Seven Tips for Setting up an Impromptu Garden Art Studio

Bundt Cake

The other day we had the most amazing weather, so we set up a garden art studio…

Summertime Art Tips: Seven Tricks to Set up an Impromptu Garden Art Studio.

When I was in college I always loved those teachers who took their classes outside on a nice day. So why not recreate that magic with our kids? Did you know that most children don’t spend enough time outdoors?

Why Making Art Outdoors is so Awesome

  1. Being outside is calming, restorative, and resets the mind.
  2. Nature is fodder for the imagination.
  3. Getting messy isn’t an issue.
  4. You can get up water some plants/play/dig a hole, and then return to making.

Summertime Art Tips: Seven Tricks to Set up an Impromptu Garden Art Studio.

I offered my children a few after-lunch options that included reading in the garden, making art outside, and going on a hike. Can you tell that I wanted to spend some outdoors? The weather was that incredible.

My older daughter liked the idea of setting up a blanket on our lawn and helped me hatch a plan to create an art studio picnic. 

Within moments of setting it all up, which took us about ten minutes, the girls were deep into making. At this point I gleefully broke out my new garden sheers and tackled mountains of overgrown plants. Hack hack hack. Things had gotten so out-of-hand in my poor garden, which now looks rather normal, that it initially appeared quite bald as I managed to fill our entire composting bin with greenery.

Summertime Art Tips: Seven Tricks to Set up an Impromptu Garden Art Studio.

Meanwhile, I’d pop over to check on the kids periodically and captured 4-year old N as she decorated a big river rock with paint pens. More details on drawing on rocks over here. 

Summertime Art Tips: Seven Tricks to Set up an Impromptu Garden Art Studio.

Her little sister has been invested in painting lately and we knew that she’d enjoy easel painting. If you really can’t get outside, 10 Steps for Easy Indoor Easel Painting will help you bring the magic indoors.

I also have a stand-up easel, but I thought this would be a nice way to have the girls work side-by-side. It was a great strategy until the watercolor jars were knocked over onto the blanket. Ahem, we only own washable paints for moments like this.

Summertime Art Tips: Seven Tricks to Set up an Impromptu Garden Art Studio.

Also, this little easel has a tray to hold paint on both sides and I knew both kids would want to paint at the same time. All in all, it was a fantastic afternoon and just the sort of experience that I imagine we’ll invest in all summer long.

Tips for setting up an Impromptu garden art studio

First of all, it’s important to address that you don’t need a sprawling lawn to make this happen. A patio, stoop, or balcony work just fine. The important thing here is to get outside and enjoy some fresh air!

  1. Wear play clothes, aprons, or nothing at all. 
  2. Wait for a warm day.
  3. Keep the materials simple and choose one or two basic projects. We chose watercolors + easel and rock painting.
  4. Have a water source nearby for washing up.
  5. Set up a picnic blanket so that little makers can get comfortable.
  6. Make sure you have a camera to capture these moments.
  7. If you’re painting, lay dry pieces out on the ground to dry. If it’s windy, dry them on a clothesline or indoors.

Outdoors + Kids Resources

Tape paper to the wall for an Instant Outdoor Art Studio

Six Ways to Take Art Outdoors

Start a Family Nature Club with this Nature Tools for Families Toolkit (FREE download) from Children and Nature Network. I’m dying to start one of these, so if you live near me give a holler if you’re interested! The Children and Nature Network is run by Audubon medal winner Richard Louv who wrote the bestseller, Last Child in the Woods. 

If you’re in the Bay Area, get your hands on a copy of Bay Area, Best Hikes with Kids: San Francisco Bay Area by Laure Latham. I just got it and it’s awesome!

A fabulous roundup of ideas for building outdoor forts and shelters for kids, from Let the Children Play.

A question for you…

What one word comes to mind when you think of the last time you spent time outdoors?

Note: This post contains affiliate links, but I only share links to products that I love or that I think you’ll find useful.

How to Set Up an Apple Printing Station

How to make apple prints with kids

how to set up an apple printing station from tinkerlab

Have you tried your hand at apple printing?

I suppose it’s a traditional Fall craft, but since apples find a way into our pantry year-round, I thought this was a fun project to share in these weeks leading up to Summer. You know, when you might need something fun to keep the kids entertained during the long summer days.

Apple Prints are an old stand-bye that my children always enjoy. The other day, 4-year old N asked me for some paint and apples so that she could make envelopes for all of her teachers. She had another plan for filling the envelopes that involved a sprinkling of sequins and some hand-made drawings. My two-year old is always game for printing, and in a matter of minutes apple printing was in full force!

