Fingerprint Spiders for Halloween

Simple and Fun Fingerprint Spiders | Tinkerlab

Did you know that black widows are known for cannibalizing their mates?* Eek. Bet you didn’t plan to come to Tinkerlab today to get info like that.

Fingerprint Spiders for Halloween | Tinkerlab

Spider season has arrived, at least in the Halloween sense of the word, and while it may feel to early for some of us, kids can be wildly in tune with the changing of the seasons. And if it still feels too premature, you can pin this today and keep it up your sleeve for a spooky day down the road.

For us, Halloween catalogues have been arriving for a few weeks now, and decorations are popping up in all the local stores. So when my older daughter started drawing jack-o-lanterns I knew that this project would be a hit.

First let’s talk about supplies…

What You’ll Need

Fingerprint Spiders Supplies

Simple, right?

Step One

Make some fingerprints on your paper.

Have a damp rag handy in case your child is sensitive to having ink on his or her fingers. My kids are okay with this, and understood that that the ink won’t wash off completely until bath time. 

Fingerprint Spiders Halloween

Step Two

Draw on spider legs and faces. However you like. Add goggly eyes if you have any handy.

Fingerprint Spiders Making Prints

This is a great opportunity to talk about how many legs a spider has (8), and introduce other fun spider facts (unlike the one I shared at the beginning of this post). Try these:

Spider Facts

  • Spiders are not insects, but arachnids
  • Spiders have 8 legs. Insects have 6 legs.
  • Cobwebs are simply abandoned spider webs.
  • Spiders do not have antennae.
  • In the 1970’s spiders were sent into space to see if they could build a web with zero gravity. The conclusion? While scientists eventually concluded that the quality of the space webs were slightly different from gravity-based webs, webs were made in space!
  • The biggest spider in the world is the Goliath bird eater, a type of tarantula.

Be creative and open-minded.

Despite our conversation about how spiders have eight legs, my independent-minded five-year old gave all of hers eight legs…on both side of their bodies. She said that they look better that way. What do you think?

Fingerprint Spiders Drawing Legs

Step Three

Now that all the materials are out, experiment a little more and be open to new ideas.

We brought out a few more pens to test out the different thicknesses and textures. Then we poured some watercolors into a small bowl and made painted spiders.

Fingerprint Spiders Creative Table

From there, the painting and drawing experiments expanded to include abstract patterns and fully covered pieces of paper.

Fingerprint Spiders and Painting Experiments

See you next time for more tinkering fun!


*For more weird spider facts, Michael Miller, animal keeper at the Smithsonian, compiled a list of 8 strange but true spider facts that will fascinate you.

This Creative Week: Interactive Sidewalk Art + The Creative Table Project

pleasedraw

Please Draw Prompt with sidewalk chalk

Interactive Sidewalk Art: Send us your Ideas!

In our last post, The Tree Tag Project, we talked about how you can set up an interactive art project that will surprise and inspire your neighbors. Related to that, a few weeks earlier, we set up this very simple prompt with a bowl of sidewalk chalk (above). Within hours our sidewalk was covered with flowers, faces, names, messages to friends, a hopscotch, and quite a few drawings by adults (that was the big surprise).

If you were inspired by this post, we would love to hear about any interactive projects you’ve set up and how it went for you. If you’re game, please send us your high resolution photos and we’ll feature your project right here on Tinkerlab. You can write to us at Rachelle at Tinkerlab.com.

 A question from a friend

One of our friends, Jill, has a question for everyone about The Tree Tag Project: How to Surprise Your Neighbors.

This is such an inspiring idea! Do you (or your readers) have any ideas about how to make it work in an urban setting….where art supplies are more likely to “walk” if left unattended?

Here’s how I responded to her question. What more would you add?

I wouldn’t be afraid of materials walking away (at first) — maybe test this out with something inexpensive and see how it goes. Our first interactive project was with sidewalk chalk: We wrote a prompt directly onto the sidewalk and left a bowl of chalk nearby. You could write a little blurb about returning the art materials to where they were found, along with an appeal to help other people enjoy the project. Or how about projects that only use inexpensive and easily replaced materials. I hope this helps!

Creative Table Highlights

We have a fun project brewing over on Instagram called Creative Table. You can read more about it over here or see all the Instagram pictures tagged with #creativetable here when you type creativetable into the search bar. This project is always open if you’d like to participate. Just read the instructions and take a look at some of these inspiring photos to get a sense of what it’s all about.

