Fall Craft Ideas: Paint Coffee Filter Suncatchers

A Fall Art Invitation: Coffee Filter Leaf Sun Catchers

If you’re interested in ways to bring the Fall season to life, today I’m sharing fall craft idea that encourages children to be inventive and think independently.

A Fall Art Invitation: Coffee Filter Leaf Sun Catchers

Present the Supplies as an Art Invitation

If you follow TinkerLab, you know that I appreciate projects that encourage children to think for themselves and come up with their own unique spin on the materials. Like so many of our projects, I present the supplies to my children as an art invitation. Once the supplies are in front of my kids, they are free to use the materials in any way the please.

So, what will we need?

The supplies for this project are so easy!

A Fall Art Invitation: Coffee Filter Leaf Sun Catchers

Here’s the set-up…

A Fall Art Invitation: Coffee Filter Leaf Sun Catchers

Pre-cut coffee filters into leaf shapes. As you can see in the first image in this post, there were a few requests for hearts too. Related to that, this is by no means an exclusive-to-Autumn activity. Cut out hearts, moons, trees, flowers, or even shamrocks. Have fun with this!

Place the cut-out shapes on a tray. We used an art tray, but a cookie sheet with a rim will work equally well. You’ll want the tray because this project can get drippy, and all that liquid will be nicely contained in this walled-off area. I found our art trays at Michaels and spotted something similar over on Amazon (affiliate link).

For two children, you can have them share a bowl of water as I did, or give them each their own water (they would appreciate that, I’m sure!).

A Fall Art Invitation: Coffee Filter Leaf Sun Catchers

At ages three and six, my kids had very different approaches to this task.

As you can see from the dot-covered table, my three-year old had a GREAT time exploring dot-making on the table. My older daughter experimented with drawing veins and rainbow effects, and her little sister soon got on board with similar tasks.

It’s always interesting to see how artists influence each other, and I’m 100% okay with copying as it’s a way of learning.

A Fall Art Invitation: Coffee Filter Leaf Sun Catchers

Kids also like to experiment with different paintbrushes (flat, round, fan, skinny, and fat) to achieve a variety of textures and lines. If you have a collection of paintbrushes, this is a great project to bring them out for.

Drying the Coffee Filters

If your child gets into this project, you will have A LOT of painted coffee filters to contend with. As such, you’ll need to set up a space to dry these gorgeous leaves.

Roll out a large sheet of paper or lay down newspaper, and then place the painted cut-outs on the paper until dry. Because the paper is so thin, they tend to dry incredibly fast!

A Fall Art Invitation: Coffee Filter Leaf Sun Catchers

Once dry, hang the shapes in a window with a bit of transparent tape. Admire the colors as the sun shines through them.

More Fall Craft Ideas

Make a shimmering Fall Lantern

This easy Sticky Autumn Collage is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers

Preserve your leaves in glycerin with Glycerin Leaves

This is our favorite play dough recipe, with a fall scent: DIY Pumpkin Pie Playdough

Make Leaf Sun Prints as a way to preserve leaf shapes on fabric.

And for a whole slew of Autumn ideas, check out the fun Fall Bucket List

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.

TinkerLab Newsletter

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
  • How to make hands-on making a part of your everyday life
  • Easy, actionable ways to raise creative kids

Fall Craft Ideas | Leaf Critters

Fall Craft Ideas | Leaf Critters | TinkerLab.com

My little one and I have been taking bike rides while her sister is at school, and have had a wonderful time collecting fallen leaves. If you’re looking for fall craft ideas (for kids or adults), today’s simple painted leaf tutorial is a keeper. When autumn hits, this is a fun way to acknowledge the seasonal shift.

Fall Craft Ideas | Leaf Critters | TinkerLab.com

Begin by collecting an assortment of leaves. Choose leaves that have already fallen, when possible. And then collect the rest of your supplies. I recommend acrylic paint because it has the best staying power.


Some of the supplies listed are affiliate links.

Fall Craft Ideas | Leaf Critters | TinkerLab.com

Steps: Painted Fall Leaf Critters

Before you start painting, take a look at the leaf and try to figure out what kind of critter you want it to be. Will it be a fish, octopus, or monster? Paint eyes on with acrylic paint.

Fall Craft Ideas | Leaf Critters | TinkerLab.com

Layer on some details…

Fall Craft Ideas | Leaf Critters | TinkerLab.com

And then, if you like, glue it to a sheet of paper and add more details with marker.

Fall Craft Ideas | Leaf Critters | TinkerLab.com

And there you have it: a fun and simple way to celebrate Fall.

p.s. There’s no wrong way to do this. You could even forget the “critter” idea altogether and simply paint abstract shapes all over your leaves.

More Fall Craft Ideas with Leaves

There are two blogs that you HAVE to check out…

The Artful Parent may be the first place I saw the idea to paint on leaves. Leaf drawing and doodling is lovely for little kids who aren’t yet drawing things that are realistic and Leaf Peepers is the predecessor to our Leaf Critters.

14 Ways to Paint Leaves ArtBarBlog pulls some of the best painted leaf posts together in one place. Be sure to check this out for lots of ways to turn those leaves into works of art.

