It’s been an exciting and busy couple weeks for me. My book came out on June 10 with a flurry of activity. For one, we’re in the middle of an incredible blog book tour, which I’d encourage you to check out if you’d like to learn more about TinkerLab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors (affiliate link). Are you already reading the book? Maybe you’d like to join Club TinkerLab where we’ll talk about the book and all-things-tinkering.
What else? My publisher, Roost Books, is hosting a fun Pinterest contest. If you’d like a chance at winning TWO copies of the book and a Michael’s gift certificate, hop on over because the deadline is today!
More news: Our Facebook fan page is hopping’ and we just hit a new milestone of 100K readers! It really has been a busy week!
Starting in July, I’ll be kicking off our real-life book tour at Books Inc. in San Francisco. If you’d like to attend a TinkerLab book talk + workshop, I just added a new event to the calendar! Details here.
And finally, my kids are on summer vacation! And my husband is too. And guess what, that means it’s time for me to take a little break as well. Writing and talking up a book is exhausting and I’m ready for some r + r. I’ll still pop in a tiny bit on Instagram and Facebook, and the blog will continue to be a great resource until I come back.
See you in a few weeks!
Have you seen the new OK Go video, The Writing’s On the Wall? Holy Smokes, people — if MC Escher were alive today, this is the sort of thing he would have come up with.
All of OK Go’s videos are impossibly imaginative, and they somehow seemed to have trumped their best work. See for yourself…
From what I’ve read, they created this in just one take! Seriously. Of course there were lots of takes that didn’t work out (50 takes preceded this one). This behind-the-scenes Mashable interview with OK Go talks a little bit about that and shares some cool insights on how it all came together:
Of course my heart flutters for geeky art + science madness like this, but I also really like the song. For more, this Rolling Stone article is worth checking out.
One of my favorite things about optical illusions like this is the seamless blend of art and science. Optical illusions wouldn’t exist without the physics of science and the creativity of art. When I watch this video, I also think of the the shadow work of Tim Noble and Sue Webster. This is Colossal reviewed the video and they cite influences such as the large-scale perspective-skewing installations of Bernard Pras, geometric projections of Felice Varini, and the photographic trick-of-the-eye masterpieces by Bela Borsodi. If you like this stuff, you’ll want to check out this links.
Talk about the Video with Kids
Whenever I see cool things like this, I often consider how I could introduce this to my kids. So, here’s a fun project for you: Watch this video with your child and then talk about what you saw. Or, try this with a friend or on your own. Optical illusions are for everyone, after all.
Some guiding questions:
- Which of the optical illusions surprised you? Why?
- Which illusion did you like the best? Why?
- Which illusion is still puzzling you? At this point, you can go back to the video and watch that part to try to figure it out.
- What other questions could you ask?
Following this discussion, make some of your own optical illusions. Some ideas follow:
Optical Illusion Activities
- Check out these classic optical illusions via Optics for Kids, and figure out how they work.
- Make a fish-in-a-tank optical illusion from Science Sparks
- Try this fun bending finger trick. The short and fun video shows you how. From Julian’s Magician School, via YouTube
- Draw your own hand in 3-D using just a pencil, paper, and markers. This video from Handimania is great!
- Try to set up your own photographic trick-of-the-eye like Bela Borsodi’s (the video on this page is so worth watching — just to see what’s possible)
- What else could you do? Let us know in a comment!
Every since I dipped my toes into the world of Early Childhood Education, the hotly debated issue of whether or not food should be used in preschool sensory activities has come up multiple times. My background in the arts, where all supplies were fair game for art-making, didn’t prepare me for the variety of opinions that circle this topic.
And Pam’s question reminded me of a question from our friend, Lori, just two weeks earlier:
Since this question comes up a lot, I wanted to take a moment to unpack it here and share some of the pros and cons for using food in toddler and preschool sensory activities. Please keep in mind that the word “preschool” can relate to a preschool classroom setting or to the age of a preschool child who is at home. My own answer to this question (shared below) differs according to the context.
I’d love to invite you to share your thoughts on the topic, as it’s quite possible that something will be left out. My goal isn’t to convince you to take a stand in one camp or the other, but to provide you with the tools you might need to make a decision that’s right for your situation.
I pulled together some reader quotes from the aforementioned conversations and invited some blogging friends to chime in on the topic as well.
