Salt Dough Ornaments: Part 1

dry salt dough ornaments cookie sheet

Raise your hand if you’ve made or plan to make salt dough ornaments this season! Yep, I see a lot of you out there. It seems we’re not the only ones, but in case you haven’t committed to this yet, I have one piece of advice for you: Give yourself some time!

I used this recipe on ParentDish by Anna Ranson, who blogs at The Imagination Tree. You’ll need 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of salt, and up to 1 cup of water. I mixed the dry ingredients and then added a full cup of water. Gulp. Did you catch that bit about adding up to 1 cup of water? The dough was sooo sticky, so I kept adding equal amounts of salt and flour until the dough held together without sticking to my hands. Okay, back on track…

My 3 year old and I both rolled out some dough and got busy cutting shapes with our favorite cookie cutters. I also gave her a small bowl of flour (you can barely see it at the top of this photo) for her to flour her workspace at will. She loved that, and I can’t believe I haven’t thought of that before. Her ornaments are less than perfect, but she proudly made them herself. Awwwww.

We followed Anna’s suggestion of using a straw to add a hole in each shape that we could later hang a ribbon through. Of course N saw no good reason to stop at one hole per ornament. And why should she?

The next step is to bake them at 100 C for 2-3 hours. OMG — just caught that it was Celsius, and here I was cursing my oven for not going below 170 Fahrenheit. Haha! Now I know why it took, literally, all day to bake these. Okay, so I could have just put my oven at 212 degrees and it wouldn’t have taken forever.

After they were dry, N sorted all the ornaments into hearts, trees, snowflakes, and gingerbread men…and then, of course, her little sister stepped in to mix them all up.

Ready for painting. Click over here for the next step: Salt Dough Ornaments: Part 2.

What kind of ornaments are you making?

Add a Little Learning to Playtime

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Today I’m celebrating the one year blogiversary of my friend Jillian over at A Mom with a Lesson Plan. One year! When you stop to think of about it, it’s amazing what can be accomplished in just one year. A preschooler travels into their first year in Kindergarten, a high school senior becomes a college student, and a mom can start a blog that inspires other parents (and have over 1300 Facebook fans to prove her impact…go Jill!). If you’re thinking about starting your own blog, maybe today is the day. It might not start out pretty, but just think about where you’ll be in one year!

A Mom with a Lesson Plan focuses on preschool sized activities for kids at home, so when Jill asked me to write about how we add learning to our playtime, I thought, “Awesome, because that’s what we do all the time!” Every time children play, they learn, and in turn, each activity is full of opportunities for more learning! So, today I’m sharing how we’ve been learning about measurement by watching our paperwhite bulbs sprout and grow…while wearing pajamas and making silly drawings in the kitchen, of course.

N planted the bulbs (found at Trader Joes) with my husband, and about a week later they sprouted. A couple days later they were noticeably taller, so I talked to N about measuring them, with the long-term idea of tracking their growth.

We have a chalkboard painted on a door of our kitchen where I wrote “Bulb 1″ and “Bulb 2.” N is learning how to write and asked if she could draw the “2.” Of course! (++ adding more learning to our playtime). She asked me about the “1″ that I drew, and said it didn’t look like a “1,” making this another learning opportunity to share that there are different ways to draw numbers. After sorting that out, she added some fab drawings of bulbs to the chalkboard.

Then we got to measuring. I brought out a ruler, which she has lots of practice using as a drawing tool, but not so much for measuring. We counted out the inches, one through 15 (it’s a long ruler!), and I showed her where to look for the inch markers. She’s been really curious about how analog clocks work, and I suppose this touches on a similar concept of recognizing numbers as symbols that represent something else.

We added the numbers to our chart. As you can see, it’s highly technical, so email me if you need specifics :) N is only 3 1/2, so her grasp of charts is limited, but she enjoyed the process of measuring and documenting, and of course drawing!

Children learn through play. It’s inevitable. What does learning look like in your home or school?

More ideas for adding learning to playtime can be found by these bloggers who are are celebrating with Jillian today. You can click directly to their posts through the linky below.

