Permanent Markers on Cellophane

cellophane on window

We received these amazing permanent markers (Project Popperz), courtesy of Elmer’s, and I’ve been dreaming up ways to use them. This is actually almost as simple as it gets, and N got a huge kick out of “drawing on the table.”

Materials

  • Permanent Markers
  • Cellophane (I used Cling Wrap)

I covered her art table with cellophane, being sure to overlap the edges by a few inches so the marker wouldn’t poke through the cracks and onto the table. I could have done a neater job laying the Cling Wrap flat on the table to avoid all those bumps that acted like little roadblocks toward the markers. But, it still worked.

Then we opened the markers and started drawing!
We used every color and scribbled away until we decided to switch seats.
N added more marks and then we were ready to hang it.
I simply peeled it off the table and placed it right on the window. No tape necessary! I bet you could also put the cellophane right on the window/s before drawing to give your child the opportunity to draw on the windows. That would be fun! But be sure those window are well-covered first!

I love projects that are easy, use household materials, and change the way we think about art-making. A+ in my book!

Art in the Park

firework paintings on bag

Can you imagine my excitement when the folks at Elmer’s Glue asked if I’d like to participate as a blogger in their summer Kid’s Craft Camp promotion? Of course I was thrilled that they offered me a humongous crate of wonderful art supplies (featured in this post), but mostly I was thinking about how on earth I could pull off setting up an art “camp” with my three year old AND 10-month old. The crazy thing is that I’m actually a seasoned art camp teacher and spent many hot summers leading hundreds of kids in art activities at the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena. But I’d never attempted this with my own kids…who nap and need diaper changes and whine. You get the picture. But I invited a handful of forgiving friends and it all turned out great! I survived, and if you have any thoughts about setting up your own “Art in the Park,” I’m happy to say that it can be done.

One more thing in case you missed the headline…this is also a BIG giveaway! Details below :)

Project #1: Firework Book Bags

One of the materials that came in the crate were these ginormous double-sided permanent markers called Project Popperz. The children I invited were pretty young, and permanent markers are way far down on my list of desirable materials for this age. However, I recently saw this project on Mom’s Crafty Space and knew we had to try it. And I’m so glad we did — it was fun, a cool science experiment, and the results were stunning. **Note: This project includes permanent markers and rubbing alcohol and should be done with adult supervision.

Materials

  • Project Popperz permanent markers
  • Canvas Bag or other light colored fabric (a t-shirt a dress shirt would work nicely)
  • Board to put inside the bag to keep the markers from bleeding through. We used these Elmer’s Bi-fold boards and they worked perfectly.
  • Rubbing Alcohol 70%
  • Eye dropper

Step #1. Invite some friends to join you.

Step #2. Draw anything you like directly onto the bag. If you want yours to look like the fireworks you see up there, try making circles of dots like those that N is making.

Step #3. Once you have a design that you’re happy with, squeeze some rubbing alcohol into the eye dropper and then squeeze it out right in the middle of the circle. Watch the markers bleed and ooh and ahh at the results. Lovely.

Step #4. Admire your work! Our friend, E, not only made a firework, but she worked on her letters too. Oh, how I love children’s drawings.

Steve Spangler Science shares more about the science of how this works.

Project #2: Sand Paintings

While Elmer’s didn’t send me any of their famous school glue (why, I don’t know — isn’t that what they’re best known for?!), I really wanted to use this stuff. Kids love squeezing the bottles and I knew it would make them all so happy. And since we were at the park, I also wanted to include some sand in a project. At first I envisioned that the kids could just hunker down right in the sandbox to make these, but the artsy side of me opted to color the sand ahead of time. Here’s how we did it…

Materials

    • Colored Sand. Scoop some dry sand into a bowl and squeeze in a healthy amount of liquid watercolors or food coloring. Mix it up until the sand is covered and then spread it out on a paper plate to dry. I let ours dry overnight. Pour it back into the bowls.
    • White Elmer’s Washable School Glue in bottles
    • Colored Card Stock or Sulphite Construction Paper (what we used here — I love this paper. The colors pop and the weight is like construction paper).

Step #1. Squeeze glue into a design on the paper. Encourage children to squeeze it thinly (rather than in one huge pile) to help it dry more quickly. If they just want to squeeze, squeeze, squeeze, I say let them do that instead. It should be all about the process.

Step #2. Sprinkle a handful of colored sand on the glue. Repeat until done.
They all come out completely different, just like the kids who make them.

+++++

Giveaway!

One lucky friend of TinkerLab will receive one adult and two kid craft kits, which amounts to a whole lot of art supplies! Kits include X-Acto scissors, Craft Gel pens, Painters pens, glue sticks, Craft Bond tape, Project Popperz, Bi-Fold Bords, etc. (Sorry, I didn’t get a photo of all the materials that will be included, but it’s more than what you see here!). Packaging will also differ.

