Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.

Children must be taught how to think, not what to think. Margaret Mead

Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.

-Margaret Mead

I love this quote, don’t you? It reminds me of the old tale about how you can lead a horse to water but you can’t teach it to drink. Today I’m sharing a short roundup of some of my favorite TinkerLab posts that talk about how we can encourage children to think for themselves, follow their own interests, and explore the ideas that inspire their curiosities.



Eight Ways to Follow a Child’s Curiosities

Four Easy Steps to Follow a Child’s Interests

Documenting your child’s passions

How to be the “Guide on the Side”

Parents Reflect on What Art Education Means to Them

Powdered Milk Paint Recipe for Kids

Powdered Milk Paint Recipe | TinkerLab

Homemade paints are awesome and this Powdered Milk Paint Recipe is gorgeous for kid-made paintings. 

Why you’ll love it:

The paint is easy to make, teaches children to be resourceful makers, the consistency is similar to tempera paint, and it’s inexpensive. 

Homemade milk paint with powdered milk | TinkerLab

Ingredients: Powdered Milk Paint Recipe

Note: This contains affiliate links

How to make dry milk paint | TinkerLab


Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl

Add food coloring or liquid watercolors until you have the right intensity


The paint’s consistency is similar to tempera paint. Use it on card stock paper or cardboard for the best results.

I’ve had people ask me if there’s a milky smell to this paint, but that hasn’t been my experience. And once the paint dries you can’t smell it at all.

 Make your own milk paint with kids | TinkerLab

Shelf Life

Cover and store in the fridge for up to 4 days.


How to make your own powdered milk paint | TinkerLab

More Homemade Paint Recipes

Puffy Sparkle Paint: Made from salt, flour, and water. My most popular paint recipe.

Sweetened Condensed Milk Paint: This sticky paint dries with a beautiful sheen.

Invisible Ink: Made from citrus juice, use this with little detectives.

Bubble Paint: A mixture of dish soap, water, and tempera paint, blow bubbles directly into the paint and then make gorgeous prints.

Finger Paint: A simple recipe of flour and water, heated over the stove, this goopy paint feels great on the hands.

Egg Tempera Paint: This very easy paint, made from egg yolks, dries with a beautiful sheen and can teach kids about how Renaissance artists painted.

Microwave Puffy Paint: Squeeze this paint onto paper and then pop the artwork in the microwave for a puffy result.

Pin it!

Make your own paint with powdered milk and water | TinkerLab

Pipe Cleaner Ornaments for Christmas

Pipe Cleaner Ornaments for Christmas | TinkerLab

Your child can make these easy pipe cleaner ornaments for Christmas.

You can either set this project up for your child or class, or gather a set of supplies to create an easy homemade crafting kit like this for DIY Pipe Cleaner Ornaments.

You only need two supplies: pipe cleaners and beads with holes that are large enough to slip onto the pipe cleaner. These are easy enough for toddlers and are wonderful for building skills of hand-eye coordination, fine motor, and pattern recognition.

Supplies: Pipe Cleaner Bead Ornaments

This post includes affiliate links


  • Choose a pipe cleaner
  • Sting the beads onto the pipe cleaner until it’s roughly 1/3 full of beads
  • Move all the beads to the middle of the pipe cleaner
  • Create a circle of beads
  • Twist the pipe cleaner to secure the top of the circle
  • Make a hook
  • Hang it on your tree


chenille stem ornament kids

Ages: Toddler+

Skills: Hand-eye coordination, Pattern Recognition, Fine Motor

More Holiday Crafts for Kids

How to make a paper starfelt ornaments with sequins 2

Salt Dough Recipe | TinkerLab

Kids Crafts Ideas: Hand stitched fabric ornament with Kids


Best toys builders engineers

How to Make a Paper Garland without Sewing

how to make paper garland without sewing

Today I have a wonderful project for you: How to make a paper garland without sewing.

It’s simple. Inexpensive. Easy. And virtually mess-free.

I’ve had a love affair with gigantic paper punchers ever since my children were introduced them in preschool. Tiny hole punchers are wonderful (and I’ll share my very favorite for young children in a sec), but these mega punchers can make big 2″ circles and they’re easy enough for little hands to use.

This colorful provocation is easy to set up, the mess is minimal, and, in usual TinkerLab style, it’s open-ended and the result will all depend on the child’s imagination.

Let’s get started..