 

It’s Snowing! Contact Paper Collage

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This 2-D activity is fantastic for children of all ages, and it doesn’t require any drawing at all. You’ll see how we did this two different ways, making it suitable for children with various drawing abilities and fine motor skills.

{Bonus: Nine more contact paper project ideas at the end of this post!}

Materials

  1. Contact Paper (links to Discount School Supply)
  2. Scissors
  3. Colorful Construction Paper
  4. Glue Stick
  5. Markers

To begin, I cut a sheet of contact paper (approximately 12″ x 12″) from a roll, peeled the backing off, and placed it sticky-side up on the table. My daughter cut shapes from the paper and stuck them to the contact paper in whatever way she wanted. Then we attached it to a window, using a long strip of contact paper to seal it in place.

Pretty! While working on this project, my daughter talked about making people, which led to a second project that eventually turned into a winter snow scene.

Again, I set up her work space with a sheet of contact paper, sticky-side-up. We both cut shapes from the paper, and N put them in position where she thought they looked right. The nice thing about contact paper is that it’s tacky, but not super sticky, and pieces can be easily repositioned. We did a lot of that!

I cut a variety of geometric shapes (circles, rectangles, and triangles) and a bunch of organic shapes for her to choose from. She also placed requests: In the process of making this person, she asked for long, skinny pieces for the arms and legs. I liked that because it showed that she had ideas and could direct the outcome of her image.

She chose to stick most of the pieces directly to the contact paper, and others were glued in layers on top of other pieces.

Every now and then she’d lift the whole thing to see how it looked with light streaming through it.

She started making a pattern of small circles on the top of the paper, and then decided it should be a snow storm. I got busy cutting circles, circles, and more circles until she deemed that there was enough snow! The big white pieces on the right side are part of a snow bank. Ha! She knows a lot about snow for a California kid!

And we hung it in our sunny, warm, snow-free window when we were done.


 

Having a roll of contact paper in our art cabinet is a life-saver. In case you’re looking for a reason to buy your very own roll, here are nine more ideas:

  1. Contact Paper Sun Catcher: TinkerLab
  2. Sticky Autumn Collage: TinkerLab
  3. Flower Mandala: The Artful Parent
  4. Flower Art Box: The Artful Parent
  5. Fall Leaf Garland: The Chocolate Muffin Tree
  6. So Easy Kaleidoscope: The Chocolate Muffin Tree
  7. Rose Window: The Chocolate Muffin Tree
  8. Animal Collage: Art for Little Hands
  9. Mess-Free Chanukah Pictures: Creative Jewish Mom

Do you have a favorite contact paper project? New feature: Feel free to add a link or an image in the comment section!

Acrylic Painted Pumpkins

painting pumpkins with kids

I’ll keep this short since I’m gearing up for the holiday and I know most of you are busy yourselves, making travel plans (perhaps with small kids…no small feat!), shopping for basters (don’t wait too long — they will run out!), and making Thanksgiving crafts. Speaking of which, I just spotted these nifty pumpkin place cards, and have visions that a simpler cardboard version would be manageable for my 3 year old.

I had another vision, recently realized, of painting our Halloween pumpkins white and calling it a centerpiece. Our house feels mighty cluttered at the moment, and I know it’ll feel even more so once all our relatives come into town, so adding some soothing white seemed to be just the thing we needed. N thought the we should paint them all green, so we struck a compromise that she could paint as many as she wanted with green paint if we could first paint mine white. Don’t you love compromises?!

Once that was squared away, I covered the table with large sheets of paper, squeezed some off-white acrylic paint onto a paper plate, covered my 3-year old with an mama-sized t-shirt, and let her go to town. She’s not keen on getting acrylic on her hands, so I showed her how to twist the pumpkin by its stem, and then paint that part last.

Three pumpkins later, and this is what we’ve got! I’m still working on the whole table set-up, and may move these to a side table, but I think it’s a pretty good start.

Thank you!

