Pop up Paper Zoo {Free Download}

elephant back

pop up paper zoo download

Back in September I wrote about how we made a Pop-Up Paper ZooThis is one of my favorite posts because the project is child-directed and it can lead to imagination-building and experimentation.

At the end of the post, I asked if anyone would like to have a PDF template so you could make these yourself. There were some “yeses” in the room, and I have to apologize for taking so long to follow up on this promise.

Of course, you may find it’s easy enough to draw your own animals (I know ours were less-than-perfect, but my 3-year old didn’t mind a bit), but sometimes it’s nice to have the heavy-lifting taken care of.

I drafted up an elephant and a giraffe to get you started. I tried to make these nice enough that you could use them for a classroom, playgroup, or gift them to a friend. To make more animals you could download a free animal font such as this one from Swiss Miss, find your favorite animal/s, and adjust your font size to the size you want the animal to be. And then you’d want to trace it or use it as a template. Oh, and keep in mind that printing these on CARDSTOCK will give you the best results.

What do you think? I received good feedback on the DIY Paper Bag Book PDF that I shared earlier this week, so maybe this is a new direction for me?

Okie doke, that’s it…You can download the 2-page FREE PDF here.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and how (and if) you could use something like this. Do you print my posts for homeschooling? Do you like to print your favorite projects from your favorite blogs? Are you purely digital, and printing never happens in your home?

 

DIY Paper Bag Book with Japanese Binding {Free Download}

Tinkerlab DIY Paper Bag Book cover.001

You might know that I’ve been working on a fun project with the San Francisco Children’s Creativity Museum DIY Studio Space. Each month for a full year, we’re developing creativity-boosting invitations for children who visit the museum. If you visit the Studio this month you’ll find an assortment of interesting found materials and a host of ideas for upcycling books from these materials.

And in case you didn’t make it to the CCM this month, I’m giving away a free project download: Tinkerlab DIY Paper Bag Book

The cover is made from a paper lunch bag, the inner pages are made from any paper you like, and it’s bound with a traditional Japanese 3-hole binding that elementary-age children could do with a little assistance.

Children will work through spatial reasoning and learn about a traditional binding method through the process of binding. They will also explore different recycling possibilities through the selection of materials. And once the book is made, children can fill it with sketches, stories, stickers…the possibilities are endless.

This is new to me and I’d love to hear your thoughts: Would you rather see all the steps in a blog post or do you like having it in a sweet and tidy PDF?

Back From Blissdom

blissdom sign

How was your weekend?

I’m back from a jam-packed weekend at the Blissdom Blog Conference in Nashville where I was lucky enough to room with one of my blogging heroes, Jean Van’t Hul of The Artful Parent. In case you were wondering if Jean is as awesome in real life as she is on her blog, the short answer is YES. Rather than share those embarrassing photos I threatened to post, this one captures us quite gracefully, I think.

jean van't hul and rachelle doorley

I learned a lot from another blogging hero, Tsh Oxenreider of SimpleMom.net, who talked about writing. Did you know it’s a no-no to use emoticons and exclamation points in a blog post? I rarely use them in my posts as it is, but if you don’t mind, I need to get them out of my system!! :)

Thanks. Okay, moving on…

Tsh also talked about working hard, and just how hard she has to work to accomplish her goals. She actually said, “you must work crazy hard.” But she also said you have to work “smart hard.”

Yes. I needed that. I’m the kind of person who will keep going and going until there’s nothing left in me. So I’m searching for ways to find my voice, get the work done, and then move on to bed, a yoga class, or away from my computer.

tsh oxenreider blissdom 2012

If you’re nerding out on this stuff, I also learned a lot about blog law from Sarah Hawkins and how to authentically brand yourself from Tami Heim. Both of these women are worth following!

