Jellybean Matzo House

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 This article was first shared in April 2011.

How to build a jellybean matzo house for Passover.

We had more than our fair share of Easter sweets this weekend, but I had a plan all along to purge our house of all that extra sugar by “gluing” it to some sort of base, like a paper plate, and calling it art.

As I talked to my almost three-year old about the idea, we mused over what we could glue our candy to. Something bigger than a cracker. Something flat. Something hard. Something we already had in our pantry.

And then it occurred to us — Matzo!

The irony of mixing Easter jellybeans with Passover matzo isn’t lost on me. As I laughed about this with my husband, we also realize that this is a fair representation of of our melting pot family. And I’m sure we’re not the only ones these ingredients on hand?!

What I especially love about this project, which looks oh-so-similar to the beloved gingerbread house, is the reminder that we can borrow ideas from other seasons. Here’s another seasonal mash-up from last summer: Easter in August.

How to build a matzo house

N started with some matzo and enjoyed breaking it into smithereens. She’s two, after all. Totally unusable for this project, but super fun.

If you’ve ever broken matzo with the intent of making neat little sandwich, you know that matzo has a mind of its own and can be completely unpredictable.

First, break your matzo…carefully

After accepting my fate that we would use uneven pieces, my husband messed around and came up with this strategy: Place the tip of a knife into the middle of the matzo, on the groove that you want to break…

And then press down.

It’s still a little wobbly, but it worked SO much better than my sad attempt at breaking them by hand.

I since found another strategy that sounds worthwhile: dip your finger in water and run it down the groove you intend to crack. It will soften the matzo just enough so that you can get a clean break.

Then we attached the pieces together with ornamental frosting, which dries hard. Our ornamental frosting was too runny for the job, but I’ll share the recipe below just in case you want it. Instead, I’d recommend the royal icing recipe that we used for our gingerbread houses.

Recipe for Royal Icing

Recommended

  • 1/8 cup Meringue Powder
  • 1/4 cup Cold Water
  • 2 cups sifted Confectioners Sugar

Add water to meringue powder and beat until soft peaks form. Add sugar into the mixture and beat until it’s the desired consistency. Add more sugar for stiffer icing.

Ornamental Frosting

Used in the pictures of this article

  • 4 cups powdered sugar (one box)
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3 egg whites

Blend it together until smooth. If you’re not using the frosting right away, cover the top of your bowl with a damp towel to keep it moist.

We attached the “wall” pieces to a large matzoh base.

And then added jellybean decorations. That leaning wall is the result of one of my hand-breaking attempts. Sad. Looks like a foundation problem.

I finally conceded to the frosting-coated jellybean eating request. I can be tough!

We thought the white frosting made this was looking way to wintery, and not at all spring-like…

…so we colored our frosting green.

And then there was more…eating! It looked a bit like Roman ruins…

How to build a jellybean matzo house

So we added a roof. Voila! Jellybean Matzo House (with icicles) for Spring.

Resources

Do you have a good idea or tip for making candy houses?

This post was shared with Craft Schooling Sunday, Skip to my Lou, Sun Scholars

Vegetable-Dyed Easter Eggs

Dye for Easter Eggs

Have you ever thought about making vegetable dyed Easter eggs?

How to dye Easter eggs with natural dyes like red cabbage, onion skins, and beets.

I’m trying to make a move away from synthetic food dyes and wanted to use natural, homemade dyes this year. Not only are these colors absolutely healthy for human consumption, but the process of making them is a wonderful lesson in creating art materials from scratch and can help children think critically about  how to achieve various colors colors.

As I was cutting the onions and beets I asked my daughter what colors she thought they’d make. I also asked questions like, “If I wanted to make blue dye, what might I make it with?”

She had fun making guesses based on what we had in our kitchen and garden, and also came up with her own wild suggestions such as, “let’s take the skins off the bananas to make yellow dye!”

How to Make Vegetable Dyed Easter Eggs

How to dye Easter eggs with natural dyes like red cabbage, onion skins, and beets.

Supplies

  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Skin from one onion, two beets, large handful of spinach, half head of red cabbage
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Bowls
  • Ice cream scooper
  • Rubber Bands
  • Stickers
  • Crayons
  • Parsley Sprigs
  • Cheesecloth

Make the dye

I set up four pots of dye:

Pot #1: Onion Skins

Pot #2: Beets

Pot #3: Spinach

Pot #4: Chopped Red Cabbage

Add about 3 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of vinegar to each pot. The vinegar helps the dye set onto the egg.

