Tinkering with Club TinkerLab

Club TinkerLab, a closed Facebook group to discuss inventing, tinkering, educating, and engineering for kids.

When my book launched in June 2014, I quietly started a Facebook group called Club TinkerLab, an online tinkering club for people who are interested in making, inventing, tinkering, crafting, and engineering with kids. 

Since June, I’ve shared this tinkering club with my newsletter subscribers and Facebook friends, and today I wanted to give this special club a shout-out on my blog.

Join Club TinkerLab - an online tinkering club for people who are interested in making, inventing, tinkering, educating, and engineering with kids.

What is Club TinkerLab?

Club TinkerLab is a closed Facebook group where making, inventing, educating, and engineering intersect. It’s essentially a forum, in the shape of Facebook group.

It’s a place to share STEM + STEAM inspiration, lesson plans, home-based projects, or creative inspiration. We have close to 2000 members who come from all walks of life. The group is friendly and supportive, and will often save the day when you hit a tinkering wall.

What kind of ideas are shared?

Some recent posts include

Rube Goldberg-style chain reactions

Different ideas for upcycling household materials

a STEAM workshops for teachers

How to grow crystals

Straw rockets

If you spend a bit of time on Facebook, and would like to join a community that shares ideas like this, it should feel like home to you!

Who is Club TinkerLab for?

Parents, teachers, homeschoolers, librarians, grandparents, and anyone interested in setting the stage for creativity for children.

Who are the Moderators?

Anne from Left Brain Craft Brain

Ana from Babble Dabble Do

Melissa from The Chocolate Muffin Tree

MaryAnn from Mama Smiles – Joyful Parenting 

Marnie from Carrots are Orange

Megan from The Art Pantry

Dayna from Lemon Lime Adventures

Meri from Meri Cherry Blog

What is Tinkering?

I bet you’ll enjoy this post!

Join Club TinkerLab: an online tinkering club for people who are interested in making, inventing, tinkering, educating, and engineering with kids.

Where can I find Club TinkerLab?

Here’s a link! Simply ask to join the group and you’ll be accepted shortly.

Want more? You might also enjoy our series of posts that share an inside look into Tinkering Spaces.


How to Make Natural Dye for Painting and Eggs

Today I’m sharing my favorite recipes for making homemade DIY all-natural dye for painting and egg decorating. While these dyes take a bit more time than their store-bought cousins, they are easy to make and definitely worth a try.


Eggs colored with natural dye

While I have nothing against store-bought egg dye, we’ve been making our own egg dyes for a few years and there are a few benefits to making natural dye:

You’ll have the satisfaction of making your own art material

The dyes are 100% non-toxic and are, therefore, food-safe. You can eat those eggs with peace of mind.

Making your own dye teaches children to be resourceful. You don’t have to go to the art store for paint when you can make your own from things you have in the fridge.

How to cook natural dye for Easter Eggs and Painting

I’ll share five recipes below, and will refer to these as “egg dyes,” but understand that these can also be used as watercolor paint. We’ll add a bit of vinegar to each recipe. Vinegar will act as a mordant, which means that it will help the dye stick to the paper or egg, and keep it from fading quickly.

How to cook natural dye for Easter Eggs and Painting

How to make natural dyes from beets, red cabbage, turmeric, blueberries, and annatto seeds.

Red Egg Dye

3 Beets, roughly chopped

4 cups of water

2 tablespoons vinegar

Bring ingredients to a boil, and then simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the dye into a container.

Bright Yellow Egg Dye

2 tablespoons Turmeric (spice commonly used in Indian cooking)

3 cups of Water

2 tablespoons Vinegar

Bring ingredients to a boil, and then simmer for 15 minutes. Pour the dye into a container. This dye will be a bit pasty, as it retains some of the thickness of the spice.

Light Yellow Egg Dye

3 tablespoons Annatto seeds (I find these at Penzey’s)

3 cups of Water

2 tablespoons Vinegar

Bring ingredients to a boil, and then simmer for 15 minutes. Strain the dye into a container.

Note: Annatto seeds temporarily stained my pot. It did not change the flavor of food cooked in the pot and the stain cleaned away after four cleanings. 