And finally, Blissdom was like one great big 2+ day cocktail party with lots of hand shaking, blog recognition, and card exchanging. Exhausting! Oh, sh*t, there’s another exclamation point. Last one, I swear. While all of us shared blogging in common, the topics of our blogs were so diverse (homeschooling, fitness, homesteading, baby wearing, DIY decor, frugal living, fashion).

One of my favorite cards came from Allorahandmade. She attached a handmade rosette bobby pin to each card. Right on. And a lesson to the rest of us in branding and making ourselves memorable.

blissdom 2012 business cards

I’m energized by all the new ideas, but mostly I’m thinking about restructuring my work life to make more room for relationships and my own spiritual well-being. I’m tossing the term life balance out the window, and replacing it with a new model for finding peace. Peace is attainable, and it’s more realistic.

I can’t expect to do it all, but I can forgive myself if things don’t happen the way I want. We may not always eat a home-cooked meal. My house might not be as clean as I want. I’m just me, and there are only so many hours in the day.

Wishing you a peaceful day!

rats, there’s one more.

What words do you live by? Are you searching for life balance or making peace with where you’re at?

Week in Review: Nine Big Ideas in Creativity Education

girl scouts

Here are some of the bigger stories in creativity education that inspired me this week:

1. The North Carolina Museum of Art received a $2 million grant from GlaxoSmithKline and its N.C. GSK Foundation to create a project called “The Big Picture” which aims to use art to enhance learning. Woo-hoo! Arts and Museum eduction, all wrapped up into one big, creative grant package!

2. A study by University of Chicago researchers has found that children who play with puzzles between ages 2 and 4 later develop better spatial skills, from Times of India.

3. TIME Magazine’s Time For Kids just released a new book, TIME For Kids Big Book of Science Experiments: A step-by-step guide, reviewed by Geek Dad of Wired Magazine.

4. A thoughtful article from Americans for the Arts on why institutions of higher education should include a focus on Arts Education.

5. Parents Play a Crucial Role in Building Kids’ Interest in Science and Math. The Girl Scouts released a study on teenage girls’ attitudes toward math and science. “Two-thirds of the girls who reported an interest in science, math or engineering had mothers or fathers who encouraged these interests, as compared to only one-third of girls who reported little interest in STEM.” While their organization is clearly focused on girls, they claim the study’s findings hold true for boys as well as girls. Click the article for more.

6. Andre Dubis III, author of House of Sand and Fog, shares how creative writing diverted him from a path of violence.

7. Are you thinking about sending your child to an arts camp this summer? You might want to read: Fingerpaint or Fine Arts: How to Choose and Arts Camp. From Saint Louis Times.

8. Get your kids in the kitchen and feed them for life. Says Katie Workman, Editor-in-Chief of Coooksr.com, “Like any skill, the older you get, the more difficult it is to learn. They will understand and appreciate food in a deeper way, they will be comfortable in the kitchen, they will develop broader palates, and they will be able to entertain people, which is an undervalued and ever-shrinking asset. You will be giving them a new place to discover things and be creative.”

9. An inspiring idea! Children in India participated in a Street Play Contest that helped build creative thinking. Designing their own performances based on big idea themes, “The kids showcased their creativity and poise while they broke the formal barriers and propagated social issues.”

10. What inspired YOU this week?

 

 

I’m heading to Blissdom!

business cards for blissdom

packing for blissdom

I’ve been busy packing for a big trip to my very first social media conference! (Special thanks to my husband’s parents for taking my children to the park so I could make that happen!). I haven’t been to a conference since my pre-kids years, and look forward to soaking up some adult energy and making some new friends while developing my thoughts on how Tinkerlab might grow.

Hmmm, to say I look forward to this is sort of an understatement.

I’m sooooooooooooooo excited! Woo-hoo!

There are some great sessions that I’m dying to attend, like DO LESS as a Life Strategy (can I tell you how much I need this? And to be certain of just how much, I’m sure I’ll be taking copious notes while uploading photos to Instagram. Sigh).