Ingredients

  • Apples, cut in half vertically
  • Paper plates — to use as paint palettes
  • Washable tempera paint or Biocolors
  • Covered Table
  • Large pieces of paper
  • Clear space to contain the drying prints
  • Damp rags for wiping messes and dabbing painty fingers

apple prints closeup apple

The Set-up

  • If you have a precious work surface, cover it with a cloth or paper. We use brown kraft paper and oil cloth (pictured here).
  • Have your child choose a couple colors of paint. I like to limit it to two colors to keep the whole matter simpler. Squeeze the paint onto some paper plates. When you’re done, these can be dropped in the recycling bin.
  • Place a big sheet of paper in front of each child.
  • Place a damp rag next to each child. My kids always get painty fingers when we do this, and constantly get up to wash hands. The rag saves them the trip until they’re completely done.
  • Hand each child one apple, cut into two pieces.
  • Invite your child to stamp away!
  • Place completed prints in a drying area.

apple prints table

This project is great for little and big hands alike. My two-year old was challenged to press the apples down hard enough to make her prints show up while my four-year old worked on creating color patterns of apple prints.

apple prints making print

While I had to do a little bit of maintenance, such as collecting completed prints, while the kids printed, I enjoyed stepping back to allow them to experience the medium and develop independent ideas.

Some people are opposed to using food as a source of art-making because it can send the message that food can be wasted. With so many people going hungry, I understand the argument for this. My children’s nursery school won’t use food for art-making, which is the case with many nursery schools around the world.

However, compared to making prints from rubber stamps which can be derived from felled trees and rubber, apples and other vegetables seem like a decent alternative. In addition, so many of our traditional art-making materials are derived from food and other naturally found products. If you have an opinion on the matter I’d love to hear your thoughts.

How to make apple prints with kids

Ideas to take this further

  • When the prints dry, use a Sharpie permanent maker and add designs to your apple prints
  • Print with other vegetables such as okra, celery hearts, and carrots
  • Make prints from found objects such as egg cartons or bubble wrap
  • Source more ideas from this Pintererst Board that’s dedicated to Apple Crafts
  • If your child really enjoys printing, try your hand at Cookie Sheet Monoptints

apple prints

A Question for you…

What do you think about using food for art-making?

Get Ready for an Easy-breasy Summer

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Camp Mom SummerActivities Pack. 84 pages filled with over 45 activities that have you covered for nature discovery, water play, and art exploration.

Hi friends! Is it starting to feel like summer where you live?

We recently pulled out the Slip-n-Slide and popsicle-eating is in full effect.

In case you’re starting to get the summer bug, I wanted to share something fun that’s been brewing behind the scenes over here.

I’ve been working hard with a handful of my favorite creative, playtime bloggers and I’m excited to reveal some of the magic of Camp Mom: Summer Activities Pack with you today!

What’s Inside:

  • Jam-packed 84-page downloadable PDF
  • 45  simple and FUN activities with FULL instructions and supplies
  • Plus, 40+ MORE ideas and links
  • Printable summer planning pages
  • Includes a host of activities for ages 2-8
  • Adventure ideas and tips – you can have adventures without leaving your backyard!
  • Tips for success: How to manage sibling conflict, how to enjoy a museum with your kids, how to talk with children about art
  • Book recommendations

Not sure if it’s for you. Check out some of the sample pages…

Camp Mom SummerActivities Pack. 84 pages filled with over 45 activities that have you covered for nature discovery, water play, and art exploration. Camp Mom SummerActivities Pack. 84 pages filled with over 45 activities that have you covered for nature discovery, water play, and art exploration.

 Order your copy of Camp Mom: Summer Activities Pack today

Just $14.99

Click here to order

Summer Camp for Little Innovators: Camp Galileo

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Are you thinking about summer camp yet? If you’re super-organized, you may already have a plan in place. And if not, there’s still time! We’re not planning on summer camp this year, but if I was this is where I’d begin…

When I was out for dinner the other night I spotted this awesome poster for Camp Galileo.

Camp Galileo

I don’t know about you, but this is not the summer camp of my childhood!

Power Tools. Innovating. What??

Here’s a snapshot of my summer camp memories: Peeling glue off of my hands all afternoon while drinking gallons of fruit punch that came from a jug of pink powder mixed with water. Hmmm.

Okay, so let me start by saying that Camp Galileo is a San Francisco Bay Area camp. If you’re local, this post is for you. And, there’s a whopping discount code at the end of this post.