Cook the dyes for about 30 minutes and then strained the colored water into some bowls.

*Note, you could also experiment with hard-boiling your raw eggs in the dye itself. I’ve heard this works really well. 

Three Decorating Techniques

While the dye cooks and cools, this could be a good time to get your eggs ready for dipping.

How to dye Easter eggs with natural dyes like red cabbage, onion skins, and beets, and ideas on how to decorate them..

1. Wrap the Eggs with Rubberbands

We wrapped some eggs with rubber bands. Fine motor skill training for my almost 3-year old!

2. Cover Eggs with Stickers

We covered eggs with spring stickers and office stickers.

3. Color the Eggs with Crayons

And we drew on eggs with crayons. Nothing too crazy. The crayon will resist the dye. White crayon would make for more drama in the end, but my 2-year old had her heart set on blue.

How to Dye Easter Eggs

Some people like to use tongs or whisks to grab their eggs, but our ice cream scooper made for a good egg scooper.

Do you see that barely green water up there? That’s what transpired from cooking our spinach…for thirty minutes! Pale green water. As you can imagine, it didn’t do much to our eggs. Next time I think we’ll try using more spinach…or use green food coloring.

Have you had any success achieving a vibrant green color with natural dyes? I’ve heard that liquid chlorophyll is the best thing to use for green, but I haven’t tried it personally.

Pale Yellow from Onions

We unwrapped the eggs to reveal the hidden images!  This pale yellow color was made by the onion skins. We’ve also made yellow dye from ground turmeric (cooked the same as above), which it works really well.

Grey from Beets

It looks brown here, but the beets made a grey-ish color. Dye seeped into the openings of the bunny sticker, revealing a blotchy silhouette that’s still quite nice. A bunch of these all over an egg would be kind of cool, or a simpler sticker would look nice (scroll down for an example).

I’ve had success making a pale pink from beets, and I’m not quite sure what happened here.

Blue from Red Cabbage

But small stickers like this little butterfly left a clear impression. Lovely.

Brilliant blue came from the red cabbage! To make this egg, we wrapped cheesecloth around parsley sprigs and then dipped it in the cabbage dye. If you have pantyhose, that could work even better.

Hole Reinforcement Stickers on Easter Eggs

I found a new life for a stack of hole-punch reinforcement stickers! Don’t you love this? The grey color came from the beets (sad, because I was hoping for pink, but still beautiful), the egg in the back is a brown egg dipped in red cabbage dye, and the yellow egg is colored by onion skin.

Before tossing the cabbage leaves out, I wrapped them around an egg and popped it in the fridge overnight. Tie-dye egg!

This is part of a collaboration with my friend Melissa’s from The Chocolate Muffin Tree. For more natural egg dying ideas, visit Melissa at The Chocolate Muffin Tree.

More Egg Dying, Decorating, and Science Ideas

Three Easy Tricks for Blown Out Eggs

Egg Geodes Science Experiment

How to Make a Floating Egg

How to Walk on Raw Eggs. Really.

60 Egg Activities for Kids

Have you colored eggs with natural dye?

If you have, please share a tip, link, or photo!!

The Artful Parent Book: A Review and a Project

Screen Shot 2013-03-22 at 11.27.04 PM

Artful Parent Book: Blog TourAs a longtime fan of Jean Van’t Hul’s charming, approachable, and ever-inspiring blog, The Artful Parent, I’m thrilled about the upcoming release of her book, The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art & Creativity. Not only has Jean been a huge source of inspiration to me and countless others, but we’ve become real-life friends and I have a great deal of respect for the way that she encourages her children to find their inner voice through hands-on learning. And her delightful book does not disappoint.

The book comes out on April 9, 2013, so consider this a sneak peek…and read through to the end for details on how you could win your very own copy.

Artful Parent Book Jean Van't Hul

My two-year old and I spent the morning together and I came to the realization that she rarely gets the opportunity to dive into so many of the projects that her older sister enjoyed. Now that I have two children, my girls and I are frequently on the go, my attention is often divided, and their abilities are so different that I usually follow my older child’s interests while her younger sister tags along…and does a great job at keeping up.

Since Jean’s blog was there for me when my first toddler and I got our creative groove on, I thought we’d see what ideas she had in store for us. When I flipped the book to the very first project, Contact Paper Suncatchers, I knew this was for us.

