How to Make Sun Prints on Fabric


I’m delighted to introduce you to TinkerLab’s newest contributor, Noreen Greimann, who shares a beautiful article on how to sun print on fabric. I adore this project because it encourages us to spend time in nature and outside, and also uses materials that you probably already have access to. How to Make Sun Print Fabric with Acrylic Paint

Growing up, I often lost myself in the natural world spending hours in the garden, the fields and by the river. These special places with all their nooks and crannies became my main source of inspiration for playing, tinkering, writing and drawing.

This hasn’t changed. And now I get to share these moments with my children and watch with amazement how they weave their experiences in nature into their play and creative activities.

Today, I’m excited to show you how to take bits and pieces of nature to create gorgeous sun print fabric that you are going to want to make over and over again.

How to sun print on fabric


• 100% white cotton fabric
• acrylic craft paint or fabric paint (darker colors recommended)
• paint brushes
• water in a bowl or small bucket
• a flat surface outdoors to work on (e.g. driveway, old cutting board) – no wooden surface
• nature materials: petals, leaves, ferns, blades of grass, flat pebbles, etc.

How to sun print on fabric


  1. Make Paint. Dilute the paint with water at a 1:1 paint to water ratio. You want the paint to be thin enough to flow easily, but to still have enough pigment for bright colors.
  2. Wet the Fabric. Wet the fabric in a bowl of water and squeeze it out until it is no longer dripping. Lay it flat on a mat or other non-porous surface.
  3. Paint the fabric with a big paintbrush. When working with young children it is best to only use one or two colors at a time. Otherwise, the results will be rather muddy looking because little hands often can’t resist mixing all the colors together.
  4. Press the leaves and flowers. As soon as you are done painting, press the leaves and flowers top side down onto the painted fabric, making sure the edges of the leaves and flowers lie flat. The more contact with the fabric, the sharper the lines will be in the end.
  5. Place in the sun. Leave the fabric out in the sun for 1 to 2 hours. If it is really hot, it helps to mist the fabric during the first 30 minutes to an hour.
  6. Remove leaves. When the fabric is completely dry, peel off the leaves and flowers and watch the magical prints appear. Don’t the dandelion leaf prints look like fish?
  7. Set the paint. To set the paint, place the fabric in the dryer on high for 1 hour. I also recommend hand washing the first time as some of the paint may still wash out.

How to sun print on fabric

How to sun print on fabric

How to sun print on fabric

How to use sun print fabrics

The possibilities are truly endless.

  • Start with a t-shirt or pillowcase and you will have a stunning project in 2 hours.
  • Fabric pieces can be sewn into simple draw-string bags, which are perfect for holding gems, fairies, acorns, pebbles, seashells and other treasures. The fabrics also make lovely doll pillows and blankets.
  • Or how about a large bag for carrying books to the library?

How to sun print on fabric

Ready to give this a try? I hope you will enjoy this project as much as we do.

Noreen GreimannNoreen Greimann is a Natural Childhood Advocate who helps parents create a magical childhood for their children through her unique method of combining storytelling with activities. She shares her work and inspires parents on her website Entangled Harmony.

Hand Painted Wrapping Paper for Kids


There’s nothing quite as precious as a homemade gift, and even more so if it’s wrapped up in hand painted wrapping paper. We used this wrapping paper to wrap homemade soap for Mother’s Day, and you could use this for just about any gift.

This is a fun and practical way to help kids learn about absorbent paper. Following this activity you can experiment with coffee filters, doilies, paper towels, tissues, or coffee filters again.

Ages: 2 and up

Benefits and Skills: Fine motor, experimentation, play, connection, curiosity

Hand painted wrapping paper for children


This list contains affiliate links.

Hand painted wrapping paper for kids

The Set Up

  1. Cover your work area
  2. Set up tissue paper, paint, pipettes, and brushes.
  3. Invite your child to paint
  4. Once the painting is done, move it to dry on a sheet of newspaper or packing paper. For extra fun, use kitchen tongs to move the work.

Note: You can set all of this up outside or in a large cookie sheet like this if you’re worried about your child squeezing paint all over the table.

Questions to Ask

What will happen if we squeeze paint on this paper?

What colors do you want to paint with?

I wonder what will happen if the blue and yellow paint mix together?

Hand painted wrapping

Once your paper is dry, use it to wrap up homemade gifts.

More Homemade Gift Ideas

Homemade Soap

40 Handmade Cards for Kids to Make

Easy Last-minute Homemade Holiday Gifts



Shoelace Manifestos

shoelace manifestos

We were invited by Famous Footwear to participate in their Step Forward campaign, which celebrates creativity, being our best selves, and stepping forward with confidence. I’m a big champion of encouraging self-confidence in kids, and this is a message I can easily stand behind. The TinkerLab philosophy is rooted in giving children voice, supporting their individuality, and encouraging self-expression, so of course I had to look to some kids, which happened to be my own, for direction on this project.