If you’re not local, you might still be interested because I bet there’s something similar in your neck of the woods.

camp galileo

In Camp Galileo’s words, this is what children get out of their camps:

They learn how to fail. Not in a humiliating or dispiriting way. But in a self-assured way, that helps turn them into hardy, risk-taking creators and problem-solvers.

I love that!

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A camp with a focus on innovation, collaboration, and imagination

Here’s how Camp Galileo describes their programs…

Galileo’s mission is to create a world of fearless innovators. We think kids who learn to explore and fail without fear—the essence of innovation—are happier, more creative and more confident when faced with life’s challenges. Drawing from the innovation process developed by the Stanford d.school, Galileo runs an evolving series of imagination-sparking programs for kids from pre-K through 8th grade.

In pre-K, campers may build a crude xylophone or design a lion mask. By 8th grade, they may program their own video game, design their own fashion line, or breathe life into some creation entirely of their own invention.

The Details

  • Location: Camp Galileo has locations all over the Bay Area
  • Ages: The program is for children in grades pre-K-8. 
  • Promo Code (yes, you can save money on this rad camp!): From now until May 31st, Galileo is offering $25 off your camp registration fee with the code, 2013INNOVATE.
  • Register for Galileo today. And then rest easy knowing that you can check this task off your to-do list.

A question for you…

What’s the most surprising this you remember about summer camp? And are you registering your child for a camp this summer?


I only share content that I love and/or think you’ll find useful. Thanks to Galileo for sponsoring today’s discussion.

How to Make a Paper Airplane

paper airplane table set up

How to build paper airplanes

Have you ever made a paper airplane?

Did you learn how to make it from a book? Or maybe it was from the kid you shared a desk with in the third grade?

I fall into the second camp, learning from my friends in school. And for all of the hundreds of airplanes we made, not one of them truly soared the way I expected it to.

How to make a paper airplane

Well guess what? Today I’m sharing links to instructions for making paper airplanes that actually work, along with some ideas on how to help kids invent their own paper airplane designs.

So let’s get started with How to Make Paper Airplanes while building Design Skills…

paper airplane table set up

The Set-up

  • A few sets of instructions for making paper airplanes. You can get these from a book or download instructions from the internet. Our favorite was The Eagle, and we also tried High Glider and Fancy Flier. I found these by doing an image search for “Make Paper Airplane.”
  • Copy paper. Thinner paper is easier for children to fold.
  • Markers (optional)
  • Scissors (optional)
  • A clear table

paper airplane instructions

Step One: Select a Design

We looked through all of our designs, picked one to start with, and my daughter and I sat down and followed the directions for the first airplane. If you’ve ever made origami, it’s the same approach. Most of the steps were easy enough for her four-year old hands and mind, but I had to help her with a few of the trickier folds.

If you find instructions that are too complicated for you, then skip them and find another plane to make.

Step Two: Teach someone else how to make a plane

Once we got the hang of it, N thought our six-year old neighbor would enjoy this project and we invited him over to join us. Either that or misery loves company.

We each started with another sheet of paper and while we folded, the kids educated each other on hamburger and hot dog folds. If you don’t have a neighbor to teach, teach a parent, babysitter, or grandparent. This step does wonders for building confidence.

paper airplane collection

Step Three: Iterate and Invent New Planes

Once that first airplane was complete, it was interesting to see where the kids took the project next. My daughter, a designer to the core, got busy decorating her plane with markers. Her friend, a tinkerer at heart who has a soft spot for Legos, began iterating on the design to improve it!

As we folded, he asked me questions like, “On your Eagle, how did you make the wing tips?” And then he proceeded to invent his own series of planes with pointed noses, flat noses, and wing tips.

When my daughter jumped in to help him, I commented that they were iterating. I actually said, “Hey you guys are iterating! Do you know that word? It means that you’re building a lot of planes to test new ideas and in order to figure out how to make it better. Can you say ‘iterate?'” And then of course, they obliged me.

I swear, the teacher thing will probably never leave my soul! Do you ever find yourself in that mode?

How to make a paper airplane | Tinkerlab

Step Four: Take it outdoors

They tested their planes in the house and once they amassed a small fleet of planes, I heard, “Let’s have an airplane show!!” So we took it outdoors to see what the planes could do.

Our friend guessed that the pointy-nosed planes would get more distance and said he was “amazed that the flat-nosed Eagle flew the best.”

PAPER AIRPLANES WITH TEXT

All in all, we spent a good hour on this project, and in the end not only did these kids have fun bonding and playing together, but they came away with some new design skills, tools for developing an innovator’s mindset, and good ol’ fine motor skill practice. 

A question for you…

Did you ever make paper airplanes as a child? Where did you learn how to make them? And how did they fly?