Con: Using food for Play is Insensitive and/or Wasteful
With millions of children in the world living in poverty I think it is ignorant to use food for play. Sticks, crunchy leaves, seed pod, tree slices, bark, dirt, organic sawdust, shells, small stones, sand, ice….. The list of non food, non toxic FREE play alternatives are endless. Mother Nature has provided us with all we need for sensory play. - Lee-Anne
When you fill your sensory table with rice or millet you are being playful with an amount of food that could feed a family for weeks. It teaches children that materials are abundant, and not of any great value, things that aren’t true in most of the world. In my center we use edible materials for babies but we try hard to find ways to value and honor the food that we use. - Kendra
It is not about confusing play with food you would eat, it is more like using food in play as though it were nothing, when in reality in many countries out there, it is very expensive, heck, 1 play bin could feed a family of four for 2 meals in our own country. We do not realize how much other people struggle and it is seen as wasteful. It was mentioned on my blog how many USA bloggers treat rice and beans and lentils and the like as nothing, but in many other areas those things are expensive. Not just underprivledged struggle either, many Americans that are there for the Armed Services find those things pricey in many areas as well…it is about being informed. - Michelle
Just know your audience. If you’re working with families facing food insecurity, seeing bins or beans or rice “wasted” can seem disrespectful. I use a lot of dried beans and dyed rice in my sensory bins, but I make sure it is ok as far as the population I’m serving first. - Sarah
Best practice means being respectful period, not just the make up of your class for one particular year. - Mary
In New Zealand we don’t use food ie dried pasta etc for play as its not Tikanga. Cultural principles around the subject. There are many many other natural resources we use to provide tactile play. -Sarah
Play with food at the table, in the context of eating, is ok, but playing with food for enjoyment sake itself is, in my view, a real first world ignorance. It could feed a family, perhaps even one in your centre, for a day and you disregard that issue with this type of play. Also, stuffing bean bags with dried beans, rice or other such food, is not a good idea either, for the same reasons. Many cultures keep food sacred, separate from all other activities, and with good reason. I highly suggest avoiding food-play in this way. The greatest food play is getting even the youngest of children to help you prepare food- my 2 yr old loves to bake, peel carrots and whisk eggs. Making games of the meal is all part of learning to enjoy food. Hope this helps. Non-toxic toy alternatives are wool, cotton, wood, and flax, not food. - Tota
Oh my….Food needs to be respected- not played with! Let us try as an early childhood community to raise children on the concept of respecting food, where it comes from and how it is vital for nutrition. - Cathie
It is a child care regulation in my state that food cannot be used in sensory tables nor art projects for the cultural and wasteful reasons others have mentioned. - Genuine
Pro: Using Food for Play is not Insensitive or Wasteful
It’s funny how being respectful of food with children comes up frequently, yet the biggest challenge facing most of the global population is clean drinking water. We frequently use it for “play” and for washing off surfaces. Children in some areas are deprived of a good part of a school day because they walk hours to get fresh water for their families. In schools here we have “water tables” and “splash pools” full of drinkable water before it gets used. I have no problem with staples being used for food play with children. Food banks and global donations always contain a surplus of those items. Fruits and vegetables, dairy, and proteins are items to be avoided for food play with children. Anyone who is struggling financially has no problem putting macaroni or rice on the table. It is the other 3 food groups that are challenging. A lot of staple foods are thrown out because they have gone stale or not eaten. Using them for educational purposes is better than discarding them. - Alan
I prefer to use the food scraps. We have a post on vegetable scrap stamping. If the food is going into the disposal, the trash or the compost, and it presents an opportunity to learn (either by dissecting it, planting it, or doing some art with it), then it is great to use. It also affords an opportunity to have the kids in the kitchen with me while I cook, where we can do an activity together even though I’m getting chores done. - Patricia, Critters and Crayons
As a history educator, I keep in mind that food items often were and are still used in play and art all over. Consider, too, that the bag of rice you buy in your developed world grocery store won’t otherwise be going to someone living in hunger l. Global hunger is less due to a food shortage than to war, lack of infrastructure, and a political failure of will. Rather than take stand on a particular type of material, I focus on being mindful of the effects of our choices and the ways in which we can further social justice. - Candace, Naturally Educational
I used a bunch of old macaroni that was stale for a sensory bin for my toddlers. Seeing as it isn’t cooked, it’s hard to recognize as “food” and I would rather use it in some way than throw it away because it never got eaten. Plus, my 2 year old tends to put everything in his mouth and I would much rather him end up with a stale piece of macaroni than sand or beads. - Christina
I don’t agree that using food in a different way is “wasting”. It’s being used, meaningfully and with great purpose. Are kids wasting finger paint? No they are using it. They are learning with it. It is valuable. I appreciate the need to be sensitive to families both socio economically and culturally but I reject the idea that use is waste. - Kawai
We enjoy using food for our crafts and sensory play. I do understand that it may be seen as a luxury to be so wasteful with food – but then surely having a huge variety of paper, handfuls of crayons and pens and many many more craft materials could be considered a luxury too? This may be a little black and white for some, but if I can afford to buy a pack of marker pens for $5, then I can also afford $1 for a bag of rice. - George, Craftulate
