November News and an Announcement

Hi friends! Yesterday I shared that I would have some news for you today. Since, apparently, I’m terrible about keeping secrets across social media you may have already heard: I’m working on a Tinkerlab book (!!) to be published by Roost Books (2014). Holy Cow!

I’m sharing this, in part, to explain why I haven’t been able to post as much lately. I’ve been pulling the night shift in some of my favorite coffee houses around town in an effort to collect my favorite experiments and experiences into one tidy, welcoming place.

tinkerlab late night book writing

I started blogging about two and a half years ago after reading Amanda Blake-Soule’s The Creative Family. Amanda blogged before becoming an author, which planted the blog-to-book seed in my head. Shortly thereafter, I discovered Jean Van’t Hul’s welcoming blog,  The Artful Parent, and the rest is history. These two bright and authentic women enabled me to forge my path as a writer and blogger, and I’ll be forever grateful for their inspiration.

Because of these extra writing responsibilities, I won’t be able to keep up the frequency of blog posts for the next few months, but I want to keep the quality high with fun projects like the round-up of 50 Simple {Last Minute} Halloween Ideas that I shared yesterday. So, you may notice a slight shift in the Tinkerlab air, but I hope it’s a welcome change that’s full of good and interesting things.

Sneak peak at exciting things to come in November

A giveaway from these folks…

A review and giveaway of this book…

Imagine Childhood Book

And I’ll be a Guest Pinner for The Organized Parent…

I hope you’ll stick with me through this, let me know if I’m slipping too much, and please continue to share your inspiration with me.

Thanks for listening!

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Tinkersketch Art Ideas

Tinkersketch Art Ideas ::

Are you a creative parent or teacher who’s looking for some art ideas?

Do you know about the ongoing #Tinkersketch art journal challenge that’s brewing over on Instagram? Every day, people just like you and me show up to snap and share photos of their sketchbook art ideas. 

The idea behind this challenge is to make a little bit of room in our busy parenting lives to create via glueing, painting, collaging, and experimenting in a sketchbook everyday, or as often as we can.

When I first introduced this challenge I had a lot more time on my hands (check back tomorrow for an announcement about where my time went!), and I made time to create a tinkersketch every day. I now experiment in my sketchbook when I can, usually alongside my children when we’re all at the art table, and I never regret the time I spend doing this. I share this to say that if you feel strapped for time, create something when you have the time and your efforts will not go unnoticed by you or your child.

Tinkersketch Art Ideas: Highlights from Instagram

There’s a lovely crew of dedicated tinkersketchers who continue to inspire me and each other with their quick sketches, material explorations, and collaborative art journaling with kids. Chelsey, one of my Tinkersketch buddies, wrote this inspiring post about her Tinkersketch journey. She says in the post, “I thought hard about doing it, but was really nervous. I don’t think I’ve ever even owned a sketchbook in my life. I am NOT an artist and do not feel creative in any way.” And then she tackled the project with so much gusto that I’ve considered asking her to take it over!

Here’s a peek at a few of my favorite images from this month…

art ideas

Altered book image@emog

“Ella cus” (She sews) is a beautiful and delicate song from #laiaia@angaleta who blogs at Encenentlaimaginacio 

art ideas

Sometimes the tinkersketch moves off the page like this Pumpkin Painting, @supershortcake,

Nutmeg, Curry, and Paprika painting, @angaleta who blogs at Encenentlaimaginacio 

art ideas

Painting with Chocolate, @angaleta who blogs at Encenentlaimaginacio 

Child’s Tinkersketch, @aneverydaystory (Kate) who blogs at An Everyday Story

art ideas

Child’s Tinkersketch: “Lucy is inside a robot and controlling it on the left. On the right is Lucy and theo. theo is sad because he wants to be in the robot., @cmarashian who blogs at Buggy and Buddy.

Mixed Media Weaving, @emog


When I first shared this challenge I posted prompts, and it’s been a while since I’ve picked up on this. Will you tell me if this is useful?