I apologize up front if I’m not quick to reply to your comments or emails this week. I’ll be taking a little blog break until Monday so that I can enjoy some quality time with the family.

Thanks to each of you for your ongoing commitment to this site. If you’ve ever left a comment, thank you! Our conversations keep me going and fuel me with more ideas. And if you’ve never left a comment, I appreciate you too! I read so many blogs and myself, usually on the go, and rarely get a chance to say the “hello” that I’d love to say if I could just sit down and find a moment to type. By showing up here at TinkerLab, I’ve become closer to friends I already had, I’ve made some wonderful new friends, and continue to thank the universe for the opportunity to have and build a community of like-minded individuals who make my heart flutter.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

What The Guilty Crafter Can Teach You About Crafting Without Guilt

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An Interview with Angela Daniels, The Guilty Crafter and Lead Fiskateer

Angela Daniels has got to have one of the funnest jobs in the world! A mom of two, Angela left the corporate world and turned her DIY craftines into a job with Fiskars — the scissor company — as a Lead Fiskateer. Cool, right? Well, actually, the title that follows her emails is: Aspiring Domestic Goddess & Lead Brand Ambassador for Fiskars (gasp!), but whatever her title is, she’s rad!! I met Angela at Maker Faire this past summer, and was drawn in by her cheery “turn your t-shirts into flowers” tutorial. Angela is funny and adorable, and I hope you’ll enjoy hearing all about her work while getting inspired to follow your bliss and turn your recyclables into something fabulous.

{Read through for details on how you can enter to win a fabulous craft package.}

First of all, you’re a Fiskateer! Whaaaa?! What exactly does a Fiskateer do (and how did you land such a cool job)?

It is THE coolest job. Basically, I was hired to blog for Fiskars after being a member of their community at www.Fiskateers.com, and then applied to become a “Lead Fiskateer.” I co-lead a community of over 8,000 enthusiastic crafters. I had already demonstrated that I love Fiskars tools and that I have an almost endless supply of energy for blogging and traveling and meeting other crafters. Our whole Fiskateer community is founded on one simple philosophy- share your passion for crafting. That is something that comes naturally to me.

I love how you refer to yourself as a domestic goddess wannabe! Can you tell us more about your background and how you found yourself on this journey?

I was raised by a feminist and I married a man whose mother and grandmother are also excellent role models of feminism. They are smart, funny and find most of their self-satisfaction through the work they’ve done outside the home. I always thought I would follow suit. I had a corporate job for several years but 10 years ago, I had the opportunity to stay home with my 2 kids and, I wish I could say I have never looked back. I DO! I loved my full-time job quite a bit. I got lots of enjoyment out of being good at what I did and working long hours (I was a corporate trainer). It took me a full 8 years at least to settle down and realize I have a pretty good gig at home. Why not have fun with it? Instead of balking at traditional 50′s stereotypes of stay-at-home moms, why not throw on a vintage apron, some pearls while I burn Kraft Macaroni and Cheese? The more I have decided to try and let go of the idea of perfection and not take it so seriously, the more fun I’ve had with it. I can even make homemade macaroni and cheese now. Of course every mom reading this will completely understand when I tell you that my kids much prefer Kraft no matter how truly delicious mine is. Kids. Sigh.

When I met you, you were making these super-cool, simple upcycled fabric flowers at the Make Faire. You have a knack for mixing style with recycling…how do you do it?

Thank you so much. I love showing very short, simple and inexpensive projects to people as a gateway to encouraging them to explore more complicated, larger projects (much in the same way I work with simple, short ingredient list recipes as a fledgling cook). I find my recycling ideas through guilt. Really. My kids attended a Montessori school when they were little and a big emphasis was put on recycling. The idea stuck and I always feel a little guilty about throwing out good basic materials. I’ll keep them (much to my husband’s chagrin) and eventually the materials will inspire some kind of craft or another. One of my favorite materials is the netting you get when you buy fruits or vegetables in bulk. It usually comes in bright colors (orange around oranges, yellow around lemons, etc.) and adds such a fun texture to papercrafting. Being a Fiskateer means Fiskars sends me a lot of tools to try- good creative tools are always a wonderful way to inspire upcycled craft projects.

