Creative Challenge: Egg Carton

Do you enjoy repurposing and upcycling materials into new things? Do you try to instill your children with the ability to be resourceful and mindful of their footprint on the environment? Then here’s a challenge for you!

Every two months I host a Creative Challenge with the introduction of a new material and an invitation for children to create something from it. The objective of these challenges is to encourage children to trust their own ideas, build creative confidence, and envision new purposes for common objects.

The rules of the game are simple: projects must include the challenge material, they should be be child-directed, but grown-ups are welcome to join in the fun if the mood strikes.

For this ninth creative challenge, children are invited to transform an egg carton into whatever they can dream up.  To participate, all are invited to add a photo to a comment or add a blog post to the Linky at the end of this post. Over forty bloggers and readers let me know in advance that they would participate and I hope that this will be an inspirational space for parents and caregivers who want to encourage creative thinking in their kids.

And, the fabulous kids’ activity crate subscription service, Kiwi Crate, is gracious enough to offer a free crate to one randomly selected winner. Read to the end for details.

Painting Egg cartonWe’ve been staring at egg cartons for weeks now, and my three year old hasn’t been too excited to manipulate this object. Yikes.

So I set up an invitation that she was eager to accept: Six small bottles of acrylic paint, a paper plate (palette), three brushes, and an egg carton.

She squeezed the paint onto the palette in rainbow order, and then painted each cavity a different color. A few minutes before I snapped this photo she mixed all the colors on another palette together and made the putty grey color you see on the right side of the crate.

She loved the name “putty grey” and made up a little song about it as she painted. I used this as an opportunity to encourage her to invent her own color names, but she didn’t bite.

nature collection in egg cartonI thought it could be fun to fill the holes with objects and natural materials that corresponded to the paint colors. She was less than enthusiastic about this idea and asked me to throw everything back into the garden.


As we developed a new game plan, a couple of her favorite friends stopped by and invited us to make lemonade with them.

But they didn’t have any lemons. How did they know that we did?

Cue: lemonade diversion…

squeezing lemonade with kids

A few hours later my toddler and I found a fun way to use the carton, and it reminds me of a baby version of that shell game you sometimes see on street corners of Manhattan. But no gambling here, I promise.

play baby gamesAfter noticing her interest in filling the egg carton with small toys, I filled each cavity with a plastic egg shell and then poured some glass bead treasures in a few eggs.

The treasures are great for burying in the sand box to dig up and discover, sprinkling around a garden, or pouring into a water table. You do have to be careful with small children who like to mouth little objects, and because of that we haven’t played with these for a while. But when you can confidently play with them, they sparkle and make everything more spectacular.

I loosely covered each egg and then my 1.5 year old had to find the treasures. She loved this! When she opened an empty egg she’d say, “Not there!”, but would shriek with laughter when she opened an egg filled with treasure.

This carried us until bath time, and I then I packed the game right up in the carton, ready to play again tomorrow.

play baby games

Thank you to the following blogs for participating in the challenge:

Child Central Station,  Red Ted ArtSun Hats & Wellie BootsTeach PreschoolThe Chocolate Muffin Tree The Educators’ Spin On It The Golden GleamGlittering MuffinsInspiration LaboratoriesKitchen Counter ChroniclesLiving At The Whiteheads ZooMake, Do & FriendMama Mia’sheart2heartNurtureStorePlayDrMomRainy Day Mum,  The Imagination TreeToddler ApprovedReading ConfettiKindergarten & Preschool for Parents & TeachersRainbowsWithinReachMommy Labs,  Green Owl ArtReusecraftsThe Outlaw Mom BlogHappyLittleMessesExperimenting-MomDuck Duck OctopusPaintCutPasteTrain Up a ChildGrowing A Jeweled Rose Coffee Cups and CrayonsReady. Set. Read!Scribble Doodle and DrawCarrots Are OrangeJDaniel4’s MomQuirky MommaA Mom With A Lesson PlanGood Long RoadTwo2Read

Check out their posts here, or add your own:



Thank you to our lovely sponsor, Kiwi Crate, for their ongoing support and generous giveaway. One lucky Tinkerlab reader will receive a free crate.

To enter to win, please leave a comment by Sunday, April April 15, 2012. And if you have material ideas for future challenge, I’d love to hear them.

Winner will be selected by random number generator and must have a U.S. address. Good luck!

A winner has been selected! Thank you to everyone who entered.



Paper Bag Museum

In case you missed yesterday’s post, we’re hosting a super fun Paper Bag Creative Challenge that brought over 50 kid-directed paper bag projects together in one spot. Today I’m excited to share our own take on the challenge.

paper bag art oil pastels

This is how our art table looked the other morning.

paper bag art table

Me and the girls crafting up a paper bag collage storm.

