Hammering (real) Nails

Since my daughter (now almost 3 y.o.) practiced hammering with golf tees back in October, I’ve been waiting and waiting for just the right time to introduce her to REAL nails! After working really well at piercing gumdrops with toothpicks, I had a feeling that the time had come. So I dusted off an old scrap of wood, pulled out our jar of random nails, and threw in a bag of rubber bands just to make it more interesting (inspired by this post at Jojoebi).

We used the hammer from our Melissa and Doug Take Along Tool Kit, and it worked surprisingly well. I gave her a small safety lesson, where I demonstrated how to hold a nail low…right down next to the wood. She was so eager to get to her task, and was fiercely focused.

Once N decided that enough nails were hammered in, she began adding rubber bands. At first there seemed to be an unspoken rule that each nail would be surrounded by one rubber band layer.

And then the rubber bands kept on going around and around the nails. I love all of those colors!

For my friends out there who want to avoid a mess, this is as clean as projects get, and all of the materials can be reused when your child is all done with their nail and rubber band exploration.

If you have a rubber band project that you’d like to share with the TinkerLab community, you’re welcome to share a photo or a link here: Creative Experiment #4: Rubber Bands

What are you building today?

Gumdrop Sculptures

The provocation: A bowl of gumdrops and a handful of toothpicks.

The first question: “Can I eat these?”

Oh yeah, I guess they do kind of look like a snack.

The second provocation (after we each ate a gumdrop, just to get that elephant out of the room): A square base of four gumdrops, attached together with four toothpicks, and one more toothpick sticking straight up out of the base.

And with that, the race gates opened and the horses were off! Without saying another word, N quickly understood the challenge and got right to work. And what small child on a minor sugar high wouldn’t be excited to work with colorful toothpicks and rainbow-colored gumdrops?

Notice little sister in the background. I promise some baby-related activities one day soon.

A few months back I set up a similar provocation with marshmallows and toothpicks, and while we were able to build some simple structures, it was a small flop. It’s easy enough to pierce the marshmallows with toothpicks, but they don’t do as good of a job holding a complex structure together. I also tested jellybeans, but the hard candy surface wasn’t forgiving enough. The gumdrops are really malleable and my daughter didn’t need too much of my help manipulating them. So empowering!

She decided this structure was a cable car — we live near San Francisco, after all — so we found a couple passengers interested in taking a ride.

After she built this form she exclaimed, “It’s a pitched roof!!” Ah, I love witnessing the transfer of knowledge. You never know when these moments are going to hit, and it’s so fun to be there when they do.

And this is what she accomplished before it was time to get dinner ready. After dinner she and her dad kept working on these, and then there was more building the next day. As the structures got bigger and more complex, we talked about the strength of triangles, which added a a new dimension to what she was able to build. Stay tuned for day two!

More on the science behind this project can be found through one of my very favorite sites (and places to visit), The Exploratorium: Geodesic Gumdrops.

 

Pitched Roofs

Learning about pitched roofs in preschool

Our neighbor’s house had a leaky roof and the handy man came for a visit. This peaked my daughter’s interest and she wanted to know why. If you’ve had a small child living in your home, I’m sure you’re familiar with this barrage of non-stop questions that keep coming even if you’ve already answered them…at least three times: Why is the plumber here? Why is their roof leaking? Why does he have a friend with him? Why do they have a ladder? Why aren’t they fixing our roof? Is our roof leaking? Why is their roof leaking?

It turns out that they have a flat roof, and we have a pitched roof. Not that it really matters, of course, as any roof can leak, but flat roofs seem to be more prone to collecting water than pitched roofs, and there I was explaining this to my 33 month old. My explanation began with the illustration you see above, which I sketched onto our chalkboard. I drew the houses and rainclouds, and then demonstrated how the rain falls differently on the two roofs. I checked in to see if this made sense to her (it didn’t), so I moved on to building a 3-D model.

We found some cardboard in our recycling bin and got to work crafting two structures: one with a pitched roof (our house) and one with a flat roof (our neighbor’s house).

And then we ran a little experiment by placing them in the sink and running “rain water” over them. The water rolled right down the sides of the pitched roof and puddled up on the flat roof. And then, finally, she got it!

A surprise preschool lesson on roofs, science, plumbers, and architecture!

What surprise lessons have you taught lately?

Colander Sculpture

This surprisingly fun sculptural activity kept my 33 month old engaged for a long while. And the added bonus is that it’s also great for strengthening fine-motor skills, making color choices, and developing spatial understanding by making sense of the exterior and interior of an object.

The set up

A handful of pipe cleaners and a colander on a low table.

N wasn’t sure what to make of it at first and asked me to play with her. So we sat down together and I started poking the pipe cleaners in the holes.

