Tinkersketch Challenge

double page spread

Why should kids have all the fun?

I’m starting the week off with a little challenge to open up a sketchbook and create a double page spread every day. I find that my kids are more creative when they witness my own passion for creativity, and this strategy is a manageable and inspiring way to walk the talk.

You don’t have to accept the challenge, but I’m throwing it out there in case it’s something that you need too.

double page spread

I’ve heard from some of you that it’s hard to find time to make time for yourself. I certainly fall into this category.

I used to make a lot of art and had no trouble making time for it. I prioritized it, in fact. I had a studio, a daily art making practice, showed art in galleries, and co-founded an art collectiveMaking art wasn’t my full time job, but I was successful at committing myself to a ritual of creating.

And I’m about to say something that I’m sure will make me sound like a victim that I’m not…

Having kids changes everything.

Do you feel the same way? Making time for our own creative pursuits can be tricky with little kids who need our constant attention and a home that never seems to be clean.

Making time to make art has become almost impossible for me. I know parents of young children who don’t have this problem. But I also know that if running an art studio meant so much to me I could easily trade the hours I spend writing for the hours I used to spend creating. I don’t want my old life back, but I do love the feeling of pouring visual images onto a piece of paper.

Getting started is easy

I first wrote about the Double Page Spread in my 2012 New Year’s Resolution post: 5 Resolutions for a Creative New Year. The idea is simple, and it doesn’t require a lot of effort on your part.

Every day you’ll open a sketchbook and create anything you want on two facing pages, or the double page spread (DPS). That’s it!

You can draw on the paper, smear it with play dough, attack it with your 3-year old’s dot makers, cover it with Thomas the Train stickers, or paint it with watercolors. The objective is to get your creative juices flowing and build the ritual of making into your life. No one will judge your creations, and you may start out on shaky ground, but I guarantee that if you follow a ritual of creating on a daily basis your comfort level will grow and your ideas will flourish.

The sketchbook can be large or small. Store bought or homemade. I prefer a spiral-bound sketchbook that’s at least 5″ x 7″  because it can lie flat, and I like to use heavier paper because it can withstand water, paint, and whatever I may dream up along the way.

My plan

I have a lot of projects brewing at the moment (and hope to share some exciting news with you soon), so I hardly feel like I have time for one more thing, but nurturing my creative journey is important to me and I think a Daily DPS will be easy to accomplish if I work on it while my kids are creating at their art table. I’m setting my expectations low — my kids are young and often demanding of my attention, so I’ll do as much as I can and not worry too much about the results.

My kids like to do everything I do, so to make this easier for me I bought us all matching sketchbooks. That way, if they want to jump in and do what I’m doing, my book won’t be commandeered by them.

Start today

So let’s get started. Find an old sketchbook with some blank pages in it or take a trip to the nearest art store and find a book that will get you excited to show up every day. You don’t have to create a double page spread, so don’t let that get in your way. Some people prefer to use a single page, loose paper, recycled paper — I’ll leave these details to you!

Sketchbook Prompts to Get us Started

  • 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

If this sounds interesting to you, please let me know, and I’ll share my sketchbook with you.

And if you’d like to take on the same challenge and join me, I’d love the company and we can figure out a way for you to share your sketchbooks too. Maybe through Facebook or Instagram? Or you could send me your images to be included in a weekly post? What are your thoughts on this? 


Wow! The response to this prompt has been huge! Click on over to the next post, #Tinkersketch (Day One), for information on how you can share images of your journey on the DPS Challenge.


Painting Birdhouses

toddler painting birdhouse

The last time my in-laws visited, they left my girls with these cute little wooden birdhouses. I tucked them away to paint on their next visit, but my 3 year old couldn’t wait that long. In fact, about a month after I stored these, and an hour before leaving the house to meet friends in the park, my daughter suddenly remembered the birdhouses that were, as far as I could tell, out of mind.

“I want to paint birdhouses today!” she said. After explaining, for the 80th time that starting a sentence with “I want” isn’t okay with me, I further shared that there was no way we could get the materials out, set up, paint, clean up, and be out the door in time.