Make it a Party!

Gather some friends together, ask them to bring a small collection of fresh leaves, set up all the materials ahead of time, and serve hot apple cider.

Fall Craft Ideas | Leaf Critters | TinkerLab.com

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.

TinkerLab Newsletter

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
  • How to make hands-on making a part of your everyday life
  • Easy, actionable ways to raise creative kids


Simple Sketchbook Prompt to Kick off the Day

Circles and Watercolor Paint | A Simple Sketchbook Prompt | TinkerLab

Today I have a fun and simple sketchbook prompt for you. This one is for all of my tinkersketch friends, new and old.

Circles and Watercolor Paint  |  A Simple Sketchbook Prompt  |  TinkerLab

I’ve been trying to make a habit of getting up before the kids so that I can have a little time to breathe before the day begins. A few weeks ago I picked up these new Canson Mixed Media journals (Amazon affiliate link), found on sale at Michael’s,and I was eager to give them a try.

Circles and Watercolor Paint  |  A Simple Sketchbook Prompt  |  TinkerLab

I started with made a random assortment of circles on my paper by tracing the inside of a tape roll. So easy, right? I was inspired by this zentangle post from Tiny Rotten Peanuts. Her photos are gorgeous — go ahead and check it out.

I used my favorite Micron pen for the task. If you like drawing with pen, Microns are the BEST. They’re waterproof, so after all of that drawing you can paint right over them without any fear of smearing the ink. I just noticed that Microns are on sale at Amazon right now (affiliate link) for about $1.50 — such a good deal!

Circles and Watercolor Paint | A Simple Sketchbook Prompt | TinkerLab

After drawing all those circles, I set out to fill them with patterns and paint. I decided to limit my palette to purple and red just to keep it clean and simple. After working on this for a while, I cleared the table and set up an invitation to paint for my family.

Circles and Watercolor Paint | A Simple Sketchbook Prompt | TinkerLab

The sketchbook invitation set-up

  • Sketchbooks
  • Assorted paintbrushes
  • Watercolor Set. We love this set by Prang (affiliate link)
  • Bowl of Water
  • Micron Pen
  • Rag to absorb water

Circles and Watercolor Paint  |  A Simple Sketchbook Prompt  |  TinkerLab

When my kids sat down to it, I started another page. This one was much more loose and fun for me. I used the blank paint from the watercolor set and a super-thin brush from this crazy-cheap set to make those thin inky lines.

Circles and Watercolor Paint  |  A Simple Sketchbook Prompt  |  TinkerLab

My husband and 3-year old got in on the action, and added a few more supplies.

Circles and Watercolor Paint  |  A Simple Sketchbook Prompt  |  TinkerLab

I love how my little one interpreted this prompt.

Circles and Watercolor Paint  |  A Simple Sketchbook Prompt  |  TinkerLab

And then, even better, how she painted whatever she wanted. The whole point of this, after all, is to get some marks on paper.

p.s. The new sketchbooks journals are fantastic! The size of ours (7″ x 10″) was just right: big enough to work freely, but small enough that it’s not an overwhelming amount of space to fill. They absorb water beautifully without curling too much, and they have perforated edges so you can cleanly remove anything worth hanging or sharing with a friend.

More Sketchbook Prompt Ideas

The TinkerSketch Challenge

Instagram sketchbook prompts

Why I carry a Sketchbook

TinkerSketch Sketchbook Ideas

Draw Into Wet Paint

Crushed Flowers in the Sketchbook


Back to School Supply Deals

Back to School Supply Deals | TinkerLab.com

With kids going back to school this week and in the upcoming weeks, school supplies are on sale. Hooray!

This can be a good time to stock up on all the goodies you’ll need to carry you through the year. We often shop at our favorite local drug store for supplies, but there’s nothing like the convenience of ordering from home.

I combed through Amazon (this post contains affiliate links) for the best back to school supply deals, and compiled a list of some of our favorite supplies and reader recommendations.

This list contains lots of amazing deals.

While I was pulling this post together my kids thought I was making this for us: my three-year old commented that we already have plenty of Sharpies (true that) and my six-year old wondered if the laminator is our Silhouette Cameo. It’s not a Cameo, but I just checked and the Cameo also happens to be on a great sale right now too.

For Amazon Prime members (I’m one — love it!), all of these items are Amazon Prime.


Back to School Supply Deals | TinkerLab.com

Back to School Supply Deals

Top to Bottom, Left to Right

Fiskars 5 Inch Kid Scissors Left-handed Pointed Tip, Color Received May Vary  $6.36 (not on sale).  While these aren’t on sale, good quality left-handed scissors for kids are hard to find, and these are a winner!

Elmer’s Washable No-Run School Glue, 4 oz, 1 Bottle  $1.00  (regular price: $2.18). Our very favorite glue. If you have a glue-happy family like ours, order a gallon of Elmer’s to carry you through the school year. I just ordered a gallon (not Prime) for our kids.

