12 Creative Books from our Family Bookshelf

What’s on your bookshelf right now? Have you read any creative books lately that make you feel alive, help you become a better parent, or inspire you to grab life by the horns?

Yesterday I shared on Instagram and Facebook that I just acquired a new book, and I was looking for feedback on it. In the process of this, I had a question about sharing what’s currently on my reading list. This list has already been brewing in my mind, so here it is for your inspiration pleasure.

12  creative books to inspire a creative new year | TinkerLab

These are all books that I’ve acquired or started reading in the last month, and that I hope to read in the first part of the new year.  The theme that runs through this list, is that most of these books focus on parenting, making, and creativity. You should also know that I’m in a non-fiction state-of mind, so there’s just one fiction book on the list.

If you have a favorite book that you think we’d enjoy will you add it to a comment? I and other readers like you are looking for more good ideas. Don’t be shy!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase through these links I’ll receive a small percentage at no extra cost to you! 

Creativity, Making, and Tinkering Books

The Art of Tinkering, Karen Wilkinson + Mike Petrich

This book was just sent to me to review, and OH-MY-GOODNESS, it’s a winner. It’s not technically available to purchase until February 4, 2014, but I’ve heard that the Exploratorium book store will start carrying it sooner than that. If you’re in the SF Bay Area, you might want to seek it out sooner.

I Just Like to Make Things, Lilla Rogers

My husband and I were gifted with a a daytime date over the holiday break, and what did we do? We spent two hours milling around a bookstore 🙂 This is one of the books that I purchased.

Creative Block: Get Unstuck, Discover New Ideas. Advice & Projects from 50 Successful Artists (Release date: February 18, 2014)

This book isn’t out yet, but I’m so excited about it that I pre-ordered it. Written by Danielle Krysna, writer behind one of my favorite blogs, The Jealous Curator, who interviews 50 artists about their creative process and how they get things done. I’ve been looking for a book like this for ages and I’m so glad that Krysa is making it a reality.

Family Books

The Nature Connection, Clare Walker Leslie

I’ve had this book for over a year, but I’m dusting it off now because we’re kicking off the new year with it as our trusty outdoor exploration manual. If you’re interested in raising children who have a strong connection to and appreciation for the outdoors, this book is worth looking into.

Cleaning House: A Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement, Kay Wills Wyma

My kids have responsibilities, but at 3 and 5 they’re far from taking on chores like cleaning the bathroom or making an income. I’m also not very organized about helping them tackle chores, so I picked this up as a roadmap to help me set up practical tools for fostering good habits in my children. You might enjoy reading the Facebook comments if you’re thinking of getting this book.

Mom’s One Line a Day: A Five-Year Memory Book, Chronicle Books LLC

Back when I was child-less I liked to keep extensive, detailed journals. Um, that’s pretty unrealistic now that I have two kids and barely a second to myself. For memory-keeping, I like that this book only requires me to write down one or two sentences for each day.

The MoneySmart Family System: Teaching Financial Independence to Children of Every Age, Steve + Annette Economides

Oh money, why are we not better friends? I’m sadly lacking in finance skills and get all jittery when I think about balancing my checkbook or investing in my future. Brrr. Chills. Because I know that my kids will likely learn money skills from their parents, I’m nervous for their financial intelligence. This book got amazing reviews and I love the smart skills I’ve read so far.

101 Disneyland Tips, Cam Bowman

I grew up in a fun-loving Southern California family, and I’m a solid Disneyland fan as a result. This book was written by my friend Cam, who happens to be a Disneyland expert and runs a great Disney site called Growing Up Goofy. Her family has season passes and they visit with their 3-and 5-year old frequently, and all of her advice is tested and solid. If you’re planning a trip to Disneyland with small kids, this book is full of useful tips. Cam is also running a book giveaway on her site (closes on January 2, 2014).

Make-your-life-better Books

How to be Interesting, Jessica Hagy

And this is the other book I purchased on that lovely afternoon date! It’s so inspirational for anyone who wants to live a more interesting life. As a home-grown city girl, living in suburbia, this is a book I need.

Life From Scratch, Melissa Ford

This is my one fiction book. Someone recommended it to me. I can’t even remember who now? It’s about a blogger, which is probably what prompted me to pick it up.

Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day, Todd Henry

Chris Guillebeau, NYT bestselling author of The $100 Startup says of this book, “You have a limited number of days on Earth. This book sends an urgent message: make them count!” It’s that limited days thing that really gets me, and I’m always thinking about how I can get the most out of my short life. I really like this book so far.

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book, Guy Kawasaki

I follow Guy on Google+, and he’s one smart cookie. He’s also published a gazillion books, and in this one he explains why and how to publish an e-book. This is something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while, and I hope that Guy can guide me through the steps of this process.

More Creative Family Book Inspiration

For more creative reading ideas, check out our recent list of the Best Art and Creativity Books for Kids.




Boston Children’s Museum Pop-Up Recycle Shop

Boston Children's Museum Pop-Up Recycle Shop | Tinkerlab

We spent some time in Boston over the winter break, and had the great pleasure of happening upon the Boston Children’s Museum’s Pop Up Recycle Shop. The Recycle Shop has been a staple of the museum for over 35 years, and lucky us, they’ve brought it back just for the holidays.

If you find yourself in the Boston area in the next few days, it’s open through January 1, 2014, and totally worth a visit. Hours posted here.

We were lucky to meet the Alice Vogler who oversees the space, as she gave us a little tour and talked with my children about the various materials. Alice writes an outstanding recurring blog for the Children’s Museum website called Creative Confidence, and you should check it out if you like learning about how to raise creative children.

recycle pop up shop bags and room

The Pop-up Recycle Shop is located on the second floor, next to the Art Studio.  When you walk in, grab a bag and fill it with industry cast-offs that most kids see as treasures, full of potential for sculpture-building, art-making, and all sorts of inventions. My children each filled a big bag with shiny papers, tubes, and materials to make bird’s nests.

recycle pop up shop bags

According to the museum, “all of the materials are provided by Extras, a clearinghouse that recovers tons of material from being burned or thrown away and redistributes it for creative educational use.”

There’s a similar organization near our home, located in San Jose, CA called RAFT. I’ve been thinking about compiling a list off all of these reuse spaces — would you find this useful? If there’s a creative reuse organization near your home, will you add its name in the comments? [UPDATE: You can find a complete list of creative reuse centers here, courtesy of Lancaster Creative Reuse]

recycle pop up shop collecting

The space is only open for a few more days, but Alice mentioned that it’s been a huge success and will probably return again.

After filling a bag with goodies, move next door to the art studio, where you can make an upcycled character from wood scraps, felt, cups, and other found materials. I love how the simple act of adding googly eyes or eye stickers to an object brings it to life.

I’ll share a few photos as inspiration, because even if you’re not in the Boston area, these little figures are easy to replicate with found materials that you likely already have lying around the house.

recycle pop up shop characters2

recycle pop up shop stuff

recycle pop up shop characters

Happy Making!

The Year’s Best Art and Creativity Books for Kids

Books can inspire and nurture us, and at their best they make us better people. To wrap up the year in creative style, we’re sharing the some of the best art and creativity books for kids that were released in 2013. I’m excited to share that TinkerLab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors will come out in June 2014, and you can take peak at it here.

The best art and creativity books for kids | Tinkerlab

Art and Creativity Books for Kids

Note: Some of the links in this post are Amazon affiliate links.

The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art and Creativity–Includes over 60 Art Projects for Children Ages 1 to 8, Jean Van’t Hul

This creativity book is filled with so many of my favorite art projects, and it was named one of the best books of the year by Amazon! Jean, the author, is also the founder of The Artful Parent Blog,one of my main sources of inspiration for child-directed, process-based art. When my oldest daughter was a toddler, Jean’s ideas got me through many a dark afternoon.

Art Lab for Little Kid (Lab Series): 52 Playful Projects for Preschoolers, Susan Schwake 

The Art Lab series is one of my favorites. They’re well-organized, filled with colorful photos, and the steps are very clear. This art book will be a welcome addition to any home with small children who like to make art.

Red Ted Art: Cute and Easy Craft for Kids, Maggy Woodley

Maggy Woodley is the queen of crafts, and my go-to-gal when I have a question about how to turn pinecones or cardboard rolls into something cute. I’m an advocate for child-led projects, and while this book is filled with crafts, the projects leave a lot of room for personal expression. The projects are clearly explained, the pictures pop with clarity, and most of the materials are easy to gather. Click on the book cover for my personal review of this gorgeous book.

