What is Tinkering?

what is tinker

Tinker /ˈtiNGkər/ n.  to make small changes to something in order to improve or repair it (MacMillan Dictionary)

what is tinker

You may have noticed this quaint little word that’s at the heart of my blog title, and today I’d like to talk a bit about tinkering. I have a fun tinkering challenge up my sleeve (come back for that next week!), so consider this my introduction!

taking toys apart tinkering

Taking toys apart. From Melissa at Imagination Soup.

What is Tinkering?

The definition above suggests that it’s about improving something by making changes to it.

The Oxford Dictionaries says that to tinker is to attempt to repair or improve something in a casual or desultory (unfocused) way.” 

The Free Dictionary says that a tinkerer is “one who enjoys experimenting with and repairing machine parts.”

These are all helpful starting points, but hardly conclusive. The kind of tinkering that I’m advocating for is not the kind that’s unfocussed or lacking in purpose, although I can see how tinkering can appear unfocussed to someone who observes it in action. And it doesn’t have to be limited to machine parts and hammers, although it certainly finds a good home amongst these tools.

what is tinker

Gum Drop Sculptures, Tinkerlab

Nope, the tinkering I have in mind is full of focus and purpose, and succeeds at generating new ideas.

While we can easily imagine someone tinkering with a screw driver and an old toaster, let’s also consider how we could tinker with paint and brushes, paper cups and glue, an irrigation system, a 3-D printer, photo editing software (who’s spent hours editing a photo book or playing with Photoshop?), and ideas. This last one, ideas, is an extra fun one. Imagine a room full of creative thinkers with some sticky pads and Sharpies, and you get a clear picture of people tinkering with ways to make the world a better place.

mama smiles phones tinkering
Taking phones apart. From MaryAnne at Mama Smiles Blog

When I think about a tinkerer, I envision a more expansive definition that looks like this:

Tinkerer: one who experiments with materials and ideas to fully understand their capacities, and who further iterates on their learning to find better solutions to current problems. 

Tinkering is about hands-on experiences, learning from failures, and unstructured time to explore and invent. And through the processes of exploration and invention lies the potential for innovation.

nuts and bolts tinker

Nuts and bolts. From Kristin at Toddler Approved

To be continued next time…why tinkering is important.

And next week you’ll want to stop back for DPS prompts, the Flower Creative Challenge (info on participating can be found here), and the new Tinkering Challenge. Woo-hoo!

What does “tinkering” mean to you? Do you make time for tinkering?

Special thanks to Imagination Soup, Mama Smiles Blog, and Toddler Approved for sharing their tinkering images.

 

 

 

Easy Peasy Rock Painting

rocks rock painting

rock painting

This is such an easy project and my kids (almost 4 and 20 months) have gone crazy for it. And I have to confess that I really enjoyed it too. Very addictive. I chalk their enthusiasm (and mine) up to a couple things:

  1. Painting or drawing on a 3-dimensional surface is a fun challenge
  2. The colors of the paint markers are vivid and opaque (i.e. pretty), and very easy to use.

rock painting

There are lots of ways to paint a rock, for example, we recently painted a big rock with watercolor paints. But the method I’m sharing today is so easy and the mess is minimal.

Materials

  1. Selection of smooth river or beach rocks
  2. Paint markers. We used Elmer’s Painters Pens
  3. Covered table (the markers leave a mess on the work area that you’ll be happy that you prepared for it).

rocks rock painting

If your markers are new, you’ll want to shake them a bit and depress the tips until the paint starts to flow. Just follow the directions of your paint. 3-year old N wanted to make each of her rocks unique.

rocks rock painting

And her sister, Baby R, enjoyed the challenges of learning to hold the marker and controlling the lines as they hit the rock.

rocks rock painting

N was so proud of her creations, and actually hid her favorites (not seen here) in a closet for Father’s Day. Phew, guess I’m off the gift-giving hook.

The rocks really are spectacular and seeing them makes me so happy.

A small clean-up caveat: the ink will get all over your kids’ hands, but don’t fret. The mess would have been much worse if you’d given them a bowl of acrylic paint and brushes. And it will all come within a day or two.