Ahhhh, now she gets it. Once the ball got rolling I stepped back to let her explore on her own.

This is so much fun!

Once the top was “full,” she started working on the sides.

Colander Sculpture for Kids | TinkerLab.com

And then she wanted to know what was happening underneath the colander.

After working on this for about 20 minutes, N figured out that she could loop the pipe cleaners and stick both ends into the colander. Cool.

As of late, my daughter has shown a huge interest in building and sculptural activities. Maybe you remember my last post when she rejected the easel? So I’ll continue to continue to support this growing interest of hers and see where it takes her…and you can probably expect more sculptural activities here in the upcoming weeks.

While I can’t remember where I first saw this idea, if you’d like more pipe cleaner-colander inspiration, Anna and her daughters at The Imagination Tree did a similar project where her older daughter incorporated play dough into the sculpture! She packages this and other similar, stimulating activities as “Discovery Boxes,” which you can learn more about here. And if you don’t have pipe cleaners at home, but you do have straws, she also offers a Straw Discovery Box that is a super alternative.

This post was shared with We Play: Childhood 101, Skip to my Lou

Rubber Band Painting

One of the almost-weekly segments of this site is called Creative Experiments, and last week’s experiment was to create something with Rubber Bands. Danielle and her daughter Simone were the first to participate with their Elastic Project, which you can view on Danielle’s blog. I love how they hung the piece from the ceiling. I’ve had rubber bands on the mind all week, and thought I’d make a fun paintbrush out of them. To make it, I secured about six rubber bands of roughly the same length to the back of a paintbrush with another rubber band, wrapped tightly. Now, keep in mind that this is an experiment, and sometimes experiments don’t go as planned!

To get the new brush into action, I pulled our easel out of hibernation because N lost complete interest in it a couple months ago (and it takes up way too much real estate to go unused). When she woke up from her nap she took one look at the easel and immediately complained that the paint pots were missing their lids. Where was that “I missed my easel and I’m so glad to see it again” enthusiasm I had hoped for?! I should probably back up and say that 90% of the time she wakes up from her naps grumpy, but still!! Once she settled into being awake, she said she would paint with the caveat that we collaborate, but she wanted nothing to do with the super neat-o rubber band brush that I made. That’s fine, of course, but I hoped that at least the novelty of it would appeal to her.

So, up there you can see her yellow marks surrounded by a few red rubber band painting marks made by yours truly. The texture created by the brush is pretty random and silly, and I imagine that a child inclined to paint at an easel (unlike mine. sniff, sniff), would probably enjoy testing one of these out. When I was her age I adored easel painting, so this obviously comes as a surprise. But I also know it can’t hurt to keep offering the materials, and if one day she’s ready they will be there for her. There it is: Rubber band experiment 1.0.

Have you been surprised by your child’s distaste for something you really enjoy?

Making Chocolate Lollipops

Welcome Spring and Hellooooo Rain. This past weekend it poured. All weekend long. So we stayed in and made the best of it by inventing all sorts of rainy day activities like playing with our new chocolate lollipop molds.

Recipe

  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of butterscotch chips. (N isn’t super fond of chocolate, and we hoped that the butterscotch would make the flavor more palatable for her.)
  • Assorted decorations (sprinkles, colored sugar, nuts, dried fruit, etc.)
  • Lollipop mold and sticks. These are very inexpensive, but in their absence, you could make free-form lollipops like these from She Is Dallas by simply dropping a dollop of chocolate right down on waxed paper and then adding a popsicle stick or straw while the chocolate is warm.

Before we began, we made guesses about what might happen to the chips if we heated them up. This was a fine little science lesson in how chocolate turns from a solid into a liquid at a high temperature. After semi-melting the chips in the microwave, we stirred the mixture until it blended smoothly and then dropped/poured it into the molds with a teaspoon. Since I’m working with a preschooler, I didn’t want to bother with tempering the chocolate. Sticks were added and it was ready for decorating!

I handed the whole thing over to N so she could work her two-year old magic on the lollipops.

N adores sprinkles of all sorts, and while I half-expected to witness a grand dumping of the candies, I was surprised by her restraint. Especially on the cooped up rainy day that it was.

The tray found its way into the fridge for what seemed like FOREVER, and then we popped them out.

Yummy!

Well, yummy until you’ve had too much of a good thing. Lucky for me, my child isn’t a huge fan of chocolate and just about gagged after the first big bite. Just so you know the true story here, I tried the lollipops myself, and they really were good.

And this is further reminder that with small children the process far outweighs the product!

The day that we made these, I asked my Facebook Friends what they were creating, and I am inspired by all of the creativity.  See for yourself!

