Mini Paintings

Do you recognize these materials?

I’m big on repurposing found objects into art, so when I found a plastic slide sheet from my pre-digital days I couldn’t bear to throw it out before giving it the ol’ arts and crafts makeover. If you’re not familiar with these, they’re essentially sheet protectors for slides. I showed the sheet to N with the suggestion that we fill it with mini paintings. She liked the idea, and got busy collecting markers while I chopped watercolor paper up into little squares.


  • Watercolor paper, cut into small squares
  • Markers or mark-making tool/s
  • Liquid Watercolor Paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Covered Work Area

N wanted to color each of the squares with red marker. Cool!

She started off slow but steady, and I think when she realized just how many squared were ahead of her, her momentum picked up and the drawings became quite sketchy.

A full tray of watercolors was left over from another project, and while there was a rainbow of color to play with, she stuck to violet. She had a plan!

I was amazed by her diligence, and thought she’d certainly make it to the end. But with two squares to go, she called it quits and asked me to help her finish. I’m partial to keeping my hands out of children’s art, but N often begs me to collaborate with her so I helped her complete the project.


I encourage you to look around your home for objects that could be repurposed into art. My heart melts when I hear N say, “Let’s turn this into art!” And this happens often! While store-bought art supplies certainly have their place, sourcing materials from the environment is a wonderful lesson in recycling, resourcefulness, and creative thinking.

Happy Hunting!

Baby Food Candle Jars

Despite putting my best foot forward toward making my own baby food, I’ve still succumbed to buying jars of smashed peas and pureed peaches for handy food on-the-go. While all of our jars get recycled, it’s hard to ignore the quantity of glass or the art-making potential in these adorable little vessels. I allowed about ten of them to pile up before this project hit me. Not only do I like how they turned out, but it’s also one of those crafts that’s child-driven. And if you know me, you know that I like my art projects to be open-ended. If you also have a stack of these cuties in your dish rack begging to be repurposed, you might also want to scroll through the links at the end of this post for more ideas.


  • Baby Food Jars with the labels removed
  • Tissue Paper
  • Mod Podge
  • Paint Brush
  • Scissors
  • Glitter (optional)

Cut the tissue paper up into pieces. I cut a bunch of these ahead of time since I wasn’t sure how invested N would be in this step. But of course, she loves cutting, and we had a bounty of tissue paper pieces in no time at all!

I limited the palette to pink, light blue, and white with a red pattern (saved from an Anthropologie gift…lucky me!), and recommend this as a unifying strategy if you’re going for something seasonal or to match your couch.

I poured some Mod Podge into one of the jars and N mixed in some glitter for an extra-sparkly effect. If you’ve never used Mod Podge, it’s similar to white glue and does an amazing job at both gluing and sealing. Mod Podge Rocks is a fabulous blog that’s brimming with Mod Podge ideas.

We placed the tissue papers into clear containers for easy spotting. With a brush, my daughter painted glue on the outside of the jars and covered them with tissue paper of her choice. I didn’t want to miss out on the fun and made a few, too!

I was impressed when she came up with the stumpy-hand technique for covering the jars mess-free!

To seal them well, I gave each jar a goodly overall layer of Mod Podge before turning them upside down for drying.

We’ve been decorating our summer table with them, but given the palette, wouldn’t these be sweet decorations for a baby shower? Looking for Mod Podge? You can buy it here!

So, I know I’m not the only one trying to come up with baby food jar ideas. Tell me, please, what you’ve done with baby food jars!!

More Baby Food Jar Crafts from around the web

Fabric Tea Light Baby Food Jars from Prudent Baby

Tons of Ideas for re-purposing baby food jars from Making Friends

Gluing knick-knacks to baby food jars from The Mother Huddle

12 Ways to Re-Use Baby Food Jars from Chasing Green

Personalized Tea Light Holders from Radical Crafts


Face Collage for Scribblers

When I was an art teacher, the youngest age group I worked with was Kindergarten so I rarely had the chance to witness a child’s transition from scribbling to representational drawing. My three year old daughter is at the precipice of representational drawing and it’s an exciting place to be, but she can get frustrated that she can’t create what she imagines (which is often!) and frequently asks me to draw things for her. This can be tricky because it goes against my belief that children should find their own way with visual representation and I’m often reluctant to draw things for her.

This project was born from a need to manifest her vision while also matching her abilities, and would be appropriate for children on the verge of creating representational drawings as well as those who draw realistically. Links to information about stages of artistic development at the end of this post.

I cut circles, rectangles, half circles, and some organic shapes from colorful recycled pantry boxes and spread them out on the table for my daughter to choose from. N chose a light blue oval for the face shape (also pre-cut), glued it to a 9 x 12 sheet of paper, and selected pieces to represent the parts of the face.