My older daughter and I one made these contact paper suncatchers and this contact paper collage, and we still had plenty of leftover materials to play with.

Artful Parent Book Jean Van't Hul

To make your own suncatcher, here’s what you’ll need:

  • Colored Tissue Paper
  • Scissors
  • Contact Paper (click the link to find it on Amazon)
  • Flowers, feathers, sequins
  • Masking Tape

By some miracle I woke up early and set out all of the materials before my daughter woke up.  To set this up as we did, tape a piece of contact paper to your table. This will keep the contact paper from moving around. Fill a bowl or tray with pre-cut pieces of colorful tissue paper, and then invite your child to attach the pieces to the contact paper.

My daughter’s first instinct was to glue the pieces down, but once she understood how the contact paper worked, she put the glue aside. At some point she decided to layer her collage and realized that she did, in fact, need the glue to stick these extra papers on. If your child takes the project in a new direction as mine did, do your best to go with the flow.

Artful Parent Book Jean Van't Hul

Oh, one more thing…I was also quite honored that Jean invited me to write a piece for her book — what a delight to see this fun provocation in print!

Artful Parent Book Review Tinkkerlab

The Artful Parent is not only jam-packed with sixty simple and creative projects, but it’s also full of tips on the best art supplies for your art pantry, how to talk with children about art, and how to set up an art space.

If you’d like a copy of the book, if you pre-order now you’ll get almost 40% off the cover price. On top of that, if the Amazon price decreases between your order time and the end of the day of the release date, you’ll receive the lowest price. To enter for a chance to win a copy of Jean’s book (if you buy the book for yourself, your winning book would be a great gift!), leave a comment at the end of this post.

Screen Shot 2013-03-22 at 11.27.04 PMContest Details: You must have a U.S. address to win. Deadline for entries is Friday, April 22, 2013, 9 pm PST. Winner will be chosen randomly.

Thank you to everyone who submitted a comment! I loved reading all of your inspiring memories and stories. Congratulations to Megan, comment #26! You will be contacted via email regarding your prize.

The Book Blog Tour

Do you want to see more? Follow along on the blog tour…

March 18 – Tinkerlab – activity demonstration + giveaway

March 22 – Handmade Charlotte – blog post

March 26 – Playful Learning – activity demonstration

March 28 – Nurture Store – feature post + giveaway

March 30 – Make and Takes – feature

April 1 – Red Ted Art – book review + giveaway

April 2 – Kids Activity Blog – interview + giveaway

April 3 – Pink and Green Mama – blog post

April 8 – Not Just Cute – blog post

April 9 – Creative with Kids – interview

April 10 – Imagination Tree – book review

A Question for you…

Thinking back to your childhood, what is the earliest piece of art that you remember making?

 

Sister Corita Kent | Art Department Rules

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Corita Kent

I was grew up in Los Angeles, not too far from what was once Immaculate Heart College (IHC). Perhaps one of the biggest legacies of IHC is Sister Mary Corita, better known to many as Corita Kent, artist-activist and chairperson of the IHC art department from 1951-1968.

Do you know about Corita Kent? In her own art, she was primarily a printmaker who used film, calligraphy, folk art, and advertising to help her students think creatively and make the world a better place through art.

Her Art

corita kent art

To give you a little context on Corita’s aesthetic, you may be most familiar with her 1985 “LOVE” postage stamp, or if you live in the Boston area you’ve undoubtedly spotted this colorful water tank

Her Writing

learning by heart corita kentI was first introduced to Corita by a friend of mine who directs the Corita Kent Art Center, located at Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles. Sasha suggested that I pick up a copy of Kent’s book, Learning by Heart: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit.

At the time, the book was out of print and the almost impossible-to-find copies could be had for $50 and up. Gasp! Thankfully, I forked out the cash and my life was forever changed.

The book is full of ideas for new artists, artists who could use a little kick in the creative pants, and especially art students. I found my copy just before heading off to graduate school, and still enjoy flipping through it for nuggets of inspiration to this day. I would also recommend this book to any parent with a pre-teen or teenager who’s eager to soak up fresh ways to use art as a form of intervention or social justice.

Corita Kent Classroom

Thankfully, the book is back in print again, and can be had for far less than what I paid (lucky you!). You can find a copy over here on Amazon.