We use rice in our sensory table because we have yet to find something that feels as wonderful. We’ve been using the same container of rice (we rotate) for two years now. We are not being wasteful with it and have found the benefits to be wonderful. - Melanie
In regards to the food “waste” issue, I would argue that food is not being wasted, just used in an alternative way. Is the food being digested and giving the body nutrients? No. But is playing with food stimulating my child’s nervous system in ways that non-food sensory play can’t? Yes. And in the long run, we’ll be “wasting” much less food because my child will now eat the food we played with, rather than refusing it every time it’s presented on a plate. - -Jordan, Motherhood and Other Adventures
Con: Preschool Kids May be Allergic to Sensory Activities
Also a consideration is food allergies or intolerances that may crop up in the classroom. It’s hard to have to make changes to the curriculum year to year to safely accommodate everyone so if you can come up with non food alternatives that may be best. - Lissa
My daughter had a dairy allergy when she was a preschooler. It was brutal worrying about every potential craft or activity being something that could harm her. I’m grateful she outgrew it, but I remember those anxiety filled days well. - Melinda
As a parent of children with food intolerances, I dread any food-based activities at school. Especially at preschool with my toddler, who is more likely to jam things into her mouth. In fact, when my oldest was a toddler, she viewed the sensory table as her own personal all-you-can-eat buffet. (This was before I knew how those ingredients affected her.) As a parent, I either have to hope the teacher can exclude my child from any activities involving foods she’s intolerant to if there’s a risk of ingestion, or else I as the parent have to provide enough of a safe alternative for the class to use instead. Which can quickly become an expensive burden! I do see the value of food-play, and it’s a safe way for littler ones to have sensory play without fear of choking. It’s also a great way to raise adventurous eaters, by having them interact with ingredients in multiple ways (taste, touch, smell, etc,) and by using familiar foods in different ways (a lot of kids get stuck in a rut where a food must be served the same way every time!) So as long as the teacher/school is willing to accommodate food allergies and intolerances, then I’m all for food play at school! But if a child is constantly put at risk or must be excluded from an activity, then that class may have to miss out on food activities. -Kendra, Biting the Hand that Feeds You
Pro: It’s fine if Children have no Allergies
As long as there are no food allergy issues, I’d say go for it. Kids will play with food no matter what. - Teri
I have children that put everything in their mouths. Using food made more sense than anything else because it wasn’t going to be toxic if they ate it. It also wouldn’t leave trace on their hands and was easily replenished. We reuse the food as much as possible. I have a cupboard with jars of various food used in arts and crafts and play that gets brought out again and again. -Cerys, Rainy Day Mum
Pro: It’s Helpful to Children with Sensory Needs
As a mom of a child with Sensory Processing Disorder, yes, food should definitely be used in toddler and preschool sensory activities. Presenting a child with food to play with, instead of eat, is a way to introduce new textures and smells without pressure. The child is allowed to explore at their own pace, and in their own way. My son never was willing to taste pasta until after we explored cooked spaghetti in a sensory play activity. -Jordan, Motherhood and Other Adventures
My son had sensory integration issues and was only 14 lbs at 1 year. He was on a feeding tube and went to OT. At OT, do you know what they did? Play with food!. It actually teaches them to get used to different textures and not have an aversion to new foods. I was born during the Vietnam War and there was mass starvation when the war ended due to collectivization of the farms and bombings. I personally had to get over food hoarding and being a member of the clean plate club. Like everything, moderation is the key. Be respectful and don’t throw the rice around, keep it in the container and try to reuse it afterwards (make bean bags, make maracas, stress balls in balloons, heating pads, I Spy bags, rainsticks, etc.). - Lucy
Con: Natural Objects should be left in their Environment
Would like to just throw out there that it seems many who have big concerns about food play are suggesting the alternative is to simply gather items from nature instead, and that idea is grand but should be approached with consideration to the natural world versus ”free for the taking”. If everyone heads outdoors to gather up sticks, twigs, pinecones, seeds, flowers, bark, etc. then you’ve now taken food and shelter from animals who depend on us leaving these things be. Absolutely, there are responsible ways to acquire some natural items within reason; e.g, from your own property, but typically most educational sites and resources do not promote this, they simply put in their lesson plans ”gather up some pinecones and make this glittery craft” or ”swoop up flowers from a nearby field to dissect or learn fractions”, etc. Squirrels and Bees would suggest perhaps growing your own flowers and pick one pinecone vs. a plethora, especially if it so happens to be a weak year of natural food. I know where we live is scarce this year due to rain last year and the bears and wildlife are hungry searching for what they can. As well, some natural found items are federally protected resources that can land you in big trouble for taking. So it really seems that providing any materials to children to play has a plus and a negative aspect to it. Perhaps looking at it altogether differently is an alternative. For example, children digging and growing a small garden themselves gives sensory experience whilst building an appreciation for food, as well as not taking food from wildlife to play with. Picking and Washing the veggies also are hands on sensory experiences. Eating and preserving most whilst using a few in crafts and games much like ancient cultures did. For example, making apple heads or bobbing for apples, creating corn dollies or even corn husk dolls. Or maybe gather natural items at a time of year they are not so crucial to wildlife and then returning them when needed (fall/winter). Another alternate idea from food; either human or animal, is building up a recycling/repurposing inventory. Milk jug tops, empty cartons, squeeze bottles, jars, cans, etc. These can be turned in to fantastic toys and play items. - Missy Louise