These are the questions that guided us:

How can we encourage children to be their best selves and step forward with confidence?

What do they care about?

What are their dreams?

i heart reading shoe beading

All sorts of ideas were brewing in my mind, mostly along the lines of painting or stenciling our shoes with brave colors or bold messages, but again, I wanted my kids to take the lead on this one. After all, following a child’s curiosity is a tenet of my philosophy as both a parent and arts educator.

So I posed this question to my girls:

“How can we celebrate our personalities through our shoes?”

And that’s when my 8-year old suggested that we make Shoelace Manifestos. 

Ohhhh, I love this idea so much, and it’s so her! 

She loves to write affirmations and positive statements in her journals, so we decided to celebrate this.

But how? She suggested square letter beads as a way to create a mini shoelace billboard of our affirmations.




Noun:a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer. (Merriam-Webster)

This quote by French fashion and shoe designer, Roger Vivier, is a lovely sentiment for this project:

‘To wear dreams on one’s feet is to begin to give a reality to one’s dreams.’ (1)

“To wear dreams on one’s feet is to begin to give a reality to one’s dreams.”

Like so many children, my kids love their sneakers, and so we all decided to bead up new shoes from Famous Footwear.

My 8-year old and I both chose classic Chuck Taylors. I haven’t owned a pair of these since college, but oh-how-I-loved-these. It’s so fun to get my feet in these again. Swoon!

My 6-year old fell madly in love with these Roxy Rizzo shoes, and practically wore them into the ground before I had a chance to shoot these photos, but it’s a sign of how much she enjoys them.

They are the cutest and get tons of compliments…especially when clean. 😉

shoe bead letters 1

We set up the shoes for inspiration, and filled a bowl with these beads.

letter shoe bead hunt

I didn’t give the kids any guidance and was curious to see where they would take this. My 6-year old spelled out NEW YORK. I asked her about it later and she told me that she loves New York. Not all the noise, but the tall buildings.

letter beads shoes new york
letter shoe beads new york chair

After lacing these up, we took them for a ride on the swing. To give them some air and speed in true New York fashion.

shoe bead swing 2

My 8-year old adores reading and came up with this message: I ❤️ READING.

i heart readingShe really does. In fact, after pulling this together, she quietly snuck away and happily curled up with a book.

i love reading shoe beads

My initials are RAD, which I love, so I knew I wanted the word RAD on one shoe, and my kids suggested SOUL for the other. They’re into puns and thought it was both meaningful and funny to play with the words soul and sole. 

rad soul shoe beads square

Yes, it’s perfect!

Make a Shoelace Manifesto

If you need a little kick-start, start here:

  1. Ask: What are you curious about? 
  2. Try to limit the beads on each shoe to six, although seven could work. “Reading” is seven letters, and barely fit on a size 3 kids’ shoe.
  3. Use these beads. Heads up: Some packages don’t come with even quantities of letters, so it’s best if you can see the beads in person.
  4. Try one of these affirmations, or use these as a point of inspiration:
    1. Smart – Cookie
    2. Kind – Kid
    3. Dream – Big
    4. I am – Strong
    5. Cre -ative
    6. Posi – tive
    7. I am – Loved
    8. I am – Kind
    9. Good – Human
    10. I ❤️ – Myself
    11. I ❤️ – Soccer
    12. I ❤️ – Dance (etc.)
  5. Take a photo of your shoes and tag it with #shoelacemanifesto

Thank you to Famous Footwear for kindly sponsoring this post. All opinions are 100% honest & completely my own.

Journal Sparks Book Review

Journal Sparks Book review

Note: This post may contain affiliate links.

It’s not every day that I come across a book that I absolutely swoon over, and today I’m sharing a brand new book that is making my artsy heart sing with delight. This happens to be the book launch day for Journal Sparks (happy birthday, Journal Sparks!!), and you are in for a treat!

Art Sparks Book

If you love art journals and creative prompts, if you’ve followed along with the TinkerSketch challenges, and if you are looking for creative ways to encourage and support creative thinking in your family life, Journal Sparks by Emily Neuburger has got to be added to your cart stat. Emily is the author of the award-winning Show Me a Story, and she has outdone herself with this newest book.

Journal Sparks has a childhood bent to it, but I personally found it full of inspiration and I think you’d be happy to own it as a kid or grown-up. I promise you will not be disappointed.


