Tinkering Spaces: Jean Van’t Hul of The Artful Parent


amily Art Studio rom artfulparent.com

Today I’m joined by the inspiring and talented Jean Van’t Hul of The Artful Parent, who I’ve invited to kick off a new series of informative interviews that center on designing kid-friendly creativity spaces, or tinkering spaces. If you’re scratching your head because you can’t figure out where to put your children’s art materials, hatching a plan to turn your laundry room into an art room,  or shifting furniture to make room for a new easel, these interviews are sure to give you food for thought.


RACHELLE: Welcome, Jean! Your blog,The Artful Parent, is a huge reason why I’m blogging today. You’ve inspired many parents like me to begin their own Toddler Art Group, your writing is so friendly that I often feel like I’m chatting with you over a cup of coffee, and now, lucky for us, you’re writing a book! I’ve watched your art studio grow and change along with your children and I’m excited to have you here today to share some insights about setting up a functional home art studio.

JEAN: So glad to be here! I love your blog too, Rachelle, especially your generous approach to experimentation and creativity.

Tinkering Spaces Interview with Jean Van't Hul of The Artful Parent | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: Thanks! You have an adorable, functional studio space that I would love to call my own. Can you tell us a little bit about this space and how it got started?

JEAN: We moved to our house when my older daughter, Maia, was almost a year old. I’d been reading books on children’s art and wanted a space to use for art. The house is small, but there is a large laundry room at the back with a cement floor. Perfect for kids art! I painted over the fake wood paneling, gave the cement floor a coat of paint, set up a coffee table to use as a toddler-sized art table, and invited one of Maia’s toddler friends over for an inaugural art experience (feelie goop). Over time we added shelves, more art supplies, different tables, and an art drying wall.

Tinkering Spaces Interview with Jean Van't Hul of The Artful Parent | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: If you had to be selective, what are three things that you love the most about the space?

JEAN: Well, I truly don’t think a child needs a fancy art space in order to make art. A table and a few supplies are enough—whether they are in a corner of the living room or just at the dining table between meals. That said, here are three things I especially love about our studio:

  1. The wall of shelves my husband added. There are low shelves where I keep art materials accessible for the girls and also high shelves where I keep art materials that I don’t want them to use without supervision.
  2. The drying wall, which doubles as an art display wall.
  3. My IKEA adjustable tables—a generous gift from my toddler art group mamas! The table top is a wipeable laminate, which is so perfect for art.
Tinkering Spaces Interview with Jean Van't Hul of The Artful Parent | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: You recently posted about updating your creative space to accommodate a five-year and a toddler (and of course, the Toddler Art Group). How did you change the space to welcome children of different ages and various developmental stages?

JEAN: I was mostly just more selective about what materials I kept within reach and what I put higher. Also, I had to think about (and adjust) easel and table heights. Beyond the actual art space, I had to reconsider how and when I let my older daughter do art. The one-on-one kinds of projects we were used to were hard to do with a needy baby/toddler with us, so we started doing more simple projects and saving the more ambitious projects for naptime. I also began setting up a variation of the big sister art project for the toddler. It’s getting easier again to do a wider range of activities and Daphne is joining in more and more.

Tinkering Spaces Interview with Jean Van't Hul of The Artful Parent | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: Your children are prolific art-makers! What do you do with their art as they make it and how do you organize and store their completed projects?

JEAN: They certainly are prolific! And I can’t say I always keep up. I try, but the art piles up! I do have a simple storage system that has worked well for me. I use plastic storage boxes labeled with the child’s name and age. We also use artwork for birthday and holiday cards, wrapping paper, and gifts.

Tinkering Spaces Interview with Jean Van't Hul of The Artful Parent | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: You’ve written a lot about your favorite art materials, and I’ve discovered my favorite watercolors and paper for young children through you. What five supplies are indispensable to you and your kids at this moment?

JEAN: It’s so hard to keep it to 5!

  1. Liquid watercolors
  2. Washable tempera paint
  3. Paper
  4. Markers
  5. Homemade playdough

Those are the five that get the most consistent use. But how can I leave off contact paper?! Or collage materials? Or tape and glue?! Really, the supplies that are indispensible are whatever the kids are working with right now. How’s that for an answer? 🙂

Tinkering Spaces Interview with Jean Van't Hul of The Artful Parent | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: If you were only restricted by your imagination, what would your ideal children’s art space include?

