November News and an Announcement

kiwi crate stamp

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

Tinkersketch Art Ideas :: Tinkerlab.com

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

THIS WEEK’S TINKERSKETCH PROMPTS

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

pumpkin pie playdough, tinkerlab

Is this your first time here? Join the Tinkerlab network and be the first to know about simple art + science projects for kids, creativity tips, and simple ideas that will make your life more creative. Sign up for our newsletter here.

Are you scrambling to pull some off some kid-friendly Halloween magic? Here are some simple Halloween ideas to help you move gracefully through the next few days.

Simple Halloween Ideas

Simple Halloween Ideas: Science Experiments

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…

Simple Halloween Ideas: Sensory Activities (Great for Toddlers)

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

Simple Halloween Ideas: Arts and Crafts

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Looking at Art with Kids: Norman Rockwell

How to look at art with kids :: Tinkerlab.com
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 Art.com’s Americana gallery or go directly to The Runaway on Art.com. I own a few pieces by Art.com, 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 Art.com‘s frames are handcrafted in America.

You can also find Art.com 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 Art.com, but all opinions are my own.

Fall Luminary: Make a Lantern

Crayon Shavings :: from Tinkerlab, Creative Experiments for Kids

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.

Resources

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.

Fall Crafts: Glycerin Leaves

How to make glycerine Leaves

We’re ga-ga for all the multi-colored maple leaves of the season, and my older daughter, N, is likely to burst into a chorus of “red and yellow leaves” as we drive down the road. I’ve been reading up on how to preserve the leaves so that they’ll last more than a couple days and it turns out that you have a few choices, some of them being : preserve them with a glycerin solution, seal them with hot wax, press them between sheets of contact paper, or melt them between sheets of wax paper.

We had a bottle of glycerin in the cabinet for bubble-making, so I thought we’d try our hands at making glycerin leaves. I have to tell you upfront: the process was fantastic and my kids really got into it. The results, on the other hand, meh. Not so spectacular. More on that soon.

Supplies

  • 1/4 c. glycerin
  • 1/2 c. water
  •  Fall leaves
  • Two pans that can stack inside each other
  • Spoon for mixing

Mix the glycerin and water in your pan. Add leaves.

If you don’t have enough solution to cover the leaves, make another batch. My 4-year old loved taking charge of this step and we ooohed and ahhhed over the leaves as they went into the glycerin bath.

Find another pan that’s a bit small than the first, and place it on top so that all the leaves stay submerged.

Put this aside for three-ish days, or until the leaves are super-supple. At this point, the leaves should have absorbed enough of the glycerin solution to retain their color and texture.

Remove the leaves from the glycerin solution and pat dry on a towel. Your leaves are now ready to display.

For those of you who might be banking on this recipe as a way to preserve your leaves for years to come, I think this is worth the experiment but it may not be foolproof. About two weeks later, our leaves have not turned brown, but they definitely haven’t retained their original color. I decorated a corner of our mantle with them, and they look pretty good, but not spectacular. I found this recipe that added surfectant (found in garden supply stores), and it sounds like that may help the glycerin soak into the leaves.

This minor detail has not affected my kids, however, who have been incorporating the leaves into their projects.

Have you ever made glycerin leaves?

Any tips or thoughts on what may have gone wrong? Or was I expecting too much?

 

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We only think when confronted with a problem

we only think when confronted with a problem :: tinkerlab.com

“We only think when confronted with a problem.” — John Dewey, American philosopher and educator

What do you think about this quote by John Dewey? 

I spend a lot of my time considering how to set the stage for open-ended discovery as a way to foster a child’s confidence and independence. If you caught my last post, Organizing a Self-serve Creativity Zone, you’ll see a thread here. Children who set up their own problems are invested in the process of learning and are motivated to see a project through completion.

If you were to put paint pots, blocks, or a basket of acorns in front of your child, what expectations would you have? Do you think you would have a specific outcome in mind or would you be curious to find out what he would make of these materials?

When I place materials on a table or in the garden as a learning invitation, or provocation, I can’t help but guess or imagine how my children might use them. Maybe that’s human nature.

