Mud Pie Kitchen: Beta Version

mixing at mud pie kitchen

This may not look like much, but we’ve been testing our mud pie kitchen and getting a fresh perspective on what works. It used to reside in another part of our yard, and I thought that moving it might make it more accesible. And it did!! I fashioned the stove/sink from two wooden crates I found at a craft store last summer. Next, mud pie tools were gathered from our sand box: buckets, bowls, and a jello mold picked up at a second hand store for a dollar. We got the measuring cups at our last trip to IKEA, and carried pots and pans outside from the indoor play kitchen.

I filled the big green tub with water and we called it the “sink,” and N got busy making soup. She owned the kitchen right from the start and there was no end to what she wanted to create.

The sink got muddy pretty quickly, so she requested another pail full of clean water. Some kids love the mud, mine tolerates it.

The kitchen was set up next to some flowery bushes, which made for a convenient food pantry.

She carefully pressed flowers into the mud like sprinkles on a cake. The contrast was gorgeous. We started this pretty late in the day, and she would have played out there all night if she could have. She actually told me that she wanted to skip dinner because she wasn’t hungry. So I guess the whole test kitchen thing went well!

When she was all done, we poured the dirt back into the ground and the kitchen is ready for our next cooking adventure.

What I learned about making a Mud Pie Kitchen

  • The Mud Pie Kitchen is an incredible way to encourage imaginative play, which can lead to creative thinking, curiosity, and experimentation
  • The kitchen does not have to be elaborate to work
  • It should be child-height
  • It’s nice to have multiple levels or surfaces to work on
  • Set it up directly in or next to dirt/mud/sand
  • Have a water source nearby
  • Fill a large container with water
  • Useful tools: spoons, bowls, spades, colander, pitcher
  • Use real kitchen tools to reinforce that play is work (to children, it is!)
  • Include something fancy like a jello mold
  • If there aren’t natural materials nearby (like flower petals), forage for them ahead of time

More Mud Pie Kitchens

Amy at Child Central Station has been busy scouring the internet for mud pie kitchens, and you can see her comprehensive list here.

And Jenny at Let the Children Play is a master of the mud pie kitchen. Here’s one of her round-ups, full of good ideas for getting started.

Hanging Fabric Collage

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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!

Materials

  • 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!?

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This post is shared with It’s Playtime

Flubber Gak Slime Exploration

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This SLIME recipe has been on my to-do list ever since reading about Amy’s The Great Slime-Off on Child Central Station. Amy shares two different recipes: the first calls for liquid starch and the second calls for Borax. I looked all over town for liquid starch and it was nowhere to be found. Is it prohibited from the State of California? But the second recipe was totally doable, and felt a bit like fate because N’s nursery school made up a big batch of it last week, which was right after I read the Ooey Gooey Handbook from cover to cover. If you’re into this sort of thing, this book is fabulous! And you can follow Ooey Gooey on Facebook for loads of good information.

This particular slime is also called Flubber, Gluep, Glurch, or Gak, and it’s made from glue, water, and the tiniest bit of Borax (a mild powdered laundry soap).

Borax is soap and it’s toxic, so please use your best judgment and common sense if you choose to use this with young children.

We used half of this recipe from Steve Spangler Science, and the part that gave me the most confidence is where he says “the measurements don’t have to be exact.” Go ahead and breathe a sigh of relief with me! This site also has a wonderful description on the science behind the recipe.

I wasn’t sure how messy this would get and set the whole project up in our big mixing tub. We began by squeezing an almost-full 4 ounce bottle of glue into a glass bowl. Then we mixed in 1 1/2 bottles of warm water to the glue. The recipe calls for 4 ounces of glue and 4 ounces of warm water…do you see how fast I went off-recipe!! But like Steve says, the measurements don’t have to be exact and it worked out just fine!

N added red food coloring and mixed it into a lovely shade of pink.

Then we mixed 1 teaspoon of Borax into 1/2 cup of water, and slowly added the solution to the glue mixture…

Until the slime started to come together. We did not use all of the Borax solution.

At first it was really wet and gooey.

And stringy and sloppy.

And then it started to pull together.

Until it was one easy-to-work-with mass of slime that could be pulled apart and manipulated…to some extent. Because really, this slime has a mind of its own.

N requested a muffin tray with the idea that it would make nice little cakes. Can you believe how viscous and pliable it is?! Completely different from play dough, and absolutely inspiring to little miss curious.

We often roll out our play dough, so she gave that a try and complained that it didn’t work. Good experiment!

Next she tried cookie cutters. Also a bust.

But the scissors…oh, the scissors were so much fun and completely rewarding with this medium.

Come back tomorrow for more Gak play!

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When you’re done using your gak/flubber/slime, you can store it in a sealable container or Ziploc bag for about 2 weeks (when it may start to smell!).