More Rock Painting

rocks magnets

Jen at Paint Cut Paste shows you how to make thumbprint rock magnets. Tweet Tweet.

rocks rock painting

This is one of my first posts: Rolling Rock Painting. It’s like rolling ball painting, but a little bit more unpredictable.

rocks rock painting

I love homemade games, and this rock domino set from Martha Stewart would make me so happy.

Have you or your kids painted rocks? If you’re a blogger, feel free to share a link in your comment.

Coming Soon: Flower Creative Challenge

creative challenge flowers

creative challenge flowers

If you’re not already surveying your garden, market, or neighborhood for good flower picking, now is the time to put flowers on the brain for the next creative challenge. 

Every two months I host a Creative Challenge for kids with the introduction of a material and an invitation for children to create with. The objective of these challenges is to enable children to explore a material’s potential, build creative confidence, and envision new purposes for common objects…. skills that are at the heart of innovation.

If you’re interested in joining one of the next challenge, the opening date is Monday, June 4 and the material will be FLOWERS.

Your projects should be child-directed, but grown-ups are welcome to join in the fun if the mood strikes! Please look at past challenges to get a feel for what’s expected.

Share your Documentation or Post

If you’re a blogger and you’d like to join share a link to a post of your kid/s in action, set your post to go live on June 4 and add it to the link party that will show up here on that day.

If you’re not a blogger, you can upload a photo of your Flower Creative Challenge to my Facebook wall or tag @tinkerlab on Instagram with #flowerchallenge

Hope to see you then!

DPS Sketchbook Challenge, Made Easy

Double page spread sketchbook challenge

Double page spread sketchbook challenge

Are you participating in the DPS challenge? You can join at any time and your sketches can be as basic or complex as you like. My friend, Aude, told me that some of the entries I shared last week intimidated her. These weren’t her words exactly, but that was the gist of it, and I thought I needed to reset this challenge since that wasn’t my intent at all. I love how the honesty of good friends can help me grow and and hope you’ll also tell me if I get off track.

If you felt the same way or felt discouraged by this challenge, I hope you’ll consider giving it a try. The idea is to show up — FOR YOURSELF — and make something almost every day.

So I’m sharing some of my quickest, simplest DPS entries as examples of how easy this can be. The threshold for joining isn’t that high and the time commitment isn’t too grand.

In the picture above, my kids and I painted on a piece of paper that I later glued to my sketchbook. When it dried I added some glitter glue and white reinforcement stickers. It’s simple and didn’t require a lot of special talent, but it works.

sketchbook challenge

This challenge isn’t for everyone, I understand that, but if you’re the least bit interested in charging your creative batteries, I hope you’ll consider giving it a go. The process has done tremendous things for my own creativity and my kids’ as well. As I sketched over breakfast the other day my daughter said excitedly, “can you get me my sketchbook? You gave me an idea!”

sketchbook challenge

The other wonderful part of this project is the growing community of enthusiastic and supportive #tinkersketchers. If you’re on Facebook, you can see some of the images that readers have added on my wall. And if you’re on Instagram, you can search for #tinkersketch where you’ll see the full gallery of participants’ posts. We comment on each other’s images and provide each other with the motivation to keep going.

I have to share this comment from Angalata in Spain because it summarizes the spirit of this project so well:

“I feel so lucky… I found people who look what I do and who wants to share with me what they create (and nobody judges nobody creations), I can express myself, I delight with beautiful sketches, collages, compositions, paintings… I think about what (or most important… HOW) can i create something… some days it takes me 5 minutes and other days I spend about an hour… I create with my kids, alone, or with my dear husband playing his guitar… and because create something is the ONLY WAY to create. Maybe some of our #tinkersketch creations ar imperfect, as you say, but I love them because they are a present for myself. I am a proud confetti owner (and, al last, I recive free english lessons, too ;-D) So… thank you, Rachelle and my lovely #tinkersketchers.”

This week’s DPS prompts:

I’ll post prompts on my site at the beginning of each week. Some of you requested them, others did not. Feel free to use them if they work for you, or ignore them completely.