Sanford Sharpie SAN30075 Permanent Markers, Fine Point, Assorted, 12/Set  $7.25  ($15.36). Only our favorite permanent markers ever. Great for making Marker Explosions and Shrink Plastic Charms

Prang Oval Pan Watercolor Set, 16 Classic Colors with No. 9 Brush  $8.29 ($10.99) A friend gave a set of these to my daughter and it’s so well-loved…and due for a replacement soon. Okay, off to buy one for myself…

Swingline Precision Pro Desktop Punch, 2 – 3 Holes, Adjustable Centers, 10 Sheets  $8.97 ($24.17) 3-hole punches are so handy for all the paperwork that comes home from school.

Pentel Hi-polymer Block eraser, Large, White, 3 Pack $2.97 ($5.07) I used these in my drafting classes in college and haven’t looked for another eraser since. These rubbery erasers are smooth, don’t leave eraser marks on the paper, and won’t wrinkle the paper as you erase.

Crayola crayons, 64 Coun $5.30 ($9.99). What more can be said about Crayola Crayons? They’re a childhood staple, work super well, and the smell takes me back to being five again.

Elmer’s Washable All-Purpose School Glue Sticks .24 ounces 4-pack $1.97 ($3.65). Sometimes a glue stick just does a better job than liquid white glue. We always have these on our art cart. 

Sakura 30062 6-Piece Pigma Micron Ink Pen Set, Black  $9.27  ($17.39). These are more for me than the kids. I use these ALL the time in my sketchbook and for making TinkerSketches. They’re water-resistant, so you can paint right over them without any concern of bleeding. I also used them for my book signings!

Brother CS6000i Feature-Rich Sewing Machine With 60 Built-In Stitches, 7 styles of 1-Step Auto-Size Buttonholes, Quilting Table, and Hard Cover  $143.32 ($449.00). We have another Brother sewing machine that’s a few years older than this model. Readers have told me that they love this one and the price makes it a winner for beginner sewers. If you’re planning to make Halloween costumes or stitched holiday gifts this year, consider getting one now to get acquainted with it before sewing season begins.

Scotch Thermal Laminator Combo Pack, Includes 20 Letter-Size Laminating Pouches, Holds Sheets up to 8.5″ x 11(TL902VP)  $33.96  ($37.99). Whenever I share this laminator, readers tell me that it’s their very favorite. The discount seems small, but it comes with 10 laminating sheets (value of $9), so the laminator is actually about $24 when you take that cost off.

X-Acto School Pro Heavy-Duty Electric Sharpener $26.79 ($59.99). Our daughter’s teacher has two in her classroom that are used constantly. We’ve had this sharpener for a year, and it’s a powerhouse, never-fail sharpener.

TinkerLab Approved: Obstacles Game by eeBoo

Obstacles Game Review | TinkerLab Approved

Obstacles: A Game of Imaginative Solutions by eeBoo is  one of my family’s very favorite games, and I’ve been planning this review for some time. In this game, players take a journey along a path that’s riddled with wild obstacles (blizzard, waterfall, cave, etc.) and must overcome them from an array of unusual tools (siren, jack-in-the-box, propeller hat, etc.). The solutions are often unexpected as this game pushes players to come up with innovative and creative solutions.

Obstacles Game Review | TinkerLab Approved

As a collaborative game, it’s designed so that everyone can work together to come up with the best possible solution. Alternatively, players can work individually on their own ways to overcome the obstacles.

This game encourages team work, imagination-building, and creative thinking. Awesome, right?

The game is officially designed for children ages five – eight, although we got it when my older daughter was four, and have since introduced it to our three-year old. Younger children won’t play at the same pace, but they can still get a lot out of this game. Better yet, adults will are equally engaged by this game making it fun for the entire family.

Obstacles Game Review | TinkerLab Approved

How to play Obstacles

This game is for 2-5 players.

There are two types of cards in the Obstacles game: the large Obstacle cards and the small Tool cards. The Obstacle cards connect together to make a path.  As you can see in our photos, my kids like to make a big pile of cards instead of a path. Some of the obstacles include blizzard, wind, desert, tacks that cover the path, an ogre, a traffic jam, and poison ivy.

The goal is figure out how to best overcome an obstacle from a set of tools. Players can work independently or as a team, making this a cooperative game.

Obstacles Game Review | TinkerLab Approved

While the game comes with suggestions on how to play it, the open-ended nature of it allows you to make up “rules” that fit your child’s style. Here’s how we usually play:

  1. Each player gets five tool cards.
  2. Flip over an obstacle card.
  3. The first player chooses the best possible tool card to overcome the obstacle and provides an explanation for their reasoning.
  4. Other players can chime in to help if it proves too tricky.
  5. The play then moves to the next player who flips over the next obstacle card.
  6. And so on.

Obstacles Game Review | TinkerLab Approved

One of my favorite parts of this game is hearing the imaginative and often hilarious reasons given for why certain tools will help overcome an obstacle:

  • distract the ogre with the plate of cookies
  • jump over the border crossing with a  trampoline
  • scare away bees with a horn
  • pull the fabric off the cushion to make leg coverings and then walk through the poison ivy.

So much fun!

As an advocate for creative and critical thinking skills, I especially appreciate how this game encourages children to provide evidence for their solutions. It’s not enough to place a tool card on an obstacle and then pass your turn. Rather, each placed tool is accompanied by reasoning and explanation.