Pro: Food is Natural and Healthy
I used to have a problem with it, but now I think it´s better than buying other toys/playdough etc. We reuse the dried food/homemade playdough over and over. From an environmental view I actually think it´s better than a lot of plastic, battery operated and general toys as they are often made with nasty chemicals, break and may end up in landfill. So I would much prefer to be letting them play with dried foods that will decompose! Kids naturally play with food at the table when they eat and I actually think it´s important to do this so that they can experience the food you are expecting them to put in their mouths. In saying all of this rice, flour and beans are about all we use (easy to store and re-use). At Christmas/easter time the odd potato for stamping. - Felicity
I have to say I lie in the pro-food camp. For me the benefits of using food in preschool activities outweigh the cons. I personally like using food because it is a less expensive alternative to many costly art supplies, because it encourages children to see unique ways to use everyday items, and because it makes for safe, non-toxic play materials. - Ana, Babble Dabble Do
I understand the concern but do you want your children to play or accidentally ingest toxins??? I would much rather use rice or flour than something that would harm their growth, remember this is used as a learning tool and something to keep in mind using toxins what message is that sending? I am all for organic but we must understand there is a down side to this usage also. - Robin
My girls are 3 and they know not to play with food at meal time. They constantly do food play at school and home…..I would rather them eat a Cheerios than a plastic bead. If they are taught to understand (which they can do at preschool age) it shouldn’t be an issue. - Jessica
You could have food on plates that could be played with then eaten. You could use beans for play then plant them. I’d much prefer kids playing with biodegradable products than something that’s going to end up in the bin like the loom bands everyone has gone mad for. I think in the scheme, of things a bag of rice is fine for play, perhaps playing with food might bring children closer to understanding and appreciating it. I’ve made veggie critters with kids and it’s a wonderful activity. - Kristy
If we are not “pro-food” in sensory play, then what are we? Unless you’re only then reaching for natural materials, the alternative is synthetic, manufactured items that cause their own environmental footprint and sense of “disposable” waste. If properly cared for, food sensory items can be reused again and again — the same bag of quick oats, the same batch of homemade playdough.
Food provides unparalleled, multi-sensory engagement and is something that most people reading will have ready access to.
Also, if the concern is having children “play with their food,” I would suggest that allowing this might encourage children to be more adventurous with their food choices. Even painting with spices might encourage a plain-eater to try something a bit spiced up! – Jennifer, Study at Home Mama
Take the Middle Ground
Gather materials from nature for your sensory bins. Rocks, pebbles, sticks, fresh cut herbs, dried plants, mud, etc! It’s free, teaches about our local environment, and can be returned outdoors or composted. Personally, I use limited amounts of food materials. Winter wheat berries that we then give to a farmer is great in the fall. Talk about wheats life cycle, read “little red hen”, sprout wheat, talk about wheat to flour, bake some bread. All in balance friends. No sense judging one another’s practices! - April
Really, it’s about the balance and respect for other cultures. I do use food, even as a sensory but in the context of teaching my preschoolers about cooking and nutrition. Giving them the independence to learn how to make something and then do it at home is the best lesson I can teach them. They still get to “play” / “create” with food but in a more appropriate context that they will remember and use. - Cathryn
I personally aim to think carefully about any materials we use in play. I want my children to have access to a wide range of materials for sensory experiences and creative prompts, and prefer open-ended, natural materials. We try not to use anything which is disposable after only one brief use, we use as many recycled materials as possible, and we try to recycle or compost what we’ve used after we have played. Using this criteria sometimes food is a better choice for us – for example some uncooked pasta which we might use as maths manipulatives, put in a sensory tub, and then paint and use for art, or threading necklaces. We use it many times before composting it to benefit our garden classroom. - Cathy, NurtureStore
I probably think way too much about this topic. I do agree that for some young children using food is a safe alternative – if they tend to put things in their mouths (my son says I’m the most over-protective mother). Several years ago when teaching art at a preschool in a poor neighborhood it struck me as very sad that many o the children only ate when they got their free breakfasts and lunches at school. I imagined how one of those children would feel seeing pudding used to paint or an apple used to print. I stopped using food in my projects. I’ve since started again, but not in the same ways. I’ll use items I would normally toss (like strawberry tops) or I do a swap- I’ll have my son choose an items to donate to the food pantry box at our grocery store if we are going to use food in an activity. I know that the five blueberries I’m going to use or a printing project won’t cause a world hunger crisis, but it makes me feel better and teaches a good lesson on helping others to do so. I explain it a little better in this post on berry art. - Rikki, Mini Monets and Mommies
Where does TinkerLab stand?