Let me first share my everlasting love for sketchbooks and journals. Like so many kids, I kept a diary when I was little. I wasn’t religious about it, but the habit of writing out my thoughts and documenting ideas was powerful and helped me through hard times. When I was in high school I discovered Julia Cameron’s famous, ground-breaking book, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. In her book, Cameron encourages you to keep what she calls “morning pages,” or three free-hand pages of stream of conscious writing each day. The process of writing without too much heavy thinking helped me tap into my dreams, and that’s when I started keeping sketchbooks of my ideas, experiments, musings, and even checklists.

journal collectionI pulled out a handful of these journals for this post – from grad school, collaborative journals with my kids, and recent books. I’m not married to one type of journal, but as you can see I do love spiral bound notebooks with heavy paper that can handle water and paint. Strathmore visual journal is one that I continue to return to over and over again. In the moment, these journals are a safe place to drop inspiration and passing thoughts, and in hindsight they’re treasure-troves of data and ideas for future projects.


This is all to say that I love keeping a visual journal, have been doing this for ages, and I am fully and completely inspired by Emily’s fresh take on this topic. I’ll share just a couple ideas from her book and would encourage you to pick up your own copy as it’s sure to inspire hours upon hours of fun, which could turn into transformative experiences for you, your family, or your students.


Map Your Day

For this prompt, pull out your supplies and document your day with pictures and words. I set up my favorite Kuratake watercolor paints, Canson Mix Media Sketchbook, Micron waterproof pen, a brush, water, and a rag.

This process is somewhat like keeping a daily written diary, but with images and just a few words. Pick the key moments of your day — illustrate them, and add arrows to connect one moment to another.

I’ve never done this before and found the process fun, easy, and enlightening. It didn’t take long, I wasn’t too worried about making it perfect (despite sharing this here with you, the sketchbooks are just for me, after all), and seeing my day in pictures will be a joyful memory of a wonderful day.
map your day (1)

Images above (left to right): Journal Sparks prompt, my set-up, close-up of my map, another view of my map

Color Your Mood


This process, again, is fun and easy, and I want to continue the practice over seasons to see how this evolves. The process involves painting small snapshots of your emotions in color. This is a great exercise for anyone who feels like they can’t draw since illustration isn’t a requirement.

How I did it: I cut Canson Watercolor Paper into 3″ squares and then painted the emotion or feelings about the day in colors. One day was spent at Stanford where the school mascot is the Cardinal, and the day was full of energy. This day got a wash of red. Another day was spent in nature: Tall green stripes. I taped the mood squares into a large journal and added a few thoughts about the day. These will be so fun to look back on as brief snapshots in time.

color your mood

Images above (left to right): Journal Sparks prompt, Emily’s example, close up of my mood colors, close-up of my mood colors

Click over to Amazon to click inside the book (my favorite feature) and learn more.

dashed lines

Order a Copy of Journal Sparks or Look Inside the Book

dashed lines


Engineering Kids | Rube Goldberg Machine

Easy Steps for building a Rube Goldberg Machine with Little Kids | Easy Rube Goldberg Ideas

This project has long been on my to-do list with my kids. We are long-time fans of marble runs (see the resources page for recommendations), and extending our love for rolling balls and ramps into the world of Rube Goldberg was a no-brainer. And triple hurrah for projects that celebrate STEM and STEAM learning. We were on the hunt for easy Rube Goldberg ideas, watched a few videos, and came up with this fun solution that works for young children.

About Rube Goldberg

For the uninitiated, Rube Goldberg was an American Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, sculptor, author, engineer, and inventor, and his work is a classic example of the melding of art and science. Goldberg began his career as an engineer, and later became a cartoonist who drew elaborate illustrations of contraptions made up of pulleys, cups, birds, balloons, and watering cans that were designed to solve a simple task such as opening a window or setting an alarm clock. Interestingly, Goldberg only drew the pictures, and never built any of his inventions. However, these pictures have since served as inspiration for makers and builders who want the challenge of making wild inventions to solve everyday problems. Rube Goldberg definition

And apparently, Rube Goldberg is a now an adjective in the dictionary! You can read more about Goldberg here.

Suggested materials for building a Rube Goldberg Machine with Little Kids |

Build a Rube Goldberg Machine with Kids

So, are you interested in building a Rube Goldberg-style machine with little kids? This post will give you a few tips and ideas to make your own complicated machine.


Step 1: Get Inspired

First things first, you’ll want to watch some Rube Goldberg contraptions in action to get inspired. My kids and I LOVE this video from OK Go. It’s incredible complicated, but oh-so-amazing, so don’t think for one hot second that you’ll be able to replicate this with little kids.

