Organizing Art Supplies: Pantry Labels

I know you probably come here for projects to work on with your kids, and I have loads of ideas for you, but I got a burst of energy from a “pantry organization” search on Pinterest (see, poking around online is not a waste of your time!), and got busy sorting my pantry.

Very busy.

The “before” pictures are incredibly embarrassing blury, and I’m sure I’ll share them one day, but for today I thought you might like to see some of the labels and baskets that corale our food stuff.

“Play Food” is where I store our bags of Cloud Dough, Gluten-free Cloud Dough, Beans, Gum Drops, Gummy Bears, and other art-related food things. Click on any of those links to connect with related projects! It’s so helpful to have it all in one go-to spot.

My crafty Fiskateer friend, Angela, sent me a sweet Fiskars corner lever punch that I’ve been using to embellish almost everything, and I added a little bit o’ Tinkerlab font to make these feel extra personal to me.

The best part of this project may be tossing all the outdated food and things we never eat, and making space for the foods we love. I’m already planning our next meal (buttermilk pancakes), which I rarely do at the end of the night.

Halleluja for organizing! Too bad it took me so long to jump on this wagon.

If you’d like to see the the rest of this new series on how we’re organizing our art supplies, pop over to one of these pages:

Organizing Art Supplies: Day One

Organizing Art Supplies: Day Two

How do you organize your pantry? Any tips for keeping it tidy?


Chalkboard Painted Canvas

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Pablo Picasso

Chalkboards…I love them. You? The texture, the dust, and contrast are oh-so-appealing.

When I started to see them disappear from classrooms in favor of dry erase boards, I was a little bit shocked. Dry erase boards are wonderful too, but they’ll never have the same rustic appeal as a chalkboard.

This project began when I found a $3 canvas at a thrift store back in September (it had a print of a cow on it — truly hideous), and painted over it with a few layers of black chalkboard paint. Since October, it’s been filled with these house “rules,” and while I enjoyed looking at them, and even managed to inspire a neighbor to add some chalkboard quotes to her own kitchen, I was ready for a fresh start and enlisted the help of my crew to come up with something new.

And maybe I was feeling a little bit guilty on those days that I just ate buttered toast and wanted to spit. Maybe.

So I pulled the canvas down, wiped it clean with a damp rag, and let the kids go to town.

They loved it.

This is how it looked two weeks ago, and then this week we started all over again.

We also have a chalkboard that’s painted right onto part of our kitchen door, and it gets a lot of use for everything from chicken scratches to make-shift calendars to homemade infographics.

We collaborated on this one: the bunny is mine, the yellow is N, and the pink is Baby R. Funny thing, at least for me, is that back when I was brainstorming names for this blog, I called it Chalkbunny for a couple months before landing on Tinkerlab. So here we have a real, live chalk bunny, which is what we decided to call the little character in my new banner.

Do you have a well-loved chalkboard? What makes it special? And how do your kids use it?


Why We Would Be Lost Without Tape

Are you a “Tape House?”

We love tape in our house, and it gets used for just about everything: taping up wax paper sandwich bags, taping labels to things, taping art table creations together, taping up marble runs, taping up whimsical installations. A roll of clear tape is a fixture on the art table and we have a big box full of colorful paper tape (this tape from Discount School Supply is amazing) that enables my children to realize some of their big ideas. And painter’s tape is irreplaceable for taping up furniture and things that can’t stand up to too much stickiness.

Here’s an example:

We have a basket of diecast vehicles thats almost never taken out, but my one year old wanted to play with airplanes so we got the planes going. I saw this as an opportunity to “paint” some runways on our coffee table with blue painter’s tape.

My older daughter thought this was a great idea, but she had her own thoughts as well. I’m sure that many of you can relate!

First, she requested shorter pieces of tape and blocked my runways off with those vertical lines you see in the photo.

So, I abandoned my runway idea and made some cute little parking spaces.

That was also shot down.

N then blocked my runway with a big “X” so that the plane wouldn’t get away. I didn’t take it personally.

And then I learned the real reason for all this independent thinking!

Apparently a category 5 hurricane was on its way, and the plane was in danger of getting blown away. For extra safety, it was securely taped to the back of a large truck whose windows were also taped shut.

You know, because windows can shatter in a hurricane.

And if that wasn’t enough, the truck + airplane combination was carted off, dropped into a basket, wrapped in a blanket, covered with a pillow, and then sat on…

so that they wouldn’t blow away.

And all this started with a little bit of tape.

Now isn’t that a great way to spend $3?!

I really want to pick up some washi tape like this. Have you used it? Do you have a favorite brand?

What about you? Would you be lost without tape, too?


Organizing Art Supplies: Day Two

This is the second edition of a new series where I’m sharing my messy spaces and process of organizing as I strive to build a more beautiful, accesible, and relaxing space for living and creating (here’s the first post). My friend and professional organizer, Jillian, is spearheading this project — it helps to have company — and this week we tackled so many things: art supplies, coat closet, office supplies, and toy bins. I’ve taken at least three trips to the thrift store (sad…I’ve lost count…shows you how badly I needed to go through this!) and I’ve learned so much about myself and my home along the way!