To enter

  • Leave a comment here
  • Extra entry: Leave a comment on my Facebook Page
  • Extra entry: Tweet about it. Tag me, tinkerlabtweets, so that I can see it :)
  • Shipping address must be in the U.S. (sorry to all my International friends)
Submissions accepted until 5 pm PST on Friday, Sunday, July 31. Winner will be chosen by Random Number Generator.

Good luck!!

 

Painting on Ice Cream

painting ice cream

If you live in the U.S., there’s a good chance that you’re in the middle of a terrible heat wave. While I can’t make it cooler (sorry about that), I’d like to offer up this cool lesson in color mixing…and it all happens right on top of a chilly scoop of ice cream, sure to help you forget the heat for at least 5 minutes.

Tools

  • Vanilla Ice Cream
  • Food Coloring. Because I like to keep it natural, my new favorite food coloring is India Tree Liquid Natural Decorating Colors. They’re pricier than supermarket food coloring, but they last a long time, the colors are wonderful, and you’ll feel good about feeding your family with natural coloring.
  • Bowls
  • Ice Cream Scooper (optional)
  • Assorted sprinkles and syrup (optional)

Drop food coloring directly onto the ice cream.
Blend it around in whatever way you like.
After you marvel at the rainbow colors on your ice cream, pour on the jimmies, rainbow sprinkles. colored sugar or syrup. Yummy and cool.

Enjoy!

Taped Trees from Observation

tree with support

My older daughter, 3 year old N, likes to look through my library or “read” blogs with me and pick out activities for us to work on. I love it when this happens because then she’s self-motivated to work on a project, it supports my philosophy of educating children through an emergent curriculum, and cuts back on those “failed” activities. I was doing some research for a project I’m working on and stumbled upon a British early childhood education site when N spotted this activity (I want to give credit, but the link was lost). This is a wonderful exercise in observation and it doesn’t require a lot of materials or set-up…my kind of project!

Materials

We began by looking at a tree outside the window to observe and discuss the lines and scale of the trunk and branches. I loved how N’s eyes continuously darted back and forth between the tree and her paper. I suggested that she start with the trunk, so she chose black tape to make two vertical lines. I thought she might be representing the width of the trunk in relation to the branches, but I asked her about it before jumping to conclusions.

She responded that there were actually *three* trunks and still had one more tape stripe to make. Our little tree is propped up with support posts — she was so observant!

Her eyes moved back to the tree so she could take in the branches and leaves. At this point we went outside to get a closer look before returning indoors.

She added leaves in a bounty of colors, saying, “I bet you’ve never seen PURPLE leaves before!” As an aside, we went to the plant store later that week and bought a plant with purple leaves. She was impressed.

This project worked especially well with my daughter because she was able to articulate an image of a tree without having to draw one (something she’s not yet able to do). And it would be an appropriate project for older children as well.

Do your kids like to play with tape too? What kind of tape do you like to use?

First Drawing

drawing together

My kids just reached an age where they hang out and play together. It’s really sweet when it’s sweet, and then not-so-sweet when a civil little game of Row your Boat can turn into vigorous rowing that capsizes the boat and knocks the baby overboard. Or something similar. But here we had a nice afternoon that was full of sketching for everyone, or at least that’s the way I remember it. My memory isn’t so hot these days and the reality is that all hell may have broken loose moments later.

Baby Rainbow (10 months) watched my oldest, N (3 years), make drawing after drawing in her sketchbook, and then she snuck right in, took a pencil for herself, and added marks to her big sister’s sketchbook. As you can imagine, big sister was none too happy about this. So I pulled out large sheets of paper, sat little Rainbow right in front of them, and we had two happy drawing campers.

Baby Rainbow loved this! She seemed to understand that she was responsible for making the marks on her paper, in the same way that she recognizes that pushing a light switch down turns the lights out. It’s remarkable to watch these firsts, full with their “ah-hah” moments, as each succeeding experience builds on these foundations. 

If you have a baby and you’re thinking about this activity, I say give it a go. You could look for signs of interest or just go for it by setting your baby up on top of a big sheet of paper with some crayons or markers (we prefer markers because they move easily and they’re vivid — easy to use and easy to see!). You’ll be rewarded with your child’s first drawing, something wonderful to hang on the wall, and maybe a little marker on the face (look closely and you’ll see it!).

What “first” is your child currently working on?

Driftwood Sculptures and See-Saws

driftwood seesaw

We went to a San Gregorio State Beach, a beach absolutely littered with driftwood and some of the most wonderful soft sand. My 10-month old was in sand heaven! Driftwood sculptures (like the one at the top) spotted the sand for as far as the eye could see. (which wasn’t too far, truthfully, given all that chilly fog at 4 pm!). We were captivated by these and wondered about how they were made, who made them, and who might relax or even live in them.