  • Copy a pattern from a towel, dish, napkin, etc.
  • Doodle with your eyes closed
  • Write words that your children say and circle your favorite ones
  • Make another picture with those favorite words
  • Rubber stamp it
  • Paint with red wine vinegar
  • Listen to a song and draw doodles along with the movement of the music

Do you have ideas for prompts?

The more ideas, the better! I’d love to share them, so go ahead and add them in a comment

 Share

  • Facebook: Upload a photo of your DPS directly to the Tinkerlab Facebook page
  • Instagram: Upload a photo of your DPS with the hashtag #tinkersketch. My username is tinkerlab, in case you’d like to follow me
  • Google+: Upload your DPS photo to your own page. Tag me @rachelle doorley  and/or @tinkerlab. Add the hashtag #tinkersketch
  • Twitter: Add the hashtag #tinkersketch

How Climbing Trees Builds Creative Thinking

tree climbing.023

Have you ever climbed a tree? Do your kids like climbing trees?

This has never been high on my list, even back in the nursery school days, but my 3 year old N has climbing in her soul and will climb just about anything: rock climbing walls, trees, jungle gyms, furniture, fences, etc. She seems to gravitate especially to trees that offer a challenging climb, and I like it because it gets us out into the fresh air and builds strong minds and bodies.

I love good ol’ fashioned play like this, and thought we could all use a visual reminder of how important free-range outdoor play is for kids.

outdoor play kids

The spirit of play is at the heart of imagination, creativity, and innovation. In playful environments, we’re prone to divergent thinking (generating numerous ideas about a topic) and are more inclined to push the limits of what’s possible into the impossible.

Climbing trees may not seem like highly cognitive work, but let’s take a look at what might be involved…

tree climbing kids

First of all, you have to map your idea (a will to climb a tree) with your reality (how will you climb that tree?). And then you have to send signals from your mind to your body to problem solve the execution. Our neighbor’s poor flowers were pelted by too many little climbers who have deemed this the most climbable neighborhood tree, so you might also have to navigate around the mini-flower-shielding fence that’s now in your way.

You might have to make room for a friend, which can build emotional intelligence and help develop spatial reasoning.

You might not yet be ready to climb a tree, but you’re building your confidence by climbing things that are within the zone of proximal development. Go you!

tree climbing kid

And when you reach that branch that always eluded you, the feeling of pride is beyond belief. You’ve accomplished something that only you could accomplish. You’ve tested your strength and your limits, and proven to yourself that you can achieve what you set your mind to.

I always watch my children closely and offer a lot of support when they first take on new physical challenges, but since my goal is to empower them I will step back once I get the cue that they’re comfortable without my assistance. I was talking with a friend today about free-range parenting (maybe you’ve heard of this movement?) and I follow this parenting philosophy to a great extent. I’m very involved in my childrens’ lives and everyday experiences, offer them a great deal of compassion and emotional support, but I’m raising them to be confident, independent thinkers who can make decisions for themselves without a lot of supervision.


I’ve partnered withGoGo squeeZ, the first squeezable, re-sealable, no-mess, 100% fruit, no-sugar added apple­sauce based snack for kids in the U.S, as a Playbassador, which means that I have more reasons to share fun outdoor activities that celebrate play and creativity. All opinions in this post are my own.

GoGo squeeZ believes in the simple mantra of “always play” and is putting this belief to work through the “Pass the Play” campaign with the goal of bringing the simple joy of play to those who need it most across the country.


Cooking with Kids: Butter and Rosemary

butter and rosemary.022

Do you like to cook with your kids? It’s not always the easiest thing for me to do; we have a tiny kitchen and limited counter space, but I try to find ways to integrate my kids into the kitchen routines when I can.

Why? Because cooking, experimenting, and learning about the interaction of ingredients builds creative thinkers, gives my kids a solid footing  and confidence in the kitchen (hey, I’m priming them to cook for me one day!), and it’s a wonderful way to bond and share stories about family traditions and food adventures.

