How to cut a heart out of paper

This may be obvious to some of you, but given what people search for this time of year, I know there are many of you who want to know how to cut a heart out of paper. 

The other day my three-year old and I were making a gazillion Valentine’s cards and I snapped a few photos of our heart-cutting process. She’s at that age where she gets a thrill from practicing her cutting skills, which made this an engaging project for her.

You’ll love how simple this is! In just three easy steps, you’ll turn into a heart-cutting machine.

How to cut a heart out of paper | TinkerLab

If you have a small child in your life, this could be a great way to work on those scissor skills. The top right heart (below) was cut out by my three-year old who could do this activity for hours.

How to cut a heart out of paper |


  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Scissors

How to cut a heart out of paper in 3 easy steps

  1. Fold a piece of paper in half
  2. Draw a half-heart shape along the folded edge of the paper
  3. Cut the heart out

How to cut a heart out of paper |


What does Art Education mean to you?

Art Education means different things to different people.

I believe that art education is an opportunity to nurture children to find truth through imagination, effort, collaboration, and cultural literacy. 

Way back when, the field of arts education grabbed me with my passion for making things, and kept me engaged as I learned more about artists, their studios, children’s art, street art, art history, tinkering, creativity, museum education, interactive learning, project-based learning, and supporting the naturally-given creativity in children before it’s taught out of them.

Fresh out of graduate school, I talked about my goal of bringing the arts to youth, one way or another, and this is a goal is still stand by today.Whether I’m training docents as a museum educator, teaching in a classroom, or writing an arts-based blog, I aim to bring the arts to children, one way or another.

What does Art Education mean to you? Parents chime in |

So today, I ask you a question that doesn’t have a concrete answer: What does Art Education mean to you? We all have different answers, as you’ll see in the responses that follow.

Before you read them, though, will you do me a favor and write down your own response to this question? Once you’ve done that, read on, and then add your response in the comments.

The other day I put this question out to my Facebook fan page, and the variety of responses is so interesting. I tried to break the responses down into some meaty categories, but of course this is hard to do well. See what you think…

What does Art Education mean to you?

Art Education is a Universal Truth

Art cannot be taught. It is learned. It is discovered. – Gep

I think art education is vital. Art CAN be taught. Furthermore, it should be taught. So much of life requires creativity. Not just as an artist, but as a business person, a scientist, an engineer…creative thinking is crucial! The arts are always the first thing to be cut from schools struggling financially which always breaks my heart. Yes, we can show our kids how to do all sorts of things, but learning about art, artists and techniques is SO important. This education leads to new discoveries about ones self and about the world. – Maria

Just the simple appreciation of the world around us. Everything is art from the way we express our feelings to a loved one to the way we order lines on a page. – Louise

Exploration, exposure, history and appreciation of supplies, techniques and those who have gone before. All people, children and adults, do not get enough exposure in life. – Liberty

Art IS Education – through the arts one develops the skills necessary to suceed in life – communication, problem-solving, decision-making, mathematical reasoning, focus, cross – cultural awareness. . . – Karin

It meant the world to me. Was my strong point that sparked all my other interests. – Lydia

That is just a title, a formality if you will. Art is learned and discovered. I educate through art. – Amanda

Families and art are the base of any society. To enable people to explore the arts, to develop skills needed to express themselves artistically and to ensure they have the resources needed for artistic practice / expression is vital for the health of individuals and society. Art education to me is about supporting individuals to develop artistically for the benefit of themselves and society. Unfortunately however, often I think what is called art education is not that at all or is poorly undertaken & / or resourced. – Fatina

Art Education is a School Value

Teaching about art periods and styles, techniques and masters at a minimum. – Katie

For me it conjures up feelings of being told what I’m supposed to think and feel about art regardless of whether its actually how I think or feel. Chalk it up to one terrible woman in high school, the “art educator”. I much prefer just plain art and the freedoms that come with it. – Meghanne

I wish my sons teacher knew. I’m sending my son to have art sessions with my gorgeous friend (once an art teacher), who has now opened her dream art studio! – Annie

You learn about the greats, while learning techniques and processes in combination with a content; not an end, but a means to and end. Combined art and content. – Breanna

Regular life drawing sessions. – Karen

Something too easily cut from schools –  Jamie Lynn

Tools for creativity in every subject — foundation for every aspect of life! – Susan

T to the P: learning to the trust their process. – Leah

Art Education is Beauty

Tasteful things done tastefully. – Karen

Art Education is Imagination

My first thought was balloons filled with paint and darts….its creative and messy and can be anything you imagine  just like life – Crystal

Creativity…. – Fely

Art Education is Emotion-driven

Feelings. Looking outside the square. Expressiveness. Getting in touch with your inner soul and outer world. – Elisa

The development and expression of the soul. – Kath

Your turn: Don’t forget to add your definition in a comment below. And if you’re an arts advocate like me, you’ll enjoy more definitions of art education via Performing Arts Convention.