And if that’s not enough, Corita Kent wrote up this list of Art Department Rules that is so fabulous, I know you’ll want to save it to your desktop, just like I have. Or pin it. Or tape it to your fridge. I just love it.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

A Question For You…

If you could pick just one of these rules to remember, which one would it be?

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

note: this post contains affiliate links

Evolution of the Art Table

Drawing on the Art Table

Over the course of a week, our art table gets worked pretty hard.

My kids begin almost every morning with some kind of making that may involve markers, colored pencils, tape, glue, or paint. And then there’s the occasional snack or meal that go along with art-making when my girls are too busy to stop the magic for food.

I thought it might be fun to take a look at how the table evolves throughout the week.

Here we go…

Evolution of the Art Table: See how a child's craft table changes over the course of a week.

I’m attracted to the fresh start of clean, brown craft paper. Even though the surface of our art table is covered with paint stains, I find that the paper covering gives my children (and me) more freedom to drip paint, and along with that comes peace of mind.

I’m often asked about our craft paper — I pick it up at our oversized hardware store for about $14/roll. If you’d like to order some online, this craft paper on Amazon looks like it’s the same product.

Ah, isn’t that clean table-top lovely?!

A few days later, the table is covered with dry paint drips, watercolor splits, and pencil marks. My kids sometimes take this as an opportunity to use the craft paper itself as inspiration for new pieces of art.

Evolution of the Art Table: See how a child's craft table changes over the course of a week.

At some point we deem that the soaked/torn/dirty craft paper has served us well and we roll it up to recycle. We then spend a day or two with dry media like markers, stickers, and crayons.

And breakfast. That’s important too.

Evolution of the Art Table: See how a child's craft table changes over the course of a week.

Finally, we’re ready to get back to painting and otherwise mucky art, so I recover the table and make it an inviting scene once again.

Evolution of the Art Table: See how a child's craft table changes over the course of a week.
Evolution of a Child's Art Table: How the art table changes over the course of a week.

A question for you…

How does your art table transform across a week? And do you cover your art table with paper?

 

If you liked this post, you might enjoy checking out the Creative Table Series and How to Organize a Self-Serve Art Space.

 

*this post contains affiliate links

Art Tips: The Bits and Pieces Box

Art Tips: The bits and pieces box

Weekly Art Tips on Tinkerlab.comToday’s art tip is brought to us by one of my very favorite creative mom bloggers, Ali Wright. This trick is so easy to put in motion — and the payoff can be big. After reading it I’d bet that you won’t look at scraps of paper quite the same way again. As Ali puts it, this is a” frugal way to supply the kids with interesting, varied and free materials.”

Art Tips: The bits and pieces boxHi, I’m Ali. I am a mom to two arty kids. My kids can go through large quanities of art supplies in a very short space of time. So, I am always on the look out for ways to supplement our art and craft materials without breaking the bank.

I am a big collector. I keep an old shoebox which I fill with all sort of things that I think might appeal to the kids. We call it the bits and pieces box…. and this is what is currently in it –

  • Promotional postcards which I find in cafes and shops
  • Maps and tourist brochures from museums and hotel foyers
  • Clothing tags that are pretty or interesting
  • Theatre programs (I don’t actually get to the theatre I just collect the programs)
  • Old discarded paintings by the kids
  • Wrapping paper and tissue paper
  • Tickets of all sorts – dry cleaning stubs, movie tickets, raffle tickets
  • Art exhibition catalogues
  • Used envelopes with interesting stamps
  • Old greeting cards

Art Tips: The bits and pieces box

This box is kept in sight but out of reach.

I pull it down when the kids ask me or when we are working on an art project that needs some extra materials. When the box comes down from the shelf they get very excited to see the latest additions.

The funny thing about the bits and pieces box is that I can never predict what is going to appeal to my kids. Sometimes they pounce on something I would never expect. I threw in some bank forms last week – they were a big hit.

Art Tips: The bits and pieces box

I don’t throw every piece of paper that comes my way into the bits and pieces box… it would need to be huge if I did that! I am selective: I particularly avoid shopping catalogues.

I look for interesting imagery, quirky uses of text and colour as well as a range of paper types and textures.

My bits and pieces box is a very frugal way to supply the kids with interesting, varied and free materials. The majority of the materials in the box were destined for the recycling bin. This way they are given a second chance at life in the hands of my mini makers.