In all your pictures and videos, you sport some fabulous 1950′s-ish wigs and accessories, and you seem to be brimming with creative ideas. Where do you get your ideas from and how do you feed your creativity?

My energy and creativity can be traced directly back to my dislike for basic housework. The higher the piles of laundry, the more compelled I feel to dive into a craft project and ignore the pile. I suppose a childhood filled with artistic and crafty relatives didn’t hurt either. It was a rare day as a kid that we didn’t have to clear off a pile of art supplies off the dining room table every night for dinner. My dining room table is following in that same family tradition.

Can you tell us more about your new webseries “The Guilty Crafter.” How do guilt and crafting go together?

I have spent so many years doing videos sponsored by various crafting companies and, as much as I have enjoyed that, I know my videos sometimes came across as a little to “corporate.” If you have met me in person and crafted with me, I am much less serious when it comes to my love of crafting. I realized that a lot of times, I was feeling guilty if I spent too much of my time crafting but I also felt guilty if I wasn’t crafting things for my kids. I also feel guilty if I buy supplies and never follow through with using them OR if I follow through but my projects didn’t look they belonged in a magazine. After spending time with Kent Nichols (producer and co-writer of AskANinja.com), he found my conflicting feelings humorous and suggested that we collaborate on a video series that shows crafting from a real crafter’s point of view. My projects are quick, easy and cheap and guilt goes, I really can’t win so I decided to embrace those feelings and see if other crafters out there feel the same way.

Here’s an example…

I read that you take the statement, “I’m not creative at all,” as a personal challenge. What would you want someone who feels lacking in creativity to know or think about?

I come from a long line of women who simply do not cook. Almost at all. We’re not foodies and I think all of us, if we lived alone, would survive on olives, cheese and wine. I spent the first few years of my marriage telling people, “I can’t cook at ALL” and couldn’t ever understand why people would insist that cooking is EASY. Until I opened my mind to really giving it a try a year ago. To my surprise, cooking (which can be a creative outlet) can be fun. Sometimes I mess everything up (okay, a lot of times) but quite often, I make something almost tasty and my family loves that. I had to kind of go through that process to understand why people balk at crafting. It’s the same thing. You have to be willing to let go of perfection, enjoy the process and allow yourself those moments when you can think- hey, that’s not too bad! Good for me! And you have to laugh at the burnt dishes and the ones with missing ingredients and be okay with scrapping the whole thing and opting for fast food some nights.

Where can we find more of you?

You can find me at all these places under both “AngelaDaniels” and “GuiltyCrafter.” I continue to share random ideas on achieving my goal of domestic goddess status on my personal blog at www.angeladaniels.squarespace.com. I am clearly obsessed by all the inspiration there is to find and share on the internet!

Exciting Opportunity!!: If anyone is interested in becoming a Fiskateer, email Angela directly at angela@fiskateers.com.

More of Angela Daniels online:

WebsitesFiskateer WebsiteAngela’s personal blog
Twitter: GuiltyCrafterAngelaDaniels, Fiskateers
Facebook: Angela’s Facebook page, The Guilty Crafter

Giveaway!

Angela has generously offered to give away one fabulous prize package that includes her number one favorite tool- the Fiskars Hand Drill, a pair of Fiskars scissors, Angela’s favorite self-stick stamp set, and a few surprises. Oh, how I wish I could win this fun prize!

To enter: Just leave a comment and share something that you feel guilty about (if you’re guilt-free, pat yourself on the back and leave a nice comment instead). The winner will be chosen by random number generator. The giveaway is only open to US addresses. Deadline to enter: Monday, November 28 at 9 pm PST.   Thank you to everyone for your funny, heartfelt, and entertaining comments! Lucy has been selected as the winner and the giveaway is closed

What’s One Word to Describe Your Child’s Art Materials?

word to describe art materials

I posted this question on Facebook yesterday, and I loved reading the responses so much that I thought it would be worth sharing here. The comments were surprising, fascinating, and fun, and I’d be delighted if more of us join this mini conversation. In case you’re wondering, the first idea to pop into my mind was “accessible.” My friend Rebecca said, “My son’s art supplies are… Mine. He’s a total clepto and steals sharpies and other stuff ALL THE TIME!!” Ha! What’s your word? Bonus point for the story behind it.