My one year old colored paper bags with oil pastels and glued hearts and sequins to a paper bag while my 3 year old went to town — all day long — making paper bag collages that quickly took up all the ceiling space in the room.

collage installation

My 3-year old, N, called these her Valentine Collages and Paper Bag Art. She recently picked up on how museums have multiples of one type of thing, and decided that this would be her Paper Bag Museum. In case you’re wondering, I was told that it was okay that some of the things in the museum weren’t made with paper bags. She’s the curator, so I couldn’t really argue with that.

paper bag museum

We set up a Vistor Services Desk with information about our admission policies and hours. It’s really important for people to know that they can’t hang out in our house at dinner!

paper bag museum

We gathered up all the paper bag creations that weren’t hanging from the beams and displayed them here. Maps are in the basket on the left and she set up an interactive activity in the paper bag “basket.” More on that in a sec.

paper bag museum maps

We talked about how museums share all sorts of informative collateral for visitors to pick up, like maps, schedules, and catalogues. I cut a big paper grocery bag into squares and she decided to turn them into maps. To make this map, we started with a “you are here” dot, and then she added trails into the various rooms of our house, also marked by dots.

paper bag museum maps

But why stop with one map when you’re expected a big audience!

interactive museum prompt with kids

Then she handed me a stack of post-its and dictated this participatory prompt to me.

The museum educator in me was so proud!

This wasn’t going to be some stuffy old museum — oh no, she was thinking about her visitors’ experience and wanted to make sure their voices were heard!

paper bag museum

Our first visitor woke up from her nap just in time for the opening, and got right to work with a drawing. The prompt worked!

The museum is now closed for the installation of a new show. My one year old is enamored by fish, so maybe we’ll figure out a way to build her an Aquarium!

What’s your child’s favorite kind of museum? Could you set up an imaginative play area based on it?


If you’re interested in reading more about participatory museums, Museum 2.0 is one of my favorite sites, and it’s run by Nina Simon, Executive Director of The Museum of Art & History in Santa Cruz and author of The Participatory Museum.


Creative Challenge 7: Magazines

Today I have something extra cool in store for you. Kiwi Crate and I are bringing you a super-star line-up of rockin’ kid-friendly bloggers for a no holds barred invitational kid-centered magazine challenge, and an extra-special Kiwi Crate box giveaway at the end of this post. Each of the 20+ bloggers spent some time tinkering, plotting, creating, and playing with their kids to come up with an activity that your kids will enjoy. After you read about how we manipulated and upcycled our magazines, spend some time checking out all the other ideas. Bookmark them or pin them, because you’re sure to need these ideas on a rainy or snowy day. Okay, do you have a cuppa ready? Here we go…

I spent about 20 minutes ripping pages from my favorite alumni magazine. Do you ever read yours? Loved the school, but sadly, the magazine just rolls right into my recycling bin each month. So I happily rolled the glossy pages of ho-hum stories into tubes, taped them with clear tape, and added them to a tall vase. The next morning, my 3 year old woke up to this provocation: Magazine tubes, clear tape, a stapler, and a bowl of stickers. I didn’t have a plan and was curious to see where she would take it.

She started by taping the tubes together, ignored the stapler and stickers completely, and then found another roll of tape so that I could help her. Right, tape is popular. Must remember that!

This is how it began.

Then she cut some tubes down to smaller pieces. How could I have forgotten the scissors? Tape and scissors…check. But that’s okay, we must have about 20 pairs and she knows where to find them.

Oh, and she loves ribbon too. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother with provocations when she knows her own mind. She found a few rolls and brought them over to the table. We created this structure together and then she wore it on her head for part of breakfast.

The next day her dad took a turn at the table and this is what they came up with. I’m fascinated by it because my husband has a huge thing for hanging sculptures. I mean HUGE. It’s a wonder I’m not constantly banging my head on things that hang from our ceilings.

 He screwed an eye-hook into the ceiling, tied a piece of ribbon through it, and hung their masterpiece over the couch.

When standing on the couch, my daughter can bat at it, so I think I’ll call it an interactive hanging magazine sculpture. 