20 month old Baby R (who’s hardly a baby anymore) likes to spend time in the kitchen, but she’s not the best helper in the world. So I try to drum up activities that will keep her hands busy and her mind engaged while I cook.

The other day we were baking bread and the recipe called for rosemary and a pat of butter. As I pulled the flour, yeast, maple syrup, milk, salt, and butter together, I also cut two tablespoons of butter off the end of the stick and chopped it into rough pieced for R to handle.

The slippery texture was captivating.

I handed her a few sprigs of rosemary to handle and poke into the butter.

cooking with kids

After squishing the butter for a bit she really wanted to cut the butter like me, so I gave her a small butter knife and showed her how to hold it. She cut butter for about fifteen minutes before tiring of this, which gave me just enough time to pull the bread dough together.

I’m not one for wasting food, but we did throw the gooey mass of butter and rosemary away when we were done.  I suppose I could have saved it, but there was a lot of finger licking going on and I wasn’t ready to go there. However, I liken this experience to playing with play dough (made from flour and oil) or dry beans, both materials that we use for imaginative and sensory play. When children learn to handle real food they build a relationship with it and gain a stronger understanding of its properties.

So, the next time you’re in the kitchen, if you don’t already do this, look around for something sensory for your toddler to explore. You might also enjoy reading Cooking with Toddlers, where I share a few tips including our favorite kid-friendly knives.

If you have a preschooler or school age child, you might like this fun post on how to invent a recipe with kids, where I share some ideas on how to foster a spirit of experimentation by building a pancake recipe from scratch.

And when my kids want to play in the kitchen, but they’re not interested in helping, I often slide this big tub of wheat berries out from under a counter for them to explore. It often makes a big mess, but it keeps them entertained while I cook and it’s easy enough to vacuum up when they’re done.

What do your kids like to do while you cook?

How to Use a Sketchbook to Boost Creativity

quotes about life

Have you ever kept a sketchbook? Are you on the DPS (Double Page Spread) journey with me? Have you thought about joining, but you haven’t started yet?

When I introduced the DPS Challenge, I talked about the importance of starting a visual journal practice as a way to nurture your own creativity. But did you know that modeling habits of creative thinking such as experimentation, exploration of materials, problem solving, imagination, and a willingness to make mistakes is also one of the best ways to foster creativity and creative thinking in your child?

There are a number of ways to do this, and keeping a visual journal of your ideas is an easy way to begin.

drawing ideas sketchbook

by @Angelata, via Instagram

Are you blocked?

Are you on the fence? You really want to do this, but how on earth could you find the time? Maybe you’re waiting for the mood to strike, you have a fear of drawing, or you’re on the hunt for the perfect journal? I share these points because these are some of the things that have stopped me in the past: my day got off to a bad start, I slept in, I felt uninspired, or I had nothing to draw on. Wait until you see the last image of this post for a fun solution to that last problem.

I hope you won’t let these things stop you because this will only take a few moments of your day and the creative rewards…for you and your kids…are huge.

I should add that while I think I do a decent job in the drawing department, my three year old insists that her drawings are better than mine. And yours might too. Don’t let that stop you either.

happiness quotes

When I came across this quote, it reminded me of my commitment to myself to get right down to business and make something happen in my art journal on an almost daily basis.

It’s not always easy, that’s for sure. My kids demand a lot of me. My house will be a bloody mess unless I clean it. I never get enough sleep and could always use just a few extra minutes of rest. And this weekend, the weather was just too gorgeous to be tied down to a journal. But I can’t let these things stand in my way. They’re necessary, yes, but I search for pockets of time when my kids are playing independently, making art, or napping to jot down a quick sketch, collage, or visual reference to something I don’t want to forget.

by Nicky from Artful Genius

I thought I’d take a minute to share a variety of DPS entries to inspire you and further illuminate how motivating it can be to show up for something when there are others there to support your efforts.

Helen from Curly Birds drew this picture of her picking garden…the inspiration was found right in her backyard.

sketchbook drawing ideas

Please Grow Garden by Helen from Curly Birds

If you’ve been following my #tinkersketch journey on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll know that many of my DPS’s are imperfect, sketchy, and experimental. I’m not about perfection, but I do want to capture fleeting ideas and play with materials in a new way.