Martha Stewart’s Favorite Crafts for Kids: 175 Projects for Kids of All Ages to Create, Build, Design, Explore, and Share

175 Projects! As an author of a kids’ project book, the design of this book made my jaw drop. And I haven’t been able to pick it up, which is sort of a problem. What a fun book to browse through! As a Martha Stewart book, the production value is high, and major admiration goes to the big team of people who helped put it together. Like Red Ted Art, if you have an older child, this would be a good one to hand over to them on a rainy day or summer afternoon.

Exploralab, The Exploratorium

This book comes from one of the best science museums in the United States, The Exploratorium, and if you’ve ever wanted to bring a piece of Exploratorium magic home with you this book could be the answer. It’s filled with over 150 projects that help children explore the world around them. The visuals are spectacular, and the book even includes some surprising interactive elements. You can read our review here.

The Artist’s Way for Parents: Raising Creative Children, Julia Cameron

Back in college I devoured Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and gained so much insight from the practice of keeping morning pages. Can you imagine my excitement when I learned that Cameron was tackling how to apply these same skills and ideas toward raising creative children? Her voice is kind and approachable, and whether you use all her ideas or not, you’re sure to get inspired by the fun exercises, enjoyable activities, and actionable steps toward raising a creative child.

Zero to Maker: Learn (Just Enough) to Make (Just About) Anything, David Lang

While not exactly a book for kids, this book would be inspiring to a parent who’s lost their maker mojo or is thinking about dipping their toes into the maker movement. It would also be a great read for a teenager who needs the confidence to tackle a future of making.

The LEGO Adventure Book, Vol. 2: Spaceships, Pirates, Dragons & More!, Megan H. Rothrock

My five-year old is just getting into Legos, and recently spent the better part of two days assembling a huge Lego house. Her focus was palpable, as was her pride in completing the job. When the job was done, I wondered, what’s next? This book is filled with over 100 ideas for making everything from a mailbox to a dragon, and the diagrams are easy to follow. The only problem with the book is that I now realize that we might need to invest in lot more Legos. You might also enjoy Volume 1 of this book.

Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, Sylvia Libow Martinez  and Gary S. Stager

This book would be a welcome read for educators who are curious about the maker movement and would like to bring their classrooms up-to-date with technology. It’s full of ideas and resources for anyone who’s interested in raising children to become creative thinkers and lifelong learners. If you like to read books on your Kindle, the Kindle version is a far better value than the paperback.

Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities, Kevin Kelly

So many people compare this to the Whole Earth Catalog (do you remember those?), and for good reason. It’s the kind of book you’ll want to browse through on a rainy day, or take to a cafe and flip through like a magazine over a cup of coffee. Kevin Kelly is one of the founders of Wired Magazine, so he knows a thing or two about technology tools. It includes tools for price tracking, different types of adhesives and what you can do with them, and the differences between a variety of clays (Sculpey vs. SuperSculpey Firm)….just to name a few. What a great resource for the creative family!

3D Printing: The Next Industrial Revolution, Christopher Barnatt

Have you heard that 3-D printers are the desktop computer of our children’s generation? Some people have even referred to the 3-D printer movement as the next technology gold rush! Tinkerers are pioneering new ways to use 3-D printers, and I for one do not want my kids to be left behind. You can finally buy a decent 3-D printer for under $1000, and it’s only a matter of time before that price drops even more. This book won’t tell you which 3-D printer to purchase, but it will fill you in on why and how 3-D printers are changing the future.

Makers: The New Industrial Revolution, Chris Anderson

I saw Chris speak at a conference earlier this year, and was captivated by his pitch for introducing children to 3-D printers. If you have a child who has a passion for making things, this book could be a roadmap for his or her future. It outlines what the maker movement is all about and it’s full of inspiration for inventive entrepreneurs. In the future, “everyone with an idea will have the tools to realise it.” This, my friends, is why tinkering and making with young children is so important. The future is changing rapidly, and children with the tools to navigate the new world will be confident makers, inventors, and innovators.

 A question for you

What’s your favorite art or creativity book for kids or parents?

