5 Creativity Books That Will Inspire You

5 creativity books that will inspire you

Are you reading anything good right now? I always have a few things on my Kindle and bookstand (I just finished the Hunger Games series), and I recently discovered some creativity books that I thought you might enjoy knowing about.

Raising a creative kid

Jillian Riley from the popular parenting blog, A Mom with a Lesson Plan, just released her highly anticipated e-book: Raising a Creative Kid. Jillian is a former preschool teacher and mama of two kids, and writes with a warm and familiar voice that’s easy to read. Before digging into tools and strategies for fostering creativity in your kids, she invites the reader to participate in a simple exercise that helps us see that we all have creative potential.  Click here to visit A Mom With A Lesson Plan. and learn more.

I’m now a Kindle gal, but I bought this on impulse in our local bookstore and it was well worth the space it’s taking up on my nightstand. I devoured this book in an hour and keep returning to it for bits of inspiration. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

eco friendly crafting with kids

This just arrived in yesterday’s mail and I’m excited to dig into it. It’s written by Kate from the eye-candy craft blog Mini Eco. The pictures are beautiful and the projects have earth-friendly materials at their center: Eco-Friendly Crafting With Kids

Play These Games: 101 Delightful Diversions Using Everyday Items: This one also came in the mail this week, and I haven’t had time to sink into it, but it looks like it’ll keep us more than busy until the kids hit college. It’s a small paper back chock full of easy-to-read tutorials. We recently made a cardboard box rocket ship from her other book, Make These Toys: 101 Clever Creations Using Everyday Items. The tutorial was easy to follow and my kids have been playing in the rocket all week.P

My husband’s first book! I’m not just saying that it’s amazing because I’m Scott’s biggest fan (next to his mom, or course), but the reviews on Amazon concur. Read about it here: Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration (co-author: Scott Witthoft).

What are you reading?

Note: Tinkerlab shares affiliate links for products we use and companies we adore. If you purchase through those links we’ll receive a small percentage of the sale, which help keep our inspiration engine running!

DIY Paper Tape Roads

kids car collection
Sometimes we have to push our kids outside their comfort zones to help them take on new perspectives, face and overcome challenges, and confront their biases.

I have a growing collection of diecast vehicles that I keep in a nice, inviting basket. And do you know who plays with these cars, trucks, and airplanes? Boys who visit us.

Despite my best efforts at diversifying my childrens’ clothes and play things, I have become zen with the fact that I have two tutu + tiara loving girls who do not play with mini cars. If you want to see what I mean, take a look at this post.

It’s nice to have something that appeals to our friends, but I wondered if I could make these cute mini roadsters more appealing to my fairy princesses.

paper tape road kids play

The Invitation

After my kids went to bed I removed the plastic tablecloth from their art table and laid out a series of roads, parking spaces, and dead-ends with orange paper tape. I love this 10-roll set of 1/2″ Colored Masking Tape from Discount School Supply.

I used paper tape because it’s low-tack and easy to remove from the table without harming the surface. You won’t want to leave it on for days on end, but it’ll do the trick for a couple days.

Then I placed a few vehicles, action figures, and road features around the table as an invitation to play.

Did they bite?

paper tape roads kids

Hellz yeah!

You can see them still in their jammies and stages of undress, eager to play a new game. The beauty of it is that this new game came with a $0.00 price tag.

paper tape roads kids

After a few minutes, 4-year old Nutmeg wanted to peel up some of the tape to make new roads and build better parking areas. She insisted that the airplane remain in this spot until her little sister started to have her own strong opinions.

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They enjoyed speeding the cars along the roads, crashing into vehicles and stop signs, and being some of the worst drivers I’ve ever seen.

paper tape roads kids

But they seem to still be fairies at heart, and the play ended after about fifteen minutes. Nutmeg wanted me to remove the tape completely, but I convinced her to allow me to leave it up for her sister.

The next day I converted it into a backyard roadway for their dollhouse. You can see it features as a backdrop in yesterday’s post: Dollhouse Games.

Do your kids enjoy playing with cars? What kind of games do they play? Do you have any tips for making them more fun for children who aren’t natural fans of vehicles?