I love how Chelsey has taken on this challenge for herself and her daughter — in this example, they worked with similar materials (Cottonelle plastic bag) to create individually inspired pieces.

drawing ideas sketchbook

Mother + Daughter sketchbooks by Chelsey, @cmarashian at Instagram

The plan is to get the ideas out of your head and onto a page and create a visual record of experiences that you can refer back to at a later point. You may spend anywhere from three to twenty minutes (or more) on a DPS, and you shouldn’t worry about what the product will look like. This is about the process.

Melissa from The Chocolate Muffin Tree took a risk and used the huge collection of her daughter’s stickers to build this stunning mandala. No drawing necessary for those of you who don’t think you can draw!

sketchbook drawing ideas

by Melissa from The Chocolate Muffin Tree

And what happens in this process? Some of your ideas may be crap, but crummy ideas can lead to other ideas that are fantastic. If you have a fear of making crap, you’ll make nothing at all and lose the possibility of getting to the good stuff. Simple as that.

And finally, if you don’t have a sketchbook, that’s fine too. Many of us have cameras and smart phones that can document our ideas drawn on napkins, the backs of receipts, or even hands. Maya, from Meme Tales, and her daughter created these delightful mendhi designs on their hands and then uploaded them to Instagram with the hashtag #tinkersketch.

mendhi doodle

by Maya from Meme Tales

This week’s DPS prompts:

I’ll post prompts on my site at the beginning of each week. Some of you requested them, others did not. Feel free to use them if they work for you, or ignore them completely.

  • Manipulate paper bags: paint, tear, collage
  • Draw only with straight lines
  • Make a map of a childhood place from memory
  • Set a Timer: Make a 3-minute painting
  • Pick one object from nature and repeat it into a pattern
  • Write for five minutes. Circle all the words that stand out. Color them in.
  • Make a picture with tape + one other material
  • Take inspiration from a children’s book

Do you have ideas for prompts?

The more ideas, the better! I’d love to share them, so go ahead and add them in a comment or tweet them with the hashtag #sketchstarter

 Share

  • Facebook: Upload a photo of your DPS directly to the Tinkerlab Facebook page
  • Instagram: Upload a photo of your DPS with the hashtag #tinkersketch. My username is tinkerlab, in case you’d like to follow me
  • Google+: Upload your DPS photo to your own page. Tag me @rachelle doorley  and/or @tinkerlab. Add the hashtag #tinkersketch
  • Twitter: Add the hashtag #tinkersketch

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In case you blinked and missed it, TinkerLab rounds up all the great stuff on the internets on keeping you and your critters creative and wraps it up for you in a tidy newsletter! (And throws in some secret giveaways for good measure!)  – Yuliya P., San Francisco, CA

Join our community and you’ll learn:

  • How to simplify your life and make more room for creativity
  • How to make hands-on making a part of your everyday life
  • Easy, actionable ways to raise creative kids

Explore Modern Artists: Paint like Jasper Johns

kids art jasper johns

Today on Explore Modern Artists, we’re taking a close look at the work of American Artist Jasper Johns.

Explore Modern Artists with Kids : series of projects on Tinkerlab

For the art historians out there, Jasper Johns is technically a contemporary artist, but the piece that my four-year old and I looked at falls into the time-frame of modern art. I spent years working in modern and contemporary art museums, but love this kind of art because it breaks rules, the materials are often surprising, and the work is often as much about ideas as it is aesthetics.

Explore Modern Artists with Kids: Jasper Johns

I flipped through a 20th century art book in search of something that would appeal to my preschooler and had a feeling that Jasper Johns’ White Numbers would do just that. My daughter is obsessed with writing letters and numbers, which helped her dive into this project, and ultimately made it her own.