Elliot Eisner: Arts Education Leader and Visionary

Elliot Eisner“The prime value of the arts in education lies, from my point of view, in the unique contributions it makes to the individual’s experience with and understanding of the world. The visual arts deal with an aspect of human consciousness that no other field touches on: the aesthetic contemplation of visual form.”

– Elliot Eisner, Educating Artistic Vision (1972)

Today I learned that Elliot Eisner, one of the great heroes and thought leaders in the world of arts education has passed on. I knew him not only as a brilliant scholar and influential advocate for arts education, but also as a gracious soul. His contributions to the field of arts education run deep and wide, as he’s influenced countless art teachers and educators (including me) who carry on his life’s work. Eisner was the Lee Jacks Professor Emeritus of Education at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and Professor Emeritus of Art. He was the leading theorist in arts education and champion of learning in the arts. He wrote extensively on the subject and became a leading voice for the Getty Museum’s Discipline-based Arts Education Curriculum. As a middle school art teacher, this was my first introduction to Eisner’s work, and I had no idea how influential he would be in my life.

Elliot Eisner and Rachelle Doorley

Elliot Eisner and Rachelle Doorley, 2004

Early in my career as an arts educator I read many articles and books by Professor Eisner. His eloquent words resonated with me and affirmed that this was a field that I could dive into deeply and make a difference in.  I went on to graduate school at Harvard and learned that Professor Eisner was scheduled to speak in one of my classes. I couldn’t believe my luck!

A couple years later when I took on a job as an art museum educator in California, I reached out to Professor Eisner. He was unusually gracious and invited me to meet with him for lunch. We soon struck up a friendship and met frequently to talk about a book he was working on. Amidst the “business” of our conversations, he challenged me to think more deeply about the importance of arts education through a philosophical lens that varied so greatly from my natural tendency towards hands-on making.

He enjoyed pushing me to defend my ideas and never allowed me get away with a pat response. I had to choose my words carefully, as he did, and think hard about how my actions defended my beliefs. I loved these afternoons with Elliot where I took copious notes and fretted over holding myself together in the presence of such a distinguished scholar and kind soul.

Not too long ago, I asked Elliot if he would share his 10 Lessons the Arts Teach in my forthcoming book. I waited on pins and needles, and by some stroke of luck he agreed! By including this in my book, I hope to help spread his enduring words to new generations of parents and teachers who are in the business of raising creative children. Here’s the full text for your reading pleasure. If you’d like to help spread this message, I’d encourage you to pin this image and/or pass it along to a friend. I’ve known many teachers over the years who have this text hanging in their classrooms as a reminder of the importance of an arts-rich education.

Ten Lessons the Arts Teach

10 Lessons the Arts Teach by Elliot Eisner, Arts Education Leader and Visionary - TinkerLab

Carrying on the work of Elliot W. Eisner

As I reflect on my brief encounters with Elliot, I think about how we can each carry on the urgency of his life’s work. What would Elliot want? I really don’t know. But an advocate for the arts and learning through the arts, I can only imagine that he would be thrilled to see:

  • Teachers who put children at the center of learning
  • Arts curriculum that is includes problem solving, aesthetic reasoning, and critical thinking
  • Parents who advocate for arts education
  • People who live life more fully with art in their homes and lives

If you’ve also been touched by Elliot Eisner’s work or life, I’d love to hear from you. And if you’d like to make a contribution in his honor, his family requests donations to the National Art Education Association‘s Elliot Eisner Lifetime Achievement Award, established by the Eisners to recognize individuals in art education whose career contributions have benefited the field.  The address for the NAEA is: 1806 Robert Fulton Drive, Suite 300, Reston, Virginia 20191.

Articles and Talks by Elliot W. Eisner (all PDF’s):

What do Children Learn when they Paint? The Arts and the Creation of Mind (first chapter of this book)

What Can Education Learn from the Arts about the Practice of Education?, International Journal of Education and the Arts

The Kind of Schools we Need, Phi Delta Kappan

Art in Mind: An Agenda for Research 

Multiple Intelligences: Its Tensions and Possibilities 

Creative Table: Valentine’s Day Cards

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, this Creative Table invites children to make Valentine’s Day Cards that are sure to delight not only the children in your home.