But maybe the part I’m the most full of anticipation over is that I’ll be rooming with Jean Van’t Hul of The Artful Parent. We’ve become online friends through our blogs (see my interview with her here), but have never met before. Crazy, right? In the last year I became good friends with Jen from Paint Cut Paste, and I have to tell you how strange it is to first come face to face with someone from your online community. Have you ever experienced this? It’s like seeing a movie star, right? But then I know that weirdness will soon fade into familiarity, and we’ll hang out deep into the night like Jen and I do now :) I promised Jean that I wouldn’t share any embarrassing photos of her next week, but maybe I’ll post a photo of us in our fancy clothes. What do you think?

business cards for blissdom

So my bags are almost packed and my business cards ordered. Thank you, Tiny Prints, for shipping them in one day!

But in the middle of all this excitement, it dawned on me that I’ll be away from my little friends for such a long time. I watched them chat and play last night at dinner and all of that cuteness overload made me want to pinch them and eat them right up. I know it’s just a few nights, but it’s hard to envision how it will be on the other side. I’ve only been away from my youngest for one night, and that was sort of a big deal, which seems to makethis a super big deal. We talked a little bit about how I’ll be on an airplane, but I’ll come back. She enjoyed this story, and I hope she can find a way to cope with the situation when she learns it’s more than just a story.

design table for the kids for blissdom

I set up an invitation for my kids to make and design things after I go. I’m sure this will be totalled within minutes, but it makes me happy to see it like this, ready for their ideas to take a physical form.

Although I’ll be away, I’ll still be here. Be sure to check back tomorrow for a fun roundup of creativity education ideas and resources that inspired me this week.

Have you taken any life-changing trips? How have you dealt with leaving your little ones behind?

Microwave Puffy Paint

puffy microwave paint

Who wouldn’t love a good experiment that combines mixing flour + watercolor paint, and zapping it into puffy magic in the microwave?

When I saw this inspiring post by Rashmie at Mommy Labs, who in turn was inspired by Tammy over at Housing in a Forest, I knew it was something that my 3.5 year old experimenter would love to try.

We mixed a batch of puffy paint from water, flour, baking soda, salt, and liquid watercolors. See Rashmie’s post for all the deets.

I poured the mixtures into these awesome Nancy Bottles from Discount School Supply.

And N made some cool designs on cut-up manilla file folders.

We zapped them in the microwave and they came out looking like this. I think my ratio must have been a little off because the texture isn’t as puffy and beautiful and those over at Mommy Labs, but my 3-year old was ENAMORED by the process and kept making them until we ran out of paint.

What a fun way to spend an afternoon. Thanks, Rashmie!

How to Entertain a Toddler with Pom-Poms and Bowls

toddler sitting in plastic container with pom poms

My toddler loves and adores all little things.

Especially those tiny little things that are on the do-not-give-to-little-kids-who-mouth-everything-that-comes-their-way lists. I guess it’s a casualty of being the second child to a 3.5 year old sibling, but I suppose the good news is that she’s building an understanding of what can and can’t go in the mouth.

To play to our strengths, I set up this invitation to play: pom-poms, bowl, yogurt container, and a mini ladle.

bowl of pom poms for play

Materials

  • Tub full of various pom-poms
  • Small bowl
  • Mini ladle
  • Large yogurt container with a hole cut in its top

The invitation

Lay it all out and see what your child comes up with.

toddler sitting in plastic container with pom poms

Not at all what I expected, but I’m digging it.

toddler scooping pom poms

And of course there was lots of scooping, filling containers, spilling, and dumping.

toddler invitation to play with pom poms

This is great sensory activity for building fine motor skills and developing color, size, and volume understandings.

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Is it Magnetic? Testing Objects for Magnetism.

magnets and water

How was your weekend? We took a mini-vacation to play in the snow and I enjoyed a little computer break along the way. I thought I could get online with my phone, but it turned out that the reception was horrible and I’ve been completely out-of-touch! It was probably a good thing, as I could really focus on my family and be as rested as possible when my one-year old woke up, inconsolable, for 2 hours in the middle of the night! I also want to formally thank my good friend Melissa from The Chocolate Muffin Tree who checked in to make sure I was okay! How lucky am I?