Obstacles Game Review | TinkerLab Approved

More Fun eeBoo Stuff

  • eeBoo was founded by Mia Galison and her husband Saxton Freymann, then parents of three  children under the age of three.
  • eeBoo is a family owned and operated business
  • To get an inside peek into this creative toy company’s work space, you can take a virtual tour of the eeBoo office in NYC. It’s situated in an old converted ballroom.
  • Some of our other favorite eeBoo games are the Fairytale Spinner Game and Tell Me a Story card decks, (Amazon affiliate links)
  • The game is eco-friendly as it’s made from 90% recycled grey board and soy-based inks

Where to find Obstacles, the game

  • eeBoo can be found in toy stores and Museum shops. If they don’t carry it, many toy stores will order the game for you.
  • You can also find the game on Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Directly from the eeBoo site

More from TinkerLab Approved

TinkerSpace: Library Learning Commons

Library Maker Space | Kaechele Learning Commons | TinkerLab.com

Today we’re joined by Librarian and Information Specialist, Shannon Hyman, of Kaechele Elementary School in Virginia who’s here to share her school’s TinkerSpace with us. Shannon’s school library is one of many around the world that are now weaving making and creating into the library learning environment. With the rise of STEM and STEAM in school curricula, bringing maker spaces into schools is a growing trend that I’m excited to see on the rise.

Library Maker Space | Kaechele Learning Commons | TinkerLab.com TinkerSpace Series

Can you tell us about your library?

Our Library Learning Commons (LLC) is a large, flexibly designed space where our students learn how to access, use and create information ethically.  We set the tone of our learning commons as one that encourages both “taking” (traditional library usage with checkouts and research) and “making” (innovative usage where students create, explore and design new information and learn new skills).

Students are also encouraged to take the extra step in making of sharing their ideas with others.  We encourage this by giving them the option to leave a sample of their creations which they label with their name (we call it attribution).

Library Maker Space | Kaechele Learning Commons | TinkerLab.com TinkerSpace Series

How would you describe your space?

Our Library Learning Commons (LLC) is approximately 3426 square feet.  Our MakerSpace areas, within the space, are flexible depending on the activity, and can be found all over the LLC.  MakerSpaces are created primarily by student interest and suggestions, and materials are donated by the learning community. Areas are clearly signed, and are changed regularly depending on the interest and exhaustion of materials. Materials and tools are kept in a common location, but may be taken to other areas in the LLC that are not being used for other purposes such as lessons happening simultaneously.  

After an orientation, students may access the MakerSpace anytime, but must sign in, work independently, respect and be aware of other activities happening simultaneously in the LLC, bring a timer, clean up, and complete a simple exit ticket which allows for a brief reflection and provides data for us and the teachers. 

Library Maker Space | Kaechele Learning Commons | TinkerLab.com TinkerSpace Series

I love seeing these images of how your space came together. How did your maker space get started?

Our make space started as what we called our Literacy Cafe.  We piloted this with a third grade class.  After reflection, more research, and a new branding, we morphed this into our MakerSpace.  The biggest hurdle was making this a successful, relevant part of our library learning commons, which we overcame by taking our time to pilot first, assess, research carefully, train students and teachers intentionally but simply, and then partner with our community to build our bank of materials. 

How is your maker space staffed?

My assistant and I maintain the space and replenish materials, but students drive the space, the community donates materials, and students must work independently.

What’s the inspiration for your creative space?

Our students suggest ideas for MakerSpace activities, and often donate startup materials and samples.

Kaechele Maker Space | TinkerLab.com TinkerSpace Series

If you had to be selective, what three things do you love most about your space?
  1. I love the natural variety that happens when students have a voice in what is included as a MakerSpace activity.
  2. I love the thrill a student gets when he or she realizes they can problem solve and do something they have never tried before. 
  3. I love that our MakerSpace initiatives give students an opportunity to explore a passion, or take a risk to try something they have never tried before.

Can you share one of your MakerSpace set-ups with us that you thought was particularly successful?

We love everything we have tried so far.  A listing of what we have right now:
  • mask making
  • sewing and embroidery
  • duct tape design
  • origami and paper crafts
  • card tricks
  • Kinetic Sand Sculpture
  • button jewelry
  • Lego design and construction
  • Tinker Lab
  • 3-D and Pop-Up inspiration station
  • and magnetic poetry.

Coming soon are coding, video production, audio editing and production, and Osmo Tangible Play via iPads.

Library Maker Space | Kaechele Learning Commons | TinkerLab.com
I think the tinker lab I mentioned above has been a great success and it has such a simple premise.  I am now looking for more ideas like the flashlight that allows students to safely explore concepts such as circuitry and assembly. Any ideas? :-)  (Readers — any thoughts for Shannon?)
Our kinetic sand makerspace has also been very successful as it has the hidden advantage to strengthening little muscles for future writing.  It is all great for imagination, planning, and construction.

Library Maker Space | Kaechele Learning Commons | TinkerLab.com

Do you have any tips for those of us who want to set up a maker space in a library or school?