Materials

  • Image of Jasper Johns’ White Numbers
  • Acrylic Paint (FYI: acrylic paint will stain clothes so wear a smock or nothing at all)
  • Paint brushes: Flat, Foam, Make-up sponges
  • Paper Plate
  • Stick-on foam or paper letters and/or numbers
  • Foam core, wood panel, canvas or other substantial surface to paint on
  • Paper to cover work area

Jasper Johns. White Numbers. 1957. Museum of Modern Art. Encaustic on Linen. 34″ x 28 1/8″.

Art Looking

Begin with a short discussion about the artwork. Try to use open-ended questions, although this can be more difficult with preschoolers who are just getting their bearings with vocabulary. These are some of the questions I used:

  1. What’s going on in this picture?
  2. What do you see that makes you say that?
  3. How did the artist organize the numbers? Are they in order or random? What do you see?
  4. What colors do you see?

Through this line of questioning, my daughter was able to figure out that Jasper Johns created a random series of numbers in rows and columns.  She concluded that Jasper Johns may have been trying to confuse people with his meaningless series of numbers.

peeling stickers

After about five minutes of this, we talked about the materials that we would use, and I asked N if we should use numbers, letters, or both. I also asked if we should use the same palette of paint as Johns. She chose to use numbers and letters, and requested “all the colors.

preschool jasper johns

As we peeled them, my daughter wanted to sort them by color.

Despite Johns’ neat rows of numbers, N also wanted to place her’s randomly on the board “to confuse people.” And then she walked all over them to make sure they were stuck down properly.

We added paint to a paper plate.

This whole activity was set up on the floor, which I highly recommend as it gave N a lot of freedom to move around.

And then we painted. I offered her three different brushes and we talked about which one she preferred (foam brush).

We worked on this together and she really enjoyed the camaraderie. When the painting was dry we hung it up to enjoy. The foam core buckled a bit as it dried, which is something to consider if you’re thinking of hanging this in your home. Wood or canvas would be a far better choice.

More on Art Looking

If you’d like so tips on how to look at art with kids, you can check out one of my more popular posts: Five Easy Steps for Talking with Children about Art.

I’m also a huge fan of an in-school program called Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), which helps children build visual literacy and critical thinking skills through the process of looking closely at a work of art. A facilitator sits in front of a group of children and leads an interactive discussion about one work of art. I’ve led many of these discussions myself, and the energy around these conversations is palpable. To see VTS in action, there a some great videos on the Visual Thinking Strategies website. 

More from Explore Modern Artists

 

How to Press a Flower

how to press a flower

Do you have a bounty of flowers in your garden? Have you ever wanted to press a flower, but weren’t sure where to start?

how to press a flower

Pressing flowers just requires a little bit of patience for the flowers to actually dry, but the process is quite simple and doesn’t require a lot of fancy equipment.

how to press a flower

Start by collecting some flowers. Big thick flowers like roses are hard to press, but delicate flowers like pansies are the perfect candidates for this project. My suggestion: Make an experiment out of the process and try a bunch of different flowers to discover what works best.

We thought that daffodils would work out great, but they stuck to the press and lost a lot of color. So experiment, make guesses, document your ideas, and make some discoveries.

how to press a flower fridge

If you’re not pressing right away, store your flowers in the fridge to keep them fresh.

how to press a flower

Flower Press

I used a very inexpensive product, the 4M Flower Press Kit (Amazon). The press comes with nifty straps that you can tighten and hold the whole thing together, and I didn’t have to spend a lot of time cutting cardboard. However, you could easily make your own press with the following materials: a stack of cardboard, photocopy paper, and a heavy book. 

how to press a flower

Place one piece of cardboard down on your table. Cover it with a piece of photocopy paper. Place flowers on the paper in the way that you want them to dry. Add another sheet of paper on top of this, and then another piece of cardboard.

how to press a flower

Keep stacking: Cardboard, paper, flowers, paper. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Until you’re done. Place one last piece of cardboard on top. Cover the whole thing with one or more heavy bricks to smoosh it down flat.

how to press a flower

This is where you have to be patient: come back and check the flowers in two weeks. We pressed these two weeks before the grandparents came for a visit, which created a natural moment in our lives for uncovering our dried treasures.

how to press a flower

If you’d like to glue these to a card, pour some white glue, Mod Podge (Amazon), or Glazing Medium (Amazon)
into a small bowl. Paint the glue to the card (not too much if you care about the glue showing) and adhere the flowers to your paper.

how to press a flower

You can use your pressed flowers to make collaged cards, framable art, or add a bowl of them to a table and see what the kids come up with.