I’ve been on a science kick lately. Maybe because my 3-year old is completely self-serve in the art department or maybe because I’ve checked every science for kids book out of our local library? If you’re in the market for a great book of kids science experiments for ages 8 and up, I checked out The Science Explorer Out and about: Fantastic Science Experiments Your Family Can Do Anywhere (Science Explorer Out & about)and it’s phenomenal. It was written in 1997 and looks a little bit dated, but the concepts are solid and it stands the test of time. If you’ve ever been to San Francisco’s Exploratorium or if you’re familiar with their publications, you’ll feel connected to this book.

magnet and water experiment materials

Today’s experiment is similar to one we’ve done before with paper clips +magnets (Traveling Magnets), and this takes it up a notch with a few more magnet surprises and discoveries. Here’s what you’ll need…

Materials

  • Glass or vase of water. Thin glass works better than thick.
  • Pipe cleaners and/or paper clips
  • Strong magnets
  • Scissors
  • Small magnetic and non-magnetic objects

pipe cleaners in water experiment

Cut the pipe cleaners up and add them to the vase of water and mix them up so the pipe cleaners sink. Three-year old N loved doing this step herself.

Using your magnet/s try to pull the pipe cleaners up the side of the vase. Once they reach the top, you can retrieve them or drop them back in.

It’s like fishing!

testing magnets experiment kids

This opened up a conversation about what would stick to the magnets, so I pulled out a handful of small metal and non-metal objects for us to test.

Meanwhile, my 1-year old enjoyed stirring the water and fishing pipe cleaners out with her hands.

testing magnets experiment kids

N understood that the magnet would only stick to metal and quickly ruled out rubber bands and post-it notes from the “Is it magnetic?” list, but we also learned that the magnet wouldn’t stick to ALL metals.

And that was a surprise!

magnets on hardwood floor nails

One of the funnest surprises, however, was when a magnet fell onto the floor and stuck to a hidden nail! We dropped the rest of our magnets onto the floor and flicked them from nail to nail, watching them dance from floorboard to floorboard.

One more thought — I kept a close eye on my 17 month old throughout because our magnets are so tiny — just a thought that you might want to do the same or find some big magnets for the under 3 y.o. crowd.

What did your weekend look like? Have you been able to take a technology break? And have you had any fun magnet discoveries?

 

 

How to Build a Simple Clip Fort

how to clip sheet to the table for a fort

how to build a clip fort

How was your Valentine’s Day? We had a drizzly pre-Valentines romp in the park with friends and I spent Valentine’s morning leading a fun docent training workshop at the San Jose Museum of Art (SJMA). Under the leadership of Education Director, Lucy Larson, SJMA one of the most visitor-centered museums around. It’s not a huge museum, which means it’s easy to navigate with squirmy kids, and if you ever take a docent tour you’ll be surprised at how much the docents care about what YOU think. No stuffy lectures here!

So backing up a bit, I’ve been clearing the clutter from my house (see herehere, and here) –what a slow job that is with two little kids running around the house! — and I found a huge stack of sheets that we really don’t need anymore. We gave a few away to our favorite thrift store, but before I parted with all of them I asked the Tinkerlab Facebook community for ideas on what we could do with this bounty of potential fun. So many great ideas came my way that I decided I’d try a bunch of them out. So today I’m starting with building a simple fort with sheets and big kitchen clips. This activity is perfect for little kids and helps foster imagination and invention, while giving kids the opportunity to build with everyday materials.

Materials

how to build a clip fort under the table

Start by assessing your room for fort-able furniture. Anything heavy with lots of head space is good — if the piece is too light it has the potential to tip over. Move things together and shift your furniture around. Some ideas: couches, dining tables, coffee tables, kid art tables. Look for places to clip your sheets, move the sheets around and twist the corners and edges until you and your kids are satisfied with the results, and BAM — you have a fort.

