Day of the Dead Cookie Cutters

Day of the Dead Cookie Cutters :: Tinkerlab

Dia de los Muertos playdough skeletons :: Tinkerlab

We recently walked into one of our favorite crafty store, Paper Source, and I found these fantastic Day of the Dead Cookie Cutters. My kids agreed that we should test them out, so we brought them home and put them to work with our play dough.

Fred Cookie Cutters :: Tinkerlab

My little one and I rolled out some of our famous pumpkin pie playdough. Well, I don’t know if it’s famous, but it smells great and it’s a must-have for the Fall season.

Then she arranged the cutters to make them all fit. With the shapes all cut out, the fun part is flipping the cutters over to make the stamped skeleton impression.

Day of the Dead Playdough

Once they were all stamped and cut I suggested that we squish them all up and start all over again, but she was so proud of her creations and would hear of it. So we packed them all up neatly in our playdough container where they’ll be waiting for us next time the dough comes out.

Dia de los Muertos playdough :: Tinkerlab

More Playdough

One of our most popular posts will show you how to make glowing play dough and here is the recipe for our favorite play dough.

Fred cookie cutters :: Tinkelrab

More stamping cookie cutters

In addition to the Sweet Spirits Cookie Stamps, Fred also makes a letter pressed alphabet, letter pressed numbers, and spooky/cute gingerbread men skeletons. The Fred blog also has some great tips for getting the most out of your stamping cookie cutters: Fred’s Tips for Successful Stamped Cookies.

A question for you

Do you buy or make play dough?

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

Creative Invitation: Paint and Looping Lines

Creative Invitation with Paint and Looping Lines :: Tinkerlab

CREATIVE INVITATION with paint and looping lines :: Tinkerlab Today we’re setting up a creative invitation that takes minutes to put together, and clean up is a snap.

As we shared in this post, the basic premise of Creative Invitations follows four simple steps:

  • Clear your 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.

To get started, you could set up your invitation the night before as I did, or take a few moments to arrange it while your child is playing or napping. Or you could include your child in the set-up.

Supplies

  • Paint
  • Large sheet of paper
  • Water container
  • Paint brush
  • Washable tempera paint
  • Container to hold the paint
  • Sharpie marker (or other non-toxic permanent marker)
  • Rag

Set-up

Place all the materials out on the table. With a permanent marker, draw some basic shapes or looping lines on the paper.

Creative Invitaiton Paint and Looping Lines Process

Invitation

Invite your child to paint however he or she likes. You can see that my three-year old and five-year old had completely different approaches and ideas about how to tackle the paper. I love that! The goal isn’t to create anything in particular but to encourage your child to be inventive and use the parameters of the set-up as inspiration. Creative Invitaton Paint and Looping Lines :: Tinkerlab My three-year old’s creation on the left and my five-year old’s creation on the right: one painted inside the lines and the other right over the lines. Cool!

Clean-up

Leave the papers on the table to dry or move them to a drying area. Carry the brushes and water container to the sink. Voila!

More Creative Invitations

We love coming up with ways to make your life simpler and more creative, and creative invitations are one of our favorite ways to do that. If you enjoyed this post you might also want to check out Tape ArtSticker Composition with Frames, Washi Tape and Found Paper Collage. Tinkerlab plays host to a really fun Instagram hashtag: #creativetable. For more creative invitations, pop over to Instagram and search for more ideas from creative parents and artists. Also, our friends at The Art Pantry are hosting an Invitations to Create Challenge this month (October), and you can find out more about it here.

Bamboo Rubber Band Book

Bamboo Rubber Band Book

Jody Alexander on TinkerlabToday I’m excited to introduce you to Jody Alexander. Jody is a librarian and bookmaker who teaches bookmaking from Wishi Washi Studio in Santa Cruz, CA, and also teaches classes through the newly-launched Creative Bug. Tinkerlab special: Jody is sharing a code for a Creative Bug discount at the end of this post.

Once you make one of these Bamboo Rubber Band Books, you’ll find tons of creative ways to fill them with your own ideas, use them as sketchbooks, fill them with writing practice, or turn them into gifts.

Welcome, Jody!


Kids love to make books. They really do! I have been making books with kids for about 15 years now. First going into my son’s classrooms and teaching him and his classmates various book structures and then teaching at different art camps.

How to Make a Rubber Band Book

The Bamboo Rubber Band Book is a simple and easy book structure to make with kids.  I have taught this structure to ages 5 years old and up and I can’t tell you how proud they all have been after making a book.  This book can be made with pages and covers that have already been pre-printed or decorated, or with blank pages to draw or write on later.  It is a great little book for drawings and a little story.

Materials Bambook Rubber Band Book

Materials

  • 8 ½ x 11 text weight paper (2-4 pieces – can vary)
  • 8 ½ x 11 cover weight paper (1 piece)
  • rubber band
  • bamboo skewer

Tools

  • scissors
  • hole punch
  • garden hand shears

Step one

Cut text weight paper into quarters – here is how do this without measuring:

  • Fold paper in half the long way
  • Open up

Step 1 Bambook Rubber Band Book

  • Fold paper in half the short way
  • Open up
  • Cut along fold lines

Step 2 Bambook Rubber Band Book

Step two

Cut the cover weight paper in the same way – you will end up with enough cover paper for two books

Bamboo Rubber Band Book

Step three

Stack your cut paper sandwiching the text paper in between the two cover pieces

Step Three Bamboo Rubber Band Book copy

Steps four & five

Punch two holes along the spine of the book – approximately 1/2 inch from the spine edge and 1 inch from the top and bottom (this can vary but making the holes too close to the edges puts them at risk to rip out)

Cut the bamboo skewer to 5 inches in length with garden hand shears.