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Which reminds me that our next Creative Challenge for kids is coming up on June 4, and the material is: Flowers! I hope you’ll join me. Start collecting those flowers and have fun with this one.

And if you’re looking for a reason to make your own art and would love the company of others to motivate you, I hope you’ll consider joining the fun Double Page Spread Challenge. We just started last week and there’s already a ton of inspiration on Instagram (type in #tinkersketch to follow) and on Facebook.

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Have you pressed flowers? Any favorite pressing flowers? What else could you do with dried flowers? And any other tips that I missed?

DIY Water Wall

collection of water wall materials

Does it feel like summer in your part of the world? It’s heating up here, and my kids have been enjoying this easy and inexpensive new backyard water feature. All you need is a nearby water source and a wall to attach it to.

I’ve been inspired by Let the Children Play once again! Last summer Jenny gave us the idea for our mud pie kitchen (and here’s her mud kitchen), and other outdoor hands-on activities that get my kids thinking and building in the fresh air. Her water wall post (full of water wall inspiration from around the web) has been sitting in my mind since she posted it in October (she’s in Australia where it’s bloody hot in October), and it’s altogether responsible for the hours of fun my kids and neighborhood friends had with our newest backyard water feature. Thank you, Jenny!

My older daughter helped me build this one afternoon last week while my toddler was napping. She loved the responsibility of holding the bottles steady while I drilled and took a lot of pride in our finished water wall. It’s not gorgeous, but it’s a lot of fun and an upcycler’s DIY dream.

water wall build

To replicate this upcycled playscape in your own garden or patio, I’ll break this down into some simple steps.

collection of water wall materials

Four Basic Materials

  1. Plastic bottles
  2. Screws (this nifty kit came from IKEA)
  3. Drill
  4. exacto knife

With the exacto knife, cut a hole in the side of the bottle. The hole will be large enough for you to fit your hand into it so that you can easily position and drill in the screws.

score bottle and add screws

Using the exacto knife, score an “X” on the side of a bottle and push a screw through the “X” from the inside. Repeat one more time so that you have two screws poking through the bottle.

Screw the bottles to a fence or wall. Tilt them slightly downward to help the water pour through. You might have to shift the bottles around or cut the holes a bit more to make the water wall work properly. Test as you go.

water wall testing

Test it out to make sure it works. Add a bucket at the bottom to catch the water, which can then be added to plants or returned to the top of the water wall.

Invite some friends over to play.

water wall play

Set up a water-filling station and add some pitchers, watering cans, and cups.

And be prepared for eye-opening, open-ended fun.

 

Building Memory and Memories {Hallmark Giveaway}

love you forever

Do you have any recordable books? If my children hadn’t received these as a gifts, I’m not sure I would have imagined that we would gain so much from them.

hallmark recordable books

When my older daughter, N, was one and half, her grandparents and uncle sent her recorded copy of The Night Before Christmas. They took turns recording the pages, mailed it off to us, and we all enjoy feeling a little bit closer to them when we hear their voices. They live far away on the other side of the country, and the clear sound of their voices helps us connect to them in between phone calls and visits.

Connecting with faraway family is a enough of a reason to get one of these books. What I didn’t anticipate was that N would learn to recite the entire poem, The Night Before Christmas, before her third birthday. This totally blew me away, and I’m sure it’s because she had control over listening to the passages of the poem at her own pace.