Creative Table: Make your own Valentine's Day Cards |

One of our favorite ways to engage children at the art table is by setting up invitations to create. Toward this end, we started the Creative Table series as a way to capture easy set-ups and inspiring ideas that encourage creative and independent thinking.

All you have to do is gather some basic supplies, set them up, and then let the creativity begin…

Valentine’s Day Cards


  • Pre-made blank cards or cardstock cut into card-size pieces
  • Glue sticks or PVA glue
  • Markers
  • Child-friendly scissors
  • Decorative Paper
  • Waste basket to collect scraps

More Ideas:

  • Self-inking Valentine stamps or stamps and ink pads
  • Decorative Paper ideas: wrapping paper, tissue paper, scrapbook paper, candy foil wrappers, doilies
  • Treasures:  googly eyes, sequins, foam hearts, stickers
  • Cardboard
  • Hole punchers and ribbon

Set up your table Valentine’s Day Cards Table

Valentines Card Table set up

Clear your table. If it’s looking a little messy (like ours usually does), take a minute to clear everything unessential off. Our art table is marked up, so we often cover it with this awesome butcher paper (Amazon) or oilcloth (Amazon) to make it extra inviting. Oilcloth is especially nice because it can be wiped clean after each use, but keep in mind that if it has a busy pattern it could be distracting.

How to set up a simple "Make Your Own" Valentine's Card Station  |

Set up the materials for the Valentine’s Day Cards

Center of the Table:

  • Stack of pre-folded blank cards
  • Bowl full of scraps (pre-cut hearts, shiny paper, and doilies)
  • Markers
  • Stickers
  • Bowl of self-inking Valentine stamps

In front of each station:

  • One pre-folded blank card
  • Stack of patterned paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue Stick

supplie for valentine cards

Now it’s time to get creative!

make your own valentines card

Tip for making art with kids: When my children have new ideas that vary from mine, such as using materials that aren’t on the table or using them in a way I hadn’t anticipated, I’ll embrace it. This is the time to encourage independent ideas and creative thinking. Children experience new materials and stimuli differently than we do, and we can look at these moments with awe. Who knows, your child may give YOU a new way to make things…mine often do!

Creative Table: Valentine's Day Cards  |

More Valentine’s Day Inspiration

Our Valentine’s Day board on Pinterest

Make an All-in-one Valentine Envelope

30 Valentine Activities for Kids

Easy Valentine Bookmarks

3 Essential Play Dough Tools (that you may already have)

Three essential play dough tools (that you may already have) | Tinkerlab

What are your favorite play dough tools? We have a bunch including cookie cutters, store-bought play dough presses, rolling pins, and popsicle sticks. Today I’m sharing three of our favorite play dough tools that you may already have lying around the house. And in case you don’t, I’ll share some Amazon affiliate links to these products.

We adore play dough and all its benefits. For one, children tend to lose themselves in its squishy, lumpy plasticity and come up with all sorts of inventive uses for it. Beyond the general fun of play dough, it also does wonders for flexing a child’s imagination and developing fine motor skills in little hands. This play dough post from The Imagination Tree is a great read if you need any convincing that play dough is worth having around.

Step #1: Get some play dough!

If you don’t already have a batch of play dough, you need to try our very favorite play dough recipe. Yes, you have to make it yourself, but the time invested is worth it, and for a fraction of the cost of store-bought dough you’ll have an enormous amount of the best play dough ever. This recipe used by every pre-school teacher I know, and can last for months if stored properly.

Once you have some dough, you’re ready to have some play dough fun.

Play Dough Tool #1: Cookie Cutters

Three essential play dough tools (that you may already have) | Tinkerlab

My kids love to see cookie cutter shapes take form in play dough. For successful creative invitation, set up a few “cookies’ of flattened dough and a couple cookie cutters. We also like to have a cookie sheet nearby to encourage make-believe cookie-making. Need cookie cutters? Here’s 50 Animal Cookie Cutters for less than $10!

Play Dough Tool #2: Crinkle Cutter 

Three essential play dough tools (that you may already have) | Tinkerlab

A reader recommended the crinkle cutter to as a good alternative to our favorite toddler-friendly knives. If you don’t already have one, we bought this one over two years ago and it’s still going strong. Crinkle Cutters can be found for under $6 and they come in handy for both play dough cutting and child-safe kitchen prep. My kids enjoy the zig-zag edge and gaining some control over this funky tool.

