Outdoor Water Painting Experiments

Toddler Art Painting with Water

My friend Diana sent me these amazing photos of her son (almost 2 1/2 at the time), experimenting with water painting. She offered him a couple containers of water and a paintbrush and gave him free reign to paint away. I love how he was able to take these simple materials and experiment with them in multiple ways. He’s enjoying the process of painting while learning about the properties of his materials, making comparisons, and experiencing the effects of gravity.

He squatted down low to get close to the action. The wood deck and porous tiles help capture the full effect of the water’s path.

He stood up high to flick the brush Jackson Pollack style, and discovered how distance could change the process.

He bent over to paint directly on the wood.

And then he painted on the tiles. A different texture with another look.

And finally, he painted on chalk drawings.

This is a beautiful reminder that creative thinking, exploration, and experimentation don’t have to come at an elaborate cost (of time or resources). If the weather is nice where you are, consider taking some water and brushes outdoors with an invitation to experiment. Other surfaces that absorb water nicely are bricks, terra cotta pots, and sidewalks.

What outdoor painting projects have you enjoyed?

Please feel free to share you photos in the comment section.

This post was shared with It’s Playtime, Childhood 101

Flour Sifter

We have a make-shift sensory tub that often makes its way into the middle of our kitchen where we conduct experiments, make “cakes and pies,” and mess around with the feel of stuff. Some of the things we’ve filled it with are dry beans, oobleck, jello, vinegar and baking soda, and rice.

I’m always on the lookout for neat-o objects that might challenge and delight my child, and when I saw this flour sifter in the market I had a feeling she’d love it. And she does. Loves it. I’ve used it maybe once (I guess I’m not picky about eating lumpy cake), so if we were to mark ownership based on usage, it’s definitely hers!

I set her up with a couple plastic containers full of flour, a measuring cup, measuring spoons, a soup spoon, and a crank-style sifter. Once she got to work, she poured a few cups of flour into the sifter and started cranking away, making some great crusty ol’ noises.

She dumped out the flour dregs that didn’t spin through.

And then she had a pile of flour ready to mold into a tiny mountain. This process repeated a handful of times, just long enough for me to do some dishes and start dinner.

What other kitchen tools do you play with?

This post was shared with Art for Little Hands

Drawing Shadows

Today was an on-and-off sunny day, but in those brief moments of sunshine we squeezed in a quick little chalk drawing project that’s a great way to help children look at things from a new perspective, which is a key ingredient in creative thinking.

I talked to N about a plan to draw our shadows earlier in the day, and lamented that it was too cloudy to try it out. When she spotted a break in the weather she was excited to head out and unpack the shadow drawing mystery. And her butterfly wings and bike, which were all her doing, were dynamic props for the activity.

What you need

  • Sidewalk Chalk
  • A sunny Day with a low sun. 2-3 hours before or after noon would probably be a good time to try this out.

We found a good spot with relatively smooth asphalt, and I asked N to choose a color for the drawing. What is it with this child and pink?! She watched closely as I traced around her shadow, and made every effort to hold her bike steady while I captured her image. It reminded me of those wonderful old daguerreotypes, or photos, of people who sat for their portraits for 15-25 seconds! I invited N to try her hand at tracing, but she wasn’t at all interested. I think it was a bit too challenging for her (she’s 34 months). Plus, she was busy being butterfly girl on a bike. Ya know?

Other Ideas

  • Take turns drawing shadows and being traced.
  • Invite your child to dream up props as shadow enhancements (akin to N’s wings and bike).
  • Draw shadows of inanimate objects: chairs, toys, tables, etc.
  • Distort reality by tracing part of a shadow literally, and other parts abstractly.

What else could you do with Shadow Drawings?

This post was shared with Childhood 101

Creative Challenge #5: Plastic Bottles

Make something with Plastic Bottles

In honor of Earth Day, I’d like to raise a little awareness toward the enormous amounts of plastic bottles used around the world, coupled with some thoughts on recycling and upcycling those bottles into creative products. My family is hooked on bubbly water, and while the number of bottles we go through each week is staggering, each of these bottles gets recycled…and occasionally upcycled into art (our Recycled Sculpture project can be found here).

Sobering Statistics

The Challenge

Make something with plastic bottles! Have you cut the tops off to use them as funnels, added them to a marble run, used them as sand scoopers, or turned them into something surprising? The project should be executed by children, but adults are welcome to facilitate or collaborate if the mood strikes!

To join in

  • Use plastic bottles, along with any other materials of your choice.
  • Attach a link to your blog post, a YouTube video, or 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.


Instructions for adding an image file

  • Click on the “Choose File” button (below the “Submit” button)
  • Choose a JPEG file from your computer
  • Type in a description of your experiment into the comment text box
  • Click the “Submit Comment” button
  • Grab the Creative Challenge button and add it to your site, or copy this text into your HTML.
  • For more Creative Challengesclick here.

    How are you celebrating Earth Day?