How to Make Felt Ornaments with Kids

How to make sweet keepsake felt ornaments with kids | TinkerLab.com

I made these sweet ornaments with my three-year old and five-year old. Our original plan was to hot glue them together, but when our hot glue gun went missing we took the opportunity to turn this into a sewing party.

My preschooler surprised me and rose to the sewing challenge (I’ll share a photo of that in a moment), while my kindergartener was able to thread her own needle and learned how to tie off knots.

I did the bulk of the work on these, so I’d call this project a collaborationjust something to keep in mind in case you expect your little one to take the lead on this one! Children six and older should be able to do most of the steps themselves.

If you’re not up for sewing, take this as inspiration, and simply hot glue the whole thing together!

How to make sweet keepsake felt ornaments with kids | TinkerLab.com

Gather Your Supplies

How to make sweet keepsake felt ornaments with kids | TinkerLab.com

  • Felt
  • Thread
  • Hand-sewing needle. Tip: Use tapestry needles for small hands. These have bigger eyes that are easier to thread, and they’re a bit thicker.
  • Treasures to sew on: sequins, beads, jingle bells, and buttons
  • A couple straight pins to hold the felt together
  • Scissors that will cut fabric. Tip: I have a pair of scissors that are ONLY for fabric, since paper quickly dulls scissors.
  • Ornament hooks

Cut and Sew the Felt Ornament

How to make sweet keepsake felt ornaments with kids | TinkerLab.com

To cut the ornaments, I used our cookie cutters as templates. We used a candy cane, angel, and a tree. I cut the first one out, and then layered it on top of the next color of felt. Then I cut the subsequent layers, each slightly larger than the rest.

To sew the ornaments: 

  1. Poke a straight pin through the felt stack.
  2. Thread the needle with a long piece of thread. Make it double-long and knot the end.
  3. Sew a running stitch through the felt.
  4. Knot the thread in the back.

How to make sweet keepsake felt ornaments with kids | TinkerLab.com

Decorate the Felt Ornament

How to make sweet keepsake felt ornaments with kids | TinkerLab.com

To embellish your ornament, sew the treasures to the felt. We used sequins and jingle bells (not shown here), and you could also use buttons or beads. My 5-year old wants to add that you could also make designs on the felt with stitches.

How to make sweet keepsake felt ornaments with kids | TinkerLab.com

Hang your Felt Ornament

Twist the ornament hook into the felt.

Tip: For the tree ornament (below), I twisted it through two layers of felt and it took about ten seconds to poke through. To poke through four layers of felt on the candy cane, it took me about thirty seconds of twisting. 

Once the hook pokes through the felt, twist it off!

How to make sweet keepsake felt ornaments with kids | TinkerLab.com

Your ornament is ready to hang or to gift to someone special.

How to make sweet keepsake felt ornaments with kids | TinkerLab.com

p.s. This post took twice as long to write because my 5-year old decided she wanted to be a blogger today. 🙂

kid blogger

Snap Circuits Review and a DIY Spin Art Machine

Snap Circuits and DIY Spin Art | Tinkerlab

Snap Circuits Review

If you’re in the market for a toy for a child who likes to build things, tinker, or is curious about how things work, Snap Circuits SC-300 tops my list. We’ve had this toy for a year and I just bought a BUNCH of them for friends because I like it so much. This is not a sponsored post — i’m just a happy customer who wants to spread the word. (Note: This post does contain affiliate links)

With Snap Circuits, those of us with no electronics background or understanding can easily build a light switch that works or a doorbell that rings. With a clever system of snaps that safely connect electronic components together, children will learn the basics of electricity and how to build all kinds of circuits.

The instruction manual is easy to understand, and I noticed that after we were halfway through our first project together, my five-year old figured out how to finish the assembly on her own. While it’s designed for children ages eight and up, my three and five year olds enjoy using it with adult collaboration, and I know it’s a toy that they’ll grow with.

What kind of toys should I buy?

When it comes to buying toys for my children, there are three questions that I like to ask:

  1. Is it a learning tool?  With Snap Circuits, children will learn about electronics and how to build a variety of circuits.
  2. Is it engaging and fun?  If children are curious about making things and how things work, the process and rewards will be fun and motivating.
  3. Is it open-ended? While many of the projects have a specific outcome in mind, many of them have multiple end-points. The example I’ll share today is an example of this.