Hands on: As we Grow has a comprehensive list of 35 activities for Things that Go! It’s great, and will keep active vehicle-fans happy for hours.

12 Doll House Games and Ideas

12 easy dollhouse games with kidsDid you grow up with a dollhouse?

I grew up with a beautiful hand made dollhouse, built by my cousin’s father about twenty years before I was born. It was a family treasure that got passed around from cousin to cousin. I always imagined that my own children would play with this imagination-building house, but it was time to send it back to its original owner.

So when I found this handmade house in a second hand shop that looked so much like the doll house I grew up with, and knew it could become a family heirloom. I mean really, look at those cute shingles! It needed some work (painting, wallpaper, cleaning) , but it’s also sturdy and hand-made, and I couldn’t pass it up.

I found some fancy Plan Toys wooden dollhouse furniture on Ebay, picked up little wooden peg people, made a few dolls myself, and my mom shipped me a big box of my old dollhouse furniture that reeked of 1981.

When my kids visit their grandparents, they play with some fantastic wooden Melissa and Doug dollhouses that are every bit as wonderful as this house, and I especially love that they fold away when my kids are done playing: Melissa & Doug Fold and Go Princess CastleMelissa & Doug Fold and Go Wooden Castle (the Princess Castle, in grey), Melissa & Doug Fold & Go Woodland Treehouse.

doll house games

How to Play with your Doll House

doll house games

Okay, so you have a dollhouse (or you’re about to after you check out the links below). Now what? Kids are natural inventors with rich imaginations. If you do a good job setting the stage for them, they’ll most likely know what to do. In the event that you need a little extra help, here are a few pointers and dollhouse game ideas:

  • Get some furniture and dolls. Keep your eyes open for miniature things in unexpected places: Ebay, Craigslist, Amazon, Museum Shops, Tourist Stops. I found our canoe at a sailing shop by San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.
  • Play games based on real things that happen in your home: cleaning day, birthday party, getting ready for school, packing for a trip, eating breakfast. Children love to recreate their experiences, as it solidifies their learning and understanding of the world around them. To do this, each of you can take a character (or two) and role play with the dolls.
  • Make up something fantastic and highly imaginative. For example: Fairy’s first visit to Unicorn Palace, the house becomes a zoo for animals or parking garage for cars.
  • Move it around. Our dollhouse has a spot on the floor, and it’s rarely used. I moved it to a low table and my kids acted like it was a new toy. This advice could go for any unloved toy. Move it to a new room or spot and see if it gets new attention.
  • Add something new. I added tape lines to the table to suggest roads and parking spaces, which gave my kids something extra to consider and puzzle over. Other ideas: Roll butcher paper underneath/around it and draw streets, gardens, etc. Find a new character (our doll house gets more use with Strawberry Shortcake Dolls), add a new piece of furniture, make a tunnel or slide out of a paper towel tube, add holiday lights, cut old t-shirts to make sheets or rugs.
  • Decorate. Give your kids paper and markers and invite them to make miniature art for the walls. Decorate the house for the holidays. Paint wooden furniture or wooden dolls.
  • Give it time. My older child was never into small-world play and didn’t take to the doll house until her younger sister took an interest. It may not be for your child, or they may not be ready for it yet. I put ours in the garage until a few months ago, and now it’s getting tons of use.

doll house games

More Doll House Play Ideas

Do you want to make your own dolls like the little man in the boat up there? I’ll teach you how to do it with simple materials here: Felt Dollhouse Dolls.

Do you have a shelf? Let the Children Play offers this clever alternative to the traditional dollhouse 

Do you like to spend time outdoors? Make a fairy garden.

Maybe you just have cardboard? How to Make a Cardboard Doll’s House from Red Ted Art. She also has tutorials for making a baby doll and a dollhouse bed.

Cardboard Shoe Box Doll House with Egg Carton Furniture, from Pink and Green Mama.

Check out the life-sized dollhouse by installation artist Heather Benning. It blows me away.

Note: Some of the links in this post connect to affiliates that I think you’ll find valuable. If you purchase anything from these vendors, you’re helping me keep the Tinkerlab engine go. Thanks for your support!

Imaginative Play: Dress-up

Do your kids love dressing up? Mine do, and not a day goes by that they’re not in a bumblebee costume, waving around magic wands, or adorned with tiaras.  