Ali Wright Ali is a blogger and mother of two kids who adore art and crafts. Making things is a part of everyday life. Ali is also a designer and DIY crafter. She lives with her family in Sydney Australia and shares her creative adventures on her blog At Home with Ali. You can also find her on PinterestFacebookGoogle+ and Instagram.

Creativity and Education Interestingness

Creativity and education interestingness from the Tinkerlab blog

Creativity and Education: A Roundup of Interestingness from Tinkerlab

It’s been a while since I’ve done a round-up of creativity and education resources, and since a few pieces of interestingness have crossed my desk this week, I wanted to take a minute to share these great resources with you!

I hope you enjoy them and that they give you some food for thought. And if you’ve spotted any great articles that you think I should know about, please let me know about them in a comment!

Youth Arts Month

Did you know that March is National Youth Art Month? According to the National Art Education Association, “Youth Art Month is an annual observance every March to emphasize the value of art education for all youth and to encourage support for quality school art programs.”

This post on ArtsBlog from Kristen Engebretson of Americans for the Arts has some helpful Youth Arts Month links. For anyone interested in the intersection of the arts and early childhood, later this month (March 18-22), ArtsBlog will host a Blog Salon about early childhood education, and I’ve been invited to chime in with some thoughts on the the value of process over product in the early years. More on that in a couple weeks!

youth art month

How will you celebrate Youth Arts Month? 

Here are a few ideas:

  • Sit down and make some art with your child.
  • Subscribe to School Arts Magazine. If you’re a teacher or homeschooler, this is one of the best magazines on the topic. When I was a teacher, I always looked forward to finding this in my mailbox.
  • If the arts are limited in your child’s school, can you advocate for more? Is there anything you can do to give the arts a bigger presence in your child’s learning?
  • Set up a self-serve creativity zone in your home.
  • Pin the image (above) and help spread the word that it’s Youth Art Month
  • Order a copy of Jean Van’t Hul’s inspiring and soon-to-be released book, The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art and Creativity
  • Thank you child’s art teacher/s for their hard work and commitment toward making the arts a relevant and meaningful part of your child’s education.
  • Look at real art with your child. Here are some of my favorite tips for facilitating arts-based conversations with children: 5 Easy Steps for talking with Children about Art

 Stephen Round: Resignation Letter

Have you seen this compelling video of Stephen Round submitting his letter of resignation to the Providence, Rhode Island School District? Since he resigned in December, 2012 it’s gone viral and has been viewed over 400,000 times.

Round was a second grade teacher and resigned because he found that his school was so focused on standardized testing as a measure of student achievement that it missed the point of raising children to become lifelong learners, which is at the heart of his teaching philosophy. Stephen’s story isn’t a new one, but his heartfelt letter is worth watching if you care about how teachers can find their own unique and creative voice in a public school system that’s caught under the net of standardized testing.

My oldest child enters kindergarten this Fall and stories like this have me on edge about sending her to public school. If teachers like this are resigning, school boards and parents need to pay close attention.

What do you think?

Big C and little c Creativity

Have you heard of “Big C” and “little c” Creativity?”

There’s a fascinating study on creative and education that’s just emerging from the Learning Research Institute at California State University San Bernardino.

Nurturing the Next Van Gogh? Start With Small Steps

From the article:

“Kaufman and Beghetto suggest teachers should meet unexpectedness with curiosity. Rather than shutting down a potentially creative solution to a problem, explore and evaluate it. What seems like a tangent could actually help other students think about the problem in a different way.

They also note that part of incorporating creativity is helping students to read the situation. There’s a time and a place for a creative solution and kids need to learn when it’s appropriate to take the intellectual risk. They should also learn that there’s a cost to creativity; it takes effort, time, and resources and depending on the problem the most creative solution may not make sense.”

Self-Doubt Kills Creativity

This is an interesting read for any of us grown-ups who consider ourselves creative, but find that self-doubt holds us back from pursuing creative ideas. And it’s also a reminder of how important it is to encourage a child’s creative ideas without judgement.

This article from Psych Central is full of ten actionable strategies for pulling yourself out of a self-doubt funk: 10 Ways to Overcome Creativity’s Number 1 Crusher

From the article:

“Self-doubt can persuade us to stop creating or keep us from sending our work out into the world. It can be so influential that it colors how we see ourselves, ensuring we don’t pick up a pen, paintbrush, camera or other tool for decades.”

 Note: There may be affiliate links in this article, but I only share links to resources that I love and/or think you’ll find useful.