The other day I invited my 4-year old to draw some pumpkins that I placed on the table. I imagined  that she might draw a round, orange image with a green stem on top. Instead she started with a round, orange pumpkin shape, and then added a pattern of orange circles, a grid of orange lines, a windy brown flower-covered tree trunk, and then she filled the rest of the page with Halloween stickers and polka dots. In all, she spent close to an hour working on this project. An hour.

If I instructed her to draw a pumpkin as I imagined it, you can guess how long that might have taken her.

So I try to get past any expectations I might have because my children always surprise me with their own clever interpretations that often extend far beyond the box of my adult mind. Not only that, but these invitations are fun for me because I get the chance to learn from my children and witness how they think about the world.

Today I challenge you to place some intriguing objects in front of your child as a provocation to explore, create, invent, and problem-solve. Be open to exploration, wonder, and curiosity. Pay attention to where their own thinking leads, as it might surprise you.

Maybe you already do this — yay! If so, I’d love to hear about how you set up successful provocations and what makes them work in your home or school.

Ideas for Provocations

  • An opened-up paper bag and a black marker (see above)
  • A jar of fresh flowers or colorful Autumn leaves, paper, markers or crayons to match the flowers/leaves
  • Multiple cups filled with vinegar, one cup filled with baking soda + a spoon (See Vinegar and Baking Soda)
  • A basket of toy cars, cut pieces of cardboard (that could become ramps or bridges), boxes
  • A couple sheets, kitchen clips (See How to Build a Simple Clip Fort)
  • A tall jar of water, assorted liquid watercolors in jars, pipettes
  • Large piece of paper covered with circles of multiple sizes, container of markers
  • Clay or Play Dough, small bowl of water, popsicle sticks (See Clay)
  • Piece of canvas, wood or felt; bowl of small stones, sea glass, or shells
  • Containers filled with different scrap paper, glue, large piece of paper (See Self-serve Valentines)
  • Child-friendly knife, whisk, mushrooms or other soft food, cutting board, bowl (See Cooking with Toddlers)

Silently step aside and observe. What does your child do with the materials? What problem is he trying to solve? You might want to step in periodically to help problem-solve or prompt further discover with open-ended questions.

How do you set up provocations and what makes them successful in your home or school? If this is new-to-you, I’d love to hear how what you think about this process for discovery.

Organize a Self-Serve Creativity Zone

slime

“The drive to master our environment is a basic human characteristic from the beginning — from birth.”

--Jack P. Shonkoff, Harvard University (From Mind in the Making, Ellen Galinsky. New York: Harper Collins, 2010).

Do you have self-serve spaces in your home that are dedicated to creativity, art, science, and tinkering? Today I’m sharing our creative zone, the space where most of our art and creative explorations take place.

The key to this space is that it’s all self-serve. I jump in and participate, of course, but my kids know where everything is and it’s all accesible to their little hands. And they’re capable of cleaning it up when they’re ready to move on to the next thing.

We live in a small home, and I’m not suggesting that our plan will work for everyone, but the general spirit of it is something that I think we can all stand behind: when children can execute on their own ideas, it builds their confidence and encourages curiosity and a thirst for knowledge.

My objective is to give my children room to take charge of this space in order to test and follow through on their big ideas.

This space has moved all over our house, but for now it’s in our dining room space, just off the kitchen. It’s perfect for us because the light is the best in the house and there’s room for our self-serve art supply furniture. The table and chairs (Pottery Barn) are sturdy, meaning that grown-ups can comfortably sit in them and there’s plenty of natural and artificial light.

In order to execute on their ideas, children need to have access to creative materials, so all of ours are stored on low shelves where my kids can find them (and then, theoretically, put them away). Having a garbage can (Ikea) in the space is also key to keeping it neat. I don’t know why it took me so long to get a waste basket for this area!

Not all of our creative materials are stored here: I keep less-often-used materials like bottles of paint and play dough tools in a closet and the garage. I also introduce new materials when my children seem to tire of what’s in the space — maybe once a week. This week our table is consumed with a big batch of slime! If you’re interested, you can watch our video tutorial on how to make slime here.