Consider how you will manage the space.  Currently, we allow complete open access all day long, three students per class for about 15-20 minute shifts.  Full class orientation is mandatory before students can use the space. Grades 2-5 may come on their own after orientation, but grades K-1 must come with a volunteer. Students must clean up or risk being denied access. Students may not use the library staff as resources (…we are usually teaching or circulating books), and so they must work our their problems on their own or collaborate with other makers.

Library Maker Space | Kaechele Learning Commons | TinkerLab.com

What five supplies are indispensable to you and the children right now?

  1. duct tape
  2. origami paper
  3. building materials
  4. Kinetic sand
  5. tinkering tools

Library Maker Space | Kaechele Learning Commons | TinkerLab.com

Can you share a favorite tip for organizing your creative zone or for cleaning up after a creative session?

We use plastic trays to define each space and keep supplies organized.  As I mentioned above, students know that “With the great privilege of making, comes the great responsibility of cleaning up”.  Students who neglect this important task risk denial of access. (We call it the “penalty box”.)

Library Maker Space | Kaechele Learning Commons | TinkerLab.com

What do you wish for your children to take away from their experiences in this space?

I want students to leave with one of two experiences:

  1. They become empowered with the thrill that they have designed or created something interesting
  2. or they have taken a risk to try something they have not tried before, and this has ignited a curiosity or passion.

Library Maker Space | Kaechele Learning Commons | TinkerLab.com

Shannon, I’m so glad that you took the time to share you TinkerSpace with us today. To see more of Shannon’s space, click here.

Friends, if you’d like to share your school or home maker space with us, drop me a line at Rachelle at TinkerLab.com. You can check out the rest of the TinkerSpaces in this series here. 

Library Maker Space | Kaechele Learning Commons | TinkerLab.com



Creative Challenge #12 | Cupcake Liner

TinkerLab Creative Challenge Cupcake Liners

TinkerLab Creative Challenge Cupcake Liners

August has arrived and we’re ready to see what you’re making with cupcake liners! I can’t believe that this is our 12th Creative Challenge — man-oh-man!

I announced this newest challenge in this post where you can get all the details. And if you’d like to see ALL of the past creative challenges, you can find them here.

TinkerLab Creative Challenge | For Kids and Adults | Cupcake Liners

Catch the Creative Challenge on Pinterest

Pop over to our Cupcake Liner Pinterest Board for more cupcake liner inspiration. I’ll be pinning your ideas to our board!

Add Your Cupcake Liner Project

Okay — do you have a CUPCAKE LINER project to share? Go ahead and add it here. Sharing your project here gives TinkerLab permission to share a link to your article in a future post. 

TinkerLab in New York City and Cambridge

TinkerLab at Books of Wonder, New York City

Today’s post will be quick since I’m packing up a suitcase and heading for the East Coast! Yippee!

TinkerLab at Books of Wonder, New York City

I’m heading the NYC and Cambridge, two cities that have melted my heart. My boyfriend-turned-husband and I lived in New York for one incredibly fun summer between our junior and senior years of college. I was a theater major and was lucky to find work on a TV show and a movie, scraping up just enough money to pay my way back to California that September.

This time I’m looking forward to a walk on the High Line, eating at Momofuku, checking out this crazy museum, and hanging out at Books of Wonder, an incredible, independent book store near Union Square.

Have you been? I’m so excited to spend some time there.

To celebrate TinkerLab’s launch into the Big Apple, I’ll bring along all the materials you’ll need to make a Marker Explosion tote back, straight from page 146 of TinkerLab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors (affiliate link).

Supplies are limited, so arrive early!

TinkerLab at Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA

Following that, I’ll be in Cambridge on August 10, with a repeat of the Marker Explosion project. I’ll be sure to get all the wrinkles out by this second book talk, so meet me in Cambridge for the more refined maker experience!

When I was in the Arts in Education (AIE) program at Harvard (cough) years ago, I spent most of my waking hours in this charming town, and Porter Square Books was a spot that I found myself in on more than one occasion. As an aside, if you’re thinking about applying the the AIE program, I can’t say enough good things about it. Feel free to message me if you have any questions.

If you’d like to know more about my arts education beginnings, I dug up this interview on the Arts in Education website where I talk about my motivation to bring the arts to youth, one way or another. With the new TinkerLab book launched, I’m so happy to say that I am meeting this goal!

So, will I see you on the Right Coast?

Oh, one last thing…

Please support Independent Book Stores! I went into my local bookstore yesterday and purchased six books. While I purchase my fair share of books and other things on Amazon, it always feels great to know that my Indy Book Store purchases contribute toward keeping these neighborhood gems around for my kids, and perhaps theirs.

Books of Wonder and Porter Square Books, see you both soon!


TinkerLab Book Blog Tour Highlights

TinkerLab Book Review

Did you get a chance to catch the TinkerLab Blog Book Tour? Twenty-three incredible blogs shared reviews, projects from the book, giveaways, and cool tinkering insights with their readers.

I’m so grateful for all that they shared and thought a recap would be helpful for those who might be thinking about picking up a copy of the book for themselves, or as a gift.

TinkerLab Book Review

Jean from The Artful Parent, which happens to be one of the very first blogs I ever read, shares some great photos of her marked up book and a peek at a bunch of the pages.