JEAN: I’d have to say that our art space is pretty ideal for us right now. If I were wishing for more, I might add a sink right in the studio for washing hands and brushes. Also, morning sunlight. And a studio elf to keep it clean.

We actually don’t do the majority of our art in the studio, though. A lot of our art making and creative activities happen at the dining table or the nearby kid-sized table. There’s something to be said for having an art space (even if it doubles as an eating space) right in the thick of things and in the midst of family life.

Tinkering Spaces Interview with Jean Van't Hul of The Artful Parent | TinkerLab.com

RACHELLE: You also seem to be an avid sewer, and I know that many of us would love to find more time for our own creative pursuits. Between blogging and writing a book, how do you carve out time for your own projects? And where do you work on them?

JEAN: Ask me again in a few months!

Parenting is my priority time- and energy-wise right now and my own creative pursuits often take a backseat to what I can do with my children. But I have started to think about how I can embrace my own creativity and see what that might mean to me at this point. I’m not even sure. I’m considering trying out an evening art class and possibly a photography class. We’ll see…

RACHELLE: Is there anything else that you’d like to share?

JEAN: Thank you for inviting me here, Rachelle! I hope we can talk in person someday!

RACHELLE: I hope so too; that would be so much fun. Thank you for joining us today!

Do you have an inspiring Tinkering Space to share?

If you have an art studio, maker space, or tinkering garage that you think our readers would be inspired by, we would love to hear about it! You can fill out this short form and we’ll be in touch.

More Tinkering Spaces

You can check out the rest of the TinkerSpaces in this series here. 


You can learn more about Jean on her inspiring websiteThe Artful Parent and follow her on Facebook.


Jean has graciously offered to share a 2012 Artful Parent Calendar with one lucky reader. Around the Year with The Artful Parent: Celebrating the Seasons and Holidays with Arts & Crafts” is no ordinary calendar. This one is chock-full of ideas and inspiration to keep you and your family artful throughout the coming year. Each month features at least one seasonal art or craft activity complete with photos and instructions. By keeping this calendar handy, you’ll have an attractive visual reminder to add a bit more art into your family’s life throughout the year.

Readers who leave a comment by Monday, December 19 at 9 pm PST will be entered to win a free copy of the Artful Parent calendar. Winner will be chosen by random number generator. Open internationally. Giveaway is closed.

 

How to Make a Gingerbread House Using a Mold

Have you ever made a gingerbread house? 

Last year, my 2-year old and I made super simple graham cracker gingerbread houses. I’m not even sure if you can call them gingerbread houses since they were made from graham crackers. Hmmm.

But making a real, bonafide gingerbread house: this was new territory for me, and I wasn’t prepared for how much trouble I would have with it.

After a few tears were shed and lessons learned, I thought I’d share my experience and a host of others so that you won’t have to go through the growing pains I went through.

How to Make a Gingerbread House (using a mold). Shhhh...it's still homemade. :) | TinkerLab.com

Use a gingerbread house mold

To make our house, we started with a Gingerbread House Mold similar to this one (affiliate link). You simply make the dough and then press it right into the mold. Brilliant!

To make it even simpler, we made a batch of gingerbread with the recipe from the Trader Joe’s gingerbread baking mix. So easy.

My kids enjoyed pressing it into the mold and my 3 year old helped pop the cookies out once they cooled. So far, so good!

How to Make a Gingerbread House (using a mold). Shhhh...it's still homemade. :) | TinkerLab.com

Candy Toppings for Gingerbread Houses

While the dough was cooling, we went candy shopping! Mmmm. This may have been the funnest part.

Since this was mostly new to me, I asked my Facebook friends for recommendations and they had the BEST ideas (clearly, my fans are professionals).

How to Make a Gingerbread House (using a mold). Shhhh...it's still homemade. :) | TinkerLab.com

Are you ready for this?