I should say that I fall into the camp of allowing my kids to dress themselves, which does wonders for fueling their creativity, imagination, and independence. And it also means I have to be okay with the possibility of tutus on a farm or magic wands over brunch. I could draw the line, of course, but I don’t really see the harm in it as long as they’re safe and they’re not dressed as fairies at a wedding.

dressing up

Do you have a dress-up cabinet?

I’m a big fan of the dress-up closet, cabinet, or basket and recommend that you get one started if it’s not already in place in your home. We have a cabinet in the kids’ room that’s filled with 3 large bins. Everything gets dumped into the bins, which helps keep the room tidy at the end of the day.

What do you fill it with?

You can stock it with all kinds of things: Halloween costumes (look for these on sale right after the holiday), ballet costumes, your old jewelry/dresses/shirts/shoes, scrubs, aprons, headbands, etc.

My girls (22 months and 4-years) gravitate to fairy costumes, tutus, wings, insect costumes (bees + butterflies), tiaras, and wands.

My 4-year old is obsessed with outer space at the moment and flagged the astronaut costumes in the Chasing Fireflies catalog that just arrived in our mailbox (I’m not an affiliate…just a a fan who’s happy to pass the good word along).

tap shoes

I recently found these almost brand-new tap shoes at a second-hand store, and they’ve become a favorite of my toddler’s. She loves stomping around the house, testing them on different surfaces, and making a general rumpus.

dressing up imagination

If the dress-up supplies are easy for the kids to access, there’s a good chance that they’ll have them on at all parts of the day: play time, meals, trips to the farm, and gardening are just some of the times that my kids like to dress up.

And when they put their dress-up gear on, they’re transformed. They’ll fly like bees, twirl like ballerinas, and build an ER center with their doctor gear.

What are your kids’ favorite dress-clothes? And how do you organize them?

 

We Are Art {Art.com Has a New Look}

I’m excited to share that I have a brand new partnership with the popular art-shopping- hub-o-the-web, Art.com.

we are art

Art.com *just* launched a radically new website designed to offer easy access to the world’s largest selection of handpicked art images.  If you’ve ever been to the site before, definitely pay it another visit — it’s a whole new experience. Very cool, lovely eye candy, and easy to use.

Isn’t this cute? You can find it, and other preschool-related happiness, in the preschool category on their site.

This new Art.com is filled with original content featuring art and design inspiration, curated collections by designers and tastemakers, social and sharing features and great new tools to help people find the art they love so they can love their space more.

What kind of art do you like? We all have different tastes in art, and mine leans toward whimsy, irreverence, and abstraction. 

The old Art.com site was a great spot to find the traditional art (still is!), so I was delighted to find some quirky surprises like this knee-high wearing deer.  Isn’t he funny?

I started a public gallery on the site called Happy Go Lightly where you can see more of my whimsical curated picks, including those I’m featuring here .

I was invited to choose one piece of art from the collection for my home, and the decision was so hard. Our house is tiny and most of our walls are already full of art, but there’s one spot in our dining area that is begging for something fresh. When I found a whole series of mixed media collage prints by San Francisco artist, Rex Ray, I knew I had to choose one for this spot.

I first fell in love with Ray’s work at Michael Martin Gallery in San Francisco and have since seen it all over town at The Slanted Door restaurant in the Ferry Building, Rosewood Hotel in Menlo Park, and Gallery 16. What attracts me to Ray’s work is his use of layered paint, textures, and color.

The room is currently swimming in blues and greens, and I think this will bring it all together.

All this talk about hanging art reminds me that I have a Pinterest board called “I Heart Art.” If your taste aligns at all with mine, you’ll probably dig some of my selections over there too. Art.com put this great video together that you’ll want to watch.

What kind of art do you love? Is there a spot in your home that’s begging for a piece of art? Where is it?

 

11 Classic Summer Camp Crafts for Kids

11 classic summer crafts that you'll remember from your own childhood...all in one place!

Now that summer is officially underway, I’ve been getting nostalgic for classic summer camp crafts. You know, the ones that you would make every year — things to wear, hang on your wall, and gift to your parents at the end of summer.