As I mentioned earlier, my background in the arts prepared me to think abstractly and broadly about what can be used as an art material. When I set up my first art studio, Chris Ofili’s paintings with elephant dung and Damien Hirst’s real shark floating in formaldehyde took the art world by storm, demonstrating just how far artists can push past the use of traditional art supplies. I happily made things with non-art materials like Valentine conversation hearts, resin (which comes from trees), and flowers collected from my garden. Wasn’t this better, and maybe more interesting, I thought, than spending tons of money on store-bought supplies?
Now here’s an interesting fact about store-bought art supplies: Food and natural materials are often in the ingredients. This is something to think about if you have a child with food allergies. For example: Play-doh (flour, salt), Crayola Colored Pencils (soy), Air-dry Clay (corn starch), and Crayola Washable Markers (corn syrup). If we’re to avoid food products in art then we need to consider these less obvious culprits. These ingredients aren’t included in package labels and are essentially hidden from consumers. Since food products are found in store-bought art supplies, I see very little difference in adding food to my own supplies.
Introducing my kids to natural materials is also far more interesting to me that exposing them to toxic materials. As such, we will occasionally use food for play or projects, and I’m more inclined to do so if it’s scraps, expired, or if the play/art supply will last for a long time. We do our best to recycle and return things to the earth. Some of the things we have used and made: flour and oil in cloud dough, rice flour in gluten-free cloud dough, rice in colored rice, flour in the best play dough recipe, wheat berries in our wheat berry sensory table, and sweetened condensed milk in milk paint.
Food for Play in schools: I don’t run a school, but in that context there’s a good chance that I would avoid using food for play due to allergies and a desire to respect the religious and personal perspectives of a diverse audience. When it comes to the school environment, I often look to my colleague, Deborah, at Teach Preschool. See the first article, below.
More thoughts on Food in Play
A Discussion on Food Use in the Early Education Classroom, Teach Preschool
Parents and Teachers Working Together: Should Food Be Used as Learning Materials, Early Childhood News (the discussion in the this article is so rich and will give you a lot of food for thought — no pun intended!)
Being Thankful for Food, Planet Smarty Pants
Using Food in Preschool, Interaction Imagination
Yesterday I shared a recipe for colored rice, and today I’m sharing a fun and simple creative invitation to make a layered rainbow colored rice jar.
Like all things on TinkerLab, this is just a jumping off point and should act more as inspiration than doctrine. Offer your child the materials and then see what he or she comes up with. You may be surprised by the results!
Supplies: Rainbow Colored Rice Jar
- Colored Rice – Recipe here
- Funnel – I made a paper funnel by twirling a half-circle of paper into a funnel shape and then taping the edge shut.
- Glass or plastic jar
Rainbow Colored Rice Jar Set-up
I set up all of the materials on the table just as you see in the photo above. My kids were VERY eager to jump in and get started, and began filling the jars before I had a chance to grab an empty-jar version of the invitation. This set-up is super inviting, and MANY jars were filled that day.
My kids, ages 3 and 5, figured out without any verbal cues that this was an invitation to fill their jars. They came up with their own color combinations and enjoyed the process so much that they foraged the kitchen for mason jars and anything else that could hold their colored rice.
More Ways to Explore Colored Rice
- Make it a Gift! Make these as gifts for family members
- Vary the material: Try this with Colored Salt or Colored Sand, instead of rice.
- Make a Sensory Tub: Pour all of your rainbow-colored rice into a big sensory tub and invite your child to play with it. Add funnels, bowls, and scoopers for extra entertainment. Add small character toys and pretend they live in the land of rainbows. The wheat berries in this sensory tub could easily be replaced with rice or colored sand.
- Use the rice like glitter. Offer your child a sheet of paper, white craft glue, and a bowl of rice to sprinkle into the glue.
After seeing so much lovely colored rice all over my Pinterest feed for ages, it was high time that we created our own colorful rice. And you, too, can make your own colored rice for an afternoon of sensory play or for filling clear jars with layers of rainbow rice like you see here.
Why Colored Rice is Worth Making
- It’s a natural play material
- Kids love the sensory experience of sifting it through their hands
- It’s economical
- The supplies probably already live in your pantry
- Kids can help make it
- It can last a looooong time
Supplies for Colored Rice
- White or Brown Rice
- Food Coloring
- Zip-up plastic bags or bowls and spoon for mixing the colors
Can we use brown rice?
We used brown rice for this activity, and the colors are still vibrant.