 Bamboo Rubber Band Book

Step six

Bamboo Rubber Band Book

Thread the rubber band through the holes and capture the bamboo skewer – this will hold the cover and pages together.

Bamboo Rubber Band Book

You made a book! 

  • Put as many or as few pages in the book that fits your project.
  • Make a book out of pre-printed pages
  • Make a book out of blank pages and write or draw in it.
  • Enjoy your book!

Want to make more books? Or make this one fancier?

Orizomega and Japanese Side Sewn Binding Bambook Rubber Band Book copy

Learn how to make Orizomegami with me on Creativebug. Orizomegami is a traditional Japanese paper dying technique that is a fun and easy kid-friendly project that is perfect for book covers.

Creative Bug Bamboo Rubber Band BookAnd, if you are ready for a slightly more challenging binding – but still quite accessible to children – try my Japanese Side Sewn Binding for Kids class on Creativebug.


Thanks for introducing us to this book-making technique today, Jody! I’m so glad that we met and look forward to learning more from you through Creative Bug.

 

Tinkersketch Challenge: Draw Into Wet Paint

glue pages together

Tinkersketch Challenge: Draw into wet paintIt’s been a while since I’ve posted a Tinkersketch challenge on our blog, and since we’ve been getting some great tinkersketch feedback on Instagram I thought I’d share a favorite low-stress way to get some paint and marks on paper.

I’m all about low-threshold art-making, and don’t want anyone to walk away because they’re overwhelmed, so I’ll always try to offer easy ways to get your hand moving. If things get a bit more challenging I’ll offer alternative ideas to keep things simple. I realize that you don’t have a lot of time, but you want to create, and I’ve got your schedule in my mind. I’m busy too, so this also works for me.

If you’re not familiar with the Tinkersketch Challenge, you can read about how it started and what you can expect over here. In a nutshell, I’m a huge proponent of making something every day, and this challenge will get you started on an easy sketchbook journey. All it takes is about 10 minutes a day, but of course once you get started it can be hard to walk away after just 10 minutes!

Draw Into Wet Paint

sketchbook gesso drawing

This is what we’ll be doing today: Draw directly into wet paint. My three-year old and I had a lot of fun working on this page together.

Find a sketchbook

If you have a sketchbook with heavy-weight pages, you’re ready to go. I’ve owned a lot of journals and I’ve been enjoying Strathmore’s Visual Journal series for wet media (paint, collage, glue, etc.). It’s not featured in this post since we were working with an upcycled notebook (more on how to make one of this soon), but I usually have a Visual Journal in my bag when I run around town.

My best tip for finding the right journal is to visit the art store and handle all the journals. What size do you like? Big to spread out on a table? Small to carry in a bag? What weight do you like? If you paint a lot, you’ll want something with thick paper. If you prefer dry media, thin paper is a more economical solution.

And if you prefer to skip the sketchbook altogether, just work from a pile of paper. I like to keep a stack of card stock on hand for such times.

sketchbook gesso

Paint the page

Buy a bottle of gesso like this. Acrylic gesso is a polymer emulsion paint that’s used to paint over stretched canvases. You can think of it as a base coat upon which you can paint with watercolors, acrylics, and oils. You can also draw on top of gesso. Today we’ll draw on it (or into it) with a pencil.

Cover your page completely with gesso.

I placed a piece of wax paper (from the grocery store) under each of the pages to keep the paint off the table and off of the other pages in the sketchobook.

Alternative: Cover your page with white acrylic paint or thick white tempera paint. Tempera tends to flake off over time, but it should work if you’re interested more in the process than the product.

Draw into wet paint: Tinkersketch Challenge

Draw onto the page

With a pencil, makes some marks directly into the paint. Don’t worry too much about what you’re drawing. This is about the process of discovering a new technique and it helps to simply pay attention to what happens as you pull paint across the paper with the pencil, and notice how the pencil marks through the paint and onto the paper.

For the picture above, I drew some lines and ovals onto the paint and then handed the book over to my three-year old who added her own ideas.

Play with us on Instagram

Instgrammers often share their tinkersketches on Instagram, and it’s a fun way to get ideas from fellow sketchbookers. Just search for the hashtag #tinkersketch for more.

If you’d like to share you own sketches, either inspired by these posts or of your own creation, add #tinkersketch to your photo and we’ll find you. It’s a fun way to get to know other inspiring and aspiring artists.

And on that note, I should say that this is for beginners and professionals alike — no level of experience is too small or too big to play. All are welcome.

 

 

 

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.


More Fingerprint Spiders

One of my readers and friend, Vlada, sent me these fingerprint spiders made by her daughters. I LOVE the addition of red for the legs. And the goggly eyes! What a fun touch.

Fingerprint Spiders | TinkerLab.com

More Halloween Ideas

If you enjoyed this post, you have to check out 50 Simple Halloween Ideas for Kids.

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

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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