But when we spotted he driftwood see-saw (!!!!), it was love at first sight. I’ve never seen anything like it and found it to be so simple, yet so captivating.

What are your favorite things to do on the beach?

Photo Documentary with Kids

sidewalk chalk face

Taking time to look closely at the details of life is a skill that comes naturally to many of us, and worth fostering in children who can run like the wind. When we pay attention to details, we develop a healthy curiosity of the world that surrounds us, make comparisons, and notice nuance. And all of these good things contribute to creative and critical thinking. If you’d like to help your child sloooow down, pay attention to details, and smell the flowers (literally!), you could try this fun and interactive photo documentary activity. Your child could take all of the photos or direct an adult to, as mine did!
A few nights ago, the girls and I walked around the neighborhood just before bedtime while my husband cleaned up the kitchen. Lucky me, right?! N, my oldest, truly stops to smell the flowers (it’s a skill we’ve been working on!) and collected all sorts of treasures along the way. When we finally arrived home, we were welcomed by a joyful sidewalk chalk drawing. What a surprise! N and her dad talked about the ephemeral nature of the drawing and how it would probably be gone in the morning, a victim of the sprinklers. So, she asked my husband to take a picture of it….

She enthusiastically shared details with her dad about the walk-adventure we just took, and invited him to join her on a bike ride along the same route (a brilliant bedtime procrastination move if you ask me). And he bit!

So off they went. He brought the camera, and she asked him to take photos of things that she wanted to remember later on…

The first photo: Fuzzy Yellow Flowers

Rainbow Lantana. Did you know that Lantana is poisonous? I love this plant, but with a baby piranha in the house I recently pulled it all from my garden.

Pink Flamingos. What 3-year old wouldn’t stop to check these out?!

Garden Rocks

Green Bamboo

They circled the block and returned home. Happy, tired, and ready for bed!

How do you help your kids slow down and smell the flowers?

Do you have a favorite walk or bike ride ritual?

Mini Paintings

mini watercolor paintings

Do you recognize these materials?

I’m big on repurposing found objects into art, so when I found a plastic slide sheet from my pre-digital days I couldn’t bear to throw it out before giving it the ol’ arts and crafts makeover. If you’re not familiar with these, they’re essentially sheet protectors for slides. I showed the sheet to N with the suggestion that we fill it with mini paintings. She liked the idea, and got busy collecting markers while I chopped watercolor paper up into little squares.

Materials

  • Watercolor paper, cut into small squares
  • Markers or mark-making tool/s
  • Liquid Watercolor Paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Covered Work Area

N wanted to color each of the squares with red marker. Cool!

She started off slow but steady, and I think when she realized just how many squared were ahead of her, her momentum picked up and the drawings became quite sketchy.

A full tray of watercolors was left over from another project, and while there was a rainbow of color to play with, she stuck to violet. She had a plan!

I was amazed by her diligence, and thought she’d certainly make it to the end. But with two squares to go, she called it quits and asked me to help her finish. I’m partial to keeping my hands out of children’s art, but N often begs me to collaborate with her so I helped her complete the project.

+++++

I encourage you to look around your home for objects that could be repurposed into art. My heart melts when I hear N say, “Let’s turn this into art!” And this happens often! While store-bought art supplies certainly have their place, sourcing materials from the environment is a wonderful lesson in recycling, resourcefulness, and creative thinking.

Happy Hunting!

Cookie Sheet Monoprints

drawing patterns on ink for monoprint


When I discovered printmaking after college, I learned how to make everything from intaglio prints to screen prints. I simply adore working in this medium!! Children and printmaking haven’t been an easy combination for me — the inks can be toxic and the materials can take over a space, but I’ve been taking every opportunity I can to bring printmaking down to my child’s level, and each of our printing sessions has been engaging for both of us. There’s so much magic in pulling prints — if you haven’t tried it yet, I encourage you to give it a go. I’ll add links to our other printmaking projects at the bottom of this post.

Monoprinting is a lovely combination of printing and painting. Printmaking is usually defined as a images made in multiples, and monoprints are the exception as each “print” is one-of-a-kind (“mono” meaning “one”). These prints are ridiculously easy to make — you just need a little bit of table or floor space to store the drying prints.

To make these prints, we started with:

N chose a green and blue paint combination. I squeezed a little bit onto the cookie sheet (you can always add more if it’s needed) and she moved it around with the brayer.

I placed a cup of Q-tips on the table for easy access.

Then she used a Q-tip to make marks in the paint. I’m interested in giving my daughter full control of her art-making experiences, and would only step in to smooth the paint or help remove/add paper. I believe that taking on the role of facilitator encourages her creative confidence.

She pressed paper down to pick up the print.

And peeled it back to reveal some printing magic!