What’s the rice : vinegar ratio?
For each color that we made, we used 1 cup of rice and 1 teaspoon of vinegar. That’s the ratio that you’ll want to work with (or experiment — we encourage that too!).
But rice is Food!!
If you’re concerned about wasting food, check your pantry for old rice. That’s what we did, and low-and-behold, we had a bag that expired last year. Eeep. I wish we hadn’t missed the expiration date, but at least we could put that rice to good use!
Will my kids actually enjoy this?
Yes, I bet they will! I try to get my own kids involved in all the steps of our projects, and they enjoyed everything from this ro-sham-bo face-off to decide who would make which color of rice to finally playing with their colorful creation.
If you’d like to make this recipe, simply click ‘Print” and you can save this in your recipe file.
- 1 cup White or Brown Rice
- 1 teaspoon Vinegar
- ⅛ + teaspoon Food Coloring
- Zip-up plastic bags or bowls and spoon for mixing the colors
- Fill a zip-up bag with 1 cup of rice and 1 teaspoon of vinegar.
- Scoop or pour about ⅛ teaspoon food coloring into the bag.
- Zip the bag shut
- Squeeze the bag and mix the rice all around until the food coloring is well distributed
- Add more food coloring to reach the desired color.
- Pour the colored rice onto a cookie sheet. Spread it out to expedite drying time. To absorb the moisture and help the rice dry more quickly, line the tray with a paper towel or towel.
- The rice take between 2 hours and a full day to dry, depending on your climate and humidity.
How to Make Colored Rice
- Fill each zip-up bag with 1 cup of rice and 1 teaspoon of vinegar.
- Scoop or pour about 1/8 teaspoon food coloring into the bag.
- Zip the bag shut
- Squeeze the bag and mix the rice all around until the food coloring is well distributed
- Pour the colored rice onto a cookie sheet. To absorb the moisture and help the rice dry more quickly, line the tray with a paper towel or towel.
We ran out of cookie sheets, so we divided one in half by pulling a paper towel wall up between two colors. Our rice dried in about 5 hours. The rice will dry take up to 24 hours to dry, depending on your climate and humidity.
More Colored Rice
Check back tomorrow and we’ll share a Creative Table set-up using colored rice!
This recipe was inspired by Rainbow Rice via Happy Hooligans
Make a Fall-themed rice sensory bin, via Kids Activities Blog
Side-by-side comparison of dying rice with food coloring and liquid watercolors, via Fun at Home with Kids
It’s been two days since my book came out, and I’ve been having the funnest time! Here are just a few of the cool things going on with the book:
- It’s now available on Kindle
- Yesterday it ranked #794 on Amazon (out of millions of books!)
- All of the Amazon reviews so far are 5-star!
Thank you to each and every one of you who has invested in this book. I’d like to think that it’s a valuable resource for families and teachers of young children, and your reviews are showing me that all of those writing hours are paying off!
But wait, there’s more…
These are the things that are happening on our Blog Book Tour:
- The Artful Parent is running a book giveaway (pop over there for a chance to win)
- Toddler Approved is sharing our Straw Rocket activity
- Creative with Kids is sharing 15 Questions to Spark Creative Thought, which ties in so nicely with the book’s philosophy
And then, my fabulous publisher, Roost Books, came up with this idea for a fun Pinterest contest:
Pin to Win: How to Play
- Follow TinkerLab and Roost Books on Pinterest
- Fill out the entry form (below) so that we’ll be sure to catch your pins
- Pin either contest image from this post along with 3 or more of your favorite images from TinkerLab.com
- Fill your board with lots of Tinkering Inspiration. Be sure to tag your photos with #tinkerlab and #roostbooks
- Name the board TinkerLab so that we can easily find your pins
Ends Sunday, June 22 at 9 PM EST. No purchase necessary to win.
Thank you to everyone who joined this contest! Your boards are fantastic.
A winner has been selected! Congratulations to Allyson Becker — you will be contacted shortly by Roost Books with details on how to collect your prize.
**Note: This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.
We had the great pleasure of visiting the Pace Gallery pop-up in Menlo Park, CA to see Tara Donovan: Untitled. If PACE sounds familiar to you, PACE is a well-established NYC gallery that represents work by artists such as Alexander Calder, Sol LeWitt, Maya Lin, Pablo Picasso, James Turrell, and Kiki Smith. In short, they’re not messing around.
While Silicon Valley is a hotbed for tech innovations, it’s not exactly a contemporary art scene, which I bemoan. But this show gives hope that this is about to change! Enter:
The gallery is housed in the former Tesla car showroom, and the make-shift space added an element of spectacle to the exhibition. My three-year old took this afternoon as a chance to practice her tour guide skills, and we were off!
First up, these incredible orbs made from rolled mylar. One of the more striking things about Tara Donovan’s work is how she repurposes manmade objects into organic forms.