In case you’re wondering, here are some curiosity and creativity-building toys that we’re also crazy about:

  1. Blocks. We love this set from Melissa and Doug
  2. Obstacles Game
  3. Marble Runs
  4. Spielgaben
  5. Stomp Rocket

And now, on to the project…

Build a DIY Spin Art Machine with Snap Circuits

Snap Circuit Spin Art Machine 2

Making their own spin art machine captured my kids imaginations, and we assembled it in about ten minutes. The toy comes with a grid that’s fitted with little prongs. The electronic pieces then snap right onto those prongs, which hold them in place. Putting these together will remind you of playing with Legos. In fact, if your child enjoys Legos, these might be a natural extension for you.

Snap Circuits doesn’t come with batteries, so if you buy this as a gift it’s something to keep in mind. If you don’t want to mess with replacing batteries over time, there’s a battery eliminator that people seem to be very satisfied with.

Snap Circuit Spin Art Machine

One of the components in this circuit is a small motor, and we were instructed to attach a stiff, circular paper base to the motor with some tape. Next, with a piece of double-stick tape we added a second circle of paper on top of the first one.

Snap Circuit Spin Art Machine 1

There a small on/off button on one side, so while one of us pushed the button, someone else got to use markers to add color to the spin art.

Snap Circuit Spin Art Machine 4

We struggled a bit with centering our circle, but no one seemed to mind our off-center designs. My 3-year old is obsessed with rainbows at the moment, and she enjoyed documenting her rainbow colors in just the right order.

I think they came out beautifully!

DIY spin art machine with Snap Circuits | Tinkerlab

After we played with it for a full hour, I was ready to disassemble it and store it away. But my kids saw this as a new toy, and wanted to keep it out. I complied, of course, and we made spin art for days! After two weeks we just broke it apart, and we’re now ready for another electronics challenge.

What’s your favorite toy for inspiring creativity and curiosity?

Tinkerlab is Everywhere! Sort of…

I’ve renewed my love affair with Google Plus. Are you over there? If you are, please seek me out! With that, I thought this might be a good time to let y’all know where you can find Tinkerlab around the social atmosphere. This will be a quick post.

A few words about our social media stamp: 

* Shoot me a hello and tell me that you follow this blog. I will love to hear from you!

* But keep in mind: I’m a busy parent and might not respond to you right away. Please don’t take this personally. My mom rarely gets a call back the same day she leaves me a message (I’m so sorry, mom).

* We go where you are. Is there something that we’re missing? Let us know and we’ll check it out.

Where to find Tinkerlab

Rachelle Doorley on G+

Rachelle on G+

Follow me on Google Plus, where I share tinkering ideas, craft projects, creativity inspiration, and science stuff. Oh, and occasional comic or photo of coffee. I adore G+, and would love to see you there.

Creative Kids Challenge Tinkerlab

I also moderate the Creative Kids Community on G+, and this week we’re hosting a Creative Kids Challenge.  Check out the link for more details!

Tinkerlab on G+

Tinkerlab on G+

Join Tinkerlab on G+, and you’ll get a good dose of creativity, art and science projects, and all things tinker-y. If you love Tinkerlab, this won’t disappoint you.

Tinkerlab on Facebook

Tinkerlab on Facebook

If you love Facebook, the Tinkerlab Facebook Page is the place where we share creative inspiration, giveaways, hands-on projects for kids.

Tinkerlab on Instagram

Tinkerlab on Instagram

Follow us on Instagram, where we share photos of easy art projects and inspiring bits of creativity. Also home to the Creative Table Project (follow us at #creativetable).

Tinkerlab on Pinterest

Tinkerlab on Pinterest

Follow us on Pinterest, where you’ll find some of our favorite artsy and kid boards: Kid Spaces, Art Recipes, Kids Art, Kids Science Projects, Sketchbook Ideas, and Art Studios

A question for you:

Where do you like to spend your social media energy? Which platform speaks to you?

Tips on How to Clean Up After a Creative Session with Kids

I’ve been asking my newsletter friends to share a creative hurdle that they face when it comes to hands-on making and creativity at home or school. One of the questions that comes up time and time again relates to cleaning up after creating. 

Is this a challenge that you face too? If so, you’re definitely not alone!