Step 2: Solve a Problem

Next, come up with a simple problem that you’re trying to solve. For example:

  • Ring a Bell
  • Pop a Balloon
  • Open a Door
  • Shut a window
  • Put out a candle

Once you have a problem sorted out (and don’t worry – you can change this later if you want), gather supplies…

Step 3: Gather Supplies

You can print out the following list here.

Collect a bucket-full of supplies and then lay them out so they’re easily seen. These can largely be found in your home or classroom — start with what you have! You will most likely start with some of these basics, and then forage your home or classroom for more supplies as you go. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Things that Roll

  • Marbles
  • Balls: Tennis, Baseball, Bowling, etc.
  • Toy Cars
  • Dominoes
  • Skateboard
  • Roller Skate
  • Mousetrap

Things that Move

  • Mousetrap
  • Dominoes
  • Toaster
  • Fan


  • Toy Train Tracks
  • Marble Runs
  • Books
  • Trays
  • PVC pipe
  • Plastic tubing
  • Gutters


  • Cardboard
  • Cereal Boxes
  • Cardboard Rolls
  • Plastic Water Bottles
  • Cans
  • Aluminum Foil

Household Materials

  • Chopsticks
  • Popsicle Sticks
  • Ruler
  • Wooden Blocks
  • Bowl
  • String
  • Tape
  • Sand
  • Pins
  • Hammer
  • Balloons
  • Water
  • Fan
  • Vinegar and Baking Soda

Step 4: Build Your Machine!

Once you have the supplies ready, start building. While the OK Go video (and others like it) includes some pretty complex machines and concepts, keep this simple for preschoolers. The basic concept that we’re exploring is that of a chain reaction, so anything that tips something else over (and so one) is what you’re going for. Don’t worry too much about building things like pulleys and levers for young children.

Take a look at our machine to get a sense of what’s possible.

Our Rube Goldberg Machine in Action

5 Tips for Success

  1. Success breeds enthusiasm, so keep the steps to a minimum. You can always add more as you go.
  2. Keep your expectations low
  3. Ask your child for ideas and input
  4. Work collaboratively
  5. Aim to have fun

A Note on Failure

As you test and try out different set-ups, you’ll undoubtedly fail a few times. I could have filled a 20 minute video with outtakes from all our misses (the balloon is a good example of that). But this is great news! Failure is an intrinsic piece of the invention process, and without these mistakes we won’t learn how things really work. So embrace failure and celebrate it as part of the learning process.

Next Steps: Full STEAM Ahead

  • Ask: What other simple problems could we solve?
  • Ask: What materials could we use?
  • Ask: Why didn’t that work? How could we fix it or try it again?
  • Encourage your child to problem solve by seeking out materials and moving objects.

Did you enjoy this project? Join the semi-secret Club TinkerLab on Facebook to swap and share more ideas like this.

Easy Steps for building a Rube Goldberg Machine with Little Kids |

More Projects like this one

DIY Paper Tube Marble Run

Fort Building Kit

DIY Water Wall, it’s like a marble run, but with water!

Build an easy light table

Make Gumdrop Sculptures

Activate Learning with STEAM

If you’ve been a loyal TinkerLab fan (thank you! you mean the world to me.) you’ll know that I’m happiest sharing projects that live at the intersection of disciplines. Too often we’re quick to separate science from writing or math from art, but when we seek out ways to make interdisciplinary connections, learning can be more meaningful and novel discoveries can be made.STEAM Activities | Teabag Hot Air Balloon

In that vein, over the next few weeks I’m joining a creative group of engineers, scientists, educators, and artists to launch a new series called STEAM Power, which celebrates interdisciplinary learning with projects that circle around STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) ideas. This week’s theme is REACT, and you can see the other reaction-related ideas here:

Stixplosions | Babble Dabble Do

Smoosh Painting | Meri Cherry

Color Changing Chemistry Clock | Left Brain Craft Brain

Zoom Ball | What Do We Do All Day?

Glowing Hands | All For The Boys

Rainbow Reactions | Lemon Lime Adventures

Colorful Chemical Reaction  | Frugal Fun for Boys

STEAM on Pinterest

You might also enjoy following my STEAM + STEM Activities board on Pinterest for more ideas like this.

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 |


  1. Set up a backdrop. This could be a wall or pice of foam core.
  2. Gather toys to include in your animation.
  3. Set up your touch pad or smart phone on a stand or tripod, across from the foam core.
  4. Start the Stop Motion Animation App and make your movie!

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 glamorous, 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.

Easy Stop Motion Ideas

My kids jumped in on this with tons of enthusiasm. Here are a few easy stop motion ideas that you can show to your children.

From three-year old R…

From six-year old N…

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?

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.