Large Paper Punch: Fiskars. My favorite!

Small Hole Punch:My kids are endlessly frustrated by the traditional punchers and this style is easy for small children to use.



Paper Scissors

There are many ways to set this up. I have a growing collection of containers so I’ll show you a couple ideas.

Set it up in a caddy:

circle garland supplies

Or maybe in a shallow tray:

circle garland supplies

How to Make a Paper Garland without Sewing

Once your supplies are out, invite your child to make a garland. You can add some scissors to the setup. When I set this up for a large crowd last week, one boy turned a circle into a PacMan shape. One child made a garland to decorate his sister’s room and another turned her’s into a necklace.

So many possibilities!

When you’re done, hang your no-sew garland. Or wrap a gift with it. Or wear it as jewelry. Or…

circle garland with stickers

homemade paper necklace

make a paper garland no sew

Fiskars Round Large Punch – on sale for $9.99

fiskars large hole punch

See all of our recommended resources here.

TinkerLab Resource Guide



Art Makers this Weekend at Cubberley

This Saturday I’m co-hosting a free, drop-in session of Art Makers. If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, please stop by between 2 and 4 pm for fun, experimental art making. All ages welcome.

We will explore the theme of Art Critters. If you can’t attend, you can make the Art Critter project shared in the image below from the comfort of your own makers drop in art making with TinkerLab

I’m a member of Cubberley Artists, located in the old Cubberley High School in Palo Alto, CA. Cubberley has since been converted into community spaces such as nursery schools, dance studios, language schools, and art studios. Find me on this map.

Art Critters with String and Markers

Today I’m sharing a new twist on a project I shared a few years ago: Shape Monsters for Halloween. If this looks like a fun project for your child, I’d encourage you to check that post out as well to see how a 3-year old might interpret this prompt.

The set-up is simple (you may know that I LOVE simple), and the open-ended nature of this project encourages creative thinking, experimentation, and fun.
Make an art critter, art project for kids that encourages creative thinking

Supplies for Art Critters

This list contains affiliate links – I only share products that I love.

  • String, approximately 24″ long
  • Markers or your favorite drawing tool. My favorite marker for young children is Crayola washable markers. Crayola Super Tips were used in this project.
  • Scissors. I’m a fan of Fiskars. They also have fantastic left-handed scissors.
  • Card Stock or other heavy weight paper. Thin paper will work, too.
  • Collage paper (optional)
  • Glue stick (optional). Elmer’s Disappearing Purple is great for young children because they can see where they put the glue.


Start with a piece of string. Move it around the paper until you get a shape that you like. This could be a good time to introduce your child to the term organic shape. An organic shape is a free-form shape. Unlike a line, shapes close off at the end. In other words, a shape is a line that closes! You can look around the room or outside for example of organic shapes such as trees, flower petals, shoes, and squishy pillows.
Make an art critter, art project for kids that encourages creative thinking

Once you are happy with the shape. Draw a line around it with a marker or tool of choice.

Make an art critter, art project for kids that encourages creative thinking

Remove the string. Look at the shape for clues about how to build a critter. You might try moving the paper around to find the right direction for your critter. Add eyes, horns, tails, patterns, etc.

Be creative and have fun!


Fun art project for kids make art monsters.jpg

If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’m co-hosting a drop-in art making workshop this Saturday, November 7 from 2-4 pm with Ann McMillan of DrawPaintStudio.

We’ve met so many adults at our events who love to make and create, so we decided that this will not be just for kids. Kids are, of course, MOST welcome, but why should they have all the fun? All ages welcome!

Please stop by and say hello.


art critters this saturdayj

Frozen Chalk Paint – an Art Provocation

If you’re fighting against hot weather and could use a creative activity that will get you outdoors, frozen ice chalk is a wonderful way to explore the intersection of art and science with little ones…on a hot day.

How to make frozen chalk paint with corn starch

How to Make Frozen Chalk Paint

Making up a batch of frozen chalk paint is easy, and you can make it with ingredients that you probably already have at home, which is the best in my opinion. I was inspired by this recipe at Reading Confetti.

This post contains affiliate links. 

How to make frozen chalk with corn starch | TinkerLab

Supplies: Frozen Chalk Paint

Corn Starch, also known as Corn Flour in the U.K.

Liquid watercolors. I like this brand. The colors are bright and they’re non toxic. India Tree makes a set of natural food coloring that is lovely if you’re looking for something all-natural.