We all know that mess-making is part of the creative process, but it’s often difficult to reconcile the mess with the real flow of our lives.

How to clean up after a creative session

Today I’m sharing a question from Tinkerlab friend, Danielle. I posted her question to the Tinkerlab Facebook Page, and I’ll share all the responses here because I think that this is a question that a lot of us can relate to.

As one reader (Elizabeth) shared, “Clean up is an ESSENTIAL part of the creative process. Don’t let it slide! Don’t start a project unless there is time for all the steps , including clean up- do something un-messy if you only have a short window.”

Without further ado, here’s Danielle’s question, and the answers follow:

“My biggest hurdle is cleaning up after the creativity – often evidence of our fun lingers for days (or weeks…). This is often because I don’t plan “clean up time” into the schedule. Ooh – we have an hour before (….activity, church, dinner, bedtime/…) who wants to….? Well an hour is really more like 30 mins when I need to get 4 kids out the door & I don’t like to “interrupt” them in the middle of a project so we end up rushing around. Then, I’m reluctant to pull out stuff for another project because I’m weary of how long it will be before it all gets cleaned up.”

Note: Some of these responses have been moderately edited for clarity or grammar.

Clean Up Idea #1: Use Music

Use a piece of music like Flight of the Bumblebee to signal clean up time. Use it every time so they get to know it means stop and tidy up. -Fiona

We sing a tidy up song (simple lyrics follow). So cue, tidy up, move onto next thing.
It is very simple but effective.” when we’ve had a tidy up we’ll sing some songs (or your own activity) , repeat, when we’ve had a tidy up well sing some songs today…pause…when we’ve had a tidy up well sing some songs. x -Geraldine

clean up after art project

Clean Up Idea #2: Involve Children in the Process

Before starting a creative activity, read your child a book like Clean-Up Time (the books in this series are a personal favorite). This will help set expectations for when it’s time to put things away.

As a childcare provider I think it is one of my responsibilities to teach children self-help skills. We have a clean up time before lunch and then at the end of the day with wipes and little brooms. During activities I try to remind them to take what they need and put it away when they are done so they will have room to play and work. -Aurora

Break clean up into five parts and let each child and you do your parts, one child gets all the keeper supplies, one child sweeps, one child wipes the counter down, etc. -Anna

Get a child-size broom and dustpan set so that he or she is empowered to join you with tidying up. Or, for a laugh, check out these awesome Slipper Genies (don’t laugh too hard…they get great reviews!)

How to clean up art supplies | Tinkerlab

Clean Up Idea #3: Organize Your Supplies

We had the same problem…in fact it’s always been a problem with me:) I’m much better at being creative than cleaning. But being a home childcare provider I’ve had to learn to have a special area set up for crafts: where can easily put up the materials: a place for drying work and the beauty of enlisting my kids to clean up:) J put up the glue & crayons, D vaccum, E wipe tables, clean brushes, etc.. We’ve no time for arguing about who did what so it is easier to assign jobs.

Oh also..if you have a special room or area..u can say leave it & leave for church & have the kids finish up the next morning before doing anything else. -Kristen

Use a cookie sheet or tray for projects. When you want to put them up they can be stacked by turning every other one to the side. Then projects can dry or the kids can come back to them. Also, the mess is contained in the washable trays. Also, I use a nail or screw organizer for small stuff. It can be mounted on the wall if you want. All the small clear drawers can be labeled and hold things like scissors, glue sticks, beads, pre-cut yarn, stickers, popsicle sticks, etc. they cost about $20. I have one for art stuff and one for math/science stuff. -Becca

Being organized makes the clean up fast and easy. I have one tote with paper, scissors, glue (basically paper crafts), and then one tote for sewing crafts. -Olivia

Bins or baskets for each type of item. Organized and then it is easy for the kids to see where the things go and help cleaning up. I have one cabinet in our kitchen that is loaded with craft supplies. One tub filled with crayons and markers. One with paints and a large ziplock bag for the brushes and sponges for painting. One small container with glitters, sequin, and ribbons. Another small container with glue bottles, glue sticks and the refills for my hot glue gun (the gun is put up though because i dont want the kiddos plugging it in). They don’t have to be expensive, you can get some pretty decent containers at the dollar store- then if the paint gets spilled on them, its no big deal. I like the stuff in the kitchen because then I do not have the kids carrying glitter from one side of the house to the other. You could also (if you have the room) set up a card table in your garage and make a little “station” with the supplies organized next to it so that you do crafts in the garage. Then if things are left out- nobody sees it when they come into your home and you are not tracking on top of it all the time either. -April