Here’s the list so far…

If you’re interested in art material inspiration, check out my list of 50 Art Materials for Toddlers or The Artful Parent’s 11 Great Art Materials for Toddlers.

What’s one word to describe your child’s art materials?

If you’re a teacher, what’s one word to describe your classroom’s art materials?

 

New Life for a Melissa & Doug Box

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My 3 year old, N, received a Melissa & Doug Deluxe Stringing Bead set from her grandparents that came in a lovely, wooden, shallow, lidless box. Lidless, with tiny beads inside. And this is marketed to little kids. Whaaaat?

Dear Melissa & Doug: Can you please, pretty please make lids for the boxes that house your fabulous toys? Thanks!

Here’s how the problem unfolded…

My daughter unwraps the gift and peels off the top layer of plastic film…on an airplane. She happily plays with the beads, strings them up for a solid 20 minutes, and then puts the beads back into the lidless box and sets it down on the tray table. Meanwhile, my one-year old decides that this would be a good time to climb off my lap and over to her sister. And of course she has to bolt over the tray table to maneuver her crawling body toward the window seat. You can imagine what happened to all the beads. ::Sigh::

While the box was fairly useless as a storage container, it promised other possibilities as a shadow box/painting substrate. So I saved the box, and, as my mom would say, turned lemons into lemonade.

To get this started, I covered a work area with large sheets of paper, squeezed some acrylic paint on an aluminum foil covered plate (the colors were my daughter’s choice), and gave her a handful of paintbrushes to work with. There were no instructions aside from a casual question of “what could we do with these paints and this box?”

She got about this far before calling it quits. It was a good exercise in repurposing cast-off materials, color selection, paint brush manipulation, and pattern + sequence discovery. I think I’ll pull it out another day for one more pass with the paints and possibly some additional bits and bobs that she can collage to the box, and then perhaps we’ll give it another life as a piece of art on one of our walls.

So maybe I should stop complaining and thank Melissa & Doug for the cool shadow box?

Any ideas on what we could do with our box?

 

Make and Takes, the book {Giveaway}

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When I started blogging waaaaay back in 2010, Make and Takes, a crafty blog run by former kindergarten teacher Marie LeBaron, was one the first amazing kid craft blogs to enter my radar. One of my favorite things about Marie’s site is a section called Spotlight, a collection of the best food and crafts submitted by readers. The photography makes me drool (not a pretty image, I know) and she does a great job curating the best ideas for us all to pick and choose from.

Well guess what? Marie just wrote a book, and we can all have Make and Takes on our shelves for the holidays.

Here’s a little blurb from the publisher (Wiley):

“Highlighting the best of each month of the year, Make and Takes for Kids offers 50 projects to make with kids, each centered around an upcoming holiday or season. The ideas are unique and simple to produce, and each project is thoughtfully constructed and designed to create an ideal environment and setting for crafting. Each craft requires little preparation, few supplies, and almost everything can be readily found at home or at a local craft supply store.”

In the same spirit as Marie’s blog, the photography in the book (by Nicole Gerulat of A Little Sussy) is gorgeous. As my 3-year old flipped through our copy she kept saying, “I want to make that! And that! And that!”

N finally settled on making a craft foam bracelet (the one in the book falls under February: Valentine’s Day). She selected the ribbon, a few sheets of craft foam, and then started cutting away. I was directed to punch holes and cut a heart (to match the one in the book, above). N wanted to wear it right away, but then complained of it scratching her wrist after a few minutes, at which point she proclaimed that it would be “a decoration.”