TinkerLab Book Review

Toddler Approved shares how her kids made one of the activities from the book, straw rockets.

TinkerLab Book Review

Ten Powerful Lessons Life Lessons from TinkerLab, written by Stacy at Kids Stuff World, just blows me away.  She shares some great nuggets of inspiration from the book. Here’s an example…

10 Powerful Lessons from TinkerLab

I invited a handful of Creativity and Education experts to write pieces for the TinkerLab book, and one was Parul Chandra, Head Teacher at Bing Nursery School at Stanford University. Christie at Childhood 101 took inspiration from Chandra’s interview on Discovery Areas and set up a Discovery Area in her home. This post is wonderful, and Christie shares a lot of Chandra’s interview so we can all learn from her words of wisdom.

Set up a Discovery Table, inspired by the TinkerLab Book | Childhood 101

Aligned with the book’s philosophy to encourage experimentation and curiosity in childhood, Creative with Kids shares a list of 15 “I wonder what would happen if…?” questions that invite play and experimentation. So good!

Questions that encourage experimentation and curiosity | TinkerLab.com

Maggy at Red Ted Art shares a whole bunch of ways that the book has inspired tinkering and open-ended exploration in her artistic home, including the set-up of their very own art trolly.

Art Trolly from Red Ted Art | TinkerLab.com

Amanda Morgan, mom to four boys and author of Not Just Cute, shared her kids’ DrawBots. Click over to her page and you can see videos of how they work.

Make a Draw Bot with Kids | from the TinkerLab book

The photos of the Naked Egg Experiment over at Let’s Lasso the Moon are beyond gorgeous. If Zina didn’t live 2000 miles away from me I would probably beg her to photograph images for my next book. Go on and check it out…

Naked Egg Experiment | Lets Lasso the Moon

Inspired by how the book encourages experimentation, Rachel of Kids Activities Blog made up a batch of Edible Pantry Paint with her kids.

Edible Pantry Paint from Kids Activities Blog | TinkerLab.com

Whitney from Rookie Moms (pass this site along to new moms!) talks about our Creative Table invitations, and shares this quick summary of the book:

  • Make space in your kids’ lives for creativity
  • Present them with opportunities to experiment, and try not to interfere too much
  • Introduce tools and materials they can test and play with
  • Accept that boredom is a jumping off point, not a problem for parents to solve

Whitney then offered her kids a selection of materials and stepped back to see what they would come up with. More here.

Creative Invitation for Kids | from Rookie Moms 

Tiffany from (the awesome spot for planning a Disney trip) Peanut Blossom, shares her kids straw rocket activity. 

Make Straw Rockets | TinkerLab.com

Steph from Modern Parents Messy Kids, is an advocate for STEM and STEAM, and has this to say about the book, “If you’re at all interested in the growing STEM and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) movements – this is the book for you! The “Take Thinks Apart” activity we tried (see below) is from the Build category.”


 The Imagination Tree is one of my very favorite spots for Early Childhood Education ideas, and Anna shares a peek into the pages of the book with us.

TinkerLab book review

Ana from Babble Dabble Do shares her new art cart, inspired by the pages on How to Organize your TinkerLab. This is one of my favorite eye-candy sites, and it’s full of great ideas for little builders and inventors.

How to Organize art supplies | Babble Dabble Do | TinkerLab.com

MaryLea from Pink and Green Mama has a beautiful creative space in her home, and shares how the ideas in the book align with how she’s created her home studio.

How to set up a creative space | TinkerLab.com


Shana, the talented engineer – mom – fashionista at The Mom Edit, are Instagram buddies. She inspires me to dress better and I inspire her to set up creative invitations like this with her kids…

Setting up a Creative Invitation  | The Mom Edit | TinkerLab.com

Make and Takes features the Straw Rocket activity and shares full instructions on how to make straw rockets. Fun!

How to make a straw rocket

Playful Learning makes the Lava Lamp activity from the book, and shares full instructions on how to make them. This is a really fun activity and will wow both kids and adults.

DIY Lava Lamp from Playful Learning | TinkerLab.com


Imagine Childhood tests out the Pounding Flowers project from the TinkerLab book. I recently ran this project at my daughter’s preschool and it was a huge hit with the kids, as they came up with lots of ways to experiment with creating colors and textures.

Pounding Flowers project | TinkerLab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors

A Mom with a Lesson Plan shares all the info and directions you’ll need to create your very own straw rockets. I love how her kids invented their own rocket shapes and designs. I led this activity at the Stanford Play Symposium a few weeks ago and it was a huge hit with the grown-up crowd, too!

Straw Rockets | A Mom with a Lesson Plan | TinkerLab.com

The color of this egg is spectacular. Cathy at Nurture Store ran the naked bouncing egg experiment with her kids. This project teaches patience, with a really big payoff at the end!

Naked Egg Experiment | NurtureStore | TinkerLab.com

Kara at Simple Kids is the creative mom of four kids. And her blog is a wondrous place for keeping things simple as a parent. I subscribe to this philosophy — how about you?

In Kara’s review she shares her thoughts on the book, and she has a lot of really nice things to say.