Lavender Egg Dye

1 cup Blueberries

6 cups of Water

2 tablespoons Vinegar

Bring ingredients to a boil, and then simmer for 30 minutes. Strain the dye into a container through a sieve. Press the berries to pull as much juice out as possible.

Blue Egg Dye

1/2 Red Cabbage, roughly chopped

6 cups of Water

2 tablespoons Vinegar

1/2+ teaspoon Baking Soda

Bring the first three ingredients to a boil, and then simmer for 15 minutes. Strain the dye into a container. If your dye is not blue, as it is in this post, you can add baking soda to the dye and it will change color from purple to blue. Add more baking soda to intensify the color.

Science behind this color change: Red cabbage contains anthocyanin, a pigment that will appear red, purple, or blue depending on the pH. When you add acid, such as lemon juice, to an anthocyanin, it will become pink. And when you add a base like baking soda it turns blue!

How to cook natural dye for Easter Eggs and Painting

Hot or cool, your dyes are now ready for eggs! These dyes take a bit of time to brighten up an egg – give yourself between five and 20 minutes, depending on the intensity of color that you’d like to achieve.

Experiment with Egg Dyes!

Try mixing colors: How can you get orange dye? Will it work to dip the egg in yellow first, and then in red. Or vice versa?

Fill shallow bowls with a small amount of the dye. Dip on side in red, then another side in blue, and so on.

Draw on the egg with white crayon. This will act as a resist. Then dip the egg in dye.

Cover the egg with stickers. Dip in dye. Dry and remove stickers.

Kids Painting with Natural Dye

Paint with Natural Dye

And finally, you can paint with this dye just as you would watercolors. Yesterday I took our dyes to my daughter’s class. We drew on watercolor paper with Sharpie markers (affiliate) and then painted over it with the natural dye. I also took time to ask the children if they wanted to smell the dyes, and there were lots of scrunched up faces! To see more ideas like this, read the predecessor to this post: Vegetable-Dyed Easter Eggs.

Natural Dyes on Bay Area People

I was recently invited to talk about how to make natural dyes on Fox 2 KTVU’s Bay Area People with Lisa Yokota. It was such a fun experience. Welcome to viewers who caught the episode this weekend! If you want to see me try not to look too foolish on TV, simply click on this image…

lisa yokota and rachelle doorley

More Homemade Paint Recipes

This post, Our Favorite Homemade Paint Recipes, contains seven favorite recipes. You don’t want to miss these easy, healthy recipes.

More Egg Dying, Decorating, and Science Ideas

Three Easy Tricks for Blown Out Eggs

Vegetable-Dyed Easter Eggs.

Egg Geodes Science Experiment

How to Make a Floating Egg

How to Walk on Raw Eggs. Really.

60 Egg Activities for Kids

How to make natural dyes from beets, red cabbage, turmeric, blueberries, and annatto seeds.


Pi Day 2015 | Pi Day Art Project

This fun and easy Pi Day Art Activity will get your creativity flowing, and it's a fun way to build enthusiasm around Pi Day 2015 | TinkerLab.com

Did you know that this is a special year for Pi?

What is Pi?

Pi is the sixteen letter of the Greek alphabet, and it’s also a symbol used to describe the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, meaning that pi equals the circumference divided by the diameter (π = c/d). The interesting this about pi is that mathematicians who have been working on this number believe that it is infinite, meaning that it’s not the quotient of two integers. In other words, the number pi goes on and on and on, and we don’t know where it ends!

So, the number “pi” begins with the numbers 3.14159265, and goes on and on infinitely (so we think). Computers have been cranking away at the number for a while now, trying to figure out just how big it is (and if it will ever stop), and according to Number World, the number has been computed up to 10 trillion digits. Wow!

Pi Day 2015

To celebrate this special number, every year math enthusiasts around the world celebrate Pi Day on March 14, or 3-14, in honor of the first three digits of Pi. The next two digits, following the 3.14, are 15, making this a banner year for Pi that won’t be revisited for another 100 years: 3.14.15, or 3.1415. Yay for Pi!

