Kohl’s Art with Anything.

We began by filling plastic lunch bags with odds and ends: stickers, cut-up pieces of old art, and wrapping paper. While we worked on this right after breakfast, which sort of explains the pajamas, my child would live in her pj’s if she could. She seems happiest jumping around the playground, but I think she may be a little cozy homebody at heart.

Once the bag was ready, we placed it between two pieces of aluminum foil…

and then ironed it flat.

After letting it cool for a minute, we peeled the foil apart to reveal our “laminated” art. While difficult to see in the photos, the heated texture of the plastic turned out mottled and bumpy. N wanted to open the bag after we heated it, which led to a nice convo about how the bag melted.

Hey, that was fun. Let’s do that again!

We made three of these altogether — two were by N and the third was a collaboration (a new word we’re working on!). We made the top two with sandwich baggies and the bottom with a ziplock bag — each worked equally well. This turned out to be fun and educational on a number of fronts:

  • Exploring Volume: My child adores filling bags with things. If she had a mountain of bags to fill while wearing her pajamas all day, she’d be in her own little piece of heaven. If your child likes to fill bags too, this project could be for you!
  • Problem-solving, creative thinking, and exploration: She could choose from an assortment of materials, and was thoughtful about which items to fill the bags with.
  • Practicing a skill: For us this was cutting with Scissors. She’s been practicing this for a while, but has recently hit her cutting stride. So for us, a good half hour was spent on just cutting up wrapping paper.
  • Plastic melts when it’s heated to a high temperature! See yesterday’s Shrinky Dink activity for more on that.

Valentine’s Day Shrinky Dinks

Do you remember Shrinky Dinks? I loved loved loved these as a child, but I wasn’t sure if my 2.5 year old would be ready for them yet. We happened to find ourselves at a Hanukah party in December where a bunch of craft tables were set up, and my child gravitated to the Shrinky Dink table. Why, I’m not sure, but the mountain of Sharpie markers may have had something to do with it. We had a really good conversation about how plastic melts with heat (in this case, in a hot toaster oven), and I’m impressed that my daughter can now articulate a wide range of melting things including snowmen, ice cream cones, and now shrinky dinks!


  • Shrinky Dink Refill kit – I ordered these from Amazon
  • Sharpies in a variety of colors. The Shrinky Dink company also recommends Prisma Color pencils or non-water based crayons. We used Crayola Twistables and Crayola washable markers for this project.
  • Oven or Toaster Oven
  • Hole Punch (optional)
  • Scissors (optional)

I cut one of the sheets in half, and my daughter drew all over them with Sharpies, markers, and crayons.

We’ve been revving up for Valentine’s Day, so when a request for a heart shape came in I was ready! I made a little heart template on green paper, traced the shape onto the plastic, and then cut it out. You can get a sense of the scale reduction in the picture above. I punched a hole near the top, so we could add these to a keyring or necklace later on.

Heat the oven to 325, then bake! The plastic curls as it heats up, and it’s really fun to watch. If there’s ever a time to use the oven light, this is it! This step takes less than 30 seconds, so watch it closely.

And there you have it…Shrinky Dinks just in time for Valentine’s Day.


  • The Shrinky Dink company put this handy little idea and cheat sheet together
  • Our friend Chelsea shares these instructions from Curbly for making your own shrinky plastic pictures from #6 plastic (polystyrene). It’s brilliant: resourceful, inexpensive, and recyclable! We will most definitely be trying this out.

How to Make Goop

Homemade Goop is one of the best things I’ve learned how to make as a parent, and today I’m going to share this big secret on how to make goop. It’s the easiest recipe, and full of so much fun for small children.

Have you tried it? The recipe is simple and children are riveted by the magic of this weird substance.

How to make Goop :: Tinkerlab.com

Fun History of Goop

Goop, better known as Oobleck (named for a slime in Dr. Seuss’ book Bartholomew and the Oobleck ) is a fun material to play with: At one moment it’s a solid, and at the next it’s a liquid…it’s unbelievably silly to play with, and I’ve witnessed adults get lost in the strange sensation of its texture. For my science friends out there, this is a dilatant material, which is one that changes its properties in reaction to external stimuli. We don’t have the Dr. Seuss book (yet!), but I imagine it would be fun to read the book in conjunction with this activity.

How to get the most out of your Goop

To get the most bang for your buck, do what I did and set up this goop-making activity up as a 3-part activity to enable your child to experience the medium in multiple ways.

How to make Goop :: Tinkerlab.com

Goop Recipe

  • 16 oz. container of Cornstarch
  • Up to 1 cup of water
  • Liquid watercolors or food coloring (optional)

Goop Supplies

  • Big tub for mixing — I used an under-the-bed storage container. Contains the mess well so my child can play unencumbered by my tidy concerns
  • Spoons, little bowls, toys for playing, scooping, and filling

How to make Goop :: Tinkerlab.com

How to Make Goop: Part 1

I placed the jar of corn starch in the tub, alongside a spoon and a couple small bowls. I expected my daughter to pour the whole tub of corn starch out, but she carefully scooped it from the container spoonful by spoonful. This took a while, as she was wholly invested in the process of measuring and then pouring. Once playing with dry corn starch ran its course…

How to make Goop :: Tinkerlab.com

How to Make Goop: Part 2

We added water. I gave her just a bit at a time, so she could enjoy the process of mixing it in. Ultimately, the cornstarch:water ratio is about 2:1.  And as we went along, we chatted about what it felt like in our hands, if it was easy/hard to stir, and what we were doing. And once she seemed to have her fill of playing with this funny material…

How to make Goop :: Tinkerlab.com

How to Make Goop: Part 3

We added a few drops of liquid watercolor to the Oobleck (food coloring would also work), which she swirled around and mixed up. She was really interested in dropping the color into the mixture, but stirring it up barely sustained her interest. After focused play with the Oobleck for the last 30 minutes, she seemed to have had enough…ready to move on to the next big thing.

If you try this (or already have it under your belt), I’d love to hear from you!

More Playdough and Sensory Activities

Rainbow Play Dough, the BEST playdough recipe EVER!

How to make Flubbery Gak (aka Slime)

Playing with Vinegar and Baking Soda

Experiments with Flour and Water

Explore Flour and Chalk