So many patterns and shapes were explored.

And of course, no painting activity is complete without the requisite hands-in-the-paint experience!

I often get asked “what do you do with all that art after your child makes it?” If only we could keep every piece! But my house is small and I can’t keep a lot of stuff around for very long. A lot of it gets recycled, a few key pieces are saved in our archive box, most of it is photographed, a few pieces make their way onto our fridge or walls, and the rest gets turned into gift wrap, presents, or cards. Because we used thin paper to make these, they were perfect for cutting up and glueing onto thank-you cards with a glue stick.

More printmaking projects on TinkerLab

Bubble Wrap Prints

Sweet Potato Prints

Abstract Prints using Foam Trays

Sink Mat Prints

Printmaking around the Web

Nature Prints in Sculpey: The Artful Parent 

Leaf Print Garden Flags: Paint Cut Paste

Printmaking with Toys: Childhood 101 

Pool Noodle Printing: The Chocolate Muffin Tree

Watercolor, Leaves, and Saran Wrap: A new way to Make Leaf Prints: The Artful Parent

Glue Prints: The Chocolate Muffin Tree 

This post is shared with It’s Playtime 

Painted Paper Mural

choosing paint for the paper mural

It’s summer, so just about everything we’re doing over here has taken us outside. And I also have a 10-month old who’s far happier outside than in, so I’m busy dreaming up all sorts of things that will keep my 3-year old entertained in the great outdoors. This project could also be easily set up inside — just add a drop cloth to protect your floors!

This would be a fun project for a birthday or block party — with more kids involved the enthusiasm would be sure to build!

Materials

  • Fence or Wall
  • Large Sheets or Rolls of Paper
  • Bowls filled with Paint. I used Tempera Paint
  • Paper Tape
  • Large Brushes

I taped sheets of paper to a fence, placed bowls of paint on the ground with some textured foam brushes, and my daughter took it from there.

I’ve noticed that N has been particular about keeping her paint colors separated! She kept each brush in its color, and that was that! This hasn’t always been the case; when N was younger she was more invested in mixing paint than applying it to paper.

Do your kids have a favorite way to paint?  

Fine Tuning the Mud Pie Kitchen

mud pie kitchen

In case you’re one of the few who doesn’t read my blog religiously (gasp!), we’ve been building a mud pie kitchen in our yard. It began in part as a way to lure my child into our yard, but its popularity with our resident 3-year old has organically turned this into one of our summer’s bigger projects. And the biggest surprise is that it’s been almost entirely child-driven.

About a month ago we started with this. A couple crates, some sand toys, and lots of big ideas. Two weeks later the kitchen was still going strong, so we piled into the car to drive to the Goodwill to search for mud kitchen treasures. 

This is how it looked after our thrift store trip. But did you know that my daughter likes things in their places? I was aware that the hodge-podge pile of dishes and scoopers might eventually keep her away from the outdoor kitchen, so I pulled out a jar of nails for us to hammer in “hooks” for our pots and utensils.

What I didn’t anticipate is N’s interest in hammering the nails in HERSELF! But I should have. This child has three (3!!) wooden hammers and couldn’t scramble into the house fast enough to get one.

She hammered in a few nails, but really enjoyed directing me to hammer nails in specific places.

N’s friend came over and the two of them were so industrious in this new space. It was actually very difficult to turn off the caramel-maker and break up the party at closing time!

And now I think we’re done! I love the order that the hanging utensils brings to the kitchen.

Slide Drawing

slide drawing

My daughter loooooves going to the park and we’re blessed to live in a place that’s teeming with them! So it didn’t take much convincing or prodding to get her excited about setting up this high-energy mark-making activity with me. The juxtaposition of art materials on playground equipment made for a rich, memorable experience, and prompted her to see things from our everyday experiences in a new light.

We gathered our materials — roll of paper ($5 at IKEA, I also spotted this Melissa & Doug Easel Paper Roll for $6.95), crayons, and masking tape — and moseyed over to the park for some Slide Drawing!

There were a couple of other kids at the park, and we waited for them to move toward the sandbox before I covered a slide in a long sheet of paper. N took her crayons to the top and tested them out…a crayon in each hand. I have to admit that I was nervous about monopolizing a slide, so I tried to work quickly and keep a low profile. It reminded me of a when I helped a street artist on a very fun, clandestine night, way back when, with a bucket, brush, wheat paste, and large stack of posters in hand.

The children in the park were curious about what we were up to, so we invited them to join us. It turned out they were more interested in chit-chatting and provoking us than drawing, but having an audience is also an experience. Yay for performance art!

My daughter could have done this all afternoon, but the other kids wanted to use the slide so we wrapped up shop and we’ll return again for more soon. Maybe tomorrow!

Would you try slide drawing?

This post is shared on It’s Playtime