It’s always fun to share a few highlights from this project, so here are a few from this past week…

Craft Stick People from Molly Moo

Craft Stick Dolls from Michelle McInerney who blogs at Molly Moo.

Creativetable from An Everyday Story

Drawing birds from a book: Kate of An Everyday Story.

Paper Bag Painting from ArtBarBlog

Painting on a paper bag from Bar Rucci or Art Bar . Bar’s blog is a gorgeous, happy place (her words and mine), and one of my new favorite spots to spend some time online.

 A question for you…

Do you have any advice for Jill about setting up an interactive art experience in her urban neighborhood?

The Tree Tag Project {or How to Surprise Your Neighbors}

The Tree Tag Project | Tinkerlab

Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise. 

- Alice Walker

I love visual surprises. They fill me with fresh ideas and the reminder that humans are full of the endless potential to create. Things like public art installations, alleys full of colorful murals, political graffiti on the sidewalk, yarn bombing, and couches falling out of buildings excite me.

But where I live these visual surprises barely exist.

There are all sorts of things that I adore about my neighborhood, my immediate neighbors for one. But my town lacks the weirdness that comes with living in a place inhabited by artists. Like this altered sign by Banksy, the intersection painting project in Portland, OR these fake shiny geodes by artist Paige Smith.  After much complaining I realized, of course, that I had become part of the problem. It wasn’t like I was out there nailing rubber chickens to the side of my house or anything.

Stung with the realization that the suburban dream was about to swallow me whole, I decided to reclaim my place among the artists.

So let me introduce to you the first of what I hope are many more surprising projects to come (along with the caveat that this project is on the tame side — I’m just getting started here, after all)…

The Tree Tag Project, or how to Surprise your neighbors and get them talking | Tinkerlab

What is the Tree Tag Project?

Our neighbors are invited to write their response to a prompt and then hang it from a tree.

What’s the Point?

Bring people together: I want my children to get to know their neighbors outside of hosting the usual lemonade stand.

Empower a child: It’s empowering for children to see that they can set up a real world project that other people will respond to.

Be Surprising: Surprise my neighbors with an interactive project that stops them in their tracks and gets them thinking.

Democratize visual communication: Have you noticed that public visual communication is often limited to brands as they market to us through their loud signs and billboards. Visual noise is all around us, so why not reclaim a bit of this space in a way that’s fun, inexpensive, positive, and community-building?

The Tree Tag Project, or how to Surprise your neighbors and get them talking | Tinkerlab

How we did it

We turned an old crate on its side and topped it with a small container that was filled with crayons, pre-made paper tags, and a card with the question: “What’s your favorite place to travel to…near or far?”

Choosing the question proved challenging for us because I wanted five-year old N to be involved in the whole process. Our brainstorming session went something like this:

  • What book are you reading? (me)
  • What does your backpack look like? (N)
  • What’s the best thing that happened to you today? (me)
  • What’s your favorite show? (N)

We finally agreed on the travel question, I think because it’s something we were each able to answer, and that made it all the better since it was important to me that children could respond to these cards as much as adults could.

By the way, I still got to ask my book reading question over here. If you’re looking for a new book, you might find it as useful and interesting as I did.

The Tree Tag Project, or how to Surprise your neighbors and get them talking | Tinkerlab

To get this started we gathered supplies.

The Tree Tag Project, or how to Surprise your neighbors and get them talking | Tinkerlab

And then set it up.

The Tree Tag Project, or how to Surprise your neighbors and get them talking | Tinkerlab

My kids seeded it with a few cards. Some with words.

The Tree Tag Project, or how to Surprise your neighbors and get them talking | Tinkerlab

Others with pictures.

The Tree Tag Project, or how to Surprise your neighbors and get them talking | Tinkerlab

The next day we were greeted with messages from our neighbors who like to travel to Tokyo, the Amalfi Coast, Bali, Lake Tahoe, the local walking trail, a city park in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and a host of other places. One neighbor who was out for her brisk morning walk didn’t have time to make a contribution, but she commented (while walking) on how inspiring the project was.

Baby steps, people. Today it’s a question about travel, tomorrow we may paint our grass purple.

The Tree Tag Project, or how to Surprise your neighbors and get them talking | Tinkerlab

My kids loved counting the cards each day. At the end of the first day there were five cards, and by the middle of the second day there were ten. This was exciting!

The project ran for one week, and then we took it down to build the next street project. We’ll test out a few more questions, and maybe shake this up with some variations on the challenge.