Well, in case you ever find yourself in a similar situation, it can almost be done. We were ten minutes late.toddler painting birdhouse


  • Wooden birdhouses. My MIL found these at Michael’s, and I think they’re very reasonably priced.
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Paper Plates
  • Bird seed
  • Funnel or paper + tape for a DIY funnel

toddler painting birdhouse


Squeeze paint onto throwaway paper plates. Paint as desired. The challenge of painting a 3-D thing is entirely different from painting a flat surface, and there’s something magical about it. If you have a child who doesn’t normally enjoy painting, I’d suggest you try painting something with width and depth and see what happens.

By the way, acrylic paint will almost never wash out of clothes, so be sure to cover up properly.

birdhouse materials

Fill with Seeds

Unless the paint is quite thick, acrylic paint dries really fast and you could move on to this step within an hour. When the paint dries, the bird house is ready to be filled. If you don’t have a funnel, you can easily make one by spinning a piece of copy paper into a cone shape and taping the side shut.

filling birdhouse with seed


The last step is to hang it. If you have squirrels be sure to hang it somewhere that squirrels won’t reach it. Our squirrels are sneaky and go almost anywhere birds go, so unfortunately our seed has been poached…once again. But I’m determined to attract some cute little songbirds around our house one of these days.

More Bird Feeder Inspiration

Juggling with Kids made these cool cookie cutter birdfeeders

If I were a bird, I’m not sure I’d venture close to this feeder

Biodegradable Orange Bird Feeder from the lovely Rhythm of the Home

Recycled bird feeder, made from a plastic bottle and a couple wooden spoons, over at Heck Fridays

Finding Flow: A Journey Toward Happiness


Have you ever been so deeply involved in something that you lost all sense of time? How did you feel in this moment?

It happens to me all the time, often when I’m writing blog posts like this late into the night. Oops, it’s 2 am. How did it get to be so late? Or when I’m building or painting something that requires my focus and attention. Maybe it happens to you when you’re training for a big run or when you’re baking your favorite recipes. It’s a great feeling, right? You lose all sense of yourself and probably create something incredible that amazes even you. And maybe you thought, “really, did I make that?”

And guess what…this happens to kids as well. 

When I pay attention to what my children are interested in and how they get wholly absorbed in meaningful activities (pouring and mixing water in the bath, imaginative play in forts, or mastering a drawing game, below), I notice that these moments happen all the time. At the root of these moments are the elements of curiosity, exploration, and imagination.

I recently facilitated a cloud dough station at my daughter’s nursery school. A handful of children surrounded the table, asking good questions., squishing dough in their hands, and laughing. One of the boys who arrived at the table late couldn’t keep his hands off the dough; it reminded him of snow.  He was captivated by the feel of it and stayed rooted at that table, running his fingers through the silky dough and enjoying the phenomena of its texture. Witnessing this enthrallment in a child other than my own reminded me of the growth, comfort, and exploration that children can find through meaningful hands-on experiences.

Csikszentmihalyi flow with kids

Watching young children engage deeply in an activity (some to the point that they stopped talking and forget that the world is moving around them) made me think of the concept of flow, coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his seminal book,  Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

The idea, simply, is that people are happiest when they’re deeply absorbed by whatever they’re doing. In a 1996 Wired Magazine article,  Csikszentmihalyi explained flow as…

“being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

In his books,  Csikszentmihalyi explains that reaching a true state of flow can takes years of experience and practice, but you can see moments of it in children of all ages, learning how to focus their attention by exploring the things that they’re passionate about. Have you seen these moments in your own children or students?

An interesting point to note about flow is that it can’t happen if the task is too easy. If the child (or adult) isn’t challenged to test their new skills,  they become bored. You’ve witnessed this transition away from flow if you’ve ever tried setting up a “favorite” activity, only to find your child is no longer interested in it.

In the photos I’m sharing here, my daughter just learned the dots and boxes game, and wants to keep at it (over multiple days) to figure it out and test her knowledge. She’s in a state of 3-year-old flow. But as soon as she’s mastered the game or feels like it’s too simple, she’ll no longer be in that state.

Csikszentmihalyi flow children

I’d love to hear about your own observations of flow, either with yourself or your children. Can you think of a time that you experienced this? And what about your children?

And if you can’t think of any off the bat, I’d like to challenge you to look for these moments over the next few days. Take some notes and report back with your discoveries.