Creative Challenge #12 | Cupcake Liner

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

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

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 |

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 |

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 |

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 |

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 |

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 |


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 |

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 |


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 |

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 |

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

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. 

If you’re looking for a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) project, this is for YOU!

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.

This Stop Motion Animation project is so easy to set up, and a great way to encourage STEAM concepts with children.

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 |

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 |

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 |

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!

This Stop Motion Animation project is so easy to set up, and a great way to encourage STEAM concepts with kids |

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

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 |

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 |

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 |

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 |

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.