Candy for Gingerbread House Decorating:

  • gumdrops
  • M&M’s
  • marshmallows
  • mini candy canes
  • rainbow nerds
  • dried fruits and nuts
  • life savers
  • ribbon candy,
  • colored frosting
  • gingerbread men/trees to add to scene
  • pretzels for a fence
  • sweet tarts and those candy necklace candies
  • Christmas Captain Crunch with tree shapes
  • star shaped cookies from Trader Joe’s
  • skittles
  • jellybeans
  • cut out fruit strips into shapes
  • gingerbread shaped marshmallows
  • tootsie roll for a chimney, Pretzel squares for windows
  • crystal like sprinkles for a special touch of snow
  • sifted powdered sugar and cotton candy to look like snow
  • Twizzlers
  • red hots and mint
  • swirled red and white mints.

How to Make a Gingerbread House (using a mold). Shhhh...it's still homemade. :) | TinkerLab.com

I made a batch of royal icing, the same way I made it for our gingerbread cookies, but I added a bit more powdered sugar to thicken it. Traditionally, royal icing is made with egg whites, but because I knew my kids would lick their fingers I opted to go with this meringue powder version instead.

RECIPE FOR ROYAL ICING

  • 1/8 cup Meringue Powder
  • 1/4 cup Cold Water
  • 2 cups sifted Confectioners Sugar

Add water to meringue powder and beat until soft peaks form. Add sugar into the mixture and beat until it’s the desired consistency. Add more sugar for stiffer icing.

How to Make a Gingerbread House (using a mold). Shhhh...it's still homemade. :) | TinkerLab.com

I made individual houses out of graham crackers for our neighborhood friends, and we all worked on the big house as a collaborative project.

How to Make a Gingerbread House (using a mold). Shhhh...it's still homemade. :) | TinkerLab.com

Oh, we ran out of graham crackers, which is why some of the houses have this funky shape. Sigh. Maybe next year I’ll be more prepared!

Thankfully, our friends didn’t let on if they minded. We’re lucky to have such kind neighbors.

More Gingerbread House Ideas!

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy 7 Ways to Make a Gingerbread House

Drizzle + Paint Gingerbread Cookies

Mmmm, gingerbread cookies. After making our salt dough ornaments (and having one of our friends try to eat one…yikes!), we thought it was high time to make real, edible cookies. My mother-in-law’s gingerbread recipe is truly the best one I’ve tried, but when I discovered that the Gingerbread Cake and Baking Mix from Trader Joe’s could be adapted to make cookies, and all I had to do was add an egg + butter, I was sold.

We rolled out the dough, selected our favorite cutters, and cut our shapes. If you’ve never made gingerbread cookies, give yourself an hour to chill your dough before you plan to work with it. Even with refrigeration, the dough is pretty sticky and required a fair amount of flour to keep it flexible and off the counter.

I filled a piping bag with royal icing (dry hard icing). My MIL uses more of a buttercream frosting, which is delicious, but I thought we’d have some fun “painting” with the royal icing. Most of the royal icing recipes you’ll find ask you to make it with raw egg whites, but I wasn’t comfortable with that, especially since I’m feeding these sugar bullets to kids! Instead, I used meringue powder. I happened to have some in the pantry, but you can find this at specialty groceries and Michaels craft store (so I’ve heard). And low and behold, it can be found on Amazon.

Recipe for Royal Icing

  • 1/8 cup Meringue Powder
  • 1/4 cup Cold Water
  • 2 cups sifted Confectioners Sugar

Add water to meringue powder and beat until soft peaks form. Add sugar into the mixture and beat until it’s the desired consistency. Add more sugar for stiffer icing.

I fit the disposable piping bag with a small, round #4 tip, gave my daughter a few suggestions on how to hold and squeeze the bag, and let her go to town. We started with white icing, and then I mixed the remaining icing with all natural yellow food coloring on my daughter’s request.

Once the icing firmed up, we moved the cookies to a nice, clean plate where we could admire our handiwork.

And eat some cookies.

Mmmm, I hate to say this, but these gingerbread bites rivaled those from the original recipe.

I picked up three more boxes today. Yum yum.

Next up: Ginger Bread Houses!

What are you baking for the holidays (with or without the kids)?

Feel free to add a picture with your comment!