Says Kara, “Tinkerlab takes the kids craft book to the next level:  beyond just amazing projects (and there are some truly unique ideas here), Rachelle goes into the hows and whys of tinkering, encouraging parents to embrace the mess (one of my personal mottos) and to see mistakes as gifts. Sprinkled throughout the book, like little gems, are some thought-provoking essays by various authors that this artist/mama/maker found really inspiring and helpful.  My favorite, as a parent who also strives to live simply, is the essay on the benefits of basic materials by Jennifer Winters, the director of Bing Nursery School at Stanford University.” Read her review for more.TinkerLab Book Review | Simple Kids


Asia at Fun at Home with Kids is a natural inventor and creates recipes for all sorts of slime, dough, and other kid-friendly supplies on her blog. She and her kids built a drawing machine, inspired by the book’s Draw Bot, and…she’s giving away a copy of the book. Hurry on over because the giveaway ends in just a few hours!


I’m honored to share that TinkerLab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors (affiliate link) has been the #1 Best Seller in Crafts for Children on Amazon. I’m so happy to know that this labor of love is reaching out to families and educators in search of some creativity inspiration.

If you’ve reviewed the book or have a tinkering activity to share, leave a note in the comments. I’d love to see it!

Warmly, Rachelle

Easy Stop Motion Animation for Beginners

Easy Set-up for Stop Motion Animation with Kids | TinkerLab.com

While my girls have been in a little bit of camp this summer, it’s mainly been Camp Mom for our family: local adventures, crafts, and lots and lots of unstructured play. We’re lucky to have some great neighbors with kids, and our girls have been lost in imaginative play that expands beyond the reach of anything I could possibly fabricate for them.

However, we’ve had a few mornings filled with creative projects and this stop motion animation project is a winner. 

Stop Motion Animation, explained

For the uninitiated, stop motion animation is a film making technique that makes inanimate objects appear to move on their own. Think Gumby or Wallace and Gromit.

To make it work, you place an object in front of a camera and snap a photo. You then move the object a tiny bit and snap another photo. Repeat this process twenty to ten thousand times, play back the sequence in rapid progression, and the object appears to move fluidly across the screen.

Easy Stop Motion Animation for Kids | TinkrerLab.com

While my older daughter, age six, really flew with this project, her little sister who’s just two months shy of four also got in on the stop motion animation action. I’ll share their finished projects in just a moment. But first, let me show you just how simple this set up can be. Take this as a starting point and feel free to add your own flourishes.

Supplies for Stop Motion Animation

This list contains affiliate links for your convenience

Easy Set-up for Stop Motion Animation with Kids | TinkerLab.com

The Stop Motion Animation Set Up

As you can see, there’s nothing too fancy about the set up. While you could certainly add some elaborate lighting, we set this up by a window to keep it simple. I added the trash can behind the piece of foam core to keep it from falling over during filming. I know, super glamourous, right? Any heavy object should do the trick.

Collect characters and objects for Stop Motion Animation Project | TinkerLab.com

The kids had fun sorting through what we call the Character Basket for their just-right objects. My six-year old was up first, and my little one took it as an opportunity to play with cars and mini sheep while she waited her turn.

Easy Set-up for Stop Motion Animation with Kids | TinkerLab.com

Using the stop motion app was really easy and intuitive. I did a demo run to show the kids how it worked, and then my six-year old took over and worked on her video for a solid half hour. When she was done, her little sister took over. I was surprised at how easy it was for her too.

My kids’ Animations

From three-year old R…

From six-year old N…

Some Benefits of Stop Motion Animation

  • Offers children ownership and autonomy in the film making process
  • Teaches children how stop motion animation works
  • Debunks the mechanics of how movie-making happens
  • The creative constraint of the medium encourages problem solving
  • It’s a simple, hands-on technology that young children can achieve
  • Encourages children to project and plan out where a story is heading
  • Fosters iteration and experimentation through trying and testing
  • Supports storytelling

So, are you ready to give it a try?

If you upload your animation somewhere, leave a link in your comment. I’d love to check it out!

Easy Set-up for Stop Motion Animation with Kids | TinkerLab.com

More Stop Motion Resources

How to make a Stop Motion Animation, YouTube. This is a great little video, and it sounds like it was made by KIDS! Yay.

You can’t really beat the classic stop motion animation of Gumby! Gumby on the Moon, YouTube. This would be an inspiring thing to show a child as an intro to stop motion animation.

Best Stop Motion Videos from Short of the Week. Lots of good inspiration here.

How to make things fly in Stop Motion Animation, using PhotoShop: YouTube. This is for the super-advanced students, and worth checking out if you’re curious about how these things work.

What do you think?

We’re just getting started with this and have only tested a couple stop motion apps. Do you have a go-to app for stop motion, or a favorite resource?


20 Inspiring Letter Writing Centers

writing a letter 3

Today we’re sharing some of our favorite ideas for setting up an inspiring letter writing center.

If you’re familiar with this blog, you’ll know that I like to move my furniture around. A lot. A few weeks ago I moved our dining table back to the dining room. It’s so very traditional of us! Here’s how the space used to look. And then here’s the dining table (aka work table) in my studio space.