Simple Balloon Yo-Yo

This springy balloon yo-yo is fun to play with, easy to make, and can be created with things that you may already have in the cupboard. It can also teach children a nice lesson in resourcefulness, helping them understand that toys can be invented from simple objects. In this day and age of toys overflowing from grocery shelves and toy baskets, this is always a welcome lesson in my home!

I was inspired to make these balloon yo-yo toys after seeing this postby Sherry and Donna at Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning.

I attached a balloon to a funnel and filled it with rice. Small seeds or beans would work too. Or you could go with Sherry and Donna’s plan and partially fill with water.

I tied up the end of the balloon and secured one rubber band around it with a knot.

I looped another rubber band onto the first one…

and carried on with this looping and attaching until I achieved the desired length. I used four rubber bands per yo-yo, but this would all depend on the size of the bands and the height of the child (or person using the yo-yo…it could be you!).

After making these, we took our yo-yo everywhere  as a diversion. We were visiting grandma and grandpa at a hotel, and N found a way to entertain herself while everyone finished up with breakfast. If you can believe it, this was the best photo…playing with the yo-yo is active business that turned all attempts at getting a clear photo into a blurry mess!

What toys have you or your kids invented?

This post was shared with It’s Playtime, Craft Schooling Sunday, Childhood 101, Sun Scholars

Dry Erase on Windows

Why use paper and crayons when you can draw on windows with markers?

My husband invited us to visit him during a class he’s teaching on the intersection of design and improvisation (oh how I wish I had time to take this class!).  He brought N a dry erase marker to keep her occupied. Can you find little sister up there?

He led her to the large sliding doors, and suggested that she could draw on them. Lucky kid!

She loved it…

And rose to the challenge. (Haha. I couldn’t resist!)

A couple days later, just before breakfast, we found N sitting on our dining room table, drawing on the windows. Gasp! It was all good once we replaced the magic marker with a dry erase marker. Thankfully no Sharpies were involved!

Thinking about her next drawing move.

Idea in mind, she was back to the window.

Sitting back to inspect and appreciate the handiwork.

This activity is great for pushing the envelope of material possibilities. All you need are a dry erase marker and a good-sized window. Dry erase markers can stain porous surfaces, so be sure to give clear instructions about where the markers can be used. Windows can be wiped clean with a soft rag or cloth.

For more on white board drawing, visit this related post: Wonderful Whiteboarding.

This post was shared with It’s Playtime, Childhood 101, Art for Little Hands

Egg Dyeing Experiments

News break :) If you like TinkerLab, please click on over here and give us your vote.

We won’t win anything, but the attention sure is nice!



I’m excited to share my first inter-blog collaborative project. Are you ready?

Today I’m posting two Easter Egg projects in conjunction with Melissa of The Chocolate Muffin Tree.

After reading about last week’s Rolled Easter Egg Painting, Melissa suggested that we could have gotten extra mileage out of the project if we’d made it a two for one kind of thing. In case you missed it, N and I made paintings by rolling painted plastic Easter eggs all over pieces of paper. When the paintings were done I washed the eggs off, and Melissa’s idea is that we could have kept the eggs painted as decorative treasures. Of course! I loved this idea, so Melissa and I hatched a plan for today’s post: We would simultaneously experimented with Rolled Easter Egg Painting and we’d also share an idea for Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs. You can read my posts right here on TinkerLab, and Melissa’s are over here on her blog, The Chocolate Muffin Tree.

Dyed Egg Experiment #1: We made Rolled Wooden Eggs with wooden eggs, acrylic paint, and glitter. Click here for details.

Dyed Egg Experiment #2: We made Vegetable-dyed Easter Eggs from beets, cabbage, and onions, and used stickers, parsley, and rubber bands to add texture. Click here for more.

While Melissa and I worked with similar materials, our perspectives and those of our children are different, and we hope you’ll enjoy seeing how these experiments transpired in each of our homes.

If you’d like to join the collaboration and share your version of either egg-coloring process (or something entirely different!), you’re welcome to share a photo or link in the comments.

Rolled Wooden Eggs

This is part of a collaboration with my friend Melissa’s blog, The Chocolate Muffin Tree. Scroll to the bottom for a link to her Two for One: Rolled Eggs. Her colors are amazing!

We started with some wooden eggs. Aren’t they pretty?

What we used

  • Wooden Eggs
  • Acrylic Paint. Acrylics will stain clothes, walls, etc. Be sure to cover anything you wouldn’t want permanently painted!
  • Foil-lined bowl for the paint
  • Glitter
  • Container for rolling eggs in
  • Paper cut to fit in container
  • Tongs

N dipped the eggs in some paint, placed them in the container, and then rolled them around. She thinks glitter is almost as exciting as lollipops, and glitter was added liberally!

After rolling the eggs around, the papers took on a life of their own. N used A LOT of paint, which gave the paintings a rich, thick appearance.

And because we used wooden eggs, rather than the plastic ones we used last week, we now have some treasures to pull out and enjoy year after year.

If you’d like to see the other side of the wooden egg collaboration, visit Melissa at The Chocolate Muffin Tree to read about how she and her daughter painted their own wooden eggs.