  • A homemade pizza for my family!
  • Cookies!
  • happiness
  • I drew a big road, loads of turns and rotaries Also filled with homes, gas station, supermarket, the works. Taped it to the coffee table, it provided hours of entertainment on this rainy day.
  • playscapes, the beginnings of our spring nature table, and lemon risotto
  • it was a beautiful day, so we hit the zoo, and went walking in a neat part of town for hours! we made box lunches, and made smiles! seeing an old friend and her new baby seem to create good moods!
  • A new appreciation for art for Lili- went to the cantor center and she loved it!
  • My lil one made Holi cards with leaf and petal printing and decoupage. Holi, is a festival of colours, peace and brotherhood – here in India. 🙂
  • At playschool today it was pouring rain so we made some suncatcher rainbow collages and had story time whilst listening to the rain!

What did you create today?

This post was shared with Kids Get Crafty

Coffee Filter Flowers

We recently started using a Chemex coffee pot (next to Blue Bottle, it makes the BEST coffee ever — anyone else with me?) and we had a stack of old filters collecting dust, waiting to be repurposed into watercolor coffee filter flowers!

I mixed a little water to liquid watercolors, and added droppers. You could also use food coloring and scavenge droppers from old bottles of Baby Tylenol.

The set-up

  • Watercolors
  • Flat-bottom coffee filters
  • Droppers
  • Tray to catch spills
  • Covered table
  • Bowl of Sequins (not necessary, but N insisted on this…you’ll soon see why)
  • Green Pipe Cleaners

Squeeze some watercolor on the filters until you reach desired color combination/saturation level. You may not really care about the aesthetics at all, as the activity of squeezing watery paint is so enjoyable in its own right. If that’s the case, keep on squeezing!

And add some sequins, googly eyes, and fake plastic nails while you’re at it! I love how children are filled with their own novel ideas and believe it’s important to encourage imaginative play at every opportunity.

Over the course of half and hour, we worked side-by-side to color a bunch of coffee filters and let them dry overnight.

The next day, we had fun chopping the filters up into snowflakes, and wearing them as crowns. This was all N’s idea. And she decided her baby sister needed a crown too. You never know where art activities are going to take you!

To make the flowers (and these next steps are all me)…

1. Stack about 5 coffee filters like pancakes. I sandwiched unpainted filters between painted ones to give it more contrast.

2. Accordion-fold the filter stack and secure it with a pipe cleaner

Pull out the filters individually, giving it a all a nice puff.

And proudly display your Spring bouquet.

Find this post on My Delicious Ambiguity, ABC and 123, Play Academy @ Nurturstore, We Play

The Creative Life with Kids

There’s never been an art material that I didn’t like.

When my husband and I recently teased out our family values in order to better focus on our priorities, it was no surprise when we each identified living a creative life as a guiding principle for our family. We both love to tinker with projects, we each work in creative fields, and we enjoy spending our free time in art galleries, film screenings, and soaking up the visual surprises offered by big cities. And we want this for our children; not just because we hope that they will enjoy art making or visiting museums, but because we believe that our children will be better equipped to navigate our quickly changing world if they are experienced with tools for thinking outside of the box.

While we’re constantly monitoring our small home for clutter, we decided that there will always a place for art materials in our home. The reality, of course, is that the nooks and crannies of our old house are packed, so I try to be judicious when considering a new pack of paper, interesting office supplies, or something completely random (food markers, anyone?) that catches my eye. But it’s hard because I love art materials so very much. Not only do they symbolize the potential of ideas, but they also challenge us to experience the world in a new way. And once we’ve worked with them, our problem-solving skills are forever changed.

Take this bagel scribbling activity, for example. I picked up these food coloring markers at our cooking shop with the idea that our mark-making preschooler could explore the dashes and circles she so enjoys in a new medium. Since she’s familiar with drawing on smooth 2-D surfaces like paper and chalk boards, this was a challenge to navigate the bumpy terrain of a bagel. It also turned into an exercise in selecting colors that would show up against the brown bagel crust (her first color choice of yellow was quickly dismissed for brighter red and darker blue).

You could get the same endpoint, of course, with magic markers and a chipboard egg carton, but then you wouldn’t be rewarded with a delicious edible art snack for all of your trouble.

Yesterday my daughter and husband came back from the grocery store, excited to tell me that they bought me a present! And wouldn’t you know that instead of flowers or chocolate (which would have also been nice, don’t get me wrong!), they brought me coffee filters! We tore through all of ours this weekend in a watercolor-painting-paper-cutting frenzy, and they knew I’d love to have more on hand for future experiments. Art materials don’t have to be elaborate or expensive. They just have to be readily available for those moments when our imaginations are ready to poke holes in their limitations and paint wild colors onto their surfaces.

What are your thoughts on living a creative life?

This post was happily shared with Play Academy @ Nurturestore and We Play