Facilitating and Asking Questions

I acted as a facilitator and if she seemed stumped I would ask questions such as, “What part of the face is next to the eyes?” “Ears? Okay, can you find a shape that could be an ear?”

I tried not to guide her decision-making and made room for her to adhere the pieces in the way she envisioned it, even if I didn’t think it was “accurate.”

She added the eyes (on top), nose, ears, orange cheeks, a mouth, and an aluminum foil philtrum (the area between the mouth and nose!). Did you know it’s called a philtrum? I didn’t!! I thought she was adding a mustache on top, but she explained that it was just a ribbon! Always ask before making assumptions!

She wanted to make curl the ribbon into a circle and I helped her glue it together. I enjoyed watching her vacillate between reality and imagination in one sitting.

When she finished the first picture she moved on to the next one (after a costume change, of course!), and this time it was all about the imagination — no faces involved!


  • For more on the developmental stages of children’s drawings, Viktor Lowenfeld is the last word on this topic and you’ll learn a lot about it here.
  • For even more from Viktor Lowenfeld, you could read this seminal book from him: Creative and Mental Growth. I just bought a used copy for myself for just $7!

How did your children make the transition from scribbles to representational drawing?

Hanging Fabric Collage

While my daughter could spend all day at the park, she’s not so interested in hanging out in our garden these days. I’m wrapping my head around the dilemma of spending too much time inside, and have a few theories and solutions brewing, one of which is to take our art projects outside!


  • Paper to nail to fence or wall
  • Scraps of fabric
  • Glue Jar + Glue
  • Fat paintbrushes
  • Scissors

We began by nailing a couple long strips of tan butcher paper to our fence so that the paper wouldn’t blow away.

N painted thick glue on the paper, and then stuck pre-cut small pieces (roughly 2″ x 2″) of fabric directly onto the glue.

Meanwhile, baby Rainbow enjoyed having the sandbox all to herself!

The fabric we used came from a small stash of  fabrics that I’ve had for ages (dress shirts, boxer shorts, and quilt remnants.)  N found this men’s shirt and wanted to wear it as a smock. When I taught Elementary Art we used dress shirts as smocks all the time, and it took me back to a happy time! She asked a million-plus questions about the boxers, and specifically wanted to know why we were cutting them up. The unintended consequences of this activity: a lesson plan that covered recycling, thrift stores, upcycling, and…

Cutting with GIANT scissors!

At this point, N left the glueing phase and entered the cutting phase of the project. Once she gets those scissors in hand, there’s no stopping her.

Here’s what the collage looked like before she got “chilly” and requested that we move back indoors.

Baby steps, right!?


This post is shared with It’s Playtime

Glittery Cotton Ball Collage

My very active almost 3-year old hopped off her bike just long enough to work on a collage. The weather has been so nice, and I can’t really blame her.


  • Cardstock: 8.5 x 11, from a fat ream I picked up at the office supply store
  • White glue in a jar
  • Glitter
  • Scissors
  • Short-handled artist brushes
  • Collage Materials: Cotton balls, tissue paper, pasta, paint chips

She mixed the glitter and glue with a brush. Now that N’s fine motor skills are more refined, I really like these short-handled artist brushes because they enable her to paint marks as she imagines them. I think I picked them up as part of a set in the art supply section of JoAnn Fabrics. We also have a stash of fat toddler-friendly brushes, which cover large surfaces quickly in case that’s what she’s after.

She painted the glitter-glue onto the card stock.

And then she added do-dads to the glue.

A few pieces of pasta and tissue paper later and we had ourselves a beautiful child-designed glittery cotton ball collage.

Do you have a favorite collage technique?

Glittery Collage with Acrylic Gloss Medium

Have you used gloss medium before? It’s a clear acrylic paint that is great for sealing two-dimensional projects.

I was cleaning out the laundry room and came across an old bottle of acrylic gloss medium and varnish. Have you ever used this stuff? It’s awesome! It’s essentially glue wrapped up in a paint bottle, and so easy to apply with a paintbrush. And when it dries it leaves a beautiful, unifying glossy finish that makes everything look purposeful.

I also have a stash of laminate and wood pieces that I thought would make a good substrate for this project. I let N go through the pile and choose the ones she wanted. You can see her two choices in the picture up there.


  • Acrylic gloss medium. I also like matte medium, but the final look is obviously different.
  • Wood, linoleum, cardboard or some other sturdy surface to collage onto.
  • Paintbrush
  • Collage papers: We used aluminum foil and bleeding tissue paper
  • Scissors
  • Bowl for the gloss medium
  • Glitter

We put the materials out together, and N wanted to cut the aluminum foil. I showed her how it’s easily torn, but she loves cutting. It’s very empowering, and I guess foil is pretty fun to cut.

