12 Art Projects for Toddlers

12 Toddler Art Projects | TinerkLab.com

I’m often asked for activity ideas for toddlers, so I collected a few of my favorite art projects for toddlers. These projects are mostly easy to execute, don’t call for a lot of fancy supplies, often suggest using supplies that you already have at home, and are 100% age-appropriate for little hands.

Enjoy!

12 Art Projects for Toddlers

12 Simple and Fun Art Projects for Toddlers | TinkerLab.com
Make your own simple paint recipe. Making your own paint can be easy! This paint isn’t super archival and it won’t look like store-bought paint, but it’s especially useful if you have a child who likes to use a lot of paint, and you’re less concerned with a final product

Sewing with Toddlers. Use the mess from a bag of fruit or vegetables and cardboard, and you have a toddler-friendly loom that’s ready to go.

Marbleized Paper. Marbleize your own gorgeous designs with this simple recipe that calls for liquid watercolors and oil as the base.

Contact Paper Leaf Collage. Experience the tackiness of contact paper in this non-messy leaf-collecting + composition-building activity.

12 Simple and Fun Art Projects for Toddlers | TinkerLab.com

Squeezing Paint. For the child who likes to squeeze a lot of paint, this is for you. You might like to couple this with the “Make your own Paint” recipe (above)

Winter Collage with paper and stickers. Offer your child a selection of pre-cut paper and stickers for this age-appropriate collage activity.

Glueing Dots and Buttons. Squeeze a few dots of glue on paper and invite your child to add buttons. A great activity for hand-eye coordination and fine motor skill development.

Stringing Beads. Plastic string plus beads with big holes make this a rewarding activity for toddlers who are flexing their hand-eye coordination.

12 Simple and Fun Art Projects for Toddlers | TinkerLab.com

Tracing Circles. Grab a cup, paper, and a marker, and invite your child to trace circles. It seems easy, but it can be challenging!

Butterfly Prints with paper and paint. Fold a piece of paper in half, add dollops of paint to one half, and fold. The results bring out big ooohs, and ahhhs.

Body Tracing. Invite your child to lie down on a big sheet of paper. Trace their body and then offer them pens or crayons to decorate.

{Tidy} Watercolor Painting. This is one of my favorite set-ups for watercolor painting. The whole thing happens within the confines of a tray, keeping the painting in one area.

12 Simple and Fun Art Projects for Toddlers | TinkerLab.com

Bonus: 50 Art Materials for Toddlers

50 Art Materials for Toddlers is a fun post that rounds up our favorite supplies for little hands. We asked our readers to share some of their favorites, which are added in the comments. See what you think!

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In case you blinked and missed it, TinkerLab rounds up all the great stuff on the internets on keeping you and your critters creative and wraps it up for you in a tidy newsletter! (And throws in some secret giveaways for good measure!)  – Yuliya P., San Francisco, CA

Join our community and you’ll learn:

  • How to simplify your life and make more room for creativity
  • How to make hands-on making a part of your everyday life
  • Easy, actionable ways to raise creative kids

TinkerLab Newsletter

 

Halloween Crafts for Kids

Easy and Fun Halloween Crafts for Kids | TinkerLab

Here comes Halloween! I scoured some of my favorite kid-friendly sites and found this awesome selection of Halloween Crafts for Kids. I think you’ll love them.

What does this Halloween Crafts for Kids roundup include?

  • Ghosts, pumpkins, spider webs, mummies, monsters, and skeletons.
  • Activities for toddlers, preschoolers, and school age kids.
  • Crafts that kids can actually do. Some with a little adult assistance.
  • Projects that use easy-to-find household materials such as spaghetti, cardboard rolls, candy, paint, string, jars, egg cartons, gauze, and cotton balls.
  • Sixteen projects to keep us busy for a while!