There’s a letter writing center on top of one of the book shelves, which includes envelopes, cards, small homemade booklets, string + tape (both in action at the moment), a stapler, art dice, compass, and an address stamper. Next to this is a 3-tiered dessert tray, repurposed to hold collage materials and stamps.

Beneath this shelf is storage for clean recycled materials (including a phone book that just arrived — I can’t believe they still make these!), sketchbooks, a magnifying glass, and this hammering activity.

Next to the shelf is a unit of drawers, and one of them is dedicated to my kids and their creative pursuits. It’s filled with various tapes, extra clear tape (we race through this stuff), scissors, hole punchers, extra scissors (because mine constantly walk away, like socks in the laundry), my card readers, and a few other odds and ends. This drawer is in flux, but for now it’s working for us.

The other day I set out this invitation of pre-cut paper and a bowl of stickers to greet my kids when they woke up. So simple and it took me three minutes to arrange it. When my kids saw the table, their imaginations turned on and they got right to work, dreaming up all sorts of possibilities as they pulled various materials out to help them realize their visions.

More Creative Zone Inspiration

Organize your Art Station

New Creative Studio Corner

Art Supply Organization

Organizing Art Supplies: Day One

Organizing Art Supplies: Day Two

Organizing Art Supplies: Pantry Labels

Art Table in the Living Room

What are your self-serve tips and tricks?

If you have a picture of your space, you’re welcome to add it to a comment (be sure that it’s smaller than 500 px wide). 

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Organize Your Art Station

plate tray collage materials :: tinkerlab.com

Is your furniture constantly moving around your house, or are you the kind of person who finds the right place for something and it rarely moves?

Me, I’m a mover. My furniture may as well have wheels underneath it thanks to all moving it does.

And now I have one more excuse to rearrange my home…

My littlest is officially a toddler and I can finally get rid of the portable crib, rattles, baby carriers, and boxes upon boxes of baby clothes. It’s been bittersweet, but I’m happy to regain some space and  enjoy a less cluttered home because of it.

The process of designing and redesigning our creative spaces has been going on for some time now. As my children change, we’ve shifted things around to accomodate our current needs. The creative zone has moved all over the house in search of the best light or to be closer to the kitchen so that I can chat with my kids while washing dishes.

I’ve purged our cabinets and consolidated materials that came into my house quicker than I could classify them, but I’m starting to see the light.

If you’d like to take a peek at the various organizing iterations, here’s a look-see.

New Creative Studio Corner

Art Supply Organization

Organizing Art Supplies: Day One

Organizing Art Supplies: Day Two

Organizing Art Supplies: Pantry Labels

Art Table in the Living Room

Check back next time for a look at our new + improved self-serve art station.


Other Updates:

I’m working with Art.com, and they have a Pinterest page! Be sure to follow them for good home decorating ideas. And, hint hint, they have a big shopping spree giveaway coming up that you won’t want to miss.

Subscribe to our mailing list if you haven’t already. I’m planning to send out monthly newsletters (No more than that…promise. And if I do, go ahead and drop me) with fun creativity ideas that you won’t want to miss.

 

If you like what you see here, we’d love to have you join our 7000+ member community on Facebook.


DIY Paper Pyramid Lanterns

make a paper lantern

I have such a heavy heart today, friends, because we lost one of the good ones in this world. My dear friend, Steve, who happens to be one of the funniest, wisest, and most generous people I know lost his long battle with cancer.

I wasn’t planning to post anything today, but the glow of these paper lanterns made me think about Steve’s shining light, and I thought I’d dedicate this post to him and his incredible wife, Jen.

Grab a few battery-operated tea lights, a favorite paper (in this case security envelopes!), scissors, and tape, and you're ready to make these simple DIY lanterns to illuminate a dark winter night.

These were inspired by the Paper Lanterns from Willowday, and if you change up the paper patterns (or maybe make your own), these could become party decorations, Halloween luminaries, or bedroom night lights.

If you you happen to make these lanterns (and why wouldn’t you — they’re rad!), I like to think that the glow might remind you that we’re each filled with enough light to brighten a friend’s darkest hour. Go on — spread some joy today. Life is truly short and we each have the capacity to touch the lives of others.

So let’s get started. Here’s what you’ll need…

How to Make Paper Lanterns

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Hole Puncher
  • Clear Tape
  • Ruler
  • Battery-operated votive candle
Because I drew my triangle free-hand, and you shouldn’t have to go through all that trial and error, here’s an equilateral triangle for your printing delight:
equilateral triangle
If you know me, you know that I like to get my kids involved in hands-on learning, and this is a good way to teach children how to carefully outline shapes, which in turn teaches patience and accuracy.

make a paper lantern

Step 1: Draw an equilateral triangle (or scale and print it) and cut it out.

Make paper lantern

Step 2: Trace it onto a sheet of paper FOUR times.

We drew ours onto a security envelope because we like to upcycle around here. And I’m super crazy about the patterns on these.

how to make paper lanterns

Step 3: Cut the whole shape out.

Step 4: Tape it together and punch holes into the sides if you’d like.

Step 5: Add a battery-powered tea light (not a real candle, please, safety first) and decorate like mad.

how to make paper lanterns

I love you, Steve and Jen. You’ll always be in my thoughts.

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DIY Pumpkin Pie Playdough

fall playdough

Have you ever made your own playdough? Store bought playdough is okay in a pinch, but making your own is a money saver and you can make TONS of it in mere minutes.

Easy! How to make your own pumpkin pie play dough with ingredients that you probably already have in the house.  It smells amazing!

Inspired by The Artful Parent’s Autumn Arts and Crafts book, The Artful Year: Autumn, we finally pitched our peppermint playdough in favor of a more seasonal scent: Pumpkin Pie!

Pumpkin Pie Playdough Recipe…

I used our favorite play dough recipe, which also happens to be the favorite of my daughter’s awesome preschool class, so I’m not going to get experimental with the dough itself, but we did experiment with the spice combination.

The dough itself takes about 20 minutes to prepare, it cooks on the stove-top, and the most complicated-to-find ingredient it calls for is cream of tartar. If it’s hard for you to find, you can get Cream of Tartar on Amazon.

Yes, you can find 2-minute dough recipes, and I’d encourage you to use them if you’re short on time, but the benefit of this recipe is that it will last for ages. Ages. Scroll down for a PRINTABLE recipe card.

playdough

After we made the dough, I placed it on the counter to cool. Meanwhile, my 2-year old worked away at pinching out a real pie crust.

playdough

When the dough was cool to touch, we squeezed orange liquid watercolors on half of it and then kneaded it in. For this step, be sure to mix on a surface that won’t absorb the watercolors. My 4-year old wanted to make half the dough orange and half of it white.

playdough

Although we had planned to use a jar of pumpkin pie spice in the dough, my 4-year old was curious about using whole spices that we just bought, so we pulled out the coffee grinder and gave it a very loud whirl. Fun! I don’t have a proper nutmeg grinder, but this seemed to do the trick. And the smell of cardamom — I absolutely love it.

We experimented with the spice blend by adding the different spices, first quite cautiously and then rather liberally, and in different combinations. I learned that my 4-year old isn’t too crazy about the smell of cardamom, but loves cinnamon.

5.0 from 5 reviews
DIY Pumpkin Pie Playdough
 
Author:
Prep time:
Making time:
Total time:
 
Playdough is a wonderful material for building fine motor skills, developing imaginations through exploratory play, and supporting early engineering and building skills. This recipe rivals anything store-bought.
Supplies
  • 5 cups water
  • 2½ cups salt
  • 3 tbsp. cream of tartar
  • 10 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 5 cups flour
  • Food coloring or liquid watercolors
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice, or a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cardamom
Steps
  1. Mix everything but the food coloring together in a large pot until somewhat smooth. It will be lumpy. Not to worry, the dough will get smoother as it cooks.
  2. Cook the dough over a low heat. Mix frequently. The water will slowly cook out of the mixture and you’ll notice it starts to take on a sticky dough appearance.
  3. Keep mixing until the edges of the dough along the side and bottom of the pan appear dry. Pinch a piece of dough. If it’s not gooey, the dough is ready.
  4. Place the dough on a counter top or large cutting board or cooking tray that can withstand a little food coloring.
  5. Knead the warm dough until it’s smooth and then divide it into the number of colors that you’d like to make. We divided our in half: one orange and the other white.
  6. Flatten the ball, add a little bit of food coloring, and knead it in. Add more food coloring to get the desired shade.
  7. Store the dough in a large Ziplock bag or sealed container. Unused, it’ll keep for months.