My 6-year old is fascinated by math and has been talking up a storm about Pi for a while now, so I asked her to help me come up with an idea to celebrate Pi Day 2015. After a bit of brainstorming, she came up with this fun drawing prompt that uses the first five digits of Pi.

Pi Day Art Project for Pi Day 2015

We created a printable that you can download here. The little picture of the piece of pie (pi) is courtesy of my daughter.

The instructions read:

Happy Pi Day! To celebrate the infinite quality of Pi, there are infinite ways to fill in these boxes. Choose 3 colors and give yourself 14 minutes to design 15 boxes however you like.

Take note: We originally made this with 25 boxes (oops),  but that’s been corrected in the printable download 🙂

{Free Printable!} This fun and easy Pi Day Art Activity will get your creativity flowing, and it's a fun way to build enthusiasm around Pi Day 2015 | TinkerLab.com

I had fun filling in the boxes with a pattern of straight lines and curved lines, while my daughter filled out each row of her’s with different patterns: hearts, names, solid colors, grids, and punctuation marks.

Share this on Instagram

Would you like to share this with other Pi Day enthusiasts, and see how they interpret the prompt? At the VERY BOTTOM of the printable, it reads: Tag your page on Instagram with #pidayart 

DIY Pi Day Art Project

If you’d rather do a bit of extra math for your Pi Day Art Project, you could make a grid on a piece of paper, and then cover the grid with colorful tape. My daughter came up with this idea and thought it was far more fun.

We measured the tape to get an idea of how big our grid should be, and then worked together to draw a grid and attach the tape. Once that was done, the pi day art activity was pretty much the same as the above prompt.

This fun and easy Pi Day Art Activity will get your creativity flowing, and it's a fun way to build enthusiasm around Pi Day | TinkerLab.com

How are you celebrating Pi Day 2015? Are you making lots of Pie? Here are some favorite Pi Resources…

Pi Day Art Activities and Resources

Is this your first time here?

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TinkerLab Newsletter

In case you blinked and missed it, TinkerLab rounds up all the great stuff on the internets on keeping you and your critters creative and wraps it up for you in a tidy newsletter! (And throws in some secret giveaways for good measure!)  – Yuliya P., San Francisco, CA

Join our community and you’ll learn:

  • How to simplify your life and make more room for creativity
  • How to make hands-on making a part of your everyday life
  • Easy, actionable ways to raise creative kids

Mason Jar Shadow Drawing Prompt

Mason Jar Solar Light Shadow Drawing Prompt

After we made a Mason Jar Solar Light, we noticed that our non-frosted mason jar lantern created a loopy, squiggly, and sharp pattern of shadows when illuminated on the table.

To turn this into an art activity, we added a few supplies (a piece of paper and pencil) and played around with this fun and creative shadow drawing prompt.

Care to join us?

Drawing Prompt: Capturing Shadows

Try this fun and quick drawing prompt for boosting creativity with a mason jar, solar light or tea light, and a pencil. Supplies for Shadow Drawing Prompt

If you don’t already have a solar light mason jar, you’ll need these supplies:

Note: This post includes affiliate links

  • Wide Mouth Mason Jars. These Mason Jars by Ball are awesome.
  • Solar Path lights. I found ours at Osh for $3.99 each. I searched at our local hardware store first, but the lights I found there didn’t fit into the Mason Jars.
  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • Darkened Room

Click over here for the Mason Jar Solar Light tutorial.

If the room isn’t dark enough for the solar panel to activate the light, place a square of dark paper over the panel. Voila!

What we did

We placed the clear mason jar over a sheet of paper and looked for the darkest, crispest lines to trace. Simple as that! The finished pieces looked like something from space, and now we’re talking about the possibility of adding some color.

Mason Jar Drawing Prompt for Kids  |  TinkerLab.com

More Drawing Prompts

White Drawings on Black Paper

One-minute Drawings

Sketchbook Prompt: Circles and Watercolor Paint

Join the March Sketchbook Challenge for daily prompts

Art for Kids | DIY Stamps

DIY Stamps and art supplies, oh, how I love you!

Making our own art supplies has done wonders for helping my kids develop their resourceful muscle. As a result of turning corks into stamps and chopsticks into painting tools, I’m constantly catching my girls rescuing cardboard from the recycling bin and saying things like, “let’s turn this into art!”

In that spirit, I pulled this list of DIY stamp ideas together as a resource for all of the busy teachers, enthusiastic recyclers, and crafty parents (or any combination of the above), I hope you’re find this list of upcycled materials helpful and inspiring.

DIY Stamps from Household Materials:

DIY Stamps with everyday materials such as cork, cardboard rolls, and buttons

Sunflower Cardboard Roll Stamp, Crafty Morning

Cardboard Roll Heart Stamp, TinkerLab

Cork Stamps, Happy Hooligans wraps corks into groups, dips them into paint, and then turns the designs into flowers by glueing a button in the middle.

Cosmetic Wedge Stamps, TinkerLab

More DIY Stamps from Household Supplies

DIY Stamps with everyday materials such as cork, cardbo

Potato Masher Stamp, No Time for Flash Cards

Button Stamps, What do we do All Day?

Cardboard Stamp, Housing a Forest

Dice Stamping, Housing a Forest stamps out math problems with dice.

DIY Stamps from Food

DIY Stamps with food such as apples and celery

Potato Stamps, TinkerLab

Apple Stamps, TinkerLab

Lettuce Stamps, Housing a Forest

Celery Stamps, TinkerLab

Stamp with Okra, Curly Birds

Bell Pepper Shamrocks, Crafty Morning

DIY Stamps with Foam Stickers

4 different DIY homemade stamps with foam

Foam Sticker Block Stamp, TinkerLab also draws on the stickers with special rubber stamp pens for a unique and individual stamp effect.

DIY Name Stamp, Mama Papa Bubba

Jar Lid Craft Foam Stamps, No Time for Flash Cards cut out their own unique shapes from large sheets of craft foam

Corks and Craft Foam Stamps, Happiness is Homemade

DIY Homemade stamps with foam

Rubber Cement Watercolor Resist Painting Technique

The thought of rubber cement always takes me back to the 6th grade. The smell! I’m not sure that schools offer rubber cement to kids anymore (kudos to them if that’s the case), but us adults can still try this favorite watercolor resist technique in a well-ventilated area.

Rubber Cement Watercolor Resist Painting Technique, perfect for art journaling and sketchbooks

If you art journal or if you’re keeping a sketchbook, the rubber cement watercolor resist art technique is a fun way to add some variety and texture to your pages. It’s also a magical way to play with negative space and positive space. As you’ll see in the video, rubber cement will pour off of the dispenser brush in a haphazard way, and it can be hard to control the flow of it. Keep this in mind if you’re thinking of using this technique for detailed work. I’m sure there’s a way around it and encourage you to experiment!

Rubber Cement and Kids

I don’t recommend the use of rubber cement with young children and suggest using your best judgment for yourself and others in a well-ventilated space. If you’re like to try this with kids, an adult could do the rubber cement step and once dry, the child could paint over it.


This list includes affiliate links

Rubber Cement Watercolor Resist

I’m dipping my toes into the world of video. Would you let me know what you think? There’s sound, so be sure to turn the volume down if you’re in a quiet place 🙂

Be sure to follow my YouTube channel to be the first to see more videos like this.

Steps: Rubber Cement Resist

  • Drip rubber cement onto watercolor paper.
  • Wait for rubber cement to dry.
  • Paint right over the rubber cement. It will resist the paint!
  • Once dry, rub the cement away from the paper.


Rubber Cement Watercolor Resist Painting Technique

More Art Technique Experiments

Clear Tape Image Transfer

String Painting

Cling Film Art Experiment

Drawing Ideas: One Minute Drawings

I’m always looking for drawing ideas and have a fun creativity prompt to share with you today. My family tested this out on Day 8 of the first TinkerSketch sketchbook challenge, but I didn’t take time to share the results of the process.

This drawing prompt invites you to draw as much as you can in one minute!