Halloween Crafts for Kids

Easy and Fun Halloween Crafts for Kids | TinkerLab

Let’s get started…

Halloween Crafts for Kids | TinkerLab.com

Even little kids can get in on the Halloween action with this festive Cotton Ball Ghost for Toddlers: No Time for Flash Cards

This Pumpkin Mummy Family is not messy to make and beyond cute: Hands on as we Grow

Build fine-motor skills with this simple Marshmallow Skull Craft: No Time for Flash Cards

I would have to give in to my kids’ begging to eat the candy corn while making this Candy Corn Monster but it would be worth it: Crafty Morning

Halloween Crafts for Kids | TinkerLab.com

These Marble + Paint Spider Webs are toddler-friendly. Making these is soooo addictive : TinkerLab

The tutorial for these Handmade Spider Sacks is wonderful! : Modern Parents Messy Kids

Cut up some circles and then invite your child to decorate for this Easy DIY Halloween Garland: TinkerLab

Add a little holiday glow to a dark patio or room with these Halloween Lantern Jars: Red Ted Art

Halloween Crafts for Kids | TinkerLab.com

Use cardboard rolls as the base for a Monster Mobiles, and let your child have fun decorating: Happy Hooligans

Got K-cups? Save them for a Recycled K-cup Recycled Lantern: Handmade Kids Art

These Glowing Pumpkin and Monster Jars are dipped in colored salt! What a cool texture: Fantastic Fun and Learning

Make a handprint spider and practice lacing in this Handprint Spider in a Spider Web: Mom Endeavors

Halloween Crafts for Kids | TinkerLab.com

Before making a Spaghetti Spider Web, build memories by inviting a child to play with slimy, green spaghetti: Hands on as we Grow

Fun! With the addition of a rubber band, make this Easy Halloween Craft Bouncy Spider: Kids Activities Blog

Invite your child to cover paper with masking tape, and then cut out a Masking Tape Mummy: No Time for Flash Cards

Save those egg cartons for this simple Egg Carton Bat: Crafty Morning

More Halloween Ideas

If you enjoyed this post, you have to check out 50 Simple Halloween Ideas for Kids.

Join the TinkerLab Community

And, you might enjoy signing up for the weekly TinkerLab newsletter. It’s free and we often send exclusive content and opportunities that are only available to our subscribers.

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

Fun and Easy Halloween Crafts for Kids | TinkerLab.com

 

Six Reasons to Love Disneyland

6 Reasons to Love Disneyland | TinkerLab.com

If you were to ask my six-year old about her favorite places to visit, she would say they are Cape Cod and Disneyland. I’ve asked her this question many times, and it’s always the same.

Cape Cod is a magical summer playground with lots of opportunities to hang out at the beach, spend time with family, and eat ice cream. And Disneyland? Well, it’s Disneyland! And for starters its home to the main street of Walt’s childhood dreams, rides that excite the most fearless five-year olds, and animated characters that come to life beneath pint-sized castles and miniature mountains.

6 Reasons to Love Disneyland | TinkerLab.com

I was raised in Southern California, and Disneyland was a staple of my childhood. One year my parents sprung for off-season passes (thanks, Mom and Dad!) and we spent every free weekend trolling Big Thunder Mountain and the Haunted Mansion. To say I loved Disneyland would be an understatement.

And then there’s this point of view…

Tom Waits Disneyland Quote | TinkerLab.com

As I got older, my thoughts on Disney began to shift as I grew concerned that my daughters would become princess-obsessed monsters and that their childhoods would be burdened by the commercialization of play.

These worries are not unfounded as plenty of people worry about princess saturation: the best-selling book Cinderella Ate My Daughter* came out two years ago when my princess-related concerns were building and The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls through the Princess-Obsessed Years* came out earlier this month. (*Affiliate links)

Despite my best attempts at keeping princesses from my kids, they love princesses: Ariel, Elsa, Anna, Cinderella, Snow White. There doesn’t seem to be a princess that doesn’t capture their imaginations. Let me demonstrate in this photo where my three-year old discusses hair with princess Ariel.

Ariel at Disneyland | TinkerLab.com

Raising two girls in a princess-saturated culture has inspired me to guide their interests to other things that balance these fairy tale characters with a healthy cast of swashbucklers, space explorers, fairies, and wizards.