Amazing and Simple Letter Writing Centers for Kids | TinkerLab.com

With the table in it’s new spot, we were ready for a new Creative Table invitation. Considering my three-year old’s growing interest in letter writing, I set up this simple prompt:

Letter Writing Station | A Simple Creative Table Invitation | TinkerLab.com

With the table clear, I placed a long wooden container in the middle of the table. Inside it were a:

  • bucket of colored pencils
  • bucket of crayons
  • our self-stamp address stamper
  • postage stamps
  • address book
  • a selection of envelopes and cards

This reminded me of the self-serve mail center I set up in a drawer for my older daughter a couple years back.

My three-year old got busy right away by pulling out her favorite rainbow colored pencil to work on a card for her grandpa. While we have to work on her pencil grip, she is very confident in holding writing tools in this way. Any tips for correcting this? Her preschool teacher recommends a triangle-shaped pencil grip.

Letter Writing Station | A Simple Creative Table Invitation | TinkerLab.com

We stuck with this for about thirty minutes and then we were on to the next project.

Letter Writing Station | A Simple Creative Table Invitation | TinkerLab.com

Tips for setting up a letter writing center

  • Clear the table of extra clutter
  • Keep the supplies simple
  • Print or write out address labels for pre-writers
  • Make it fun by adding some stickers or playful stamps

19 More Letter Writing Centers

You can’t go wrong with any of these 11 Inspiring Writing Centers from Playful Learning.

If you like to make your own books, check out Homemade Books: An Invitation to Write from Creative with Kids.

And the Handmade Books Center from Soule Mama will give you even more ideas.

How to Create a Writing Station for Children from My Little Bookcase shows some amazing before and after photos.

Make Writing Irresistible from Nurture Store gives us some good tips on how to make writing fun.

The Family Mailbox from Let’s Lasso the Moon is a great way to build a new family tradition around writing.

This Christmas Writing Station from Teach Preschool is so thoughtful, and not just for Christmas. One of my favorites.

The Recycled Materials Writing Station from Growing Book by Book is one that will save your pocket book.

Inspired by Playful Learning, this gorgeous Letter Writing Station from Sew Liberated is beyond inspiring.

Fun Science Experiments: Vinegar and Baking Soda

Baking Soda and Science Exploration | Fun Science Experiments | TinkerLab.com

Baking Soda and Science Exploration | Fun Science Experiments  |  TinkerLab.com

My kids love fun science experiments. While cooking breakfast the other day, my three-year old asked about making concoctions with the breakfast supplies. While I’m all for mixing up ingredients with kids, I wasn’t prepared to have a lot of good food go to waste.

So we set up a classic concoction center with some baking soda and vinegar. So much fun!

Supplies: Fun Kitchen Science Experiment

I’ve included some Amazon affiliate links for your convenience

  • Vinegar – I like this big jug for the convenience of having lots of vinegar on hand for more experiments
  • Baking Soda
  • Tray
  • Small pitcher
  • Spoon/s
  • Bowl/s
  • Food coloring (optional)

Baking Soda and Science Exploration | Fun Science Experiments  |  TinkerLab.com

Steps: Set up a Concoction Experiment

  1. Set up a tray or deep tub and fill it with a handful of small bowls.
  2. Fill a bowl with baking soda and a small spoon
  3. Fill a small pitcher with vinegar
  4. Offer this invitation to your little scientist

Baking Soda and Science Exploration | Fun Science Experiments  |  TinkerLab.com

After some fizzy exploration, my daughter wanted to see what would happen if we added some salt, so we brought salt over.  In the past we’ve also added flour, baking powder, and a variety of vinegars. At this point, you could also introduce some food coloring for extra-colorful fun.

More Fun Vinegar and Baking Soda Experiments

When my older daughter was three years old, we did this same science experiment with a slightly different set-up. Hop over here to the fun Baking Soda and Vinegar Science Experiment.

Baking Soda and Science Exploration | Fun Science Experiments  |  TinkerLab.com

This project, like so many others that you’ll find on TinkerLab, is process-based and it’s part of the CREATIVE TABLE PROJECT. 

These projects are set up as Creative Invitations, meaning that the materials are laid out in an inviting way where the child is invited to interpret and use them however he or she likes. With creative invitations like this, I’ll sometimes give my kids a little prompt, but usually I sit back and see what they come up with…and I’m often surprised by their ingenuity.

One of my favorite things about Creative Table projects is that they’re simple. Set up takes minutes and the child determines the outcome through a process of discovery and exploration. There’s no expected outcome, which frees the parent or teacher up to relax and enjoy the process.

Around here, these creative set-ups are part of the Creative Table series, and you can find more of these ideas here.

Creative Table Project | Baking Soda and Vinegar

If you enjoyed this activity, be sure to check out our new book, TinkerLab: A Handbook for Little Inventors (affiliate link). You might also enjoy these creative invitations:

Creative Table Highlights via Instagram

Creative Table: Tape and Paper Bags

Creative Table: Paint and Looping Lines

Creative Table: Doilies and Scissors

Creative Table: Leaves and Glue

Creative Table: Stickers and Frames