Ice Cube Tray/s. I found this set of 3 trays (stars, flowers, and mixed shapes) that are similar to mine, and a good deal for all three.


Mixing Bowl


frozen chalk with corn starch

Instructions: Make Frozen Ice Chalk

  1. Mix 1 part corn starch with 1 part water.
  2. Add food coloring or liquid watercolors until you reach the desired color.
  3. To make multiple colors, mix in smaller bowls or simple add the food coloring directly to the ice cube tray.
  4. Pour into the mold.
  5. Freeze.
  6. Pop out and play.

A quick note about frozen chalk: Food coloring and liquid watercolors, mixed with corn starch, can temporarily stain sidewalks. Ours left a beautiful rainbow on the sidewalk for couple weeks. It looked lovely and we didn’t mind, but it’s something to keep in mind if you have a precious surface that you want to preserve.

Play with Ice Chalk Paint - A Sensory Experience for Preschool

Play Ideas for Frozen Chalk

  1. Place them on a sidewalk and watch them melt
  2. Draw with the chalk
  3. Place different colors near each other and make guesses about what color the melting chalk will turn into as the paint mixes (see photo below)
  4. Offer a stick to push the frozen chalk around with

Frozen chalk paint sensory experience for preschool

More Homemade Art Supplies that you can Make

Salt and Flour Paint – Just as it sounds, you will only need salt, flour, and food coloring

Easy Egg Tempera Paint – This gorgeous paint dries with a slight shimmer.

Sweetened Condensed Milk Paint – This may be the most delicious paint recipe ever.

More Art Provocations

If you are looking for more art provocations like this, the Creative Table Project is filled with tons of ideas that you can implement right away.


Bark Painting Craft with Watercolor Paint

Bark Painting Craft - This is a fun and frugal way to bring more painting into your life.

We did a fair bit of traveling this summer and one of our trips took us to Los Angeles to visit family. Because we try to travel light, there is always a resourceful eye out for easy-to-do art projects with materials we find along our journey.

My parents happen to have this gorgeous tree on their property, which prompted a Bark Painting Craft. While I’ll focus mainly on bark here, you can borrow this idea for leaves and palm fronds as well.

Maybe even coconuts?!

find a tree

The first thing you’ll want to do is find a tree that sheds bark. As some healthy trees grow, the bark thickens and the old bark will peel off. It can often be found scattered around the base of the tree and loosely falling off the trunk. I’m not sure what kind of tree this one is. Any ideas?

Trees that shed bark:

  • Sycamore
  • Silver maple
  • Birch
  • Redbud
  • Shagbark hickory
  • Scotch pine

You can read more about why sycamores shed bark at the NYC Parks and Recreation page.

Bark painting lesson plan

Next, set up a painting area. I love this travel watercolor paint set from Sakura (affiliate). It comes with a cool refillable brush that you can load with water so you don’t have to pack a bowl of water for traveling. Neat! Because my kids and I share the set, we also pack a bunch of our favorite watercolor brushes. If you’re ever at the Metropolitan Museum, look in the kids’ art area for the black brush we have in this post. It’s fabulous and affordable!


bark painting

And finally, paint. Let your imagination go!

bark painting craft

Paint circles, patterns, faces, dots. There are so many options. Each piece of bark has its own unique shape that might lend itself to a certain design.

Bark painting lesson plan

If you want to keep on going, find some leaves to paint!

Bark and leaf painting

For another twist on Bark Painting, you’ll want to know about the Mexican craft of Amate Bark Painting. See this Lesson Plan from Incredible Art Department for more on that.

More Nature Crafts

With a little bit of acrylic paint and a skinny brush, you can paint up a storm of adorable leaf critters.

Adorable leaf critters, the perfect Fall art activity.

This post is also part of a series of 20 Nature Crafts, hosted by Red Ted Art. 

Yesterday, Maggy from RedTedArt shared this sweet, colorful driftwood seashell rattle, and tomorrow Ana at Babble Dabble Do will share these lively painted rocks. I can’t wait to learn how they’re made!

Nature crafts for kids

Thanks for joining me today, and, if you enjoy Nature Crafts like these, be sure to check out all of the other posts in this series of 20 ideas.  Or simply pin the next image so you can come back and check them all out later.

20 Creative and Fun Nature Crafts for Kids

Wishing you a week filled with creativity, Rachelle