While she worked on the aluminum foil, I started cutting the tissue paper. Why, I don’t know, since she wanted to do that too. I should know better.

Once it was all set up, she began painting gloss medium on the laminate…

and sticking papers onto it. We talked a bit about layering and composition, and I used language like, “You’re layering the yellow paper on top of the blue paper” and “I see you chose to put the red piece vertically, next to the green piece.” It’s the teacher in me, for sure, but language like this also helps build vocabulary and contextualize the process.

Once her fingers got a bit gooey, some of the pieces stuck to her hand and she realized she could ball them up and stick them down in a new way.

And then she spotted the glitter and came up with the idea of shaking it right into the medium. Bravo!

And oh my goodness, the party just began! This got goopy and gluey, and the middle layer got higher and higher. I can’t even remember how many times she asked if she could add more medium to the bowl.

Once dry, the medium is completely clear, allowing all of the colors to shine through. I’m really excited about this piece, and love that it was created on a more permanent substrate…perfect for hanging. It feels substantial and archival and I’m thinking it could be a pretty nice father’s day gift.

What are your ideas?

This post is linked to It’s Playtime


Preschool Leaf Collage

Leaf Collage for Preschool


Sticky Leaf Collage is a great activity for preschool children. It encourages them to collect leaves, discuss what kind of trees the leaves come from, create a composition, and preserve their leaves in a viewing sleeve. The collage can late be used as a placemat or window display.

Leaf collage with contact paper for preschoolers

California has been hit by a heat wave, so staying inside our hot cave of a house is barely an option. Despite the heat, there’s a lot of fall madness in the air — you can’t miss the mountain of gourds and pumpkins piled up at the markets, leaves are turning colors, and my favorite…spiced pumpkin lattes in the coffee shops. Mmmmm…


Steps: Preschool Leaf Collage

  • Collect Leaves
  • Name them and discuss what you found
  • Cut two identical sheets of clear contact paper
  • Attach the leaves to sticky side of contact paper
  • Place another sheet of contact paper on top to seal the leaves in
  • Display your collage if you’d like

We began by pulling out some clear contact paper. I encouraged my daughter to feel its tackiness, and then we discussed the process of collecting leaves and sticking them to the paper. We found an Easter basket (wrong season, I know!) and then took a walk around the neighborhood in search of leaves and other flat-ish treasures. This, by the way, is how we landed on a lemonade stand, so it pays to get out of the house!

After collecting (and naming!) the leaves, N stuck them on half a sheet of contact paper (sticky-side up).

Make leaf collage with a toddler

She filled in most of the spaces…good for understanding spatial relationships!

And then we smooshed the other half of the contact paper on top of the leaves. This was followed by two more walks around the neighborhood and two more collages. In our books, this activity was a hit.

When we finally came inside, contact collaging continued with magazine cut-outs, post-its, and googley eyes.


Identification guide for  kids: New England leaves

Nature Detective Leaf Identification Sheet: UK

Leaf Identification Activities

Why do leaves change color?

More Art Projects for Toddlers

12 Simple Art Projects for Toddlers |
For more toddler art projects, you may enjoy the easy-to-set-up activities that use mainly everyday materials in 12 Simple Art Projects for Toddlers.

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Drawing on Doilies

Do you have any doilies in the back of a cabinet that could use a little marker and sticker beautification?

Why limit yourself to plain ol’ 8.5 x 11 paper when there are so many paper options out there?

We’ve been experimenting with drawing on teeny-tiny paper, gigantic rolls of paper, coffee filters, post-its, tape, and now doilies.

I love browsing dollar stores for fun odds and ends that can take on new lives in our art studio (it’s my achilles heel, if you were to ask my husband), and I spotted three different sizes of paper doilies that sang to me from across the aisles.

Did you know that doilies are known for their singing? Anyhoo, I picked them up, along with a gold sequin tiara for dress-up and kitchen tools that will make great sand toys.


  • Paper Doilies
  • Markers
  • Glue
  • Sequins, pom-poms, stickers, etc.
  • Any other mark-making tools you can dream up

The invitation: I laid out markers and sequins during my daughter’s nap, and when she woke up we made some energetic doily drawings.

The fun thing about doilies is that they pose all kinds of neat challenges to the artist:

  • The round shape offers a suggestion to create circular marks
  • Doilies are full of little bumps and holes that challenge the artist to go around them, over them, or simply deal with them!

What else could we do with our doilies?