Donovan’s sculptural installations were just the thing to help us practice perspective-taking.
We spent a lot of time looking at works of art up close and then far away. Because we had most of the galleries to ourselves, my kids took many opportunities to get up close and personal with the art.
Can you tell what this installation (below) is made of?
How about with a closer look?
While it doesn’t photograph as well as it looks in person, this piece (below) was spectacular. It was a wall of clear straws, layered one on top of the other. The straws were then formed into rounded waves that popped from the wall at different distances. Walking back and forth along the wall created implied movement in the piece, and it was mesmerizing.
My little one continued to tour us around…
And the guards, I almost forgot them! As you may know, I used to work in museums. The San Jose Museum of Art, where I last worked, had the most incredible guards who were all trained to be…friendly (gasp!) and talk with visitors about the art. I’m seeing more and more of this now, and was so impressed with the warmth of the PACE guards. They were lovely!
Can you tell what this next piece is made from? Take a good look!
How about now? Isn’t that great?!
Visit Tara Donovan
If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, this show is worth a visit. It’s free, interesting for kids, and the art is beyond spectacular. More things you should know:
- There’s a comprehensive reading area with catalogues from most (if not all) of the PACE artists represented.
- May 22, 2014 - June 30, 2014
- 300 El Camino Real. Menlo Park CA 94025. 650-462-1368
- Hours: Mon – Sat 1 – 9 pm
- More about this show: Elusive Silicon Valley Buyers Come Out for an Arty Party
- If you’re on the East Coast, PACE is also showing Tara Donovan in their 25th street space through June 28, 2014
Hands-on Tara Donovan for Kids
Tara Donovan started working with materials such as toothpicks and buttons out of a need to make art on a very tight budget. She’s since become a master at using inexpensive, everyday materials to build organic forms. A few days after visiting the show I brought out some mini cupcake liners and white school glue, and we got busy upcycling these materials into new objects. So fun!
A question for you…
What was the last gallery or museum that you visited? Can you remember the last show that you were inspired by? This show takes the cake for me!
We love art tips. Click here for more tips from this series.
This is a favorite tip for the economical folks in the room: recycle your cardboard boxes and turn them into art panels.
How did this all start? Well, we had a yard sale this past week. Can you hear my sigh of relief? I used to love having yard sales, but since having kids it’s always been easier to take our long-loved belongings directly to the thrift store. My kiddos have been eager to have a sale, however, so that’s what we did. And you know something? Not only did I survive, but we cleared out a walkable path in our garage and I also uncovered my trusty old-fashioned paper chopper that was previously covered with boxes and cushions.
Along with getting reacquainted with my old paper-cutting pal, I uncovered a bunch of cardboard boxes. And with that, I spent a jolly twenty minutes chopping those boxes up into panels that my kids and I can paint, collage, and otherwise attack with our art.
Cardboard boxes are wonderful for so many reasons. When I have them in the house they often get recycled as…cardboard boxes. I’ll use them again to ship things to friends and loved ones. But when I have a few piled up, I like to chop them into smaller pieces that we can later use as art panels.
Throw that box on the guillotine and create some incredibly enticing art substrates.
There are a few ways to cut cardboard into panels
- Cut the box with heavy duty scissors. Don’t cut yourself. Obvious, I know, but I did this the other day.
- Cut panels with a box cutter on a cutting mat
- The quickest way is most likely an art-grade chopper like this Guillotine Paper Trimmer.
And now we’re ready to use these as bases for painting, collage, gluing, etc. Here are some examples:
- Glue beans, sequins, buttons or pom poms to the cardboard, like in this Bean collage or Glue Dots and Buttons
- Attach pasta, glitter, and cotton balls to the cardboard: Found Object Collage
- Paint on it with acrylic paint: Painting on wood panel or cardboard.
- And, before you cut those boxes up, you might want to try Cardboard Box Splat Painting!
Two questions for you
How do you like to recycle or upcycle cardboard? What are your favorite art tips?
More Art Tips:
I spotted a milk jug shovel online. Gasp! Given that I adore all things DIY, especially if they involve my recycling bin, I had to try this.
I dug and dug (pun intended…I love puns) for the original source of this spiffy idea, and nothing came up. So, as a public service to my amazing readers, I pulled this very simple tutorial together for you, with the help of my trusty 3-year old assistant.
Thank you, little R!
- Milk Jug
- Sharpie (or other permanent marker)
Draw a shovel shape onto the milk jug with the permanent marker. Use the photo (above) as a basic guide.
Cut along the marker lines (simple, right?) until the shovel comes out of the jug.
Take the shovel outside for some digging fun.
- As you might imagine, the shovel is somewhat flimsy, which makes it a better tool for dry sand. The shovel will have more trouble digging up soil and wet sand.