Drawing Ideas: Make one minute drawings to spark creativity

My 4-year old and I spend a lot of time at our art studio while her older sister is in school, and today she suggested that we make some one-minute drawings. It’s been a few months since we’ve tried this fun creativity prompt, and I was game. I also enjoy the challenge of making art with my kids, and when they have an idea I try to run with it.

Of course she wanted to use Sharpies (affiliate), so we covered the table with fresh paper. We use Pacon Kraft paper (affiliate), in case you’re looking for something similar…it’s great stuff!

I cut up 9″ x 12″ sheets of drawing paper into four pieces, gave us each a stack, and we were ready to go.

Drawing Ideas: Make one minute drawings to spark creativity

I set the timer for one minute and then we faced the challenge to draw as much as we could (or wanted to) in that time span. A minute goes by surprisingly fast!

So fast, in fact, that after that first lightening round, my daughter asked for more time. While she was on more of the 6-minute track, I continued to crank out 1-minute drawings. One of the best things about this exercise is how you don’t have time to judge your drawings — the point is not to be brilliant but to get some marks on the paper.

Benefits of 1-Minute Drawings

  • It’s fun!
  • You work too fast to be judgmental of your work
  • One idea leads to another. When the first drawing ends, it prompts new ideas for your next 1-minute drawing.
  • If you keep going on to make 40, 50, 60, or more drawings, you may start to run out of ideas which pushes you into new territory

I thought you might like to see the progression of a series of nine of these quick drawings, and how one idea lead to another: connected triangles led to connected circles, which led to connected quadrilaterals, ovals, more triangles, and finally dots.

Drawing Ideas: Make one minute drawings to spark creativity

While my little one didn’t stick with the one-minute drawing plan, she enjoyed creating the beginning of a book about panda bears, and working side-by-side is always something I look forward to.

One minute drawings collageDrawing Ideas: Make one minute drawings to spark creativity

More Drawing Ideas + Creativity Prompts

If you’re looking for more prompts like this for kids, you’ll enjoy this list of Simple Creative Invitations.

And if you’d like to join the fun, experimental TinkerSketch sketchbook challenge that I host on Instagram and Facebook, you can find more info here.

You might also enjoy slide drawing, drawing with art dice, and the word drawing game.

Cling Film Art Experiment

The Cling Film Art Experiment with Jewels | TinkerLab.com

I’m having the BEST time with this month’s TinkerSketch Challenge. How about you?

This Cling Film Art Experiment ties in with the Day 4 prompt to “Squirt Paint.” These TinkerSketch prompts can be interpreted in any number of ways. For example, you could draw a tube of paint, squirt paint on paper, squeeze paint on your hands and then finger paint. So many possibilities!

If you want to try your hand and combining paint blobs with cling film, keep reading!

Supplies for Cling Film Art

This post contains affiliate links

  1. Paint – I used acrylic. Liquitex Basics is a good beginner set that’s a great value.
  2. Paper (or other substrate)
  3. Cling Wrap – I used Glad Cling Wrap

Steps for Cling Film Art

  1. Squeeze paint on paper
  2. Cover in cling wrap
  3. Press it down and smear around
  4. Reveal your creation!
  5. Repeat as desired.

How to try the Cling Film Art Experiment with Cellophane and Acrylic Paint | TinkerLab.com

After my 4-year old saw all the fun I was having, she wanted in. Here’s her experiment…

How to try the Cling Film Art Experiment  | TinkerLab.com

When she was done, she added jewels and told me that she would be selling these for $5.99. But because I’m her mom, I would get one for free. Score!

The Cling Film Art Experiment with Jewels | TinkerLab.com

And a look at how we finished my sketchbook entry together. I’m a fan of collaborative art…

How to try the Cling Film Art Experiment  | TinkerLab.com

After adding about three layers of blobs and cellophane, I smeared the paint around with the pealed off cling wrap.

Once dry I’ll have a cool background to draw or paint on top of. Or maybe I’ll just leave it the way it is. By the way, it’s hard to tell in the photo, but I went ahead and glued the cling wrap right to the paper. Why not?

What do you think? Are you up for making some cling film art? 

Enjoy your art experiments, and if you come up with any riffs on this technique, I would LOVE to hear about it!