Creative Challenge Participants:

Child Central Station , kids in the studioTeach MamaThe Imagination Tree,Childhood101Teach Preschoolhands on as we growArtful ParentPaint Cut PasteA Mom With A Lesson PlanToddler ApprovedKiwi CrateArt 4 Little Hands,  Red Ted ArtThe Chocolate Muffin Tree,  Imagination Soup,Michelles Charm WorldMessy PreschoolersTinker LabMommy LabsPutti Prapancha, Sun Hats and Wellie Boots


Kiwi Crate has generously offered to give away one crate box to two randomly chosen winners. Each box includes all the materials and inspiration for 2-3 projects related to a theme (e.g., dinosaurs.)  Projects may include arts and crafts, science activities, imaginative play and more, and have been hand-selected and kid-tested to be open ended and encourage curiosity, exploration and creativity! I love Kiwi Crate because it embraces the same process-oriented activities that I promote on this blog, but it’s all packaged up beautifully and delivered right to your door. To enter, leave a comment with your child’s age/s and favorite upcycled materials. And then hop on over to the Kiwi Crate blog for another chance to win. Winner’s address must be in the U.S. Deadline for entry: Monday, December 12, 9pm PST. Comments Closed. Thank you to all of you for your comments. The winner is Susan P! 


Your Turn…

What would you (and your kids) make with magazines? If you have a kid-centered magazine 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. Tinkerlab Creative Challenge Code:<a href=”” target=”_blank”><img style=”border: 2px;” src=”” alt=”Tinkerlab Creative Challenge” width=”150″ height=”150″ border=”2″ />

Cork Sculpture

Ever since I was a child I’ve had a thing for repurposing found materials. Neither of my parents were mad upcyclers, but I think I can trace this passion to an after-school class that was led by a parent-artist. This mom was (still is) AWESOME! — she died her hair, plastered her house (walls, ceilings, etc) with sequin-studded art, and encouraged us to create imaginary worlds from whatever we had on hand. Obviously I had an affinity for this sort of thing because all of my friends didn’t turn into artists like me, but this exposure helped me see the world through a lens that made things a whole lot clearer. (So thank you, Ingrid!).

Fast forward way too many years…I’m still making art with random bits and bobs — it just comes naturally to me, but it’s also a way of living. Art materials don’t have to be purchased in the store — they’re all around us. And now I’m in a position to inspire my own children as Ingrid inspired me.

Exposure is everything.

I like to offer my 3-year old, N, materials as a provocation: I’ll put a few bowls of things out and see what she comes up with and on this occasion it was: CORKS! My daughter developed her idea for this sculpture from a box of corks, bag of buttons, a few small dowels, piece of laminate, and a hot glue gun, but it could have gone in a million directions.

She built the tower as high as she wanted, and then added the buttons and dowels. To assemble it, I manned the low heat glue gun while she directed me on where to put the glue. She was in control, but I got to keep everyone’s fingers burn-free.

Baby sister was right there with us, captivated by and grabbing for all the little pieces that were potentially hazardous to her health. Who knows, maybe she’ll become a busy upcycler one day too!

If you like to create, tinker, or make art, can you trace the root of your passion back to an inspiring person or event? And do you see yourself as the source of inspiration for someone else?

This project is shared with It’s Playtime

Styrofoam Prints and Baby “Painting”

Printmaking is one of my passions, so we invariably make a lot of prints in my house. I was about to recycle a styrofoam tray (I think it was from a pack of corn) when N asked if we could print with it. Why yes, we can! We’ve printed with these before (Abstract Recycled Prints) and the technique is the same except this time we printed the pattern found on the tray instead of creating our own design.

I like this project because it’s inexpensive, helps children look to their surrounding for inspiration, and utilizes the pattern found in the tray.

We cut the tray into a flat piece.

My daughter squeezed tempera paint onto a cookie sheet, rolled it with a brayer, and then rolled it onto the styrofoam tray. She chose a red + white paint combo.

N moved the tray (or “plate”) onto a clean sheet of paper, covered it with another piece of paper, and then pressed it to transfer the paint.

Checking the print. Yay — it looks good.

Carefully peeling the print off the plate.

Meanwhile, Baby R, who now stands and walks along the furniture (i.e. cannot be contained with a happy basket of blocks) was desperate to join the fun and made a nuisance of herself, grabbing papers and reaching for paint . While she made the printing difficult, we wanted her to join us and came up with this alternative:

Baby Painting!

I scooped some yogurt onto her highchair tray and added a few drops of red food coloring to match our paint color. (The food coloring, India Tree Liquid Natural Decorating Colors, is made from plants and completely natural. I love that I can feel safe giving this to my kids).

While N continued to pull prints (without the distraction of baby sister grabbing her papers), R happily stirred her paint and ate away.

Prints, and most art projects for that matter, often get turned into other projects. N decided this one should be glued to a card.

And Baby R continued to enjoy the activity until is was gone.

Have you tried printmaking, and have you “painted” with yogurt?

This post is shared with It’s Playtime.