Kudos to Marie on writing her first book!! If you’re looking for more craft books like this, or more inspiration from the publisher, you can click over to Wiley’s craft page: http://www.wileycraft.com/ or follow Wiley on twitter: http://www.wileycraft.com/ @wileycraft

Make and Takes should be available at all major book stores and online at Barnes and NobleAmazon.comWalmart.comWiley.com

GIVEAWAY

If you’d like a chance to win your very own copy of Make and Takes for Kids, please leave a comment and share your child’s favorite art or craft project. The winner will be selected at random, and must have a U.S. shipping address. Deadline to enter: Wednesday, November 23 at 9 pm PST. Comments are now closed.

For an extra entry, tweet about this and add my handle @tinkerlabtweets and the hashtag #mtbook

Five Easy Steps for Talking with Children about Art

peter wagner sculpture

5 Easy Steps for Talking with Children about ArtHave you taken your kids to see any good art lately? As a an art museum educator I spend a fair amount of time thinking about how adults can help children talk about and make sense of art. But why is this important? Talking about art is good for kids’ minds: it helps them think critically, develop strong reasoning skills, pay attention to nuance, and explore new ways of interpreting the world. But facilitating a rich discussion about an abstract expressionist painting or a life-sized bronze statue can be daunting to many adults who don’t feel like they have enough knowledge about art to share it with their children. Does this describe you?

Well, here’s a little secret: Information is not important. What’s important is helping children find ways to describe what they see. If you understand a basic methodology for discussing art with kids, you’re good as gold and your children will enjoy the process of discovery that unfolds.

I’ll give you an example: There’s a new wall-sized installation at the Stanford Business School by artist Peter Wegner. On a recent walk through campus, it caught my attention and captured my 3-year old’s imagination. Take a sec to watch this video and see what you think.

Pretty cool, right? I hadn’t seen it before and wasn’t prepared with any questions or ideas before discussing it with my daughter. We were both curious about what it was and how it worked, so we stepped up close to take a good look at it. I noticed that the color chips were flipping like pages in a rolodex (remember those?!), and that the whole thing morphed in seemingly endless ways. It was mesmerizing. N didn’t say much, but after she looked at it for a few minutes I asked her, “what do you see?”

She noticed that the colors were shifting, wanted to know how the colors moved, asked where the on/off switch could be found, mentioned the sound, wondered about the label, and asked if she could touch it. As you can see, there were a lot of questions! And a lot of questions that I didn’t have answers to! I turned a lot of her questions back around at her, which compelled her to think critically and look more carefully at the artwork. Here’s a conversation example:

Me: “How do you think the colors can move?”

N: “Maybe someone is behind the wall, pushing the colors forward,”

Me: “What do you see that makes you say that?”

N: “I think someone has to be back there because I can’t see how it moves.”

It didn’t matter if she was wrong or right; what mattered is that she was invested in the artwork enough to think for herself and think critically about the piece by reasoning through her ideas. After we chatted more about her questions, I suggested that we step far away from the piece and look at it from a different perspective, and then I again asked, “What do you see?” This time she talked about how small everything looked, how she could see everything at once, and which colors she could see the most of at any given moment.

 Because she noticed the label when we first began our conversation, we walked back up to the installation to talk about it. I explained what I could about what I read. I shared that we can look for labels next to art pieces in sculpture parks and museums in order to find clues about the artwork. In this case, we could find out the artist’s name, birth year and place of birth, title of the piece, year it was made, and the materials the artist used. But that’s all the label had to say…there’s so much more that can be discovered through close observation.

When we got home, she wanted to make her own color installation, so my husband suggested post-it notes as the medium. She loved this idea, requested a step ladder, and began sticking a sea of color on one of our walls.

The methodology I used with N is grounded a research-based teaching strategy called Visual Thinking Strategies. I’ve used this strategy with children and adults for years and have seen it pull amazing ideas out of the quietest participants. It’s usually introduced to children when they reach Kindergarten, but you can try it as I did with younger children who can carry on a conversation.