Will you join me?

I realize that this isn’t for everyone, but I hope I’ve managed to encourage you to give this a shot. You don’t need a lot of materials or anything fancy to make this happen. And my experience is simply here for inspiration — you should run this with whatever materials move you.

The real joy here lies in the feeling of empowerment that comes from bringing people together and making something fun happen. If you’re as excited about projects like this as I am, will you let me know in a comment? I’m thinking about setting up a series of challenges that relate to this theme and I’d love to know if there’s a real interest…or not.

There are two ways to share immediately:

Facebook: Share a photo or a link to your blog post of your own Tree Tag Project (or something in the same spirit) on my Facebook page

On my blog: Send me an email with a photo of your Tree Tag Project (or something similar) or a link to your blog post, and I’ll share it right here on Tinkerlab! Email: Rachelle at Tinkerlab dot com

More Neighborhood Interventions

Keri Smith wrote a cool book called the Guerilla Art Kit, which is full of all kinds of public art interventions that share the spirit of this project.

A question for you

What other ideas do you have for neighborhood art installations or interventions?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Painting Furniture Can Build Happier {Paint-Speckled} Kids

painting furniture with kids via Tinkerlab

Have you ever painting furniture with a child?

If you’re striving for perfection, this project is not be for the faint-of-heart, but if you have some wiggle room and aren’t concerned with extra drips, this is a fantastic way to build a child’s confidence by giving the child a real-world project to work on.

painting furniture with kids via Tinkerlab

We started with this the BEKVAM IKEA step-stool (if you don’t have one, I bet you know someone who does). It’s an amazing stool and we use it multiple times a day.

It’s also been through a couple transformations in its short life. When N was about two, we painted it white and Mod Podged pretty paper from Paper Source to the tops of the steps. Here’s a flashback to that look. I loved it.

Despite lots of sealant, over time the paper started to wear away and we thought it would be fun to paint a fresh of something on top.

But what?

My five-year old suggested black paint, and given the constant beatings this poor stool takes from my active kids, I agreed that this was the perfect choice.

How painting furniture builds happier kids | Tinkerlab

If you decide to give this a go, here a few tips and suggestions…

Materials

Steps

  • Fill the cup about 1/4 of the way with acrylic paint
  • Mix in some water acrylic medium if it’s too thick
  • Hand your child the paint and a brush, along with any instructions.

These were my instructions:

  • When you paint, try to move the brush side to side
  • If you have too much paint on the brush, you can gently tap the extra paint off your brush before you remove it from the cup
  • Keep your brushes nearby so they don’t get on anyone else’s body

How painting furniture builds happier kids | Tinkerlab

We stated out with a plan to just paint the tops of the steps where we peeled off the paper.

Um, why did I think my kids had that kind of painting control? After little R got carried away with putting black paint wherever she pleased, we all agreed that an entirely black stool was a much better idea anyway.

Here’s a little snapshot of a conversation on this topic between my kids…

N: Let’s just paint it all black!

R:  Oh, I have an idea. When it dries we can paint flowers and butterflies on it.

Yep, this is how my toddler thinks. Clearly we’re on the same page!

The stool is still all black, but my little one keeps asking about the flowers and butterflies. I think the stool is done, but maybe we need another furni-painting project.

As we were painting, N gave me a job based on my expertise in the area of smoothing out lumps of paint:

N: Mom, you be the smoother and I’ll hold the cup of paint.

Me: I like being the smoother. I’ve had a lot of practice with this job and I think I’m pretty good at it.

N: How long have you been a smoother?

Me: Oh, since I was your age, at least.

A few minutes pass as N focuses on her painting.

N: Look what I’m doing! I’m a smoother too.

A note on Acrylic Paint

The kids loved this activity (and got very well painted in the process). Acrylic paint will not wash out of clothing, and somehow we managed to avoid getting any on our clothes. However, arms and toes were might speckled. To remove acrylic from the skin, use a damp cloth and gently rub it away. Acrylic paint is plastic-based and will actually peel off the skin.

If you’re not sure where to start, Liquitex Basics offers a good value for quality acrylic paints. You can order these via Amazon. 

Since the stool was already covered with a base-coat and our black paint was quite thick, we only needed one layer of paint to cover the stool. You may need two layers, depending on the paint you’re using.

A question for you

Have you painted furniture with a child? Do you have any tips for making this a fun and successful activity?