If you’ve made Gak, or if you try this at home, please feel free to add your photos or links in the comment area. I love to see your ideas!

This post is linked to We Play, It’s Playtime!

 

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Bubble Print Lunch Bag

Bubble Print Lunch Bag

We made prints from some bubble wrap I rescued from a recent package. It was one of those projects that came together quickly — I can’t remember why exactly, but I didn’t have my camera ready. The good news is that I collected lots of good material on this topic…scroll to the bottom for tutorials and inspiration.

But this is really about what we did AFTER making the prints. While we were waiting for N’s dad to come home from work we decided to decorate a lunch bag for him. We tend to get all crafty on his lunches every few weeks, and the usual markers-on-bag wasn’t that interesting to N. I pulled out one of our bubble wrap prints and asked her if she’d like to collage it to the bag. This child jumps at any opportunity to utilize a pair of scissors, and happily snipped away at the print. After cutting it into pieces, she used white glue to adhere them to the bag — both sides — and once the bag was filled I punched two holes and tied a ribbon through it.

My husband loved it, and proudly carted it off to work the next day. Next time it would also be fun to use cut-up magazines, unwanted pieces of art, envelope liners, or old books.

What other materials would you use?

More inspiration

Jean at The Artful Parent made bubble wrap prints with her Toddler Art Group

Bubble Wrap Print from MaryAnn Kohl’s First Art

Bubble Printing Shamrock Diptych from hands on: as we grow

Layered multi-colored Bubble Prints from Laugh Paint Create

Clear photo tutorial on bubble printing from First Palette

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This post is linked to Craft Schooling Sunday

 

DIY Marble Run

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Easy DIY Marble Run that helps children practice problem solving and creative thinking skills | TinkerLab.com

DIY Marble Run Supplies

To keep this simple (I like simple), this is all you will need:

  • Cardboard rolls
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Marble/s or small rolling objects
  • Scissors
  • Bowl or basket

Easy DIY Marble Run that helps children problem-solve and think like engineers | TinkerLab.com

Decorate your DIY Marble Run rolls (optional)

For this DIY marble run, we started by wrapping the paper towel and toilet paper rolls with colored masking tape. This step is purely decorative, but it added some pizazz to the design and kept my daughter busy for a good part of a morning. Totally worth it, in my estimation.

We had fun layering and wrapping tape, selecting colors, and cutting the rolls. Once the rolls were appropriately covered, I took a pair of scissors and cut the tubes in half, right down the center. N thought this looked like fun so she jumped in on the cutting action too.

Easy DIY Marble Run that helps children problem-solve and think like engineers | TinkerLab.com

Find some clear wall space

Set your marble run up on an empty wall, large window, or sliding glass door.

We found some wall space, taped the highest tube to a spot that N could easily reach, and kept on taping rolls until we had something we were happy with.

Test as you go

The trick to making the marble run work is to test it as you go. Marbles move fast and like to fly right out of the tubes if they’re not positioned to catch speedy marbles. We tested the sections of our DIY marble run a few times to work out the angles and distances. This is a fabulous math and physical science lesson!

Easy DIY Marble Run that helps children problem-solve and think like engineers | TinkerLab.com

Watch the magic happen

Once we got it to a place that seemed to work, N dropped in her marble and stood back to watch the magic happen.

Easy DIY Marble Run that helps children problem-solve and think like engineers | TinkerLab.com

Add a basket to catch your marbles

We needed something to catch the balls (and jellybeans!), and a strawberry basket was just right for the job.

Build a marble run from recyclables to encourage problem-solving and creative thinking | TinerkLab.com

Experiment

  • Try rolling other objects down the chute. How do they compare to the marbles?
  • Make chutes out of other objects such as cut-up  + folded cardboard boxes or folded paper. What material/s make for the best chutes?
  • Build a marble run inside a large cardboard box.

Cardboard Box Challenge

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TinkerLab is one today!

To help me celebrate a year of exploration, tinkering, creativity, and experimentation, I’ve invited some of my favorite arts and education bloggers to join me in today’s Cardboard Box Challenge as a gift to each of YOU. My blogging journey was originally inspired by the fabulous Jean of The Artful Parent and Jen of Paint Cut Paste. And I’m absolutely thrilled that they’re each part of today’s collaboration.

Like many of you, I love reading posts that inspire me to try something new, and each of my collaborators has inspired me in one way or another. They’re smart, creative, funny, generous, and they each do an amazing job at honoring the children that they work and/or live with. I asked them (and their children!) to create anything they like using at least one cardboard box. The project would be executed by children, but grown-ups were welcome to facilitate and/or collaborate if the mood struck. Links to my twenty-four collaborators can be found at the end of this post, and I’d encourage you to do a little blog hopping today (or save this for when you have some time) and bookmark those posts that inspire YOU.