 

 

How to Make a Holiday Paper Star

How to make a paper star

Today I’m going to share how to make holiday paper stars with your kids.

If you have young children, the first half of the project will be kid-centered as they color and decorate the paper as they like. Once that’s done, adults will assemble the stars.

Okay, are you ready?

how to make a paper star

Supplies – Giant Paper Stars

  • Two pieces of thin paper – we chose large sheets, but small would also work
  • Mark-making tools
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • String

I found an easy, workable tutorial at The Magic Onions for our paper stars.

decorate paper stars

I cut large squares from four sheets of 24″ x 36″ drawing paper. You know, the trick where you fold a triangle in the paper and then snip the excess rectangle off?

I taped that extra rectangle to the table so that my daughter had a place to store her rubber stamps and pens.

Pine cones and snowflakes in a limited palette of red, green, and silver.

Snowflakes, sea stars, and Stars of David. That’s how we roll.

The tutorial over at The Magic Onions is really clear, so I won’t get into the details here, but suffice to say that once you make one, you’ll want to keep cranking them out. They’re so simple!

I used Elmer’s Craft Bond Extra Strength Glue Stick to seal the paper right up. Worked like a charm.

Waiting for it to dry.

I cut a piece of cotton string, about 3′ long, so we could hang it from the ceiling, and taped it about 3″ inside one of the points.

Then I ran a line of Elmer’s School Glue under the string to give it extra support and along the edge of the point. A little clamp helped keep it all together.

hanging paper star diy

Sticking the pieces together. This was a little tricky. I placed the pointy face of one star in a bowl, rested the other star on top of it, and added bits of school glue to hold it in place. I gave it overnight to dry, but school glue seems to dry in under an hour.

hanging holiday paper star diy

There you go! 

Since I already the drawing paper, stamps, and string, the whole thing cost $0.00! But the materials are so low-cost and flexible anyway, that I bet you could do it too with wrapping paper and ribbon after opening gifts on Hanukkah or Christmas. Or make them from all the extra art work your kids bring home from school. Newspaper colored with potato prints. What do you think?

Six Tools for Building a Child’s Confidence

“As you become more clear about who you really are, you’ll be better able to decide what is best for you – the first time around.” – Oprah Winfrey

One of my close friends recently asked me what I hope my children will take with them into adulthood, and it sort of stumped me. I think about things like this all the time, but the hard part was consolidating it into an elevator pitch. After a big pause when I thought about experimentation, creativity, and exploration I said, “I want my children to be confident.Confident in their ideas, confident in who they are, and confident that they can make things happen.”

Having confident children is a big idea to unpack, and getting there is full of multiple moments and lots of moving parts. As a parent, you don’t always know if you’re on the right path, but there are some touchstones that can help guide the way. Since my oldest child is only 3, I can only see so far into her future, but we seem to be headed in a good direction.

6 Tools for Building a Child’s Confidence

Tool #1: Experimentation
We create  opportunities to try new things. I set up science experiments like this one with dry ice, I encourage her to follow her curiosities (what will happen if I drop rainbow sprinkles in my milk?), and yesterday she wanted to mix sugar into her water to see what it tasted like. If it’s safe, why not?

Tool #2: Independence
We set up multiple areas of our home where our kids have free access to materials that build creativity. This is our self-serve mail center where she can find envelopes and stamps to mail cards on a whim. We also have a self-serve art cabinet and unlocked kitchen drawers where she has access to kid-friendly knives and cooking tools. The last thing I want to imagine is sending my child off into the world, but I know it’s something that I need to prepare her for.

Tool #3: Imagination

When I talk with my daughter I encourage her to consider all sorts of alternate realities. I’ll ask questions such as, “What do you suppose would happen if…?” or “If we could hop on an airplane this afternoon, where would you like to go?” When she draws I never make assumptions about what I see on her paper. What may look like a boat to me may be a kite to her. When I’m not sure, it’s best to comment on what I do know (I see you used red and blue crayons) or ask open-ended questions (can you tell me about your picture?).t

Tool #4: Exploration

Understanding materials and their properties takes time. This one is about digging deep and spending enough time at something that it becomes second nature. My one year old spends about 15 minutes at this chalkboard each week. 15 minutes isn’t a lot of time, but it becomes a long time when it happens week after week. I rotate the materials that I offer her, and give her time to explore them. One day it might be small chalk, another day it’s sidewalk chalk, and another day it’s water and long paintbrushes. In the long run she begins to understand how a chalkboard is different from a piece of paper or a white wall.