These projects are intended to take you back to your childhood, and maybe inspire you to bring some of this time-tested goodness back into your life this summer. I know that my 4-year old will enjoy tie-dying and sand casting, so I’m adding those to my summer bucket list.

What crafts do you remember from your camp days?

Tie Dye Camp

Tie Dye Tutorial, Home Made Simple. You could also try this one-step tie dye kit.

friendship bracelet camp honestly wtf

Friendship Bracelets. For all the supplies you’ll need, I love this multi-pack of embroidery floss.

gods eye camp

God’s Eye, Make and Takes. For a colorful selection of yarn, you might like this bright 8-pack of tiny, soft yarn skeins.

Summer Camp Craft: Paint Birdhouses

Paint Birdhouses. TinkerLab. Pic up inexpensive wooden birdhouses at the craft store, add acrylic paint, and you’ll have a birdhouse or bird feeder for summer. For non-toxic acrylic paint, you could try Reeves non-toxic acrylic paint set (affiliate)

Sand casting camp paint cut paste

Sand Casting with Plaster and Shells, Paint Cute Paste. Need plaster of paris? Amazon has you covered!

diy windchimes camp hands on as we grow

DIY Wind Chimes, Hands on: As we grow. Need brushes? You could try these silicon basting brushes.

Rain Stick camp Imagination Tree

DIY: Rain Stick, The Imagination Tree

Sand candles camp Child Central Station

Sand Candles, Child Central Station. If you need candle wax, this natural soy wax (in a 10 lb. bag) is an Amazon bestseller.

colored rice bottles camp plain vanilla mom

Colored Rice Bottle Art, Plain Vanilla Mom

Nature Impressions in Sculpey camp Plum pudding

Nature Impressions in Sculpey, Plum Pudding. Sculpey is a polymer clay that’s easy to use and bakes hard in your oven. Awesome stuff. And there’s a great deal on it over here.

Bell Shaker camp Mini Eco

Bell Shaker Instrument, Mini Eco

Papier Mache Bowl camp

Papier Mache Bowl, Art Projects for Kids

Classic Summer Camp Crafts for Kids

 

More Summer Crafts can be found in the Camp Mom: Summer Activities Pack

Camp Mom Widget

 

Watercolors in the Bath

How does bath time go in your home? My 4 year old prefers the morning shower to a bath and my 22-month old, who’s mostly loved her baths, recently started giving us a hard time about bathing.

Over the last few years my husband and I have come up with all sorts of creative solutions to encouraging our kids to bathe. I wonder if you’ve tried any of these tricks?

    • Offer your kids water-resistant dolls with soap and washcloths for “Baby bath time”
    • Fill a bath-side bag with toys (rubber ducks, buckets, cups with holes in them, etc.)
    • Bubble bath
    • Craft foam in the Tub
    • Bubbles (for blowing) with bubble wands
    • Bathe in the dark with flashlights,/candles/glowsticks
    • Bathtub Crayons

This bath time invitation is just a simple Washable Watercolor set.

All you need is a watercolor box and a paintbrush. The box usually come with a brush, so this takes about two seconds to pull together.

watercolors kids bath

Little Rainbow dipped her brush in all the colors, individually and then mixed together. This is a new one for me, and it was so popular with my Rainbow that 4-year old Nutmeg asked if she could jump in too. She usually prefers to shower alone, so I thought this was the best kind of endorsement.

watercolors kids bath

Rainbow painted while her big sister washed the paintings away.

When they was done, the paint box was a mixed up mess, but I just rinsed it out and the colors sprang back to life.

The only trouble I had was with cleaning the paint. All of the colors washed away, except for the black. It came right off the tiles, but left a grey shadow on my white tub. It washed right away with a little bit of Bar Keepers Friend, my favorite porcelain cleaner. But the fun that was had (and the clean bodies that went along with that) was well worth a little elbow grease for me.