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. We only share links to products that we love or that we think you’ll find useful.

Why (I think) We Stopped Using Colored Pencils

Review of the amazing X-Acto School Pro Heavy-Duty Electric Sharpener

Does your child have a favorite drawing tool?

My kids adore markers, and it seems to always be their first choice when given a buffet of drawing materials.

I’ve been musing on this question of favorite drawing tools for a while, which is why I sometimes ask questions on Facebook like this or on Google + like this. I have my favorite pens and my kids have theirs, but why were our beloved colored pencils never used?

And then it hit me…

Our pencil sharpener broke down…um, months ago…and we’ve been left with a sad bucket of somewhat useless drawing tools.

dull pencils

It turns out that you actually have to maintain your drawing tools in order to use them. That’s rule #1!

In all fairness, I had my trusty sharpener since, i don’t know, college? And it seemed ridiculous that it would no longer work. I kept trying to fix it and then finally came to my senses and ordered a new sharpener. But I decided that if I was going for something new, it should also be a powerhouse that could sharpen pencils of all sizes (yes, I was actually sharpening our big pencils over the trash can with knife the other day. Do you ever do that?).

Let me introduce you to our new friend, the X-Acto School Pro Heavy-Duty Electric Sharpener.

I did a fair amount of research on this and landed on this sharpener that seems to be a widespread favorite amongst teachers, homeschoolers, and artists. It’s fast, handles pencils of most sizes, has a huge area to catch all the shreds, and it was 48% off on Amazon. I spotted it on other sites for close to 60% more, so this looked like a deal I couldn’t pass up. While every review wasn’t glowing, there were enough 5 star comments to get me to click “Buy Now.”

I also have Amazon Prime (I love it and use it for just about everything), and it arrived just one day later!

So here’s my test: Just how fast can it sharpen 30 pencils?

PENCIL sharpener

My trusty two-year old side-kick, R, handed me pencils and we plowed through that bucket in just under two minutes! That’s fast, right?!

Not only was it lightening fast, but it was fairly quite and very smooth.

PENCILS 2

I’ve only had it for a day, but this sharpener comes with a 10-year warranty so I feel confident that it will treat me well. Ten years is a long time, people! You can bet that I’ll be mailing in my registration card.

Review of the amazing X-Acto School Pro Heavy-Duty Electric Sharpener

Now that they’re all sharpened we’ll see if they get used more frequently. Or if we really area a marker family after all.

A question for you…

markers or crayons

Or…colored pencils, paintbrushes and paint, pencils, oil pastels, sticks in dirt, and so many other options!

Note: This post contains Amazon affiliate links, but we only share links to products that we adore or that we think you’ll find useful. 

Glowing Playdough Recipe

glow playdough recipe | tinkerlab.com


Today I’m joined by Tinkerlab reader Natasha Levochkina McCain, who’s sharing her glowing playdough recipe with us today. This is one of the coolest ways to update play dough, and I think you’ll get a kick out of it. We sure did.

Enjoy!

Glowing playdough recipe | Tinkerlab.comThis play dough inspired my whole family.

Not just my two sons (three and five years old), but even a very busy and sometimes moderately grumpy Dad and our 15 year old.

Not only was it exciting for the kids to stay up after dark to play with the dough, but they also created space landscapes, alien creatures and even an alien alphabet. While it was not an entirely accidental invention, it was not too far from it.  

glow playdough with handprints | tinkerlab.com
The intension was to make some fun looking play dough for a 6 year old boy as an impromptu present. His sister was going to receive some flower scented dough and I could think of nothing better than this for a boy. 

I started mixing the ingredients before I realized that I only had unbleached whole wheat flour left.

Disaster? Not at all!

I decided to go ahead and to make the dough anyway. I used my favorite Tinkerlab play dough recipe (with exception to the whole wheat flour) for the playdough itself:

5.0 from 2 reviews
Glowing Play Dough Recipe
 
Author:
Recipe type: Play Dough
Prep time:
Making time:
Total time:
 