Five easy steps for talking with children art with children

  1. Find real art. Looking at a real piece of art can be a far richer experience than looking at a reproduction (like a poster)You don’t have to go to the “best” museum to make this happen, just find something that captures your child’s imagination. Talk about art in your home or look for a public sculpture in a town square. 
  2. Be open-minded. Expect that the child will have his or her own ideas about the art, and try not to interject your own ideas of wrong + right into the conversation.
  3. Encourage careful looking. Get up close or take a look from a different perspective (up high, the side, far away, walk around it)
  4. Ask open-ended questions such as “What do you see?”, What’s going on in this picture/sculpture/installation/etc.”and exploratory questions such as “Do you have any ideas about how the artist made this?”, “If you could add something to this artwork, what would you like to add?”, “If this artwork could talk, what might it say?”, “What would you title this piece?”
  5. Look for an opportunity for related art-making. Making art can help strengthen a child’s understanding and critical thinking skills as they interpret what they saw in two or three-dimensions.

Do you have any tips for successful art discussion with kids?

Sensory Experience | Water Beads and Kids

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Water bead and Kids | A fun sensory Experience | Tinkerlab.com
Have you played with water beads yet? They’re surprisingly fun and addictive!

If you’re even remotely connected to Pinterest or a fan of any of my fave blogs, there’s a really good chance you already know about these spectacular little sensory Water Beads by Aqua Gems. If it hadn’t been for the magic of the internet I never would have known these even existed, let alone tried them as a tool for exploration and discovery.

Supplies for Water Bead Sensory Experience

  • Water Beads: I found ours in the floral section at JoAnn Fabrics, but if you can’t find them near you, you can easily find them on Amazon.
  • Tray with edges
  • Water

Water beads and Kids | A fun sensory Experience | Tinkerlab.com

Step 1

I set up our DIY light table and then N filled the top with about 1/2″ of water.

Water beads and Kids | A fun sensory Experience | Tinkerlab.com

Step 2

Pour the tiny aqua gems into a small container for for your child to add to the water.

Water beads and Kids | A fun sensory Experience | Tinkerlab.com

Step 3

Scoop the beads and drop them in. Watch them grow. This is great for teaching patience, and it’s fascinating to watch the beads absorb water.

Water beads and Kids | A fun sensory Experience | Tinkerlab.com

Our Experience with Water Beads

As my child mixed them up, we marveled at how they grew….slowly….growing….slowly…(good lesson in patience!). N played with them while her sister napped and we set them aside for a couple hours. After snacks and a romp outside, this is what they looked like.

And it turned out that 14 month old Baby Rainbow enjoyed them even more than big sister. I was super cautious at first because little things that look like food go in the mouth, but after a few watchful “not for eating”comments, she was good to go.

Water beads and Kids | A fun sensory Experience | Tinkerlab.com

I tucked the light table under a kitchen cabinet and Baby R has gone back to dig it out at least five times since. I think she’s fascinated by the texture of the beads and can’t seem to get enough of them. I still keep a close eye on her when she uses them, but it’s helpful to know that the gems are non-toxic. In fact, she’s intently playing with them as I type. So maybe this post is really about “how to entertain your little one while you get things done.”

One last thing, the beads look really cool with light shining through them, but it’s not a deal breaker if you don’t have a light table. A clear bowl on a sunny day or in a well-lit room will work well too!

Water beads and Kids | A fun sensory Experience | Tinkerlab.com

More Water Beads

For more Water Bead fun, check out Messy Kids’ Creepy Crawly water beads  and The Chocolate Muffin Tree’s Water Bead fun. And related to this, you might also be interested in the FAKE SNOW that we recently made.

Water bead and Kids | A fun sensory Experience | Tinkerlab.com

Have you introduced your kids to Water Beads?

What are your favorite materials for sensory play?

My 14-month old is well-supervised when playing with Aqua Gems. Please use your best judgment when introducing young children to small objects.

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Most Awesome Local Blog!