More Creative Bathtime Fun

Two of my favorite spots to visit for creative bath play are Growing a Jeweled Rose and The Imagination Tree

  • Crystal at the fun kid-friendly blog, Growing a Jeweled Rose, is the Queen of bath play. She has a whole category named Sensory Baths, that will keep your little ones wet and happy.
  • One of my favorite bath activities from Crystal is her glow-in-the-dark outer space bath. OMG — it’s ridiculously cool.
  • Crystal has an entire Pin Board called Play in the Bath
  • Anna at The Imagination Tree shows us how to make Shaving Cream Bath Paint. Her photos make the paint look like frosting.
  • Also inspiring are Anna’s Multi-sensory bath time photos, where she colors the bath water (and reminds us that the color will not stain our kids’ skin).

Do you have tricks for making bath time more fun (and/or luring your kids into the bath)?

 

10+ Messy Art Projects That Will Leave Your House Clean

messy art projects that leave your house clean

I can’t tell you how many emails, comments, and messages I receive with questions about how to set up no-mess art projects. A really good friend of mine recently told me that she loves my blog, but that my projects are so….MESSY. Eeek.

I’m not sure if you’ll believe this but the funny thing is that I’m afraid of messes too. Messes themselves don’t really bother me, but it’s the prospect of cleaning messes that often gets the better of me. I already have dishes to wash, clothes to clean and fold, and floors to sweep, so adding one more mess (that doesn’t really have to be made) is a hard thing to voluntarily add to my to-do list.

So I thought you might also enjoy a few tips for setting up “messy” art projects that will leave your house clean. Oh, and just in case you decide to shut that out mess-filter and your kids go a little nutty with crayons + walls, I’ll also include some ideas for cleaning that mess at the end of this post. Just in case.

Trays Teach Preschool

Place large serving trays or cookie sheets beneath small pieces of collage paper for easy clean-up. Read Using Trays in the Preschool Classroom for more clever early childhood education ideas from Deborah at Teach Preschool.

muffin tin mom starbucks cup paint

Fill Dome-lidded Starbucks cups with paint. The brush goes right into the straw holder. A brilliant solution to the otherwise spillable paint cups from Muffin Tin Mom.

mama smiles plastic bag

Mess-free painting in a bag couldn’t be cleaner, from Mama Smiles.

momtastic sponges

Add some paper and sponges to paint and ziplock baggies for more clean painting. From Steph for Momtastic. Steph is also the owner of one of my favorite blogs, named appropriately for this post, Modern Parents Messy Kids. 

Sharpie Tie Dye Shirts

Sharpie Tie Dye Shirts look like they’d make a mess, but it’s all done with Sharpies and rubbing alcohol. My daughter loved this when she turned 3. From Mom’s Crafty Space.

Contact paper and tissue paper are a classic combination for this easy and clean suncatcher that kids will have fun making (Tinkerlab). The Artful Parent is the Queen of suncatchers, and lucky for us she just assembled all of her Suncatcher posts into this post: Suncatchers and Stained Glass, 39 Ideas for Kids

the mad house tape

Tape off your drawing paper will keep the edges near the table clean, and will also create a nice, crisp border around the picture. I also cover our tables with a plastic tablecloth or butcher paper when using messy materials. From The Mad House.

paint in oatmeal container

Find out what Deborah from Teach Preschool placed in the Oatmeal container to make unique, active, and clean paintings.

clean-er finger painting baballa

Add paint to sponges for clean-er finger painting. From the Spanish-speaking blog Barballa — if you don’t speak Spanish, still check it out — the photos are beautiful and tell the whole story.

spaghetti worm painting chocolate muffin

Place painting projects inside a box, as Melissa at The Chocolate Muffin Tree did here. Read more about how they made these creative Spaghetti Worm Paintings.  You can also read how we made Rolled Easter Egg paintings (seen in the first photo of this post) here. 

Save larger cardboard boxes to create cardboard box splat paintings. This is good one for outside…just in case! (Tinkerlab)

One of my all-time favorite blogs, The Artful Parent, shows this simple way to paint with just water and a chalkboard. Check out Jean’s blog for more ideas. She’s a keeper.

magnetic tote family fun

Family Fun has this clever solution to storing art supplies — neatly — on a table, using magnets and a muffin tin.

Remove Crayon Stains Around the House

And when your heart skips a beat at that too-late moment when the house gets really quiet, Reader’s Digest shares a how to remove crayon from your walls for when your little cutie pies turn into overnight mural artists 🙂

Do you have any tips for messy art projects that will leave the house clean?