How to Paint Terracotta Pots with Kids

How to paint a planter with kids

Hand Paint Terracotta Pots

Today I’m sharing how to hand paint a terra cotta flower pots with kids. While the project seems somewhat straightforward, I’ll share my favorite tips for choosing paint that will stick well and how to set up the work table for success.

When we were in Los Angeles last week, my mom came up with a fun project that included planting succulents in tea cups (along with the use of a power tool), and my kids were smitten.

Whilst prepping for a Girl Scout meeting, my older daughter thought we should recreate a simpler version of that project with her troop. And, voila, this project was born!

A Trip to the Nursery

First things first, we took a trip to the nursery to collect a flat of succulents.

Succulent means “juice,” and these fleshy plants retain enough moisture that they can go long stretches with very little water, the perfect plant for our drought-ridden community.

Shopping for succulents at the garden center

We got distracted by the bubbling fountains and gorgeous cacti, but then refocussed and left the store with what we came for: succulents and terra cotta pots like these (affiliate).

Back in the Studio

With my littlest helping out, we set up a painting area that looks like this:

how to paint a flower pot set up

Painting Tips

Use acrylic paint, a plastic-based paint that won’t wash out of clothes, but also won’t flake off of a flower pot.

Cover your work area since acrylic paint is almost impossible to remove from some surfaces.

Place a bowl of water (filled half way) and a towel nearby (to absorb water)

Set up the terra cotta pot upside down to make it more stable

Acrylic paint will wash off skin and shouldn’t stain.

Invite your child to paint!

How to paint a flower pot

The paint will dry quickly unless it’s thickly painted on. Ours was dry in under 20 minutes.

Fill with Soil

I worked with the nursery staff to come up with a good solution for succulent soil since they didn’t sell soil for that specific purpose. We settled on a mixture of potting soil and pumice rocks. The pumice (affiliate) aerates the soil and help keep the water running through. Important since succulents done want to sit in a lot of soggy soil.

Watch the video

Watch the video to see how it all came together!

This project was inspired in part by a new book (and #1 New Release) called The Garden Classroom (affiliate), a fantastic resource for families who want to use their gardens as a teaching and enrichment tool.

See my review of The Garden Classroom here.

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 |

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 |

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 |

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  |

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