These steel wire clips (above) don’t have as much reach, but I use them for just about everything in my kitchen so they’re plentiful in my house. They’re great for clipping to thin things under 1/2″ wide.

how to clip sheet to the table for a fortI’ve had these forever and couldn’t find them online, but they seem to be similar to ng this big clip (with round magnet on the back so you can stick it to the fridge when you’re not turning your house into a faraway tent planet).

clip a sheet to the coffee table

This is one of our favorite set-ups: scooting the coffee table up to the dining table for an low entry that rises for easy sitting (and sleeping). My three year old dragged a few pillows and blankets inside for an extra-snuggly spot.

take a blurry picture of your dadI was busy snapping photos when N asked if she could take a drive with the camera. So she turned the camera on my husband who is so game, and she wiggled down onto her belly to take this shot. I have a heavy camera, which makes for some wobbly (but happy) photos.

I recently came across this site, All For the Boys, which hosts a weekly Fort Friday post. It’s awesome, and if your kids like building forts you’ll get all sorts of inspiration over there. Not to mention, Allison takes photo submissions and might include your fort on her site. In her words: “If you want to share a photo of your fort to inspire us send them to info[at]allfortheboys[dot]com and I’ll share them here on Fort Friday.”


Do your kids like to build forts? What do you like to make them with?

 

6 Kids Valentines Day Activities

6 Kids Valentines Activities

6 Kids Valentines Activities and Homemade Valentine Gifts

We’ve been crafting up a Valentine’s storm, which mostly means that three-year old N has been collaging all our self-serve bits and bobs of Valentine goodness into a taped-up, glued, and spackled hodge podge of Valentine craziness. In other words, we’ve been having fun, but it’s not something anyone else would likely take inspiration from or worth blogging about!

That said, we have been playing with an amazing batch of Valentine play dough that’s always good for open-ended exploration and imagination-building. And, for my 1.5 year old, it’s great for hand-eye coordination and fine-motor skill development. 

valentine play dough

I keep my play dough in a big sealable bowl or zipped bag, and it will last for months. I use this recipe, and it’s hands-down the best one out there for the play dough job. Here are the ingredients, but click over to the recipe for all the deets:

valentine play dough station

The Ingredients

  • 2.5 cups water
  • 1 1/4 c. salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. cream of tartar
  • 5 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2.5 cups flour
  • Food coloring or liquid watercolors. I really like Wilton Icing Colors or Liquid Watercolors (from Discount School Supply), which make gorgeous shades of play dough to match any occasion, mood, or toddler request.

 

For our Valentine Play Dough Station, I made a batch of white dough and a batch of dark pink, and then the kids helped me loosely mix them together to make this fun, mottled Valentine concoction. Oh, and we added peppermint oil to the mix to give it a nice, fresh smell. This would be perfect for Christmas too…something to keep in mind for later.

valentine play dough

I gave my kids a new set of heart-shaped cookie cutters, which proved to be too difficult for my little one to effectively use on her own. But that didn’t stop her from trying! I cut a few shapes for her, which she really enjoyed pulling out of the dough and then breaking into three or four pieces. Some of the hearts were too challenging for her to pull out on her own, so I’d break the dough walls, which helped her remove the hearts somewhat intact.

She also enjoyed playing with the rolling pin and practiced rolling snakes.

valentine play dough

I was recently asked which of our art materials is absolutely indispensable, and while there are many, play dough is one of those materials that appeals to a wide variety of ages because the threshold is so low. Very young children know exactly what to do with it, and as children get older their ability to manipulate it and use it for imaginative play grows along with them.

Play dough, I love you…Happy Valentine’s Day!

Interested in more Tinkerlab-style Valentines?