- Following up on the last tip, this shovel is great for emergency digging but I wouldn’t recommend this in lieu of a regular shovel since it’s not super-sturdy. Like, if you’re on vacation at the beach and you forgot a shovel at home, you might want to visit a local coffee shop and ask them for a milk jug.
- Although it’s not the greatest shovel in the world, making one of these is still a fun exercise and introduces children to recycling cast-off objects into something new.
- Try making shovels from different kinds of plastic bottles. How will they vary from one another?
This flower bouquet project is part of our new series of easy crafts for kids, and takes about 5 minutes to set up and encourages children to make aesthetic choices. We also love this flower bouquet because it’s…
- Supports fine-motor skills
- Turns into a one-of-a-kind bouquet for gifting
This project was actually born out of my daughter’s own cure for boredom, and it’s since become one of our favorite easy crafts for kids. A stack of pipe cleaners (or chenille stems — which word do you prefer?) sat out on our art table for a week, They were turned into all sorts of projects, and then one day she decided to stick buttons and jingle bells on the ends of them. After making a small handful, it became apparent that she has created a bouquet.
It’s easy enough to make, and occupied my pre-schooler for a long while. I hope you’ll enjoy it too!
Flower Bouquet Supplies: Easy Crafts for Kids
Note: This supply list includes Amazon affiliate links for your convenience
- Pipe Cleaners/Chenille Stems
- Assorted Buttons
- Small Jingle Bells
- Any other small trinket with a hole through it
- Jar or flower vase
How to this up
- Set up a small stack of pipe cleaners, a bowl of buttons, and a bowl of jingle bells
- Offer your child the materials and invite him or her to push the buttons and bells onto the end of the pipe cleaners
- Add a few baubles to each pipe cleaner and then place a bouquet of them in a jar.
More pipe cleaner projects
- Twist pipe cleaners through paper
- Colander sculpture for toddlers
- Make dollhouse dolls with pipe cleaners
- Beaded snowflakes from pipe cleaners
- Adorable button and pipe cleaner trees
- Is it magnetic? An experiment in magnetism
More Easy Crafts for Kids
Salt Dough Magnets: A Childhood Classic
This simple doily and watercolor art for preschoolers uses basic art materials and encourages children to explore the medium of watercolors through process-based creating.
This project, like so many others that you’ll find on TinkerLab, is process-based. It’s set up as a Creative Invitation, meaning that the materials are laid out in an inviting way, and then the child is invited to interpret and use them however he or she likes. With creative invitations like this, I’ll sometimes give my kids a little prompt, but usually I sit back and see what they come up with…and I’m often surprised by their ingenuity.
Around here, these creative set-ups are part of the Creative Table series, and you can find more of these ideas here.
Supplies: Watercolor Art for Preschoolers
Note: I’ve included Amazon affiliate links for your convenience.
- Liquid Watercolors. The Sax brand via Amazon is great, and equally good are liquid watercolors by Blick and Discount School Supply.
- White paper doilies or paper coffee filters
- Large Tray. I picked up our yellow trays at a teacher supply store. Other ideas: use a fast food tray or choose from one of many trays at IKEA.
- Pipette, medicine dropper, and/or paintbrush
- Ice cube tray
The Creative Table Set-up
Line a tray with paper: Set up a big tray, and line it with paper. We have big sheets of 18″ x 24″ paper that I cut to fit. You could also use butcher paper, a brown paper bag, or smaller papers that are taped together. This step isn’t mandatory, but it’s helpful to have a absorbent trough to catch all the extra liquid.
Squeeze liquid watercolors into an ice cube tray. We have a mini tray that’s reserved for just this purpose. I often add a little bit of water to the watercolors to extend the life of our paints just a bit.
Doilies and paintbrush. Set up some doilies and a paintbrush and/or pipette nearby.
My three-year old enjoys the challenge of pulling doilies apart. Oh, and she’s also wearing an apron and has rolled-up sleeves. Both recommended for this potentially messy project.
Here’s the pipette in action. Pipette’s are fun for little kids, and a good challenge as they figure out how to squeeze the paint up, and then squeeze it out again.
We set up another tray nearby to absorb our drying, colorful doilies. Once she made a small handful of these, my daughter thought it would be fun to dip clean doilies in the pool of murky paint. What a fun experiment!! It’s moments like this that make this a Creative Table!
She loved seeing the paper soak the paint right up. Once we had a healthy collection of doilies, my kids remembered that we recently picked up laundry hanger at the dollar store. So we carried our trays full of doilies outside where we hung them to dry in a tree.
They’re still there, actually, decorating the neighborhood.
And here’s a bit of the aftermath. I love before and after photos!
If you enjoyed this activity, be sure to check out our new book, TinkerLab: A Handbook for Little Inventors (June 2014, Roost). You might also enjoy these creative invitations: