Organize Your Art Station

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, 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.


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DIY Paper Pyramid Lanterns

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

Have you ever made your own play dough? Im a fan of store bought dough (it’s so easy!), but making your own is a money saver and we can make TONS of it in minutes. And with the simple addition of a little pumpkin pie spice, our dough smells heavenly…just like pumpkin pie!

"Smells like Fall" Pumpkin Play Dough |


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.

"Smells Amazing" Pumpkin Pie Play Dough |

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.

"Smells Amazing" Pumpkin Pie Play Dough |

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.

"Smells Amazing" Pumpkin Pie Play Dough |

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.

DIY Pumpkin Pie Playdough


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.
  • 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
  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.

"Smells Amazing" Pumpkin Pie 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?


Easy "smells great" pumpkin pie play dough |

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

50 Simple Halloween Ideas for Kids, TinkerLab

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

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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
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Subtraction and Addition with Manipulatives


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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