I’m not here to brag about my child’s brilliance — that’s not the point (although of course I think my kids are amazing!)– rather it’s one example of how the repetition of stories, poetry, and songs can get deep into a child’s soul, contribute to memory-building, and transform their imagination.

the night before christmasShe listened to this story over and over again, apparently soaking it all up and paying attention to Clement Clarke Moore’s complex and rich language and eventually repeated it back to the book, and then to my husband and me:

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

So when Hallmark asked if I’d like to review a couple of their recordable books, how could I say no?

love you forever

I got the chance to record my voice on the books they sent while my kids sat on my lap (not recommended unless you like the ambiant sound of your kids asking you questions and making chirping noises), and my girls now enjoy opening them up to hear me tell a story.

And this brings me to a sort of cautionary tale. I was picking up twinkly lights in the holiday aisle of our drug store last winter when I saw a woman looking at a display of recordable books. Our eyes connected and I couldn’t help but share how much my kids have gained from these books. She agreed with me and then explained that her father just passed away and she wished she had asked him to record a copy a book for her kids just a couple weeks back. How could she have known?

Not one to end on a sad note, if you click on this page you’ll see a full list of all the Hallmark Recordable books. I don’t see any holiday books there, but perhaps they’re seasonal and we’ll see them again soon.

If you’d like to enter for a chance to win your very own recordable book, Hallmark has given me two books to give away. To enter for a chance to win one, please leave a comment with the name of the book you would most like to own and why, and I’ll select a winner through Random.org. Contest is open to US residents and closes on Sunday, May 13 at 9 pm PST.

I’m in no way affiliated with Hallmark; I’m just a happy customer who looks for opportunities to share the things I love with my readers. 

#TinkerSketch {Day One}

tinkersketch

I’m excited about the enthusiastic response to yesterday’s invitation to create a daily Double Page Spread Challenge.  The ideas and iterations that I’m hearing from you are so inspiring.

Since this is a creativity challenge, it’s no surprise that you’re coming up with personal ways to participate: doodling on your iPads, making collages, and incorporating writing with photographs to name a few.

It sounds like you’re interested in sharing through Facebook and Instagram, and I’ll throw Google+ into the mix for those of you who may be moving into this new and exciting social media network.

I also hear that some of you would like prompts for inspiration.

To make this easy, here’s a little breakdown on how we’ll get started (but I’m open to suggestions!)…

Sharing your Double Page Spread

Facebook: There are two ways to do this:

  1. Upload a photo of your DPS to your own Facebook page and add the tag @tinkerlab so that the group can see your work
  2. Upload a photo of your DPS directly to the Tinkerlab Facebook page 
Instagram
  1. Upload a photo of your DPS with the hashtag #tinkersketch
  2. My username is tinkerlab, in case you’d like to follow me
Google +
  1. Start by following me on Google+: Personal: https://plus.google.com/u/0/115253684246786075784/about  Tinkerlab page: https://plus.google.com/u/0/108125825905952841714/about
  2. It may seem like there’s nothing happening over on G+ right now, but it promises to be a happening spot in the near future.
  3. Upload your DPS photo to your own page. Tag me @rachelle doorley  and/or @tinkerlab .
  4. Add the hashtag #tinkersketch

tinkersketch

Here’s my first DPS — we were painting rocks with paint markers, so I used what we were working with to quickly put this together. 3-year old N encouraged me to add green stems to the “flowers”.

tinkersketch

N’s DPS

tinkersketch

1-year old R’s sketchbook

If you’re doing this with your kids, feel free to add just your own DPS or your child’s as well — it’s up to you!

Prompts

I’ll post prompts on my site at the beginning of each week. Some of you requested them, others did not. Feel free to use them if they work for you, or ignore them completely.

Prompts for this week (from yesterday’s post):

  • Draw small objects that you collect on a nature walk.
  • Wrinkle and flatten tinfoil. Glue into sketchbook and color with Shaprpies.
  • Cut out and glue magazines images that make you happy.
  • Make an all-over pattern of flowers, dots, circles, stripes, waves, etc.
  • Find an image or pattern on a favorite shirt/hand towel/sheet and draw or repeat it.
  • Stamp it with rubber stamps and found objects
  • Make a version of whatever your kids are doing

Let’s get started

Working along with you will keep me motivated to show up and I look forward to getting to know this community of like-minded souls.

Have I missed anything?