Their imaginations don’t seem to be lacking, and they also don’t seem to revere princesses to the point that there are no other options. So three years ago we decided to make our first family trip to Disneyland, and I was skeptical that it would be too sugary-sweet, commercialized, and cloying. But I was surprised!

6 Reasons to Love Disneyland | TinkerLab.com

Despite my weary outlook, I enjoyed every piece of our experience. Here’s why we love Disneyland…

1. We Love building Childhood Memories

The idea of Disneyland | TinkerLab.com

I don’t know why, but my kids are so darned happy at Disneyland. Maybe it’s because we give them our undivided attention, they get to eat sugary treats, everything at Disneyland is spotless, many of their favorite characters come to life before their very eyes, or they’re plain ol’ thrill seekers. Walt Disney knew how to design a magical atmosphere, and I’m in awe of his vision.

Happy Kids at Disneyland | TinkerLab.com

But mainly, I love that Disneyland has been such a positive place for our family, and that we’ve been able to build some strong family memories there.

2. We Love the Music

Everywhere you go, music is subtly (and not-so subtly) piped in to make the experience more immersive. Disney has it figured out! I can’t even look at this picture of the tea cups without singing the Mad Hatter’s theme song in my head. As I returned to real life, when done well, I marveled at how nice it is when music plays a background role in an experience.

Tea Cups at Disneyland | TinkerLab.com

Here are a few other favorites:

Disneyland Esplanade Music Loop

Yo Ho A Pirate’s Life for Me

It’s a Small World After All

3. We Love Disneyland Food

While some of the food at Disneyland can be pricey and some of it is not so good, and for that I would recommend bringing in a few favorite snacks and bottles of water, here are a few treats that we seek out at Disneyland:

Refreshing Drinks on a Hot Day

Let’s face it: the chance that you’ll be at Disneyland on a hot day are pretty high. As the heat rises, I have two recommendations:

  1. Non-alcoholic Mint Juleps from the Mint Julep Bar in New Orleans Square (get it with a Mickey-shaped beignet while you’re there!)
  2. Dole Whips from the Tiki Juice Bar next to the Enchanted Tiki Room. Be sure to send a runner to grab a couple of these if you’re baking in the heat while waiting to meet Anna and Elsa.

Want to make these at home? Lil’ Luna shares her Dole Whip recipe here, and the Disney Food Blog shares the Mint Julep recipe here.

Mint julep and Mickey Beignet at Disneyland | TinkerLab.com

Special Occasion Meal

If you’re celebrating a special occasion, you won’t be disappointed by making a reservation (required) for Blue Bayou in Pirates of the Caribbean. At the time of this post, you can make reservations up to 60 days in advance. Book early!

Special effects and a little Hollywood magic have turned the indoor restaurant room into what a appears to be a twilight Bayou oasis. My parents took us there once in my childhood, and I never forgot it. When N turned five we celebrated under the stars as boats embarked on the pirate adventure next to us.

Blue Bayou Birthday at Disneyland | TinkerLab.com

If you’re celebrating a birthday, as we were, you have the option of pre-ordering a cake that comes in a treasure box. Yes, please! It’s not cheap, but Disneyland isn’t something that we do every day.

Magical!

Family-friendly Dinner

We’re big fans of Mexican food, and always stop at Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante. You’re not going to find uber-authentic Mexican fair here, but it’s delicious, fairly reasonable as far as Disneyland goes, and they offer healthy choices for kids and toddlers

Grab-and-go Meal

It doesn’t sound fancy, but the corn dogs at the Little Red Wagon, a little cart near Carnation Plaza off of Main Street, is worth a stop. For $7.69 you get a super good hand-dipped corn dog and apple slices or chips.

4. We Love Hunting for Hidden Mickeys

On our most recent visit I introduced my kids (ages 3 and 5) to the idea of hidden Mickeys. Hidden Mickeys started out as a private joke amongst Disney’s Imagineers who would secretly place the Mickey symbol (one large circle with two smaller circles above it) around the park, and it soon grew into a widespread phenomena that lives on throughout all Disney theme parks.