For our first project, we tackled these catch-all drawers that are home to mailing supplies and office materials. Now everything has a home. Ah, breathing sigh of relief. If you’re planning to join me with your own urge to purge, I recommend beginning in a small area like this. It won’t overwhelm you and you’ll have results in super-quick-no-time. The strategy, really, is to toss/donate/sell anything that you won’t use or have duplicates of. And it helped that I already had the drawer sorters. You’ll need little boxes or sorters to keep small things in their own tidy areas.

I realize now that I’ve been cleaning and organizing AROUND my clutter, which takes so much time and effort. Effort to clean, effort to find things, effort to put things away. It boils down to the plain fact that we have too much stuff, so this first step has been all about clearing the clutter. And once the clutter is gone we’ll have room to dream up fun ways to maximize our space.

Here’s a good example:

Eeek! Overstuffed coat closet!

If your first thought isn’t “Horror,” it could very well be, “you live in California; Why on earth do you have so many winter coats?!”

The same closet, looking down. This may actually be the worse view of the two.

We use the closet for a lot things, but it’s time to clear it out so we can find the best way to use it. Jillian suggested that once it’s empty it would be a great place to it to store our art-making supplies, which is why I’ve been pinning all of these fab art storage closets. Yes to that!

I think N overheard this conversation because the next day she and her entourage set up shop in the now almost-empty closet. They sat there in their self-proclaimed art studio, happily tinkering away with newly-found rolls of paper and markers. This process is hard and time-consuming, but I can already see that it’s worth it!

Have you been inspired to purge? What do you do with all that stuff?

Are you challenged by space limitations? Do you struggle with having too much stuff? Have you succeeded at paring things down, and have a space that inspires you?

10 Steps for Easy Indoor Easel Painting

Some of us are totally comfortable setting up the easel and letting our kids have a go, but I know others who want to hide under a freshly laundered sheet at the thought of setting up what’s essentially a painting extravaganza. And you may be surprised to learn that I can easily fall into both camps!

I don’t leave our easel out all the time because our house is small, it quickly blends with the scenery if my children see it all the time, and lately I get a little stressed when my kids request paint. This is mostly because my one year old is learning her boundaries, and I don’t trust that the furniture and walls are yet beyond her consideration as potential canvases. However, once the painting station is up, I breathe easy knowing that the painting area is as organized as it can be, which will help keep my youngest focused on the task at hand. And it’s worth the effort! Through easel painting, children learn how to hold a brush, they learn to have control over their marks, and they can experiment with color mixing, paint thickness, and variations in pressure (to name a few). The way art teacher Nancy Beal explains the experience of paint mixing emphasizes the importance of learning through doing.

“The paint is in charge. The paint is teaching them. You can’t teach someone to dive into a pool by saying, ‘Walk to the end of the board and jump in.’ He has to get on the diving board himself. He has to do his belly flop into the water and keep doing it until his body teaches him. It’s the same with mixing colors. You have to do it until you know that you can’t get orange by using equal amounts of yellow and red; you have to use more yellow.”

-Nancy Beal, The Art of Teaching Art to Children in School and at Home (pp. 83-84)

Can you imagine only learning colors through a color wheel or crayons? The nuance of color that can be achieved through paint is so varied!

Like following a recipe and making something that actually tastes good, the trick to successful easel time lies in planning ahead and having all of the ingredients ready.


  • Drop Cloth
  • Easel
  • Paint Cups
  • Fat, round brushes
  • Tempera Paint
  • Large sheets of paper + Bulldog clips (if your easel doesn’t have clips) or a Roll of Paper
  • Apron
  • Music


  1. Set up the drop cloth and easel in an open space, away from furniture and walls. Move furniture if needed.
  2. Clear an area or make room outdoors for completed work
  3. If using sheets of paper, clip as many as you can to the easel so that you can easily peel completed work off and your little artist can keep right on painting without too much fuss. Remember, they will be holding at least one paint-loaded brush!
  4. Fill paint containers with a small amount of paint (about 1/3 cup). You can always add more. I like to limit the number of paints with small children. In this case (above), I gave my 16 month old two colors: one for each hand. It was perfect. She likes to paint with more colors, too, but fewer choices makes clean-up easier too!
  5. Place the bottles of paint on a high shelf near the painting area so that you can reload as necessary.
  6. Cover your child in an apron, smock, or old clothes.
  7. Play some music to inspire your little mover/s with rhythm.
  8. Go!
  9. Step back and enjoy the process. Snap some photos. Drink a cup of tea. Email your best friend. Do some online shopping. Okay, dreaming just a little bit here, but it will be fairly stress-free.
  10. When your child is done, pick up the paint buckets + brushes and place them in the sink, wash hands, wash brushes + buckets, wipe down the easel, wrap up the cloth, and put it all away for another day.

What camp are you in? Do you love easel painting or does the thought of it stress you out? What’s in your recipe for easy indoor easel painting?