Make traditional play dough...that also happens to glow!
Supplies
  • 5 cups water
  • 2½ cups salt
  • 3 tbsp. cream of tartar
  • 10 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 5 cups flour
  • Food coloring or liquid watercolors (optional)
  • Glo Away by Plaid (glow in the dark paint via Amazon)
  • Black Light
Steps
  1. Mix everything but the food coloring and the glo-away together in a large pot until somewhat smooth. It will be lumpy. Not to worry, the dough will get smoother as it cooks.
  2. Cook the dough over a low heat. Mix frequently. The water will slowly cook out of the mixture and you’ll notice it starts to take on a sticky dough appearance.
  3. Before it gets too sticky add a few tablespoons of Glo Away
  4. Keep mixing until the edges of the dough along the side and bottom of the pan appear dry. Pinch a piece of dough. If it’s not gooey, the dough is ready.
  5. Place the dough on a counter top or large cutting board or cooking tray that can withstand a little food coloring.
  6. Knead the warm dough until it’s smooth
  7. Store the dough in a large Ziplock bag or sealed container. Unused, it should keep for months.
  8. Turn the lights down low and illuminate the play dough with a black light.

 
While cooking it and while the dough was still not solidified I added about 4 oz (1 small bottle) of Glo-Away glow in the dark gel by Plaid and continued mixing. The texture is rather coarse because of the type of flour but it provides a unique benefit in the end result.

The glowing particles distribute themselves differently because of the larger grain fragments. While kneading the dough on a plastic cutting board (to avoid stains) I added some green food coloring to it.

And of course, you’ll need a black light to illuminate the glowing dough.

Here’s what it looks like in the dark:

glow playdough in the dark

The next day I also made “regular” play dough with regular “white fluffy” flour. I added no color to it, just the Glo Away

glow playdough with white dough

The glow pigment looks different in this one and it is fun to use them both for creating amazingly fun extraterrestrial creatures and landscapes.

glow playdough character

About Glo Away:  The manufacturer says that it’s “Safe to use on fabric, wood, glass, plastic and ceramics. Non permanent washes away with soap and water. Certified AP non-toxic. Great for decorating kids rooms and ceilings.”

Thanks for joining us today, Natasha! If you have a favorite art recipe to share, email us at rachelle at Tinkerlab.com.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, but we only share links to products that we adore or that we think you’ll find useful.

Natasha Mc Cain About Natasha Levochkina McCain.
I am a teacher and I love children, animals and living. My husband says I am strong and I think I am feminine. So, here I am.

 

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Homemade Card Idea: Peek-a-boo Cards

Make Homemade Cards: Peek-a-boo Cards

“Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company.”

- Lord Byron

Do you make time to hand-write letters? I have piles of stationary that I used to adore writing on, but now these delightful pieces of artful ephemera seem to collect a whole lot of dust since everything has become digital.

Card Making: Peek-a-boo Cards | Tinkerlab

I’d love to get back to the fine art of letter writing, but time and energy have taken this once-adored task away from me. Hmmm, I should find a way to get back to it. My kids, on the other hand, will write and make letters for just about anything. No occasion necessary. I’m inspired by this desire to connect with loved ones through their art and words.

Couldn’t we all use a little more connection in our lives?

And that brings me to this…my mother-in-law is a saint on earth.

She’s always putting other people above her own interests and loves my children with all her heart. I’m a lucky one, I know. The other day, this sweet card arrived in the mail from her, and my four-year old couldn’t stop talking about it.

cut out shape cards

After investigating the mechanics of the card, N wanted to make her own version…as a thank you card for her grandmother’s card. Awwww.

cut out shape cards 2

Note to all the grandparents out there: I promise you that the little things you do for your grandchildren do not go unnoticed. Keep on giving of yourselves and the rewards will come back to you.

cut out shape cards 3

We talked about how the card had two folds, and the front of it had a cut-out shape. N asked me to help her cut a shape out of the first panel, and thankfully she requested a simple heart.

Maybe you noticed the cute little backwards “N” up there. My daughter has decided that this is how N’s are written, and there’s no changing her mind. She’s strong-minded, and I love that about her.

Fiskar Squeeze Punch

For making cut-outs, you could also use squeeze punches like these. We recently picked up a few of these awesome Fiskars Squeeze Punches at the craft store, and they would be great for making these peek-a-boo cards in bulk. I was first introduced to this tool at my kids’ preschool, and I noticed that most four-year olds can handle them independently. They take a little bit of muscle — too much for my 2.5 year old  and they’re too large for her smaller hands — but older kids love these things!

Make Homemade Cards: Peek-a-boo Cards

A few words of love and some more decorations, and then the card is ready for mailing!

With Father’s Day just around the corner, you might want to give this homemade card a go for the amazing dads in your life.