Cardboard Box Marble Run

Here’s what we did with our humble box…

To spark our creativity I cut a side off of the box, just to make it look a little different. It looked a like a house to me and I could easily imagine a rough version of an architectural model. But I asked N what she imagined and she said, “Let’s make a marble run!!” Just like that. The exclamation points really are necessary.

 

I bent a rectangular piece and asked her what we could do with it. She saw it as a ramp, and it became the base of our marble run. She cut tape and played the role of director while I secured the pieces together and acted as her general contractor.

Materials

  • Deconstructed box left over from our Cardboard Box Splat Painting project
  • Full box of cardboard recyclables
  • Scissors
  • Blue painter’s tape
  • Exacto Knife (for me — it made my job so much easier!)

She tested out an idea about running tape across the the top of her ramp, but abandoned it when we noticed it created too much tension on the ramp’s walls.

She decided when it was done and we selected a bowl for the ramp to fit into…

Test run…

It worked!!

Good thing we have so many marbles! She gave me specific instructions that the skinny tunnel that feeds into the big ramp should “be closed up and dark so you can’t see the marbles,” and seemed to be fascinated by the mystery of that part of the structure.

Cardboard Box Challenge Participants

What would you (and your kids) make with a cardboard box? If you have a cardboard box project that you’d like to share, please add your link to the blog hop or comment section below. And feel free grab the button or copy the text into your HTML.

Cardboard Box Splat Printing

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Did you hear the buzz? TinkerLab turns ONE tomorrow! To celebrate my one-year blogiversary (silly me –can you believe I thought I made this word up?!), I invited about twenty of my favorite bloggers to join me in a cardboard box challenge — right here — tomorrow! And wouldn’t you know that they said “yes!” I’m excited. Please accept this as my formal invitation to pop back over tomorrow to see what children do with this humble, open-ended material of corrugated goodness. Oh, and because we’ve been collecting so much cardboard, today’s post is a teaser of what’s to come.

And now, on to today’s experiment…

Maybe you’ve heard of Splat Painting? This project started out in that spirit and then, thanks to my almost 3-year-old’s creative thinking, turned into Splat Printing.

We gathered four balloons, fashioned a funnel out of cardstock, and filled the balloons with rice. N loved scooping and pouring the rice in. In hindsight, she would have been happy if we just did this all afternoon, but we didn’t stop there…

The balloons were plopped into matching piles of paint.

A couple of cardboard boxes were added to the lawn to be used as canvasses. I preferred boxes to paper because they’re sturdy and wouldn’t blow away in the wind. N smooshed the balloons around in the paint, and then…

SPLAT!

Two colors at the same time. So efficient!

After a few splats, N ran back into the house to get something. A few minutes later she emerged with paper and scissors in order to “make prints.” Seriously!? All our printmaking activities are paying off, and I marveled at how she initiated her first solo printing project.

Revealing the prints is one of the best parts of the process.

A handful of prints, drying in the sun.

More Splat Painting Ideas

Splat Painting with Bean Bags from Let the Children Play

Catapult Snow Painting from Child Central Station

Splat Yo-Yo Painting from Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning

Splat Art with Spatulas and Sponges from Putti Prapancha

Splat Painting with damp paper towels from Let’s Tap into our Creative Side

Recycled Weaving Fence

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When I saw this awesome weaving installation on display at the Bay Area Discovery Museum I knew it was something that I wanted to recreate at home. If I were running a preschool I think I would have taken the time to build such a structure because it would be a stellar group project, but as the parent of one curious, yet fickle, preschooler I thought it might be prudent to build a simple test-model first to see if this would be an idea worthy of further exploration (and investment!).

After scratching my head over this, I came up with this prototype made from wooden skewers (two on each end), painters tape, a deconstructed fruit sack from the market, and assorted ribbon.

It was a beautiful day, and N was up for the challenge.

With four ribbon spools to choose from, she cut  what she wanted and worked on figuring out how to get it through the mesh.

It was tricky, but she kept at it until she figured it out. Real challenges give kids the opportunity to celebrate their successes and gain confidence in their problem-solving abilities.

She also tried this shiny, elastic ribbon, and found it was easier to push through the holes. What a nice surprise lesson in compare and contrast!

And she even wrapped it all the way around the edge of the wood post.

N likes collaborating with me — it seems that she takes her work more seriously if I get involved too — so you can see a few of my ribbons woven in there as well. We worked on this for about 20 minutes and I left it up so that we can revisit it over the course of the week. And if there’s still energy around weaving, and this project in particular, I may just invest in some garden fencing like the stuff I saw at the children’s museum.

Has anyone made one of these? Did your child/children stick with it for a while?