Feel free to use the art prompts if they work for you or ignore them completely and forge your own sketchbook path. Sketches can happen in a traditional sketchbook or on just about anywhere you can dream up. Remember, this past week @Supershortcake made her tinkersketch on a pumpkin, so go on and think outside the box. The objective is to make a little time to experiment with new art ideas in a supportive environment.

  • Fill the page with Jack-O-Lanterns
  • Draw with a hot glue gun
  • Combine skinny strips of tape and leaves in a collage
  • Make (and use) paper stencils like these
  • Paint an abstract picture of the colors of the weather
  • Write a poem about the place you live, and illustrate it
  • Document a song that you can’t get out of your head

How to SHARE your tinkersketch

  • Instagram: Upload a photo of your DPS with the hashtag #tinkersketch. My username is tinkerlab, in case you’d like to follow me
  • Facebook: Upload a photo of your DPS directly to the Tinkerlab Facebook page
  • 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
  • If you’re a Blogger, write a post about your tinkersketch adventures and share it with me! Feel free to snag the button up there if you’d like.

If you want to read more about the Tinkersketch project hop over here for the introduction and more info on how you can join.

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50 Simple Halloween Ideas for Kids

If you’re scrambling to pull off some Halloween magic, these simple Halloween ideas will help you move gracefully through this spooky season.

Simple Halloween Ideas

Halloween Ideas: Science Experiments

Let’s start off with some gooey, oozy Halloween ideas that are fun to make and play with.

Dry Ice Experiment, Tinkerlab

5 Fun Science Experiements, Science Sparks

Elephant Toothpaste, Preschool Powel Packets

Erupting Pumpkin Experiment, Growing a Jeweled Rose

20 Best Halloween Science Ideas from Kid Bloggers, Steve Spangler Science

Glowing Mad Science Jars, Growing a Jeweled Rose

How to Make Slime, Tinkerlab, and watch our video tutorial…

Halloween Ideas: Sensory Activities for Toddlers

Little kids can enjoy this goulash season too with these fun sensory Halloween ideas that are perfect for little hands.

Pumpkin Pie Play Dough, Tinkerlab

Pumpkin Scented Cloud Dough, Growing a Jeweled Rose

Halloween Sensory Bin, Here Come the Girls

Pumpkin Oobleck, Train Up A Child

13 Halloween Sensory Ideas, Creative Playhouse

Pumpkin Guts (one of my favorite simple Halloween ideas, since you know you have to cut the pumpkin up anyway), Creative Connections for Kids

Touch and Feel Scarecrows, Teach Preschool

Halloween Ideas: Arts and Crafts

Bring out the paint and paper for these festive arts and crafts Halloween ideas…

Simple Halloween Ideas

Organic Shape Monsters (this simple Halloween idea is a year-round hit in my house), Tinkerlab

Spiderweb Printmaking, Tinkerlab

Printing with Pumpkins, Putti’s World

Coffee Filter Spiderwebs, The Artful Parent

Handprint Pumpkins, Putti’s World

Halloween Tree, Tinkerlab

Tie Dye Pumpkins, Mamas Like Me

Marble and Paint Spider Webs, Tinkerlab

Spin Art Pumpkins, Rainy Day Mum

Pumpkin Scented Painting, Growing a Jeweled Rose

Halloween Countdown Paper Chain, Tinkerlab

Rolling Pumpkin Painting, Putti’s World

Simple Halloween Ideas: Games and Activities

What’s Halloween without fun and somewhat creepy games?

Simple Halloween Ideas

Halloween Felt Board Game, Kitchen Counter Chronicles

Halloween Crafts and Ideas for Toddlers, Rainy Day Mum

31 Ideas for an Active October, Toddler Approved

Dress in Costume and Write a Story, Here Come the Girls

Witch Pitch (toss candy corn into cauldron game), Chica and Jo

Halloween Word Search, No Time for Flash Cards

Simple Halloween Ideas: Food

These tasty snacks will get you in the autumn mood.