More homemade card projects

30 Valentine Activities for Kids

How to set up a self-serve card-making station

How to make an all-in-one heart envelope

Press your own flowers, and make them into beautiful cards

Make pounded flower cards, like these bookmarks

A question for you…

Do you make handmade cards? Can you tell me about the last piece of personal mail that you sent or received? Do you have a memory of receiving a special gift, mail, or package from a grandparent?

Simple Matching Sticker Game

Matching Sticker Game from Tinkerlab

The human brain is an incredible pattern-matching machine. 

- Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com

Matching objects or shapes is a skill that can help children in so many areas of their lives. The process of matching images and symbols is a precursor to matching combinations of letters to words, and this, of course, is a pre-reading skill. Matching is also useful for developing math skills, as understanding one-to-one correspondence teaches spatial reasoning and pattern recognition. 

Fun for travel

If you have any big trips planned, make a stack of these ahead of time and bring them along for a surprise game that might keep your child entertained through a flight’s take-off or during a long road trip.

Matching Sticker Game from Tinkerlab

Materials

  • Stickers: at least two of each kind
  • Plain paper
  • Maker, crayon, or pencil

Matching Sticker Game from Tinkerlab

Set-up

Place the stickers in columns on two sides of the paper. Mix them up. Offer your child a pen or crayon and invite him to make lines that connect the matching images.

Matching Sticker Game Trader Joes

We always pick up stickers at Trader Joe’s — they’re perfect for this project!

Matching Sticker Game Hand Drawn

If you don’t have any stickers, not to worry! This project can be done with some simple sketches. I’ve done this with simple shapes (circle, square, triangle, etc.) and a variety of expressions (happy, sad, surprised).

More Ideas

  • For emergent readers: Make one column of stickers and then in the other column, write words that match the stickers.
  • Rather than use columns, draw pairs of shapes or attach stickers in random spots around the piece of paper.

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Seven Tips for Setting up an Impromptu Garden Art Studio

Bundt Cake

The other day we had the most amazing weather, so we set up a garden art studio…

Summertime Art Tips: Seven Tricks to Set up an Impromptu Garden Art Studio.

When I was in college I always loved those teachers who took their classes outside on a nice day. So why not recreate that magic with our kids? Did you know that most children don’t spend enough time outdoors?

Why Making Art Outdoors is so Awesome

  1. Being outside is calming, restorative, and resets the mind.
  2. Nature is fodder for the imagination.
  3. Getting messy isn’t an issue.
  4. You can get up water some plants/play/dig a hole, and then return to making.

Summertime Art Tips: Seven Tricks to Set up an Impromptu Garden Art Studio.

I offered my children a few after-lunch options that included reading in the garden, making art outside, and going on a hike. Can you tell that I wanted to spend some outdoors? The weather was that incredible.

My older daughter liked the idea of setting up a blanket on our lawn and helped me hatch a plan to create an art studio picnic. 

Within moments of setting it all up, which took us about ten minutes, the girls were deep into making. At this point I gleefully broke out my new garden sheers and tackled mountains of overgrown plants. Hack hack hack. Things had gotten so out-of-hand in my poor garden, which now looks rather normal, that it initially appeared quite bald as I managed to fill our entire composting bin with greenery.

Summertime Art Tips: Seven Tricks to Set up an Impromptu Garden Art Studio.

Meanwhile, I’d pop over to check on the kids periodically and captured 4-year old N as she decorated a big river rock with paint pens. More details on drawing on rocks over here. 

Summertime Art Tips: Seven Tricks to Set up an Impromptu Garden Art Studio.

Her little sister has been invested in painting lately and we knew that she’d enjoy easel painting. If you really can’t get outside, 10 Steps for Easy Indoor Easel Painting will help you bring the magic indoors.

I also have a stand-up easel, but I thought this would be a nice way to have the girls work side-by-side. It was a great strategy until the watercolor jars were knocked over onto the blanket. Ahem, we only own washable paints for moments like this.

Summertime Art Tips: Seven Tricks to Set up an Impromptu Garden Art Studio.

Also, this little easel has a tray to hold paint on both sides and I knew both kids would want to paint at the same time. All in all, it was a fantastic afternoon and just the sort of experience that I imagine we’ll invest in all summer long.

Tips for setting up an Impromptu garden art studio

First of all, it’s important to address that you don’t need a sprawling lawn to make this happen. A patio, stoop, or balcony work just fine. The important thing here is to get outside and enjoy some fresh air!