Related Ideas

  • If you have a chainlink fence, you could weave through it with fabric or crepe paper. I’m thinking about bringing a basket of crepe paper with us next time we visit the park. Do you think anyone would mind if we made a fence weaving installation?
  • Check out this yarn heart-weaving from Outdoor Knit.

What else could you build a weaving fence from?

This post was shared with Craft Schooling Sunday. Childhood 101, It’s Playtime

Creative Challenge #5: Plastic Bottles

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Make something with Plastic Bottles

In honor of Earth Day, I’d like to raise a little awareness toward the enormous amounts of plastic bottles used around the world, coupled with some thoughts on recycling and upcycling those bottles into creative products. My family is hooked on bubbly water, and while the number of bottles we go through each week is staggering, each of these bottles gets recycled…and occasionally upcycled into art (our Recycled Sculpture project can be found here).

Sobering Statistics

The Challenge

Make something with plastic bottles! Have you cut the tops off to use them as funnels, added them to a marble run, used them as sand scoopers, or turned them into something surprising? The project should be executed by children, but adults are welcome to facilitate or collaborate if the mood strikes!

To join in

  • Use plastic bottles, along with any other materials of your choice.
  • Attach a link to your blog post, a YouTube video, or photo of the experiment along with a description of what you and/or your child/ren did in the comment section below.
  • There is no deadline for this project.

Inspiration

Instructions for adding an image file

  • Click on the “Choose File” button (below the “Submit” button)
  • Choose a JPEG file from your computer
  • Type in a description of your experiment into the comment text box
  • Click the “Submit Comment” button
  • Grab the Creative Challenge button and add it to your site, or copy this text into your HTML.
  • For more Creative Challengesclick here.

    How are you celebrating Earth Day?

Simple Balloon Yo-Yo

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This springy balloon yo-yo is fun to play with, easy to make, and can be created with things that you may already have in the cupboard. It can also teach children a nice lesson in resourcefulness, helping them understand that toys can be invented from simple objects. In this day and age of toys overflowing from grocery shelves and toy baskets, this is always a welcome lesson in my home!

I was inspired to make these balloon yo-yo toys after seeing this postby Sherry and Donna at Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning.

I attached a balloon to a funnel and filled it with rice. Small seeds or beans would work too. Or you could go with Sherry and Donna’s plan and partially fill with water.

I tied up the end of the balloon and secured one rubber band around it with a knot.

I looped another rubber band onto the first one…

and carried on with this looping and attaching until I achieved the desired length. I used four rubber bands per yo-yo, but this would all depend on the size of the bands and the height of the child (or person using the yo-yo…it could be you!).

After making these, we took our yo-yo everywhere  as a diversion. We were visiting grandma and grandpa at a hotel, and N found a way to entertain herself while everyone finished up with breakfast. If you can believe it, this was the best photo…playing with the yo-yo is active business that turned all attempts at getting a clear photo into a blurry mess!

What toys have you or your kids invented?

This post was shared with It’s Playtime, Craft Schooling Sunday, Childhood 101, Sun Scholars

Glittery Collage with Acrylic Gloss Medium

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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.

Materials

  • 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

 

Looping Twisties through Paper

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Today I’m so excited to share that I’ve been invited to write a guest post for one of my favorite blogs, Not Just Cute. Sooo, bonus for today is that there are TWO TinkerLab posts for your enjoyment. Hoorah! The Not Just Cute project will take you outdoors to make a Book of Textures, which is a great activity for kids of all ages. After you read all about it, come on back and read about looping pipe cleaners and such.

My daughter recently enjoyed building a colander sculpture with pipe cleaners, so I thought we’d push the pipe cleaner envelope and see what else we could do with them. I put the following materials out and let her figure out their purpose:

  • pipe cleaners
  • markers
  • small paper shapes with holes punched in them

She picked up the paper and immediately began weaving the pipe cleaners through the holes. Go-go fine motor skills. She worked at this for a few minutes – standing – and then I guess she got tired and/or decided to commit to the project because she eventually pulled up a seat.

Poking the pipe cleaners through the holes was easy enough, but she was challenged to bend them into the twists and hooks that she wanted in order to link them together. She wove one or two pieces together, making about eight of these mini-assemblages. She returned to the project later in the day to add little drawings to the papers with the markers.

I saved the papers, and the next day replaced the pipe cleaners with binder rings. I also added the hole puncher to the mix in case she wanted to give hole punching a go. Our hole puncher is a bit surly, and not the smoothest tool for a preschooler to use. Any recommendations for a kid-friendly hole puncher?

While she found the binder clips difficult to open, this didn’t faze her because she was intrigued by them (the novelty factor can go a long way!) and wanted to learn how they worked.

She made a handful of these before calling it quits. For older children, it could be fun to make little loose leaf books with binder rings. You could also use this technique to make a texture rubbing book, like the one we wrote about today at Not Just Cute.

What other materials would be fun to loop through holes?