Clean Up Idea #4: Set a Timer

Try doing 10 minute clean ups through out the day like every couple of hours set the timer for ten minutes and get the kids involved. I just started doing this and My oldest son told me he love this idea. -Daisy

organize art materials

Clean Up Idea #5: Set Aside Space for Working Projects

I run a childcare business from my home so I totally understand what you mean. I do two different things small quick surface tidies throughout the day just to ensure there is space to walk around but i also have a small area where half-finished projects can wait until the children go back to them. That way you don’t need to totally clear away every time, and the children can get on with the project without having to ask anyone else, so its more child led. -Kim

Do you want more Clean-Up Ideas?

We love this post with 24 Tips for Cleaning up Art Messes with Children, and this simple tip to keep a clear table.

What’s YOUR Clean Up Tip?

If you have any tips or ideas to share, please add them to the comments at the end of this post so that we can learn from your expertise, insights, and experiences!

Note: This post may contain affiliate links.


Nature Silhouettes

Today’s post is brought to you by Tinkerlab sponsor, Imagine Childhood. I first met Sarah Olmsted, founder of Imagine Childhood, when we  I interviewed her about her book by the same name.  Sarah also has an inspiring shop that outfits children and families for creative adventures. I’m a huge fan of the child-and-earth-friendly supplies that she carries in her shop, and excited to bring you a little piece of  Imagine Childhood magic today.

Read on for more details about a generous discount and a fantastic giveaway opportunity!

Welcome, Sarah!

Nature Silhouettes on Tinkerlab

It can be a challenge sometimes to find a last minute activity for those days when the weather just isn’t cooperating.  From snow and ice to wind and rain, some days, no matter how much of a diehard nature enthusiast you are your only option is indoors.

This simple and fun nature silhouette activity is the perfect fit for just those moments and a great holiday gift idea to boot!

Nature Silhouettes by Imagine Childhood

What you need:

  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Paint
  • Tape (optional)
  • Nature guides (books or websites), house plants, and/or photos from sunny days gone by
  • Frames (optional)

Nature Silhouettes by Imagine Childhood

How to:

  1. Trace: Grab your preferred nature study materials and let the kids pick out their favorite plants and animals. Trace the outlines lightly with a pencil.  If you are doing this from a book, thin paper and dark images with a lot of contrast work best.  If you’re using photographs or images printed from the internet, tape them a window with your paper on top and use the sun to illuminate the images for easy tracing.
  2. House plant option: If you have plants in your house, try placing them in front of a light source and tracing their shadows.
  3. Paint: Once you have your outlines or silhouettes, have fun painting them in.  You could put one silhouette per page, or you could make a composition from a few of them.
  4. Discuss: While the kids are painting, share interesting facts about their plant or animal with them, or maybe even join in on the creative fun!

Nature Silhouettes by Imagine Childhood

Gift Giving Options:

Simple and lovely, these silhouettes look great in a frame or on a postcard blank like this.  If you want to make a particularly special gift I would even opt for a colorful mat inside the frame in a cameo shape to really set off the artwork.

Nature Silhouettes by Imagine Childhood

A Gift For You Too!

Now that you have gifts for your friends and family, we’d like to give a gift to you from Imagine Childhood (total value is $150)!

Today’s giveaway includes:

To enter this generous giveaway, please leave a comment in this post by Wednesday, December 11. The giveaway is open to all readers world-wide. Winner will be chosen by random number generator, and notified shortly after the close of this contest.

One more thing!

Sarah is also offering Tinkerlab readers 10% off all purchases in the Imagine Childhood Shop, with the discount code Tinkerlab, valid through 12/11/13.

Sarah Olmsted HeadshotSarah Olmsted. A former exhibition designer for the Field Museum of Natural History, Sarah is the co-founder of imaginechildhood.comand author of IMAGINE CHILDHOOD: Exploring the World Through Nature, Imagination, and Play.  Keep up with Sarah on her blog, or via Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

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