Tool #5: Innovation

Testing things out in various contexts. This one is harder for me to pinpoint, but it centers around the novel combination of materials and ideas. The blue and pink tool that you see in the photo is a stuffed animal maker, but my daughter used it to grind coffee in her mud kitchen. In another example, my friend’s one year old put a bucket on his head and pretended he was football player. Children do this naturally and it’s important to support and encourage this kind of out-of-the-box thinking.

Tool #6: Curiosity

Curiosity leads to discovery, and discovery builds confidence. With my daughter watching carefully, I filled about 50 water balloons on this hot day. At some point she declared that she wanted to know how to fill balloons too. While it was tricky to secure the balloon to the hose, she was motivated to figure it out and inevitably found a way to fill them. Discovery! Look and listen for moments of curiosity that can be turned into opportunities for learning and discovery.

Interested in more? Read about 3 more tools that build a child’s confidence.

What tools do you think are important for building a child’s confidence?

 

Creative Challenge 7: Magazines

Today I have something extra cool in store for you. Kiwi Crate and I are bringing you a super-star line-up of rockin’ kid-friendly bloggers for a no holds barred invitational kid-centered magazine challenge, and an extra-special Kiwi Crate box giveaway at the end of this post. Each of the 20+ bloggers spent some time tinkering, plotting, creating, and playing with their kids to come up with an activity that your kids will enjoy. After you read about how we manipulated and upcycled our magazines, spend some time checking out all the other ideas. Bookmark them or pin them, because you’re sure to need these ideas on a rainy or snowy day. Okay, do you have a cuppa ready? Here we go…

I spent about 20 minutes ripping pages from my favorite alumni magazine. Do you ever read yours? Loved the school, but sadly, the magazine just rolls right into my recycling bin each month. So I happily rolled the glossy pages of ho-hum stories into tubes, taped them with clear tape, and added them to a tall vase. The next morning, my 3 year old woke up to this provocation: Magazine tubes, clear tape, a stapler, and a bowl of stickers. I didn’t have a plan and was curious to see where she would take it.

She started by taping the tubes together, ignored the stapler and stickers completely, and then found another roll of tape so that I could help her. Right, tape is popular. Must remember that!

This is how it began.

Then she cut some tubes down to smaller pieces. How could I have forgotten the scissors? Tape and scissors…check. But that’s okay, we must have about 20 pairs and she knows where to find them.

Oh, and she loves ribbon too. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother with provocations when she knows her own mind. She found a few rolls and brought them over to the table. We created this structure together and then she wore it on her head for part of breakfast.

The next day her dad took a turn at the table and this is what they came up with. I’m fascinated by it because my husband has a huge thing for hanging sculptures. I mean HUGE. It’s a wonder I’m not constantly banging my head on things that hang from our ceilings.

 He screwed an eye-hook into the ceiling, tied a piece of ribbon through it, and hung their masterpiece over the couch.

When standing on the couch, my daughter can bat at it, so I think I’ll call it an interactive hanging magazine sculpture. 

Creative Challenge Participants:

Child Central Station , kids in the studioTeach MamaThe Imagination Tree,Childhood101Teach Preschoolhands on as we growArtful ParentPaint Cut PasteA Mom With A Lesson PlanToddler ApprovedKiwi CrateArt 4 Little Hands,  Red Ted ArtThe Chocolate Muffin Tree,  Imagination Soup,Michelles Charm WorldMessy PreschoolersTinker LabMommy LabsPutti Prapancha, Sun Hats and Wellie Boots


Giveaway!

Kiwi Crate has generously offered to give away one crate box to two randomly chosen winners. Each box includes all the materials and inspiration for 2-3 projects related to a theme (e.g., dinosaurs.)  Projects may include arts and crafts, science activities, imaginative play and more, and have been hand-selected and kid-tested to be open ended and encourage curiosity, exploration and creativity! I love Kiwi Crate because it embraces the same process-oriented activities that I promote on this blog, but it’s all packaged up beautifully and delivered right to your door. To enter, leave a comment with your child’s age/s and favorite upcycled materials. And then hop on over to the Kiwi Crate blog for another chance to win. Winner’s address must be in the U.S. Deadline for entry: Monday, December 12, 9pm PST. Comments Closed. Thank you to all of you for your comments. The winner is Susan P! 