Play Dough Tool #3: Scissors

Three essential play dough tools (that you may already have) | Tinkerlab

This may very well be my favorite play dough tool. To help small children learn how to handle a pair of scissors, invite them to cut play dough rolls, or “snakes.” Play dough is such a forgiving and easy material to cut through, and before you know it your child will be a master with scissors. Our favorite brands are Crayola and Fiskars, and I’d recommend blunt tips for little people. If you’re buying scissors for a class or large group of children, this pack of Fiskars is a great deal.

Ooops…Play Dough Misstep

Play Dough mistakes! Don't use play dough on paper.

Last but not least, please take a note from my play dough failure book and do not put play dough directly on paper. I’m not sure if I was just short on sleep or truly out to lunch, but for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to set up this creative invitation of purple play dough on a white paper background, as opposed to camouflaged against the flower-patterned oil cloth. That may be true, but play dough also sticks quite securely to anything porous.

Note taken? Super!

More Play Dough Tools and Ideas

Recipe for Glowing Play Dough: This is one of our most popular posts

Melissa and Dough Model and Mold Play Dough Tools: The rolling pins from this set get used all the time

Play Doh Fun Factory: We really like the play dough press that comes with this

Pumpkin pie play dough recipe: The smell of this dough is divine

Masa play dough: A rougher texture than traditional play dough, but great if you have some masa lying around

What are your favorite play dough tools?

New Year Resolutions | Goals for the New Year

I’ve come to realize that I begin every year with similar goals. How about you? Do you make resolutions? Here are mine for the year:

Four {Easy} New Year Resolutions

  1. Clear the Clutter  —  we live in a tiny house, and this actually happens multiple times each year
  2. Exercise  —  something I haven’t done in, ahem, years
  3. Make TinkerLab More Meaningful — we’re turning over a new leaf!
  4. Make Art  —  it’s been really hard to find time for this one

Goal #1: Clear the Clutter

One thing that makes our house feel super cramped are gobs of Christmas decorations. So, pretty soon after January 1 our tree and all the baubles come down, allowing me to breathe well again. With this fresh start, the girls and I spent some time going through their toy baskets. These are basically catch-all junk drawers for toys that don’t have a proper home.

We decided that they would each keep one basket full of toys, and the rest had to be thrown away or donated. They had a great time reacquainting themselves with long-lost objects of their desire, and were very good about letting things go that they no longer held near and dear.

Studio clean up | New Year Resolutions | Tinkerlab

And then, of course, clearing away some clutter gives us more room to enjoy the things we love most about our home…

Art Studio with Kids | Tinkerlab

Goal #2: Exercise

This is one area where I have been utterly pathetic. One of the things that’s held me back from exercising is making time to do it. My kids never enjoyed sitting in a jogging stroller for too long, streaming exercise videos never worked for me, and I had trouble finding a gym that my children enjoyed spending time in. But I finally found the right gym, managed to exercise for an entire hour yesterday (gasp!), and plan to get myself back in shape.

Goal #3: Make TinkerLab More Meaningful

Last year my blog sort of hibernated and changed focus so that I could focus energy on my book. Without totally neglecting my beautiful children. No small feat.

And this year, well, I hope to give my blog more love and attention. One thing that I’m wondering about, and maybe you can help me with this, is what my readers like about my posts and what they hope to get from blogs like mine. Do you come here to get activity ideas, creativity inspiration, sketchbook prompts, or are you just a curious about our little life in California?

If you have a moment (pretty please!) would you kindly fill out this really short survey? You can do this right here without even leaving our site!

Goal #4: Make Art

Do you make time for your art? I used to have a pretty solid art-making practice and part of me really misses it. I miss the hours of tinkering and experimenting with different media and testing new ideas. But my life is so busy with kids and it seems close to impossible to make time for painting or even sketching.

The other morning 3-year old Rainbow woke me up at the lovely hour of 3 am and I could not fall back to sleep. In a desperate move to make lemonade from lemons I pulled out my sketchbooks and had three glorious uninterrupted hours of art-making before everyone woke up.

Make Art | New Years Resolutions

While I was sorely tired that day, the good news is that this brought back so many good memories of the TinkerSketch challenge that we launched in the summer of 2012. In order to help me stick with my goal to make art, I’m thinking about bringing this back.

Any chance you’d like to join me by making just one piece of art every day? I’m putting some fun prompts together and hope to have them ready by February 1, 2014.  If you have any ideas I’d love to hear them.

What are your New Year Resolutions?

That’s it for now! What about you? What are your goals for 2014? Are you clearing the clutter or exercising more? Will you join me in the TinkerSketch Challenge?

More New Year Resolutions

Family Friendly Creative New Years Resolutions

Five Resolutions for a Creative New Year

The Year’s Best Art and Creativity Books for Kids

A New Year’s Resolution to Purge and be Entrepreneurial