playdough

My 2-year old was very happy, however, to shake-shake-shake the pie spices all over her gigantic mound of dough. Can you imagine how yummy our kitchen smelled?

playdough

After all this cooking, it was time to bake! At this point, our orange and white/tan doughs marbled into something lovely, and we got busy making small cakes and setting them out to eat on a 3-tier plate server.

Playdough Recipes

Rainbow Play Dough, Tinkerlab

No-cook Cinnamon Playdough, The Imagination Tree

39 Ways to Play with Playdough, The Artful Parent

Downloadable (Free) Playdough Recipe Book, Nurture Store

Fall Activities

Fall Bucket List, Tinkerlab

40 Autumn Activities for Kids, The Imagination Tree

Make Fall Sunprints, Tinkerlab

Multi-color Leaf Prints, Kleas

Negative Leaf Impressions, Tinkerlab

 

Happy Fall!

Subtraction and Addition

math is fun

cool math

Do you have a child who’s interested in math? Or maybe you have one who’s struggling, and you’re searching for a way to make it more relevant and fun?

Problem Solving Skills

This is, ahem, the very first math post I’ve ever written. My oldest child is 4, and has taken a huge interest in math, so it might just be the first of many. Fingers crossed.

If you know my blog, you’ll know me as an artsy-DIY-experiment kind of gal, and recognize that this post goes waaaaaaay out of my comfort zone, but if you need a little proof that I’m sort of qualified to talk on this subject, I took high school calculus (thanks Mrs. Tracey!) and I’m really good at counting :) I’m also an advocate for creative and critical thinking, child-directed learning, and math games can help children develop problem solving skills. 

Okay, so this is how this game came about…

My kids and I were on a Target run, and did the obligatory cruise down the $1 lane when 4-year-old N spotted a pack of dry erase subtraction cards (see the photo below).

She eagerly asked if we could get them and my first thought was…

“um, no, you don’t even know how to add numbers, let alone subtract them!”

But after a beat, I put on my improvisational hat and said “yes, of course, that will be fun,” and I imagined that she’d simply enjoy the process of drawing all over them.

math is fun

When we got home she wanted to know how the cards worked, so we pulled them out.

Applied Math

Math can be so abstract and the only way I knew how to communicate the principles of subtraction was with the assistance of small objects that we could add and subtract. I’m sure I learned how to add this way, and I’m hardly claiming originality here.

I took out our basket of tree cookies (sliced up branches), and removed twelve of them, since the highest number on the cards was 12. We had tree cookies, but you could use coins, crayons, blocks, pom-poms, or any other small object that you have handy.

She can read numbers, so we started with the first problem: 3-3= 

N held her dry erase marker carefully above the worksheet and waited for my next move.

I separated three cookies from the pile and asked her how many pieces we had. She said “3.”

I proceeded: “Okay, so if we take 3 away (and I swiped them aside), how many are left?”

“Zero!” she yelled, loud enough for the neighbors to hear (they’ve told me that we’re kind of loud…eek).

“Exactly,” I said.

Cool Math

After this first round, she was on a roll. As we moved through the problems, she would set up the cookies for the first number, and then take them away for the second, and mostly needed me as her cheerleading section. And her little 2-year old sister got into the spirit too, yelling out numbers across the table. Seriously, math is cool and fun, and great for building problem-solving skills. 

Also, I never thought you could skip addition and go straight for subtraction!?

Have you tried teaching your child math this way? While we used pre-made cards, you could easily make up your own worksheet by hand or on your computer.

Do you think you’d give this a try?

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