Baked Pumpkin Seeds, Tinkerlab

 21 Recipes Inspired by Scary Movies, Babble

4 (not so scary) Food and Snack Ideas, Kids Activities Blog

Pumpkin Jack-o-lantern Pancakes, The Artful Parent

Easy Frankenstein Cookie Pops, Life at the Zoo

Simple Halloween Ideas: Jack-O-Lanterns

These easy jack-o-lanterns are great for toddlers and preschoolers, as well as time-constrained adults.

No-carve Halloween Pumpkins, Tinkerlab

Decorate Monster Pumpkins, Hands on as we Grow

Last-minute Pumpkin Carving and Decorating, The Artful Parent

Toddler-friendly Jack-O-Lanterns, Modern Parent Messy Kids

Puffy Paint Jack-o-lanterns, Train Up a Child

Button and Ribbon Pumpkins, Toddler Approved

Chalkboard Pumpkins, Small & Friendly

Simple Halloween Ideas: Decorations

Bring on the simple Halloween decor ideas with these outdoor decorations that take minutes to make.

Felt Bat Garland, The Artful Parent

Little Fabric Ghosts, Tinkerlab

10 Simple Halloween Decorations, Babble

How to Make a Halloween Bunting (Quick and Cheap), The Artful Parent

Make the Spookiest Scarecrow Ever + 10 more Outdoor Decorating Ideas, Babble

Simple Halloween Ideas: Costumes

If you’re short on time, these Halloween costumes can come together in minutes.

39 Last minute Costume Ideas for Kids, Family Fun

Last minute Halloween Costumes, Babble

Last-minute Pirate Costume, Red Ted Art (I also love the last-minute skeleton costume)

50 No-sew Costumes for Halloween, No Twiddle Twaddle


Is this your first time here?

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TinkerLab Newsletter

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

Looking at Art with Kids: Norman Rockwell

Have you spent any time looking at art — in a MUSEUM — with your child? Even though I’m an arts educator who spent years leading gallery tours and training docents, we don’t spend as much time in art museums as I’d like because, you know, my children look at everything as a potential playground. I have an arsenal of gallery games and tricks up my sleeve, but they’re no match for a 2-year old!

This isn’t to say that we don’t look at art. We look at art at home, and sculpture gardens are a preschool parent’s best friend. But given my love for visiting art museums, I’ve had to seriously adjust my expectations of how a visit feels.

In a word. Short.

This summer we had the pleasure of visiting Cape Cod’s Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich, MA. If you ever find yourself in the area with little and big people, it’s a multi-generational gold mine. A few highlights were Hidden Hollow (an outdoor classroom and fun zone), the indoor carousel, and gorgeous gardens and grounds. What we didn’t expect to see was a traveling Norman Rockwell exhibit, Norman Rockwell Beyond the Easel.

My mother-in-law wanted to see the show, and while I did too, all I could imagine was the push-pull of my two- and four-year-olds to skedaddle in the wake of weary art patrons and Rockwell’s photorealistic paintings.

But the interpretive team did a great job bringing Rockwell’s work to my kids’ level. We snapped lots of photos in the Model T, put on old-fashioned clothes that matched the style of Rockwell’s models, and assembled a magnetic version of Rockwell’s famous painting, The Runaway (1958).

Do you know The Runaway? It turns out that Norman Rockwell’s narrative work provides a rich platform for children to search for meaning, and my my 4-year old loved it!

We were all fascinated by the side-by-side comparison of the final painting with intermediate sketches and the black-and-white photograph that Rockwell staged as inspiration. We did a lot of tennis-match looking to spot the similarities and differences, which made me appreciate Rockwell’s eye for details and storytelling even more than I had before.

Try it for yourself…it’s super fun.

Print the two images, and then look at them carefully with your favorite little person, an experience that fosters creative thinking and curiosity. Beyond making comparisons, you can try asking a couple inquiry-based questions (based on Visual Thinking Strategies) that will get the conversation flowing:

  1. What’s going on in this picture?
  2. What do you see that makes you say that? (ask this question if your child offers a subjective answer such as “The boy likes the Police Officer.”)
After that, if you want more information about The Runaway and the photo that it was based on, click over here.

If you find yourself falling in love with this image or you want to see more works by Rockwell or other beloved American artists, you might enjoy visiting’s Americana gallery or go directly to The Runaway on I own a few pieces by, and the quality is beyond belief. I almost feel like I’m looking at the original piece.