One of the best parts of our hidden Mickey hunt is that it kept my kids’ minds occupied on long walks between rides and while waiting in line. My older daughter was so excited to spot one while waiting in line for Space Mountain. Pretty clever, eh?

Search for Hidden Mickeys at Disneyland | TinkerLab.com

For a full catalogue of Hidden Mickeys at Disneyland and other Disney theme parks, check out HiddenMickeyGuy.com

5. We Love the Family-friendly Lines

One of the more genius things that Disney has introduced for families with small kids is the Rider Switch program.

If you’re visiting Disneyland with a child that’s too small to go on, say, Indiana Jones Adventure, one adult in your party can go on the ride while the other adult takes small children on a gentler ride. The first adult gets a rider switch pass that they pass on to the waiting adult who can then go straight to the front of the line without waiting.

We used this A LOT!

Rider Switch at Disneyland | TinkerLab.com

6. We Love How it Builds Imagination

The design of the entire park and the rides themselves are laden with imagination. As we go through the park I like to ask my kids questions like:

  • “How do you think they made that?”
  • “What materials could that be made from?”
  • “What do you think gave the designer the idea for that ride?”
  • “What challenges do you think the designers faces as they built this?”

Last year we visited California Adventure, which is next door to Disneyland, and they host a fantastic Animation Studio where you and the kids can learn how to draw animations with a real animator. So awesome.

There are so many rich opportunities to introduce children to the worlds of art and engineering through the clever and immersive Disney experiences. When you think about what makes the Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, and It’s a Small World so captivating, it’s partially how they’re brought to life with life-like animatronic characters.

The Jungle Cruise is hilarious, especially with the right guide, and the surprising realistic animals give rise to even the most jaded adults.

Animatronic characters Disneyland | TinkerLab.com

When we visited in February, Olaf was one of the newest attractions, entertaining visitors as they waiting in the (gasp!) 3-hour line to meet and greet with Anna and Elsa.

Olaf at Disneyland | TinkerLab.com

You can read up on the history of animatronics here and here, and get a behind-the-scenes look at how Imagineers work in a video that’s a collaboration between Walt Disney Imagineers and Maker Camp. This video is a good one to watch with older kids who are interested in imagineering:

101 Disneyland Tips

101 Disneyland Tips by Cam Bowman | TinkerLab.comIf you’re planning a trip to Disneyland, my friend Cam wrote the excellent insider tips book, 101 Disneyland Tips. (affiliate link).

And my friend Tiffany pulled my favorite Disney tips out of me in Magical Birthday Moments at Disneyland.

Have you been to Disneyland? What do you love about it?

Note: Disneyland gave me two tickets to enjoy the park and I was not otherwise compensated to write this article. All ideas in this review are entirely mine.

 

 

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In case you blinked and missed it, TinkerLab rounds up all the great stuff on the internets on keeping you and your critters creative and wraps it up for you in a tidy newsletter! (And throws in some secret giveaways for good measure!)  – Yuliya P., San Francisco, CA

Join our community and you’ll learn:

  • How to simplify your life and make more room for creativity
  • How to make hands-on making a part of your everyday life
  • Easy, actionable ways to raise creative kids

TinkerLab Book Launch Party

TinkerLab book launch party at Helix by the Exploratorium

Thank you, thank you to all of my friends, both old and new, who came out to the launch party for TinkerLab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors last weekend at Helix Los Altos. In case you’ve never heard of it, Helix is the Peninsula arm of San Francisco’s famed Exploratorium.

As soon as I stepped foot into Helix earlier this year I knew that this was the spot for my book launch. Helix celebrates the intersection of science and art, and experiments and exploration are at the heart of their mission.

TinkerLab book launch party at Helix by the Exploratorium

Big, big thanks to the education specialists at Helix, and especially to Kerrick, Anne, and Amisha for bringing my tinkering vision to life. I’d also like to send a shout-out to Kendra and Ching-Yee from Sprogs for feeding everyone delicious rice scooters. Yum yum.

After the guests arrived, we kicked the party off with a short talk and some hands-on oozy, gooey slime. The full recipe is in the book on page 152. In case you don’t have the book, you can download a free copy of the DIY Slime here.