Deconstructed Valentines

deconstructed valentines

Valentine Garland

Valentine Garland With Kids

Self-serve Valentines

self serve valentines

All-in-one Valentine Envelope

all in one valentine envelope

Valentine Snack

cut out valentine snack

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

 

Tinkerlab on Instagram

stanford barn
rainbow whirly birds

Rainbow Whirly Birds

Hi all! It’s been a rough couple of days with a one year old who’s not afraid to fight sleep. I think she’s teething, but who really knows, and coffee has been getting me through the days. I had big ideas about sharing Valentines projects and more paper bag experiments, but the reality is that I have a huge pile of dishes to contend with and bags under my eyes.

today's chalkboard drawing

today's chalkboard drawing

 

However, I’ve been able to snap a few shots of our creative days via Instagram, and thought you might like to see a snapshot from our lives. I’ve been a fan of Instagram since it first came out, and just set up a Tinkerlab account, and if you’re an Instagram fan too, maybe you’d like to follow me!

stanford barn

stanford barn

I like to take the girls on field trips, and last week we wandered over the Stanford Barn to check out the horses. My one-year old is enamored by “neigh-neighs”…from afar…not so much up close and personal…and has been saying “neigh-neigh poop” since last week’s visit. Props to me for the educational trip!

spring time in california

spring time in california

And today we played outside in our garden. We’re having a mild California winter and were able to enjoy an hour in the sand box, do a little seed planting, and pick some wild flowers.

If you’d like to follow me on Instagram, I’m Tinkerlab, or follow the link to set up your own account.

Oh my gosh…shortest nap EVER!! Okay, I’m off. Hope to be back tomorrow :)

Paper Bag Museum

paper bag museum

In case you missed yesterday’s post, we’re hosting a super fun Paper Bag Creative Challenge that brought over 50 kid-directed paper bag projects together in one spot. Today I’m excited to share our own take on the challenge.

paper bag art oil pastels

This is how our art table looked the other morning.

paper bag art table

Me and the girls crafting up a paper bag collage storm.

My one year old colored paper bags with oil pastels and glued hearts and sequins to a paper bag while my 3 year old went to town — all day long — making paper bag collages that quickly took up all the ceiling space in the room.

collage installation

My 3-year old, N, called these her Valentine Collages and Paper Bag Art. She recently picked up on how museums have multiples of one type of thing, and decided that this would be her Paper Bag Museum. In case you’re wondering, I was told that it was okay that some of the things in the museum weren’t made with paper bags. She’s the curator, so I couldn’t really argue with that.

paper bag museum

We set up a Vistor Services Desk with information about our admission policies and hours. It’s really important for people to know that they can’t hang out in our house at dinner!

paper bag museum

We gathered up all the paper bag creations that weren’t hanging from the beams and displayed them here. Maps are in the basket on the left and she set up an interactive activity in the paper bag “basket.” More on that in a sec.

paper bag museum maps

We talked about how museums share all sorts of informative collateral for visitors to pick up, like maps, schedules, and catalogues. I cut a big paper grocery bag into squares and she decided to turn them into maps. To make this map, we started with a “you are here” dot, and then she added trails into the various rooms of our house, also marked by dots.

paper bag museum maps

But why stop with one map when you’re expected a big audience!

interactive museum prompt with kids

Then she handed me a stack of post-its and dictated this participatory prompt to me.

The museum educator in me was so proud!

This wasn’t going to be some stuffy old museum — oh no, she was thinking about her visitors’ experience and wanted to make sure their voices were heard!

paper bag museum

Our first visitor woke up from her nap just in time for the opening, and got right to work with a drawing. The prompt worked!

The museum is now closed for the installation of a new show. My one year old is enamored by fish, so maybe we’ll figure out a way to build her an Aquarium!

What’s your child’s favorite kind of museum? Could you set up an imaginative play area based on it?

 


If you’re interested in reading more about participatory museums, Museum 2.0 is one of my favorite sites, and it’s run by Nina Simon, Executive Director of The Museum of Art & History in Santa Cruz and author of The Participatory Museum.