They also do an incredible job framing their work, which was the first thing I noticed when I opened the carefully wrapped print that arrived on my doorstep. You can see what I mean in this craftsmanship video, which shows how‘s frames are handcrafted in America.

You can also find on Pinterest, where they pin cool art and, ahem, I hear there’s a BIG giveaway happening soon for their Pinterest followers.

What was the last museum you went to? Any tips on visiting art museums with kids?

This post is sponsored by, but all opinions are my own.

Fall Luminary: Make a Lantern

Today I’m joined by Arts Educator extraordinaire, Amanda Gross, who’s back to show us how to make a Fall Luminary from leaves and melted crayons. Not only are these beautiful, but the processes of collecting leaves, peeling crayons, and melting the wax with an iron are sure to capture a child’s attention.

Make a Lantern!

Luminaries are perfect for brightening a crisp autumn evening, and a crafty way to explore this season when leaves turn brilliant colors, the rosy twilight falls more quickly, and families the world over traditionally give thanks for the harvest.

You might start by reading a book that poetically investigates the unique things of autumn, such as Lois Ehlert’s Leaf Man or Lauren Thompson’s Mouse’s First Fall.

Would your child like to make a colorful fall luminary, choosing materials from outside and around the house?

Step 1:
Wander around outside, and notice how the leaves have turned a multitude of colors and have gotten crunchy. Choose leaves that have fallen off of trees, but are not too dry and can still lay flat.  If leaves are very curly, you may consider pressing them in a heavy book for a few days, before using them.  Bring your collection inside and onto a table.

Step 2:
Find a clean mason jar that will serve as the structure for your luminary.  Measure the mason jar’s circumference with sting, and cut a wax paper strip that is long enough to fit around it.

Step 3:
Gather crayons of your favorite colors.   Lanterns for the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival are often inspired by butterflies, so any hue goes!   Unwrap the paper covering the crayons, and shave them lengthwise over the wax paper, with a serrated knife or vegetable peeler.  If your child isn’t old enough to wield the knife, s/he could choose the crayon, the location, and how much pigment they’d like you to shave off.

Step 4:
Place leaves over the crayon shavings, and feel free to add more shavings on top.  Explain that the crayon wax will melt, and those little crumbs will become puddles of color.  Experiment with composition, and with layering the leaves and shavings.

Step 5:
Set up your ironing board and turn on the iron (If you are like me, and not the most experienced with this, here’s one of many online ironing tutorials).  On your ironing board, place a flat, thin cloth (the crayon wax will probably bleed through the wax paper a bit, so use scrap fabric and not “good” cloth), then carefully place your wax paper with the leaves and shavings.  Over this, put a blank sheet of wax paper, of around the same size.  Layer on another thin cloth, and smooth out the wrinkles with your fingers.  Spritz the top layer evenly with water from a spray bottle, and now you’re ready to iron.  Flatten out the wrinkles and iron both sides of the wax paper “sandwich.”

Step 6:
After waiting a few minutes for the wax paper to cool, peel away the cloth.  Measure your mason jar again, and cut the wax paper so that it fits around the jar, then tape or tie a ribbon around it to hold the paper in place.

Step 7:
When it gets dark outside, drop a candle into your mason jar, and ignite it with a long lighter.  The brilliant, glowing colors and winding lines of the leaves will surely be a cozy centerpiece for your family to gather around, and is an excellent reminder to be grateful for the season.


Picture Books About Fall on Goodreads

PreservingLeaves and a Leaf Lantern

Nature’sStained Glass

MeltedCrayon Luminaries

Amanda E. Gross_headshotAmanda designs curricula to guide and inspire children, teens, and adults to appreciate art and to create!  She earned a Master’s of Arts in Teaching from The Rhode Island School of Design and is an instructor at Academy of Art University.  Amanda is also an illustrator, painter, DIY crafter, and permaculture enthusiast. Find out more about Amanda here: Art Curricula WebsiteArt Portfolio WebsiteLinkedIn, and Pinterest.