  1. Wear play clothes, aprons, or nothing at all. 
  2. Wait for a warm day.
  3. Keep the materials simple and choose one or two basic projects. We chose watercolors + easel and rock painting.
  4. Have a water source nearby for washing up.
  5. Set up a picnic blanket so that little makers can get comfortable.
  6. Make sure you have a camera to capture these moments.
  7. If you’re painting, lay dry pieces out on the ground to dry. If it’s windy, dry them on a clothesline or indoors.

Outdoors + Kids Resources

Tape paper to the wall for an Instant Outdoor Art Studio

Six Ways to Take Art Outdoors

Start a Family Nature Club with this Nature Tools for Families Toolkit (FREE download) from Children and Nature Network. I’m dying to start one of these, so if you live near me give a holler if you’re interested! The Children and Nature Network is run by Audubon medal winner Richard Louv who wrote the bestseller, Last Child in the Woods. 

If you’re in the Bay Area, get your hands on a copy of Bay Area, Best Hikes with Kids: San Francisco Bay Area by Laure Latham. I just got it and it’s awesome!

A fabulous roundup of ideas for building outdoor forts and shelters for kids, from Let the Children Play.

A question for you…

What one word comes to mind when you think of the last time you spent time outdoors?

Note: This post contains affiliate links, but I only share links to products that I love or that I think you’ll find useful.

How to Set Up an Apple Printing Station

How to make apple prints with kids

how to set up an apple printing station from tinkerlab

Have you tried your hand at apple printing?

I suppose it’s a traditional Fall craft, but since apples find a way into our pantry year-round, I thought this was a fun project to share in these weeks leading up to Summer. You know, when you might need something fun to keep the kids entertained during the long summer days.

Apple Prints are an old stand-bye that my children always enjoy. The other day, 4-year old N asked me for some paint and apples so that she could make envelopes for all of her teachers. She had another plan for filling the envelopes that involved a sprinkling of sequins and some hand-made drawings. My two-year old is always game for printing, and in a matter of minutes apple printing was in full force!

Ingredients

  • Apples, cut in half vertically
  • Paper plates — to use as paint palettes
  • Washable tempera paint or Biocolors
  • Covered Table
  • Large pieces of paper
  • Clear space to contain the drying prints
  • Damp rags for wiping messes and dabbing painty fingers

apple prints closeup apple

The Set-up

  • If you have a precious work surface, cover it with a cloth or paper. We use brown kraft paper and oil cloth (pictured here).
  • Have your child choose a couple colors of paint. I like to limit it to two colors to keep the whole matter simpler. Squeeze the paint onto some paper plates. When you’re done, these can be dropped in the recycling bin.
  • Place a big sheet of paper in front of each child.
  • Place a damp rag next to each child. My kids always get painty fingers when we do this, and constantly get up to wash hands. The rag saves them the trip until they’re completely done.
  • Hand each child one apple, cut into two pieces.
  • Invite your child to stamp away!
  • Place completed prints in a drying area.

apple prints table

This project is great for little and big hands alike. My two-year old was challenged to press the apples down hard enough to make her prints show up while my four-year old worked on creating color patterns of apple prints.

apple prints making print

While I had to do a little bit of maintenance, such as collecting completed prints, while the kids printed, I enjoyed stepping back to allow them to experience the medium and develop independent ideas.

Some people are opposed to using food as a source of art-making because it can send the message that food can be wasted. With so many people going hungry, I understand the argument for this. My children’s nursery school won’t use food for art-making, which is the case with many nursery schools around the world.

However, compared to making prints from rubber stamps which can be derived from felled trees and rubber, apples and other vegetables seem like a decent alternative. In addition, so many of our traditional art-making materials are derived from food and other naturally found products. If you have an opinion on the matter I’d love to hear your thoughts.

How to make apple prints with kids

Ideas to take this further

  • When the prints dry, use a Sharpie permanent maker and add designs to your apple prints
  • Print with other vegetables such as okra, celery hearts, and carrots
  • Make prints from found objects such as egg cartons or bubble wrap
  • Source more ideas from this Pintererst Board that’s dedicated to Apple Crafts
  • If your child really enjoys printing, try your hand at Cookie Sheet Monoptints

apple prints

A Question for you…

What do you think about using food for art-making?

The Creative Table Project

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Endless ideas for crafts, art-making, science experiments, and creative explorations on the creative table project from Tinkerlab, via Instagram.