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We recently visited one of our favorite Bay Area kid spots, the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito, and stayed until the kids could play no more. If you’re local, or just might visit San Francisco with young kids, definitely bookmark this as a destination. There are views of the Golden Gate bridge, wonderful nature-based exhibits, and when you walk in you’re greeted by this sign…

It pretty much sums up why I love this place so much. And it turns out that I’m not alone. Hundreds, if not thousands, of other people agree, as the Bay Area Discovery Museum was just named the Most Awesome Museum by Red Tricycle readers.

And you know what else? I nearly tripped over our sandbox when I learned that TinkerLab also won its category: Most Awesome Local Blog!  I was nominated with some other terrific blogs, and could only half believe the news. I’m already a huge fan of Red Tricycle, a free email newsletter of amazing things to do around town, so of course this made me drool with delight.  If you happen to live in the cities they serve: SF, Seattle, Portland, L.A., or San Diego, do check them out!  One last thing, two of my favorite blogs in Seattle and Los Angeles also won — Teacher Tom and The Twin Coach. Oh my!

Okay, so back to the Most Awesome Museum: We were so busy playing in the toddler zone and outside that we only had time for a photo drive-by of the art studio. I always love to see what they’re up to in there, and on this trip they had open-ended exploration of paper and tape. Families were invited to add their creations to the growing paper chains that dangled from the ceilings. I could totally imagine a version of this in my home!

On the way out of the Museum I spotted these plastic-bodied butterflies that were screwed right to the wall. Wouldn’t these look cool in my backyard?

So thank you, Bay Area Discovery Museum for another fun day, and to each of you who voted for TinkerLab and shared this blog with your friends. Not only is it an honor, but I’m also thrilled to consider that our creativity boosters may enter the consciousnesses of more parents, teachers, and caregivers.

If you have a favorite museum, I’d love to hear about it. Please feel free to share a name or link in the comments.

Gluten-free Cloud Dough

gluten-free cloud dough

 How to Make Gluten-Free Cloud Dough

Gluten-free Cloud Dough

After I posted our Cloud Dough recipe last week, Amy from Kids in the Studio wanted to know if it could be adapted into a gluten-free cloud dough recipe. What a good question!

This isn’t the first question I’ve received about gluten-free recipes since starting this blog, and I realized that I should be more thoughtful about sharing information that can help parents and caregivers provide rich learning experiences for their children. The original recipe is simply a combination of 8:1 flour  to oil, so in the spirit of experimentation, I thought we’d replace flour with rice flour and see what would happen.

Gluten-free Cloud Dough Recipe

  • 8 cups rice flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • A few drops of Lavender oil (optional)
Mix the rice flour and oil together in a big bowl until the oil integrates into the flour. Add a few drops of lavender oil (or other favorite scent) to give your dough a yummy scent. Place the dough in a big high-walled tray or bin. Children can play with the dough with just their hands, or add scoopers, mixers, and small pots.

If you haven’t bought rice flour before, it’s not inexpensive, and I can see why Amy asked the question! I mixed 2 cups of organic rice flour with 1/4 cup vegetable oil until the oil integrated into the flour, and then shook a few drops of lavender oil into the dough to give it a soothing smell. So far, the main difference I could see is that the rice flour made for a slightly grittier dough, but otherwise it was lovely. The real test would be my kids. I put it in front of my 14 month old, and you can see that she was in sensory heaven. My 3 year old wanted to join in, enjoyed it, and never commented on a weird texture of the dough. As far as I could tell, she didn’t know the difference.

If you make this gluten-free cloud dough, I’d love to hear from you. And if you have a favorite gluten-free recipe to share, please add a link or recipe in the comments.

Experiment with Gluten-Free Cloud Dough

  • If you don’t have access to rice flour or if you feel like experimenting, try the same ratio of flour to oil with garbanzo flour, gluten-free baking flour, corn flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, or arrowroot starch.
  • Change the ratio of flour to oil and see what happens, as the suggested flours and starches (above) will combine differently with the oil.

More Play Doughs

If gluten-free dough doesn’t concern you, here are more dough recipes to try:

This recipe for the BEST play dough.

Non-gluten-free cloud dough.

Glow-in-the-dark play dough