 

Your Turn…

What would you (and your kids) make with magazines? If you have a kid-centered magazine project that you’d like to share, please add your link to the blog hop or comment section below. And feel free grab the button or copy the text into your HTML. Tinkerlab Creative Challenge Code:<a href=”http://tinkerlab.com/challenges/” target=”_blank”><img style=”border: 2px;” src=”http://tinkerlab.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/tinkerlab-challenge-button.png” alt=”Tinkerlab Creative Challenge” width=”150″ height=”150″ border=”2″ />

Salt Dough Christmas Ornaments and Decorations

Salt Dough Recipe | TinkerLab

Salt Dough Christmas Decorations

In the first part of this 2-part salt dough ornament post I shared the salt dough recipe and how to bake it here. In this post I’ll give you my best tips for painting and decorating salt dough ornaments with kids.

Painting Salt Dough Ornaments | TinkerLab.com

Let me start by saying that these were made as a collaboration between me and my 3-year old. I love how they turned out, and how my 3 year old can proudly share gifts from her heart with her friends.

Supplies for Salt Dough Christmas Decorations

Note: This list contains affiliate links

  • Acrylic Paint. This set gives you a wide variety of colors.
  • Small paintbrushes. A set like this will give you a variety of brush sizes and choices.
  • Table cover
  • Glitter. Martha Stewart makes a set that comes 12 colors.
  • Apron
  • Water jar for cleaning brushes
  • Rag for drying the wet brushes
  • salt dough ornaments

paint salt dough ornaments

 

Less you think everything comes together like magic over here, I found that this project involved a lot of *stuff* and have eight tips that will make it more fun and less headache…

Set up your Ornament Painting Station

  1. Gather your materials ahead of time.
  2. Cover the table. Acrylic paint will not easily come off of surfaces and clothing.
  3. Set this up outdoors. Always a wise move if glitter is involved.Even if it’s freezing, it’ll be worth it. No glitter? Indoors will do the trick.
  4. Palette: Use a paper plate for a palette and squeeze small amounts of paint on the plate.
  5. Paint: Use acrylic paints. Don’t mess around with tempera. Acrylic is archival and the ornaments will look beautiful when you take them out year-after-year. FYI: Acrylic paint will not wash out of clothing.
  6. Add some shine. Use glitter or metallic paint. Make it sparkle. It’s the holidays, after all!
  7. Limit the palette. I limited ours to red, white, and green. For Chanukkah, you could use blue, white, and silver. With young children, fewer paint choices make things simpler.
  8. If you follow these steps, when you’re done, all you should have to clean are the brushes and hands.

How to Make Christmas Salt Dough

Painting Christmas Salt Dough Ornaments | TinkerLab.com

N got pretty good at painting the ornaments while maintaining minimal contact with the paint.

Painting Salt Dough Ornaments | TinkerLab.com

She wanted to use glitter glue, sometimes all by itself and sometimes on top of paint. The beauty of having a ton of blank ornaments is that they’re ripe for painting experiments. No two ornaments were the same.

Painting Salt Dough Ornaments | TinkerLab.com

Painting the glitter glue was fun, too.

Painting Salt Dough Ornaments | TinkerLab.com

And then we pulled out our entire glitter collection! There’s no stopping us from…

Painting Salt Dough Ornaments | TinkerLab.com

…dumping the glitter like snow, all over the ornaments and workspace. Once more, so happy that I took this project outside. And lucky that it wasn’t a cold or windy day.

Painting Salt Dough Ornaments | TinkerLab.com

And there they are, ready to be strung with ribbons and hung somewhere festive. The glitter sticks right to the acrylic paint, but as a final step, you could seal these with clear acrylic medium like this, which would help keep all the loose glitter on the ornament and off of everything it brushes against.How to make salt dough ornaments with kids | TinkerLab