TinkerLab book launch party at Helix by the Exploratorium

If you have seen the book, you might recognize my daughter’s strawberry dress!

TinkerLab book launch party at Helix by the Exploratorium

After making up a couple batches of slime, the museum was open for exploring and more hands-on fun. Helix and the Exploratorium are well-known for their interactive exhibits that demonstrate scientific phenomena in a hands-on way, and families were free to explore all of the thoughtful exhibits.

TinkerLab book launch party at Helix by the Exploratorium

We also set up the workshop room with a long table where kids and adults were invited to make Marker Explosion bags (page 146 of the book).

TinkerLab book launch party at Helix by the Exploratorium

TinkerLab book launch party at Helix by the Exploratorium

TinkerLab book launch party at Helix by the Exploratorium

TinkerLab book launch party at Helix by the Exploratorium

And then, of course, there was a book signing! It was so much fun to talk with everyone who came the event and I especially treasure those of you who braved the line to meet with me.  Thank you again for coming out to play.

For more photos from the fun day, Sally at Little Hiccups captured it all so perfectly.

TinkerLab book launch party at Helix by the Exploratorium

Join me next time!

If you couldn’t make it to the book launch, my next event will be on October 5 at the San Jose Museum of Art! You can find all of my past and upcoming events here.

If you’d like to check out TinkerLab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors, there’s more info here.

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 Drawing

Fall Craft Ideas | Leaf Drawing | TinkerLab

This fall craft idea is also a simple creative invitation that doesn’t require a lot of fancy tools and won’t come with a big mess. If you’re new to the idea of creative invitations, this article has all the details you’ll need to get started.

Fall Craft Ideas | Leaf Drawing  | TinkerLab

Supplies for Fall Leaf Drawing

  • Leaves
  • Colored pencils or your favorite mark-making tool
  • Paper

Fall Craft Ideas | Leaf Drawing  | TinkerLab

My 4-year old and I took a bike ride and she chose this selection of leaves. We arranged them on the table and she added a crystal. Because, you know, it looks better that way.

We marveled at all the colors in the leaves and then I invited her to draw them. We used Lyra Ferby colored pencils (affiliate link) for the task. I love these crayon/pencils for little kids because they’re a bit fatter than standard colored pencils (with a 6.25 mm lead core), and they come with a triangle grip that makes them easy to hold.

My daughter still insists on holding her pencil with her pinky and seems quite comfortable with this grip. And I’m still working on helping her shift to a better grip! If this is something that your child struggles with, this post has some great tips in the comments.

Fall Craft Ideas | Leaf Drawing | TinkerLab

The Fall Leaf Drawing Set-up

Set up a large sheet of drawing paper, scatter a few leaves around, and place freshly sharpened colored pencils on the table.

Invite your child to look closely at the leaves and notice the variety of colors and shapes, and then discuss what you see.

Some questions to ask:

  • What colors do you notice?
  • Do any of the colors surprise you?
  • How many points does this leaf have? Let’s count them together.
  • Which of these leaves could have come from the same tree?
  • Do you have a favorite leaf in this collection? What makes it your favorite?

Fall Craft Ideas | Leaf Drawing  | TinkerLab

Experiments in Drawing Fall Leaves

I sat across the table from my daughter and we drew leaves together. I always encourage my kids to experiment, and one way to do that is by modeling. As I colored my leaves in I layered one color on top of another. I noted that the red blended into green on one of the leaves, and tried to replicate that in my sketch.

My 4-year old payed attention to that and then pushed it one step further as she colored one of her leaves blue and purple, and gave another blue veins…because she liked the way it looked. Rock on! If you child goes for the unexpected, encourage him or her to go for it. The goal is to use the leaves as a starting point, and then layer that with interpretation and imagination.

More Leaf Projects

Make adorable Leaf Critters by painting directly on leaves with acrylic paint.

Preserve your Fall leaves in glycerin

Make coffee filter suncatchers in leaf shapes

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: 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.

Supplies

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.