Explore Modern Artists: Painting with Edward Hopper

Welcome to the first project in our newest series: Explore Modern Artists. Today we’ll take a look at one of my favorite American Artists, Edward Hopper, with a preschool-friendly painting technique.

Explore Modern Artists with Kids : series of projects on Tinkerlab

The Q-tip painting technique that we used could be applied to the work of just about any 2-D artist, so definitely take this as inspiration and run with it in another direction if that works better for you. If you’d like to connect the technique with the artist, take a look at the work of Georges Seurat, who painted with dots of paint.


Explore Modern Artists: Edward Hopper

I thought we would begin with Edward Hopper because it’s been warm and sunny around here and my kids and I have been looking at some of his paintings as we talk about an upcoming visit to Cape Cod, which is where Hopper had a home and studio. Edward Hopper’s iconic seashore paintings masterfully capture light and evoke a sense of calm, while transporting us to the Eastern Seaboard.

My children are preschoolers and I wanted to make this a project that would be fun for them while encouraging them to look closely at Hopper’s work. This technique has little to do with Hopper’s work, but it got my kids talking about what they saw in his pictures while inventing their own patterns of color.

set up edward hopper art project


edward hopper kids art


The project itself is easy to set up and children will enjoy learning about an artist while layering paint on top of his images. Give yourself 20+ minutes for set-up, the activity, and then clean-up.

When we paint, I cover our table with a plastic tablecloth. Each child had a paint palette filled with dollops of tempera paint, and a big cup of Q-tips, which we used as brushes. You could use brushes instead, but they thought the Q-tips were fun.

We selected a few paintings that we enjoyed. I’m adding links to the images in case you’d like to use these too.

Before the painting began, 4-year old N and I talked a little bit about Edward Hopper while looking at some of his art. I gave her an age-appropriate synopsis of his life and then we talked about what we saw happening in his paintings. This bit was under 5-minutes because she was excited to paint. Fair enough.

ground swell edward hopper inspired

More on Art Looking

I’m 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

Paint like Jasper Johns

Easy DIY Bubble Solution for Kids

This easy bubble solution recipe is a staple for parents and pre-school teachers. It’s easy to make, comes together in about one minute, it’s safe, and kids love it.

how to make a one minute bubble solution

Bubbles make kids happy!

I’ve been so busy with all sorts of parenting/household/traveling/social things lately, and love to find easy projects that make my kids happy. This is one of those things.

My daughter’s preschool has a big bubble table set up all summer long, and it’s a magical place where the kids can chill out and regroup while they make and pop bubbles. The other day I set up a few water areas around our yard, and the kids would migrate to this bubble table after a few rounds on the Slip ‘n Slide or bounces on our neighbor’s see-saw.

Easy Bubble Solution Supplies

  • Dish Soap. We like Trader Joe’s Next to Godliness dish soap and Dawn Ultra (affiliate). I use the dish soap from Trader Joe’s, and was surprised that it worked so well. I’ve used Dawn in the past, and the bigger, commercial soaps make fantastic bubbles.
  • Water
  • Bubble Wands
  • Large tub, small pool, or water table

how to make a one minute bubble solution

How to make the Easy Bubble Solution

  1. Squirt dish soap into the water table or bucket and then fill with a little bit of water. The ratio is approximately 1:5, but don’t rely on this too heavily since it varies depending on the brand of soap you use — just add more soap or water to get it just right.
  2. Add a bubble wand (or a few) and you’re good to go!

I’d encourage you to experiment with your soap and see if it works before setting this up for a big group of eager kids.


Kiwi Crate Summer of Giving {St. Jude}

This post is for all the parents who struggle to set up enriching hands-on projects for their kids, grandparents on the search for a unique gift for their grandkids, and anyone who wants to donate hands-on fun to children with pediatric diseases.


For one week only, Tinkerlab is teaming up with the hands-on project company, Kiwi Crate, and eleven kid-friendly blogs to give you the opportunity to sign up for a Kiwi Crate subscription while also helping a child in need. For every crate subscription purchased through my link this week (June 16 – 22, 2012), Kiwi Crate will donate a crate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. 

How awesome is that?

Why St. Jude? St. Jude is a non-profit that puts saving the lives of children at its core. With our support, St. Jude can provide families with everything they need to get them through hard times as their children face the unthinkable. One of the most amazing things about St. Jude is that they freely share the research and learning in their hospitals to help save the lives of children around the world.

Summer of Giving

This summer, Kiwi Crate is committed to giving back to the community by reaching out to children who might not normally have access to fun and enriching crafts and activities. So they reached out to me and a few of their favorite bloggers and charities to launch the Summer of Giving.

During this program, for each new subscription ordered, Kiwi Crate will donate one crate full of arts, crafts, and science activities to St. Jude.

Kiwi Crate is a suscription service that delivers a beautifully packaged thematic crate of hands-on projects to your home each month.  In each box are 2-3 carefully designed and kid-tested projects, which cover a range of developmental areas and subjects, including art, science, and imaginative play.  All the materials and inspiration to encourage creativity and curiosity are included – you just supply the kid!

The materials are high quality, the learning packets are painstakingly assembled, and every review I’ve read about Kiwi Crate (including my own) has been outstanding.

Our goal is to donate 100 crates to St. Judes. Will you help us? If you’ve ever wanted to try out Kiwi Crate, now is a great time to give it a spin. YOU get a crate and a child who’s facing a terrible illness gets a crate too. Win – Win.

To learn more about the Summer of Giving or to donate a crate, please connect to Kiwi Crate here. You can also make a donation to St. Jude with the Donation Code: STJUDE

Kid-friendly blogs that are participating in this week’s Summer of Giving:

Creative Family Fun  .  Edventures With Kids  .  Famiglia and Seoul   .  Glittering Muffins  .  Make Do and Friend  .  Mama Smiles  .  Plain Vanilla Mom  .  Playdough to Plato  .  The Golden Gleam  .  The Good Long Road  .  Tinkerlab  .  Train Up a Child

Note: I’ve been an advisor to Kiwi Crate since May 2011, but I have not been compensated for this post. 


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.


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.