Highlights from The Creative Table Project

If you’re not familiar with the Creative Table Project, it’s an Instagram treasure trove of real world inspiration for any parent, caregiver, or teacher who’s looking for ideas that boost kids’ creativity or who wants to share snippets of their life experiences as inspiration to others. This week’s post is a great example of how I like to set up creative invitations that encourage creative and independent thinking for preschoolers.

There are currently over 1500 Creative Table tags on Instagram so of course it was hard to choose which ones to share with you. This small collection from the past couple weeks is lovely for the breadth of ideas. Following each image is the name of the the person who shared it and their description of the image. Enjoy!

Note: If I’ve shared a photo of yours against your liking, just shoot me a line and I’ll take it down promptly!

Creative Table Inspiration…

It only seems to fitting to begin a Creative Table roundup with a young maker who’s invented her own drawing table. My heart is melting. From Jackie at My Little Bookcase. For a related twist on this, set up an invitation to draw under the table and see what happens.

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I offer my children something similar to this hand-drawn coloring page set up all the time, and it’s always a hit. While it may seem close-ended, the parameters set forth by the black and white design give children a starting place to come up with unique ideas. From Jen at Mama Papa Bubba

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Creative Table Project on Tinkerlab

This set-up is so inviting. I want to dive right in to drink homemade lemonade and make paintings with the leftover tissue paper alongside Stephanie from Spanglish Spoon. For ideas on how to set up a tissue paper collage activity with a toddler, you might also enjoy this simple set up.

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If you’ve ever spent a lot of time and thought setting up an activity, only to have a child take it in a totally different direction…this one from Cassidy at Freshly Planted is for you. Know that you’re not alone, and that moments like this are signs of your child’s ability to think for him or herself.

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We got a sneak peak at the next Kiwi Crate, and the paper making project was an instant favorite.

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I have received countless comments from parents with younger children who get into art materials, pull everything off tables, and generally make it difficult for older siblings to put on their maker-cap. This image from The Iowa Farmer’s Wife is here to remind you that it’s a phase that will quickly pass. And that you might actually miss these early days.

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If you ever thought about introducing your child to the work of well-known artists, setting up a sensory table to help them dive into the physical world of the artist is brilliant for little hands.

More ideas on exploring modern art with kids over here.

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This lovely open-ended invitation to make Mother’s Day gifts is full of so many possibilities. Don’t you want to jump right in? We once made soap for mother’s day and it was a huge success.

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Since today is officially Earth Day, I thought we could end with an easy and workable nature-based mosaic from our friends at the Children’s Creativity Museum.

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Creative Table Project on Instagram

See all Creative Table posts here.

If you’d like to play along, read these guidelines and then tag your Instagram photos with #creativetable. And here’s a look at our last roundup for another view of what’s possible.

Are you on Instagram? Instagram is one of my very favorite tools and you can find me at @tinkerlab. I hope to see you over there!

A question for you…

What’s on your creative table this week?

 

Creative Table: A Sticker Composition with Frames

Sticker composition 4

Sticker composition

Setting up Creative Invitations like this is one of my very favorite ways to encourage children to explore new ideas and develop a visual language. Here’s the basic premise:

  • Clear the table of anything that won’t be used in the invitation
  • Artfully arrange the materials to provoke ideas
  • Limit the choice of materials to just a few items
  • Provide clues about how to use the materials, but keep the project open-ended so that original ideas can flourish.

Sticker composition 4

Sticker Composition with Frames

Before I went to bed, I set up two sheets of paper that were simply marked with a hand-drawn frame. Next to to the frames were a few sheets of rectangular color coding labels. You can find these at Amazon or any office supply aisle. Alternatively, you could set this with circle stickers, some other favorite sticker, pieces of colorful tape, or squares of construction paper and a bottle of glue.

I also placed a stack of plain paper and rolls of colorful tape in the middle of the table, just in case my kids wanted to use other materials. They didn’t.

Sticker composition with Frames, on Tinkerlab.com

Here’s how my two-year old used the materials.

Sticker composition 2

And here’s how my four-year old put her composition together. The beauty of creative invitations is that children will meet them where they’re most capable.

If you’d like more ideas like this one, you might enjoy reading about the Creative Table project, checking out these highlights from the Creative Table Project, or browsing the hundreds of brilliant set-ups on Instagram by searching #creativetable,

graphic for sticker composition

A Question for you…

How old is your child, or how old are the children in your class, and what creative project have you been working on?

Note: There are affiliate links in this post, but I only share links to products I love or that I think you’ll find useful.